TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 63, September 28, 2011.



September 28 2011

1. We can improve Toronto Policing! An October 18 forum
2. Death on Bloor Street
3. Reviewing strip search policy
4. Refusing to promote badge-less G20 officers
5. What cuts to the police budget?
6. Too many police?



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 63, September 28, 2011.

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. We can improve Toronto Policing! An October 18 forum
2. Death on Bloor Street
3. Reviewing strip search policy
4. Refusing to promote badge-less G20 officers
5. What cuts to the police budget?
6. Too many police?
7. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. TPACs October 18 forum on policing

We can improve Toronto policing!
A public forum about 8 ideas for change
Tuesday October 18, 7 pm
Innis College, St George and Sussex Streets

Toronto Police Accountability Coalition has called this public forum for Tuesday October 18, 2011, Innis College Town Hall (Sussex and St. George Street), at 7pm. Innis College is one block south of the St. George Subway Station. This venue is wheelchair accessible.

This meeting follows a forum called by TPAC on June 20, where many ideas for change in Toronto police were discussed by the 100+ in attendance. From that session we have chosen eight ideas to discuss in depth.

Join us to pinpoint the changes needed and why they are needed, including: thinking about the roadblocks to change and how they will be overcome; outlining the support required for change and how it will be secured; planning the approach to the appropriate decision-makers to agree to the changes; and all other questions about how to put good ideas into reality. You can make a difference, and together we can make change. Work with others on one of the four topics:

Police Culture
1. Restructuring police and police work to make them more accountable to communities
2. Changing recruitment and training policies to get the police personnel the city needs; rethinking policies to retain the officers the city needs

Bias-free policing
1. Ensuring those stopped by police get a copy of the Form 208 contact card, which is the police record of the stop
2. Changing how police deal with those facing mental health challenges and crises, and the disabled


Youth
1. Creating a more inclusive definition of who police should treat as a `youth so young people get real protection from police and appropriate diversionary policies.
2. Reducing the criminalization of youth, including the way they are treated at schools; implementing better practices to divert them from jail, and reforming the records police keep and release

Police Spending
1. Limit police attention on minor issues such as Safe Streets Act tickets, minor drug possession, presence in schools, and instead divert these matters from the courts
2. Change the expensive shift schedule, two-office patrol cars, retention pay and court room bonuses.

Bring your ideas and your intelligence. You need not have attended the June 20 meeting to be welcome on October 18. The meeting will begin with a keynote speech by Scott Wortley of the Centre for Criminology, University of Toronto, and we will then break into four groups, each to meet in their own space, with facilitators provide by TPAC. If you need further information, email us at info@tpac.ca .

2. Death on Bloor Street

Charlie McGillivray, a gentle large man who was mentally disabled since a childhood accident and unable to speak, was walking along Bloor Street one evening in August with his mother to purchase pizza, as they often did. This time, the police intervened, apparently stopped him, pushed him onto the ground and maybe did more, and he was dead. No one on the busy sidewalk saw the man do anything to warrant police intervention.

The police have kept absolute silence on the matter, releasing no information on why their officers intervened or what they did that may have led to the mans death. The Special Investigations Unit has said nothing.

There is something very wrong with a police action that leads to death and then the force refuses to justify its actions. This looks like another case where police have responded inappropriately to someone who is mentally disabled or suffering a mental crisis. Toronto police action leads to the death of several individuals in crisis or mentally ill each year, and there is rarely a good explanation. They often say they are following standard police procedure, and thats probably the big problem: standard police procedure isnt good enough. Those procedures need serious rethinks to respond appropriately to those in mental crisis or mentally disabled.

Sadly, police leaders show no inclination in making change. Police Board members steer themselves clear of these issues. This is one of the issues that will be addressed at TPACs forum on October 18. Maybe we can create a good strategy that results in the Board and the police force changing.

3. Reviewing strip search policy.

At its meeting in July, the Toronto Police Services Board decided that it would review its strip search policy. TPAC wrote to Alok Mukherjee, Chair of the Board, to ask how the review would be undertaken, and we were informed he would be undertaking the review, and it would concern only the Boards policy, not the service procedure, which, he said will fall within the purview of the Chief.

