Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin, No. 55, September 17, 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.
In this issue:
1. Ten weeks after the G20, and waiting
2. Keith Forde retires
3. Another police killing in Toronto
4. Striking out on racial profiling, again
5. Professional standards
6. A short and snappy policing agenda
1. Ten weeks after the G20, and waiting
During the meeting of G20 leaders in Toronto in late June, more than 1100 people were arrested the largest mass arrest that has ever taken place in Canada: larger than in the Winnipeg General strike in 1919, larger than during the October crisis in Quebec in 1970.
Few of the demonstrators were involved in anything more than marching on the streets, carrying banners and shouting slogans. Some of those arrested were passers-by who the police scooped up because they were in the vicinity of peaceful demonstrators when police boxed people in, then arrested them the new police strategy of kettling, as it is now known. Some, like the group from Quebec who were staying in a university dormitory, were awoken at night and arrested en masse. Even those demonstrators who were in the area in front of Queens Park which the police themselves had established as a `free speech zone found that they were shot at by police with rubber bullets.
Of those arrested, some 260 were charged with an offence, and some of those were subject to subject to repressive bail conditions such as not being permitted to attend any demonstration of any kind including one asking for a public inquiry, or not using a telephone or a computer. One suspects that no more than 10 percent of those charged will be convicted of a criminal offence. That would mean that almost everyone was arrested without good reason.
The police had little interest in preventing a small break-away group from setting fire to five police cars and vandalizing shops on Queen, Bay, College and Yonge Streets. The route of this group was very evident to police who had established closed circuit television cameras at more than 60 downtown locations, but none of the 10,000 police officers assigned to Toronto lifted a finger to intervene. Instead, police concentrated on arresting peaceful demonstrators, many of whom were released without charge after being detained for most of 24 hours.
As a police officer said as he handcuffed a young woman and stuffed her into a paddy wagon, Thats what you get for protesting.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association told that vignette. It has the most comprehensive information on the G20 on its web site, www.ccla.org , as well as regular updates.
Few political leaders have being willing to say police action was inappropriate. Toronto city council voted 36 0 to commend the police on their actions. Premier Dalton McGuinty remarked favourably on how the police acted, and Vic Toeves, the federal minister of justice has said the same. None of the leading candidates for mayor in the October 25 municipal election have made an issue of what police have done.
There is a policing crisis in Toronto, and there is no mechanism to ensure police accountability or hold police actions within the constraints of the law. Police in Toronto apparently have a free hand to search whoever they want without warrant contrary to the Charter or Rights and Freedoms, and to arrest whoever they want without good reason.
The Toronto Police Services Board has promised a Review, and terms of reference have been adopted, although it has not announced who might lead this exercise. But a Review is not an inquiry: the reviewer will not be able to compel people to testify under oath; indeed testimony under oath will not be sought. Further, the review is only concerned with the action of the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police service, not with the many thousands of other officers and RCMP involved. It may provide some useful insights (and that of course depends on the reviewer), but it is no substitute for the inquiry that is required.
Ontarios police complaints mechanism, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, has promised an inquiry into the actions of members of Ontario police forces, but there are no details about how this will proceed, and as the racial profiling story in this issue of the Bulletin points out, the OIPRD could stumble badly. No federal authority wants to look into the actions of the RCMP, the body in charge of the whole operation through the Integrated Security Unit.
The one charge laid under the controversial Public Works Protection Act the legislation that apparently Chief Bill Blair asked the provincial Cabinet to invoke will not proceed because the police have lost the file. Lost the file? Thats a good way to ensure there is no accountability in the courts.
Two class action law suits have been started (see www.ccla.org for details) but one expects the police, with their extraordinary financial resources, to tie these cases up in legal arguments for years.
2. Keith Forde retires
Before he retired at the end of August, John Sewell had a chance to interview deputy chief of police for Toronto, Keith Forde. Heres his report:
Keith Forde, a deputy chief of the Toronto police force, is one of the most outspoken police activists one could imagine, although `outspoken and `activist are not words he would ever use.
