Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 57, November 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. G20 update
a) SIU investigation
b) OIPRD Review
c) CCLA hearings
d) Legal actions
e) G20 detainees still in jail
2. More video cameras on the street?
3. Starving prisoners in court
4. OIPRD`s first year
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. G20 Update
a) SIU Investigation
The Special Investigation Unit looked into six incidents where people were injured by police during the G20 weekend at the end of June. No charges will be laid. The SIU said in some cases it could not verify the complainants allegation that the police caused the injury. In one other case, caught on video tape where there were four or five officers shown to be assaulting a young man, none of the officers could be identified because they were not wearing their name badges and because they were wearing shields which hid their faces. Identification was a problem in several other cases. In another case the officers who were suspected of causing injury refused to be interviewed by the SIU. In another case the officer provided a number of an officer working for the Quebec force who was not assigned to Toronto for the G20.
Chief Bill Blair, when interviewed by CBC/s Metro Morning, said that a video tape which the SIU had relied on had been tampered with, and therefore officers should not be charged. He did not address the issue of officers not identifying themselves. Julian Falconer, the lawyer representing of the people injured (his real name is Adam Nobody, and when he says he gave his name the officer assaulted him again) says he has affidavit information that the tape has never been doctored, and that it was stopped for about five seconds as the individual working the camera backed up. Falconer thinks it most unusual that the chief would accuse someone of essentially obstructing justice when it is the police officers who will not identify themselves.
The question of evidence seems to be an entirely separate matter (indeed police refuse to talk about evidence when they have charged someone), and the fact that the Chief decided that this issue was the best response he could make should not dissuade anyone from asking the questions which need answers from police Chief Bill Blair:
1) Did he instruct his supervisors to ensure that all officers were wearing their name badges when they left the station, and were those instructions followed? If some officers were not wearing their badges when they left the station (as photos indicate so clearly) will those supervisors be punished?
2) Surely supervisors knew where the officers under their command were at any time surely they knew that identified officers were in particular places at particular times, rather than roaming freely over the city. If that is the case, why cannot officers who took off their badges be identified? Did supervisors in the field allow officers to perform their duties without name badges?
3) The Chief must be able to compel the officers who refused to talk to the SIU to discuss what happened. Police officers make decisions every day that have significant impacts on peoples lives and they must explain and be accountable for those decisions and actions. A condition of their work should be the obligation to talk to their supervisors (including the chief) and any governing body involved (SIU, Internal Affairs, TPSB) about incidents that cause harm to members of the public, detainees, and others who interact with them. If they refuse to talk, they should be cited for insubordination, leading to firing if the behaviour continues. Without that, there is no accountability. If they recount what happened and it was a criminal offense, like any other employees in any other organization, the boss should make sure they are charged. Blair and other police chiefs are taking a hands-off approach, refusing to demand accountability from those they are purported to lead.
Chief Blair has hinted that the discipline for officers not wearing their badges he apparently thinks he can identify 90 such officers will be loss of one days pay. This is clearly going to be seen as insubstantial by officers and will do nothing to prevent this behaviour in the future. Instead, they should be cited for insubordination as well for ignoring the Chiefs direct order. And what about the penalty for a supervisor who allowed officers to get away with hiding their identity? Again this needs to be written into their file and consequences imposed if the poor supervision continues.
Regulation 267/10 under the Police Services Act regarding the SIU imposes a duty (in Section 3) on the chief, stating A chief of police shall notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving one or more of his or her police officers that may reasonably be considered to fall within the investigative mandate of the SIU, as set out in subsection 113 (5) of the Act. Chief Blair should be asked whether this was done.
Further, the regulation obligates the police force to report injuries caused by police. Clearly, many individuals reported they were injured by police actions. Did the police report any such injuries to the SIU as they are required to do?
4) Will the Toronto Police Services Board demand accountability from the chief? It should require appropriate disciplinary action against supervisors and officers concerning name badges; and it should ask for the reports filed on injuries to meet the SIU regulations.
b) OIPRD review
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director has outlined the terms of the review it will undertake of G20 police actions. It will address issues of a systemic nature and identify issues and make recommendations to specifically address the policing of large protests and the maintenance of public order to generally enhance public confidence and trust in police and policing. The purpose is not to find fault on the part of any individual, community or organization. The Office is seeking submissions from anyone interested, but there will be no hearings.
This review may be beneficial to investigate the lawfulness of employed police tactics used, such as kettling. This review may also highlight the law of detention and search, or even go so far as to address freedom of assembly in relation to policing activities. However, this review will fail to hold anyone accountable, even if one thought that part of the duty of a complaints mechanism is to ensure accountability. As for enhancing trust and public confidence in police, what possibly could the OIPRD have in mind?
c) Canadian Civil Liberties Association hearings
The CCLA had two days of public hearings in Toronto in mid-November, and they provided disturbing stories of what had happened to those caught up by police during the G20 weekend, as described in Catherin Porters article in the Toronto Star, `Tales of horror from a police state ours. See http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/thestar/access/2187612111.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Nov+13%2C+2010&author=Catherine+Porter&pub=Toronto+Star&edition=&startpage=A.8&desc=Tales+of+horror+from+a+police+state+-+ours
Sadly, no policing authority has shown any interest in following up on what the CCLA has uncovered. The need for an independent inquiry is very clear.
d) Legal actions
In the last Bulletin we provided details of one class action law suit. There are now two separate class action lawsuits. For more information, see the following weblinks to each lawsuit homepage: https://www.g20classactionlawsuit.ca/ and http://www.g20classaction.ca/
Workshops are being held with lawyer Davin Charney on how to sue the police on December 11th, 3-5pm and December 16th, 6-8pm, at The 519 Church Street Community Centre, 519 Church St., room 107. If you are interested in attending a workshop or would like to stay in touch to receive information via email, please go to http://tinyurl.com/suingpolice to register.
