Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 51, January 29, 2010.
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
In this issue:
1. Corruption trials off the rails
2. Duty pay
3. The chair on the high costs of policing
4. TTC special constables to evolve into police officers?
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1. Corruption trials off the rails
TPAC has written the following letter to the Police Services Board:
`TPAC was shocked to learn of Judge Crolls decision in early December to stay the charges against three Toronto police officers because their right to a fair trial had been breached by excessive delays. A similar decision was made by Judge Nordheimer in 2008 in respect to charges against five Toronto officers, and although this decision has since been reversed on appeal (and that decision has been further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada), the question of delay remains a most serious one. The appeal period on Judge Crolls decision has now passed, and an appeal has not been filed, so these charges will never be resolved in court.
`Two things are common in both cases. First, neither case was been brought forward in a timely fashion, apparently largely because of the inability of the police involved to proceed in an expeditious fashion. It is unclear whether the problem is that adequate resources were not available to the unit responsible for preparing the prosecutions, or whether the cases were simply not given the priority they required.
`Second, both cases involve very serious allegations about police behavior, allegations that are troubling to anyone concerned about fair and independent policing. Obviously, even though seemingly compelling evidence that confirms the charges has been leaked through the media, it is only once the court has deliberated on the evidence that the cases can be proven one way or another. Without a court decision on the evidence the matter is left hanging.
`And there is another troubling aspect to these cases. The decision of Judge Croll and the decision not to appeal has been greeted with almost complete silence from both police leadership and from the Police Services Board. As far as we can tell, Chief Blair has said nothing about the decision, and we are not aware of any member of the Police Services Board speaking out save for a small comment by the chair in response to a reporters question.
`For Toronto police officers, this silence can only mean one thing: the way these corruption cases were handled was of no concern to police leadership or the Police Services Board. If they were of concern, someone would have said something. What Toronto officer will think it worthwhile to speak up if he or she comes across questionable conduct by colleagues? The inability of the police force to ensure the trials proceeded in a timely fashion, followed by silence from the leadership sends very clear messages to rank and file officers that action against police corruption is not on the police agenda.
`For members of the public, the silence means that police corruption in Toronto is something of a fact of life that no one in a leadership position can do much about. Thats a pretty chilling message, but it is what the public is left with.
`Having cases thrown out for a lack of timeliness is embarrassing, since it implies that appropriate priority was not given to these cases. We fear a response that decides that to avoid this embarrassment in the future, corruption cases within the force will not be pursued to the point where charges are actually laid; if charges are never laid, cases never get thrown out. This would be a catastrophic outcome, but it could occur if nothing is done right now.
`Our organization does not want the public or the police rank and file to be left with these conclusions. We are here to ask that action be taken and that the silence be broken. We propose the following:
`1. Investigation and resolution of corruption and police misconduct must be treated as the highest priority. The Board and the chief should agree that the 2010 budget will shift adequate resources into the unit or units responsible for preparing police corruption cases for trial in a timely fashion.
`2. The chief should ensure the public that there is competent and proven leadership responsible for investigating and following through on police corruption cases so that timeliness will not be a problem in the future.
`3. The Board and the chief must assure the public in written and spoken statements that both are committed to challenging corruption within the force, and that both encourage officers and the public to report cases that seem to involve corrupt behavior so that such cases will be fully investigated and where appropriate, charges laid in a timely manner.
`We ask that these courses of action be endorsed as a minimum response.
Just to emphasize the point our letter makes about how senior leadership refuses to deal with the corruption issues, the Board refused to place a similar letter from us on the Board agenda for the meeting of December 17 and again on January 19. We have asked that it be on the Board agenda for February 18.
2. Duty pay
The Toronto Star did two fine articles in late November on the activities for which Toronto Police receive duty pay (at $68 per hour, minimum three hours), questioning why police were needed at most locations. The Star pointed out there seem to be no hard and fast rules about when a duty paid officer must be hired by a contractor, and then it made comparisons to other cities.
There was a lot of noise about the issue. Chief Bill Blair had written a long report in December 2008 justifying the need in Toronto for duty officers, but enough heat was generated by the Star articles that councillor Pam McConnell, a member of the Police Services Board, proposed that the citys Auditor General report on the matter. The Board agreed.
It is worth revisiting Chief Blairs report. He notes, using 2007 data, that Toronto police received $24 million that year in duty pay, obviously a lucrative perk along with payments by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (see Bulletin No. 49, October 2009). In comparison, Montreal police received $2.3 million that year; Calgary $2.2 million, and Vancouver $1.3 million.
One suspects the Auditor General will substantially restrict the number of activities for which duty pay officers are required. Well await his report.
3. The Chair of the Police Services Board on the high costs of policing
A few years ago Alok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, began a practice of posting his thoughts on policing on his blog at www.tpsb.ca . The blog was quiet for much of last year, but then on the last day of 2009, he posted three speeches he had delivered during the summer.
These speeches are a mixed lot. One complains about the duties Toronto police are expected to do even though they are, according to the chair, federal and provincial in nature protecting consulates in the city, looking after our border on Lake Ontario, planning for terrorism and disasters, investigating organized crime, being responsible for court security, and cyber crime. He calls for formal agreements between the three levels of government on these matters.
Another speech is entitled `The Cost of Policing in Toronto and the Annual Budget Dance. It argues that the annual increase in the police budget has declined since 2005, when it was a 5.7 per cent increase from 2004, to an increase of 3.99 per cent between 2009 and 2008. He doesnt say it, but if this trend continues, sometime in the 2030s decade the police wont be asking for any increase at all although one fears by then the police forces financial demands will have bankrupted the city.
The chair mentions one aspect of the police salary that is not generally talked about. In 2002, as part of a contract settlement to encourage officers to not leave the Toronto service, a retention bonus was written into the contract. Those serving more than seven years were given a bonus of 3 per cent; those serving 15 years or more got a 6 per cent bonus, and those with 23 years service, a 9 per cent bonus. Those provisions remain in place. Mukherjee says While it may have made sense as a solution for a problem being faced at the time, it makes no sense whatsoever as a permanent giveway.
According to the 2008 Environmental Scan (page 212), about 2000 officers have 23 or more years of service, and at average rates of pay of $75,000, the retention bonus would cost about over $12 million this year. There are about 600 officers with 15 22 years of service, and the cost of the bonus for them is $2.5 million. About 1600 officers have served 5 14 years, for a bonus cost of $6 million. Mukherjee does not give a cost figure for the retention bonus, but it seems that for this year it will amount to more than $20 million.
The speeches can be found at http://www.tpsb.ca , and click on chairs blog.
4. TTC special constables may evolve into police officers
In May 2009 the police service created a Transit Patrol Unit consisting of 42 police officers, and the Board authorized the chief to begin discussions to assume from the TTC the responsibility for public transit safety and security. It was an example of the desire by the police force to expand its jurisdiction, as it has done with high schools. The police would take over the special constables employed by the TTC and turn them into full police officers. It was thought the transfer would be completed this January.
The expansion has now been abandoned. The transition costs would have been `significant, and the salary and benefit costs unaffordable. But the idea has not been abandoned. The chief says the transition of the TTC special constables to the police service `will be more of an evolutionary process. Which raises the question how much will be spent on this evolution? Why not let the TTC look after its own security issues, just calling in the police when necessary?
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