The Boards web site, www.tpac.ca, does not show any search of persons policy (except for a policy for strip searching transgendered people,) but after asking, we have received the following policy:
It is the policy of the Toronto Police Services Board that:
1. The Chief of Police will establish procedures and processes regarding search of persons that address:
a. the compliance by members of the police service with legal and constitutional requirements relating to when and how searches of persons are to be undertaken;
b. the circumstances in which an officer may undertake a search of a person;
c. frisk/field searches;
d. strip/complete searches;
e. body cavity searches;
f. consent searches;
g. the supervision of searches of persons; and
h. the documentation of searches of persons.

This seems like a bizarre method of ensuring that searches follow the law, and as we have noted in many Bulletins in the past, we think that many of the strip searches conducted by Toronto police are not lawful. The very general nature of the Boards approach can only be explained by an unwillingness to engage in clear direction. Many police boards interpret Section 31(4) of the Police Services Act to mean that they must leave all operational decisions to the chief. But that is not what the section says. It reads:
The board shall not direct the chief of police with respect to specific operational decisions or with respect to the day-to-day operation of the police force.

This is an appropriate direction for all directors of all boards  leave the day to day decision-making to the staff. But there is no good reason for a Board not to be really clear about what is acceptable policy, nor should the Board shy away from setting specific policy for staff to follow.

In this case, where the police force is searching far too many individuals and the Supreme Court of Canada has been clear this should not occur, the Board should have a policy which clearly tells the police what must be done. When TPAC meets with the chair in later October, we plan on telling him what that policy should be (as described in previous Bulletins.)

4. Refusing to promote badge-less G20 officers

In August the Toronto Police Services Board refused to accept the recommendation of Chief Bill Blair that ten officers be promoted in rank. The usual practice is that officers are automatically promoted on a yearly basis from fourth to third to second and then to first class officers, picking up an extra $8000 a year in salary with every promotion.

Nine of the officers had not worn their name badges during the G20 police actions a year ago; the tenth had faced other disciplinary action.

The Toronto Police Association has filed a grievance against the Boards decision. One argument is that the officers have already lost one days pay for not wearing their name badge, and they shouldnt be punished a second time. Another argument is that the Police Services Act can be interpreted to not permit withholding of a reclassification as a disciplinary act. See
http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1048123--police-board-refuses-to-promote-g20-officers

Is this part of a budget move, or is the Board starting to say it should be more in charge of how the force is managed? The latter would be a step in the right direction for civilian oversight of policing in Toronto.

5. What cuts to police budget?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his colleagues continue their search for gravy at City Hall, although gravy has been hard to come by, and Ford et al have refocused their search on programs that will be cut. Apparently funds will be taken from the police budget, but it remains unclear where that will happen. Chief Bill Blair has said maybe he will cut 1000 officers, but that statement seemed more tuned to create a crisis than to add something useful to the options available.

The Board Chair Alok Mukherjee issued a report strangely titled Avoiding Crisis, an Opportunity: Transforming the Toronto Police Service which maybe was trying to avoid an opportunity as well as a crisis. It notes that since 1957 when the amalgamated police force was created, the citys population has doubled, the police service has tripled in size, and the budget has increased eightfold.

But the report comes up short on how the service can be transformed, and it limits itself to suggestions for small changes here and there to produce modest expenditure reductions. Theres mention of the shift schedule and two officers per car  TPAC has unsuccessfully asked the Board to address these issues in the past  but these ideas dont even make it into the recommendations. There is no rethink of patrol work generally, or how community policing might be successfully used to reduce pulling so many youth into the criminal justice system. The rethink of training seems to imply there should be less of it, but no thought to abandon the idea of every new hire starting at the bottom when we could start hiring police officers in the same way everyone else is hired in a big organization  for a specific job needing specific skills.

All in all, it is very difficult to get a handle on where the Board and city council will save money in the police service. In all likelihood, the police will again escape major cuts and indeed will preserve their traditional increase in spending while other city services bite the dust.

6. Too many police?

On August 25, Macleans Magazine published an article `Too many cops? (http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/08/25/too-many-cops/ ) It answers the question, which it asked in a national context, in the affirmative, arguing (for example) that too much police energy is put into minor drug arrests and traffic tickets.

The article is excellent in opening up the debate about policing, as well as taking swipes at the approach by Stephen Harpers government of proceeding with the Omnibus Crime bill which will drive up the costs of the criminal justice system and of jails.

If Macleans is there, can change be far behind?

7. Subscribe to the Bulletin

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca.
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