Throughout the 38 years he has served with the Toronto force, he has consistently spoken up for people of colour both within and outside the police community, he has reached out to embrace critics, and he has involved himself in community affairs. On June 29 he announced his imminent retirement.
If theres a thin blue line that Forde has had to walk during his career, its been with the expectations of the community on one side and those of the police force on the other.
I know people have seen me as a role model which means they have scrutinized me and looked at me more closely, he said during an interview last week. I had to be careful not to make mistakes. The community thought I had unbridled power, and they didnt recognize that it wasnt so.
He developed an enviable reputation. Black officers on the force would seek his advice and confide in him during what were difficult years in the 1970s and 1980s when racism in the force was apparent. Cardinal Emmett Carter remarked, in a report to Metro Council completed in 1979, that the chief should inform officers they could not call Blacks `niggers.
He also became a go-to person for those in communities of colour, not only in dealing with the police, but in terms of social and community issues. His principled positions gave him a wisdom and status that was widely recognized.
He also was working within the confines of the police force and its traditional culture. That was fine with Forde. Im a team player, he says, and Ive tried to make change from within. But his community position brought its own tensions.
Since (as a police officer) I spoke up for visible minorities, the police service expected me to be an ambassador for them, so if I said certain things they didnt like, there could be problems.
Obviously, the problems within the force were overcome after he joined the force in 1972, as Forde steadily advanced in rank Hit and Run Squad, under cover drugs, platoon sergeant, staff sergeant, inspector, division commander - until his appointment as deputy five years ago.
He was born in Barbados, the seventh of eleven children. As a young child, he came to know a white police officer named Cyrus, a man who impressed him immensely as someone who seemed to know everyone and treated everyone as his friend. Forde thought he wanted to be a policeman like that.
As a teenager, he showed strong leadership skills. At the Anglican church his family attended, he headed the youth club, which gave him the opportunity to mobilize youth and hold concerts to raise money. His parents required that he volunteer at the church and although as a teenager he resented having to do this, he learned very quickly the kind of larger role he was expected to play in society. I ended up liking it, he remembers.
In the late 1960s he immigrated to Montreal and attended Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University). He noticed there were no Black officers on the Montreal force, but visiting Toronto he decided to apply to the Toronto force, where a handful of Blacks had been recruited. Before he joined the police service, he sent for his sweetheart in Barbados and married her. (They had three children, two sons who are now on the Toronto police force, and a daughter. His wife died of cancer in 2003.)
He realizes that as he became a police officer he wasnt like other recruits. I entered with a strong background of knowing right from wrong, with my values already inculcated. At 23 I was mature and married. The others werent as sure of themselves as I was of myself.
Then began the struggle that every young recruit goes through, trying to ensure that as an individual you are not swallowed up and drowned by police culture and the police organization.
I made sure the job did not change me, he says. The bulk of my friends were not police officers. I have always kept my outside interests - in the church, in cricket organizations, in dominoes (a serious pastime for men from the Caribbean.)
My advice to young officers is, dont let police services define who you are.
He always reached out to police critics. During the 1970s a number of Blacks were killed by police and there would be demonstrations against the police. He made a point of talking to the leaders Dudley Laws, Bromley Armstrong, Lennox Farrell, Charles Roach. I took time to recognize them, and to realize this was their only opportunity to find an outlet for their feelings. I talked to them like human beings. I tried to build up rapport and trust. I thought, but for the grace of God I could have been in their position.
He says, disarmingly, They have served noble causes for the community. Im here as a senior police officer because of things they have done (for people of colour.)
He assisted in the formation of ABLE, Association of Black Law Enforcers, and organized a conference of Black officers almost a decade ago. He was no shrinking violet in his allegiances and concerns.
I feel humbled and fortunate to be where I am and who I am, he says. Large organizations tend to ignore the opinions of others. But I ask, how can I get others to understand? I think you must reach out to those you believe dont like you. Reaching out is rewarding for everyone.
