TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 52, March 12, 2010.



March 12 2010

1. Racial profiling in Toronto
2. Building on budget cuts
3. A leisurely study into corruption issues
4. Coroners jury says stop shooting at cars



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 52, March 12, 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
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In this issue:
1. Racial profiling in Toronto
2. Building on budget cuts
3. A leisurely study into corruption issues
4. Coroners jury says stop shooting at cars
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Racial profiling in Toronto

In an explosive series of articles in early February, reporters for the Toronto Star, led by Jim Rankin, published their analysis of police data that recorded the 1.7 million individuals stopped by Toronto police between 2003 and 2008. (The Star had to take the Toronto Police Services Board to the Court of Appeal before it could get this data  see Bulletin No. 45, February 9, 2009.) Thats about 300,000 people stopped each year, or about one person every second shift by an officer  not everyone who is stopped is carded, but some are. Analysis shows that black and brown youth are 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than white youth, three times more likely to be charged with a driving offence, three times more likely to be held in jail rather than released. (For the complete series of articles, and an interview with Chief Bill Blair, see www.thestar.com/racematters )

In 2002 when the Toronto Star published articles showing that if you were black you were treated more harshly by police in certain circumstances than whites, and also more likely to be ticketed for certain traffic offences, the news was greeted with angry denials and law suits (which were rejected by the courts.)

This time around, authorities seemed entirely unperturbed. Chief Bill Blair implied theres nothing wrong with police discriminating by skin colour  although he didnt put it that way. None of his statements to the Star indicated that the police were doing anything wrong in who they stopped.

One reason given was that some crime involved black youth, guns and murders and so why shouldnt police stop and search black youth. Sure, it might be an inconvenience to the good guys, but, as Lorry Goldstein of the Toronto Sun said, what else should police to do? Its sort of what you have to put up with if you are young and black.

Another reason given is that filling out cards (called 208 cards) and recording name, race, age, reason for the stop, time and date, and who the individual is with, allows police to create a profile of the individual. That data can be pulled up when someone is arrested to see who else they might find related to the crime. Police claim to have destroyed several alibis this way.

Windsor Professor David Tanovich, who wrote the powerful book `The Colour of Justice, cites Ontario Court judge Harry LaForme (now sitting on the Court of Appeal) from a case in 2004:  One reasonable  although very unfortunate  impression that one could draw from the information sought on these 208 cards  along with the current manner in which they are being used  is that they could be a tool utilized for racial profiling&. They are but another means whereby subjective assessments based upon race  or some other irrelevant factor  can be used to mask discriminatory conduct.

&This kind of daily tracking of the whereabouts of persons  including many innocent law-abiding persons  has an aspect to it that reminds me of former government regimes that I am certain all of us would prefer not to replicate.

On the random stop approach: is it worth stopping 100 innocent black youths to find that a few of them are carrying something illegal, such as drugs, or even a gun? Judges will not allow evidence in court which has been obtained by police engaging in racial profiling to determine who they will stop.

According to studies done by criminologist Scot Wortley in Toronto, if the police were stopping white youth at the same rate as they are black youth they would find a higher number of them were committing crimes. But if white youths were stopped as often as police are stopping black youths, there would be a loud outcry about civil rights being infringed.

We all want to stop black kids (and other kids) from committing violent and anti-social acts. Discriminating against them will never achieve this goal. As Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling point out so persuasively in their report `The Roots of Youth Violence we need to spend money on strengthening the lives of these children and of their families. These are not problems police can resolve.

What is absolutely astounding and frightening, is that in the month since the Star stories were published, not a single elected politician - at the city, provincial or federal level  has spoken out against this discrimination by the Toronto police. Not one. We have laws that prevent racial discrimination and penalize those who engage in it. Not a peep from those who enforce those laws. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has said nothing.

We need a police force that does not engage in racial discrimination. The first step is for those in charge to say it is wrong. That has yet to happen.

2. Building on budget cuts

In December the police submitted a budget with net spending of $899.1 million. City staff proposed cuts to reduce it to $892.2 million, which the Police Service Board agreed to. The city staff came forward and asked for a further cut of $5.9 million plus giving them another $1.8 million for police in the transit system, which would put the 2010 net police budget at $888.1 million. That is $33 million more than the $854.8 of last year.