If you have a human rights complaint in regards to the G20, contact The Human Rights Legal Support Centre at 416-314-6266 or 1-866-625-5179. Indicate that you would like to make a human rights complaint from the G20. For more information, visit:
e) G20 Detainees still in jail
Alex Hundert and other people detained and charged with crimes related to the G20 remain in jail or under unreasonable bail conditions that violate their rights. Montreal activist Jaggi Singh is challenging those bail conditions arising from conspiracy charges. For more information about the challenge and other G20 news go to http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=105834722823879 and http://g20.torontomobilize.org/
2. More video cameras on the street
Chief Blair is proposing to buy about 60 of the video cameras installed at street corners for the G20, at half price, providing the federal government agrees. It is unclear what each camera is worth maybe $2000 which would be a $120,000 investment. Is this a good way to spend money?
As we know from the G20 events, the cameras did nothing to help the police stop those who decided to break off from the main demonstrators, break windows, and set police cars afire. Nor did it identify the police officers who engaged in illegal activity. The presence of cameras in the Ottawa police station didnt deter four officers from kneeing, tackling and violently strip searching a woman in their custody. (See November 26 blog on http://www.thepolicefile.ca .
The last time the issue of buying more video machines was before the Board was in early 2009, and in Bulletin 47 we cited Professor Rosemary Gartner of the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto. After carefully reviewing the police evidence about videos at that time, she concluded that the data did not support a finding that calls for service had been reduced in areas where cameras were mounted. She wrote `I would conclude there is no strong or consistent evidence that the presence of CCTV reduces calls for service.
Assuming that this conclusion remains valid, this purchase does not make sense and should be opposed when it comes to the TPSB in January.
On a related point, perhaps there should be a general policy that all video film gathered by police on their cameras should be available to members of the public, not just to the police.
3. Starving prisoners in court
On April 25, 2010 the National Post published a story that the food served prisoners at the court houses in Toronto consist of a soya-based cheese product in a bun and a 250 ml serving of orange flavour drink. Food in court for prisoners is a responsibility of the Toronto Police Services Board. This food does not meet United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Lawyer Clayton Ruby complained to the Alok Mukherjee, chair of the TPS Board (Mukherjee had refused to be interviewed by the National Post), noting that this was a breach of the Charter of Rights. Mukherjee said he would not deal with this issue since all complaints must be filed with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. Ruby went the OIPRD, and it said Ruby was not an affected party and could not make a complaint.
Ruby then wrote again to Mukherjee who maintained that if you have a complaint about the Board you cannot come to the Board but must go to the OIPRD. He provided a bit more information. He wrote As the issue of prisoners meals is an operational one, there is no Board policy that covers this area. (The Board somehow thinks that it is not responsible for operations of the police force, one of the oddest distinctions any manager can ever have, and a perverse interpretation of Section 31 of the Police Services Act which says it may not deal with day-to-day decisions about who gets arrested, etc.) He noted that there was a Service Procedure covering meals for those in custody, but it is confidential, as are all procedures. He also noted that the Police Board was just about to extend the contract for food for a further year, which has since occurred.
Why the police chief and members of the Police Services Board think prisoners should be given less than the minimum food requirements outlined by the United Nations is unclear. Why are they being so petty and cheap? Alok Mukherjee, before he became chair of the Police Board, had a fine reputation in human rights.
TPAC intends to take action on this issue.
4. OIPRDs first year
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director has been open since mid-October 2009, a little over a year, to deal with complaints from the public about police. We wondered what the Office had been doing, and asked for information. We were told that in its first year of operation, it received over 3,700 complaints.
We asked if it could provide some sort of breakdown of this figure, so we could get a sense of how the Office was doing, and whether the public felt complaints were being resolved in a reasonable fashion. We asked quite detailed questions (see below), and were provided with the following answers by a communications consultant for the Office:
Most of the information you are requesting is not publicly available at the moment. However, I can say that since the OIPRD opened, we have received over 3,700 complaints. Between October 2009 and March 31, 2010, we received 1100 complaints. Since April, we have received another 2600 complaints.
The majority of complaints have been classified as conduct complaints; a small percentage have been classified as policy or service complaints. Most complaints have been referred back to the service generating the complaint. OIPRD has retained about 15 per cent to date, following the same process as police services of investigation and reporting.
There are no systemic complaints. The Director determines if conduct, service or policy complaints received warrant a systemic review. The Police Services Act gives the Independent Police Review Director the power to examine and review issues of a systemic nature that are the subject of, or that give rise to public complaints under the Act.
Unfortunately, this brief summary does not provide enough information to assess the effectiveness of the Office. It sounds as though almost nothing has changed in regard to the processing of complaints by the OIPRD. We think the questions we asked need answers:
1. How many complaints accepted by the Office were about: a) policy; b) service; c) conduct; d) systemic behaviour? (Is it fair to assume the 370 complaints about the G20 are all in the category of systemic behaviour?)
2. How many conduct complaints were investigated first by the police force involved, and how many by the Offices own investigators?
3. How many complaints investigated by the Office were deemed substantiated and serious?
4. How many complaints in each category were substantiated?
5. Of those substantiated, how many were serious, and how many hearings were held? What were the results of those hearings?
6. Of those found substantiated but not serious, how many were resolved informally? How were the remainder resolved?
It is hard to believe that a police complaints office which refuses to say how complaints are resolved will be able to retain the respect and confidence of the public for very long. We will attempt to obtain more data and report back.
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin.
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