He says he tells young officers that instead of getting angry, they should try to engage people, then goes on to make a profound comparison. He says that many complain that the black community wont talk to outsiders (or the police) after there is a shooting. He notes that the police dont do that either after something has happened within their ranks.
Forde is quite optimistic about recent changes in the force. He thinks the Police Services Board provides strong leadership, particularly in the area of diversity, putting women and people of colour in senior positions. He thinks the members of the force are more educated, with a more sophisticated approach, and make better decisions than in the past. He thinks the infusion of more civilians has brought more innovation to the police. He is full of praise of Chief Bill Blair who he credits with the advice, You can rock the boat but dont sink it we need everyone to be aboard.
Yet Forde believes policing has to change. It is eating up a large chunk of the budget. We can keep Toronto the safest city in the country without spending more money. Well need the buy-in of the Police Association, but I think many recognize public policing is costing too much.
He also thinks there should be less emphasis on law enforcement and more emphasis of crime prevention, even though, unlike the number of arrests or the number of tickets issued, prevention is not easily measured. And he wants the police force to look like the community it polices.
But he doesnt want to be called an activist. I dont want to be defined as an activist, its too negative. Where some see a challenge, I see an opportunity and I would spend time on that opportunity. I wanted to make fundamental change, and its been incremental, slower than I would like, but change nevertheless. Its not fast enough but it is pointing in the right direction.
3. Another police killing
Another man has been killed by Toronto police the third in a five month period. (See Bulletin No. 53, May 19, 2010.)
The family of Reyal Jensen Jardine-Douglas were so concerned about their sons mental health on August 30 that they called the police. The 25 year old man, who family members say did not display signs of violence, boarded a bus, and while officers stayed with the family, other officers chased the bus. Reyal got off the bus, was asked if he had a weapon, and when he reached into his pocket, he was shot dead by a police officer. The family heard of the shooting over the two way radio of the officers who were with them.
The usual investigations are underway, but whats needed is a whole different approach by Toronto police to the use of guns and tasers. As the Jardine-Douglas family has tragically learned, the police can be a serious threat to someone in mental crisis even when they are not a threat to anyone. A progressive police force would have immediately announced that it was changing its mode of behavior so no others would be killed. The Toronto force has said nothing.
4. Striking out on racial profiling, again
At the beginning of June, Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and two of its members, John Sewell and Anna Willats, filed a complaint with the Office of Independent Police Review Director about racial profiling by the Toronto police, citing the evidence revealed by the Toronto Star in its study of police stops over many years.
The complaint was filed under Section 58(1)(a) of the Police Services Act regarding the policies and/or service of a police force; and under Section 58(1)(b), about the conduct of unnamed officers. The complaint was clearly about systemic actions that were so well established that they were no different that a matter of policy by the force. (Sections 56 75 of the Act deal with complaints and the OIPRD.)
The complaint referred to the documented evidence of constant racial profiling by the Toronto police service; that is, deciding to take action based on the race of individuals, and taking different actions against individuals according to their race. This form of discrimination is prohibited by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly Section 15, and Sections 8 and 9 prevent arbitrary arrest (which would include someone arrested because of racial profiling) and unreasonable searches (which would include someone searched because of racial profiling). This form of discrimination is also prohibited by the Human Rights Code (Ontario.)
The complaint noted that this widespread practice was documented in a series of articles published in early February 2010 in the Toronto Star, www.thestar.com/racematters . 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, and three times more likely to be held in jail rather than released. Toronto police engage in racial profiling in regard to those they detain and those they charge, as well as those they stop.
The complaint noted that the complainants, as residents of Toronto and as a group that speaks on policing issues, are directly affected by the police service and by police officers who discriminate. Unequal policing contributes to the marginalization of, and a poorer quality of life for, many in the city, and this increases social stratification and unrest, which affects all Toronto residents. Tolerating a differential treatment of some in our city by our police force will easily lead to differential treatment of any group by other public and private services, and that detrimentally affects the kind of city that Toronto should be. Racial profiling impinges on the concept of protected rights that the complainants and many others have struggled for over long periods of time to ensure they are in force in Toronto.