The chief reported to a Board meeting on March 8 that cuts had already meant that no new officers would be hired from the April class of the Ontario Police College; that there would be a gap of nine months before civilian positions were filled, and that payments to reserve funds had been cut back. He said cutting another $5.9 million would mean none of the 258 officers retiring this year would be replaced, and even with the extra $1.8 million maybe the 42 extra officers planned for the transit system could not be hired. He suggested that the cut would mean that generally each division would be cut by 14 officers. He painted a scene where the city would be much less safe.

Two councilors on the Board, Pam McConnell and Adam Vaughan, said that there were real budget problems at the city and that the Board should try to offer some more cuts even if not equal to $5.9 million. When someone mentioned that there was $250,000 in the convention and meeting account but it was a relatively small amount and should not be touched, Vaughan put spending in priority. He said, The cost of keeping libraries open on Sundays in Toronto is $300,000. That amount will fund breakfast programs in 25 schools. It was the closest the Board came to realizing that the money it swallows is not available for other good things in the city.

In the end, the Board decided to tell the city that it would not make further cuts. That was on Monday. But on Tuesday morning the chair of the Police Services Board met with the citys budget chief. They apparently struck a deal and the chair called a speedy meeting of the Board for Tuesday evening to get it approved. Yes, the $5.9 million cut will go into place, and the $1.8 million grant for police officers on the transit system will take place. The police force will consist not of 5510 officer  the target number for 2009, but of that plus an additional 80 officers that will be on the transit system for a total of 5590. It is true that the expense for this large increase wont be fully felt this year since many of the officers are coming on later in the year, but it will be a large amount of money to swallow next year. The matter now goes to the city budget committee on March 12 for approval.

In short, the police force gets an extra $33 million this year when it wanted an extra $45 million, and in 2011 it will be demanding an even larger increase on the basis that city hall authorized a much larger police force.

Whats needed is an approach that begins to look seriously at police spending and how police services can be delivered more cost effectively. There are lots of thinks to look at, including reducing the use of two-officer police cars, cutting the loose four hours each day from shift overlaps, cutting back on random patrol, reducing the retention pay awarded some years ago. These kinds of changes will take negotiation with the Toronto Police Association, and that may prove tricky or difficult, but thats the job of management. And we need to look at whether police officers really should be in schools, and similar kinds of priorities. No matter what deals the city budget committee makes, police spending is not sustainable.

3. Leisurely study into corruption issues.

Alok Mukherjee, Chair of Toronto Police Services Board, finally responded to the decision of the courts in December to throw out the corruption charges against Toronto police officers. (See Bulletin No. 51.) He proposed to the Board on February 18 that the Chief undertake a study of the issues arising from the court decision, focusing on disclosure and the use of police informants. The chief will provide terms of reference for the study by mid-April, and the report itself will be available in October 2010.

While TPAC argued that this time table did not provide any sense of priority or urgency to the study, Board members said it was a very a serious and complicated manner. (Indeed, Mukherjee himself said there would have to be inclusion of what Judge Ferguson said in his 2003 study on Toronto police wrong-doing, showing just how long the issue of corruption has drifted around the force without resolution.) It seems a lot like the same sleepwalking that has been going on for some time.

What the chief is not asked to do is to report on giving assurances to officers and the public that allegations of corruption will be responded to quickly and efficiently, and that officers will be protected from reprisals if they complain of corrupt activity.

4. Coroners jury says stop shooting at cars

Duane Christian, a 15 year old driving a stolen car in 2006 in Scarborough, was shot and killed by police. He was black. Police said he was trying to run them down.

A coroners jury considered the matter and decided that a policy put in place in 2008 (two years after Duanes death) stating that police cannot shoot at a driver to disable a vehicle, should be extended throughout Ontario. The Toronto Police Association, on the other hand, is opposed to this policy, and the police lawyer was quote as saying Its a silly policy. It doesnt make sense.

The jury also asked for more police training, and for  you guessed it - better relations between police and youth. See http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/771731--inquest-into-the-death-of-duane-christian

5. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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