The complaint urged the OIRPD to make its own assessment of this evidence, and if it found racial profiling, it should require the police to take remedial action, including public statements, devising a strategy to end racial profiling, along with monitoring.
The OIRPD was quick to reject TPAC as a complainant, replying within two days that only a `member of the public can make a complaint, and TPAC, an unincorporated body, was not a member of the public.
By the end of the month, the OIPRD also concluded that neither Sewell nor Willats had the status to file this complaint, since they were `not persons affected by the alleged policy or conduct, and further `the policy of the Toronto police complained of did not have a direct effect on them. Further, the OIPRD said `Your knowledge stems primarily from media reports. As such, your involvement in this matter is too remote to permit me to classify you as a third party complainant.
The OIPRD apparently believes that only people of colour are affected by racial profiling decision. WE believe the whole society is affected, those who discriminated as well as those discriminated against. And how is one to allege systemic behavior, such as racial profiling, except through some study which someone does, or through media which shows that whatever has happened has happened to more than one person?
If a complaint on systemic police behavior cant be filed about racial profiling when the evidence is so overwhelming that it occurs with regularity, what kinds of systemic behavior is the OIPRD willing to look into? Is this really a tiger which has become toothless in its first nine months of existence?
Meanwhile, TPAC, Sewell and Willats are looking for other venues to see if racial profiling by Toronto police can be stopped since it is contrary to law and it is oppressive.
5. Professional standards
The Professional Standards report for the Toronto police for 2009 was recently released. It contains various bits of interesting information.
In 2009 there were 154 police chases, down from the average over the last 4 years of 183 chases. One reason for the decrease is that for whatever reason (unstated in the report), police decided to not chase 36 vehicles which wouldnt stop when requested to do so compared to just 11 last year.
One third of the chases were started because of a Highway Traffic Act violation; the other two thirds because of suspected Criminal Code violations, almost one half of which were because the vehicle was thought to be stolen.
Half the chases were discontinued by either the officer or the supervisor. Of the chases that continued, a collision resulted in every fourth chase. Nineteen individuals were injured in these collisions, of which 10 were police officers. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in 2009.
Chases are obviously costly. Maybe that policy of deciding not to chase should be pursued with more intensity in order to further reduce the number of police chases.
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) started 76 investigations in 2009 (up from 61 the previous year.) It withdrew in 21 cases, exonerated the officers in 48 cases, and in six cases charged officers with criminal offences (which the report does not specify.)
Handguns were taken from their holters and not further used 262 times during 2009; they were taken from their holsters and pointed at a person another 943 times. Guns were fired intentionally 24 times, and unintentionally 17 times. The main reason given for this use of force was so the officer could protect him/herself.
In 2009, 77 new cases were initiated against officers by Prosecution Services involving 160 charges under the Police Services Act. Virtually all of the charges were for discreditable conduct or insubordination. But less than a quarter of the cases are proceeded with. In 2009 277 cases (from 2009 and previous years) were concluded: 142 charges were withdrawn and 92 charges were not proceeded with because of resignation or retirement. There were 9 guilty pleas, 31 findings of guilt, and 3 acquittals.
It seems like a very cumbersome and expensive manner of dealing with internal discipline.
6. A policing agenda for the new Toronto mayor
Heres a short and snappy policing agenda for Torontos new mayor and council:
1. Bring the police budget under control. Require the police in 2011 to adhere to the same expenditure constraints as all other city services.
2. Develop and implement a strategy to stop racial profiling by Toronto police. Police should not be permitted to discriminate by the colour of peoples skin or their racial characteristics.
3. Appoint individuals to the Police Services Board who will require more accountability and who will encourage much more public debate about policing policy.
4. Change policies so police do not shoot, taser, and/or kill those with mental health issues.
We invite you to ask candidates for mayor and council to respond to this agenda.
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