TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 66, February 9, 2012.



February 09 2012

1. Another death at police hands
2. A better police approach to those in mental crisis
3. OIPRD says theres not much to complain about
4. Not fixing the RCMP



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 66, February 9, 2012.

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. Another death at police hands
2. A better police approach to those in mental crisis
3. OIPRD says theres not much to complain about
4. Not fixing the RCMP
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Another death at police hands

On the morning of February 3, Michael Eligon, a man in his late twenties, obviously in mental distress, ran from the Toronto East General Hospital, dressed in a hospital gown and socks but no shoes. He apparently had a pair of scissors in each hand, and ran erratically in the neighbourhood. Police attended, and reports were that more than a dozen officers had surrounded him when an officer shot three times at close range and killed him.

He is the third person killed by police since last August, when Charles McGillvary, a man with disabilities resulting from a childhood brain injury and who couldnt communicate, was confronted by police as he walked along Bloor Street, and in October Sylvia Klipingaitis , a woman who was in distress, was shot and killed by police. As usual, after these deaths the police say nothing about their actions, taking cover behind an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit. For each of the last several years, Toronto police have been directly involved in the deaths of two or three persons experiencing a mental crisis, and have not been willing to adopt strategies that will reduce this number of deaths.

There will be a gathering of people who are concerned about these deaths at Toronto Police Headquarters (40 College St.) on Friday, February 10th at 6 pm.

2. A better police approach to those in mental crisis
TPAC hopes to present the following brief to the Toronto Police Services Board on February 16:

This brief requests the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt an appropriate policy directing the Chief with respect to how officers respond to persons who are emotionally disturbed or have a mental illness or a developmental disability.

The current policy of the Board is simply not good enough, stating that
The Chief of police will establish procedures and processes in respect of police response to persons who are emotionally disturbed or have a mental illness or a developmental disability. It gives no hint of what direction those procedures and processes should take, or the outcomes which should be achieved.

It is critical that the Board have a better policy. Every year Toronto police are directly involved in the deaths of two or three persons in mental crisis, and in almost every case different actions by the police could have meant that someone did not die. Further, almost one half of those who are tasered by police each year are subject to some kind of mental crisis.

Officers need better policies to follow when dealing with those in mental crisis (a term that will be used in this brief to cover those who are emotionally disturbed or have a mental illness or a development disability.) Those policies should be created using the success of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs) established six years ago  teams which include a plain clothes officer and a mental health nurse working together. As the Chief reported some years ago, these Teams have been very successful in diffusing situations for all concerned without using violence, and successful as saving time and money by getting those involved quick entry into health facilities where their needs can be addressed.

The Chief has also noted that MCITs save the police money, since waiting times in hospitals are substantially reduced. Thus establishing more Teams will in fact result in reduced expenditures for the police force.

We believe the Board should set out the directions for policies and procedures to be established by the Chief. Those directions should include the following:

1) The primary goals of policies and procedures will be to de-escalate and defuse situations in preference to exercising policies of control. Use of Force protocols should be suspended when dealing with an individual in mental crisis. These policies and processes will also be extended to persons who appear to be unresponsive, possibily because of a developmental disability or because they are Deaf. Consideration should be given to extending these policies to situations involving children.

2) Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs) should operate in all divisions.

At the present time, MCITs operate in about two thirds of the divisions. The other third should not be denied this important service and the chief should work hard with health officials and others to quickly extent this service throughout the city.

3) MCITs should operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the present time Teams operate from 1  11 pm, five days a week. Once the service is available through the city, the chief should work to have this service available during more of the 24 hour cycle.

4) MCITs should be able to cross division boundaries when appropriate.

At the present time, MCITs operate only within a division, never crossing boundaries. This is not a good use of resources.

5) MCITs should be the primary response in cases where it appears a person is in mental crisis.

At the present time in Toronto the MCIT is never the primary response unit  it is only called in once other officers have the situation `under control. Sometimes this is too late, and officers have brought the situation under control by tasering the individual or taking action that results in the persons death. The COAST system, used in Halton, Hamilton and the Niagara Peninsula (involving a team of a plain clothes officer and a mental health nurse), is often the first responder, and has been successful. Theres no reason why the MCITs cant be first responders when it seems the person is in mental crisis. The possibility of including people who have experienced mental health crises and who have counselling/de-escalation skills as part of the MCIT should be explored.

6) Of course more training might be assistance, but this is a course of action that the police force has pursued for almost a decade, and the number of persons in crisis who are killed at the hands of police does not seem to have changed. Systemic change is required  not just layering on a few more hours of training for each officer. Any training of police (and of MCIT members) should include significant input and direction from people who have experienced mental health crises. Recently a training session of this kind took place. See http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1127748--toronto-police-and-psychiatric-survivors-collaborate-to-reduce-risk-of-violent-confrontations


Accordingly, we ask the Board to replace the existing policy with the following:

Policy response to persons who are emotionally disturbed or have a mental illness or a developmental disability.

1) The Chief of police will establish procedures and processes in respect of police response to persons who are emotionally disturbed or have a mental illness or a developmental disability.

2) The primary goals of these policies and procedures will be to de-escalate and diffuse situations in preference to exercising policies of control. Use of Force protocols should be suspended when dealing with an individual in mental crisis. These policies and processes will also be extended to persons who appear to be unresponsive, possibility because of a developmental disability. Consideration should be given to extending these policies to situations involving children.

3) Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs) should operate in all divisions and are authorized to cross division boundaries when appropriate.

4) MCITs should operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

5) MCITs should be the primary response in cases where it appears a person is in mental crisis.

3. OIPRD says theres not much to complain about

After more than two years of operation the Office of the Independent Police Review Director has finally reported on its activities.

One report deals with the first six months of the Offices life, from October 2009 to March 2010. The other report deals with the full year of operation from April 1, 2010 to March 31 2011, and that is the report summarized here.

The Director received 4083 complaints in that year (more than 1400 concerned Toronto police) but then screened out 2107 complaints for a variety of reasons  466 were deemed frivolous; 431 not in the public interest; 151 vexatious; and so forth.

1972 cases were `screened in or treated seriously for the year. Of those, 1584 were complaints about an officers conduct (275 were about alleged use of excessive force) and 91 were about police policy or service. The Police Services Act requires that all complaints about police policy and service be sent to the police force involved for comment, so they were not dealt with by OIPRD.

Complaints about conduct are in the jurisdiction of the OIPRD, and it determines how these complaints are investigated. Almost all were sent to the police force involved in the complaint for investigation. The OIPRD itself investigated 259 cases, noting that it spent 60 hours on each of these complaints and interviewed an average of eight witnesses per case.

The OIPRD found that 107 of the 1972 complaints screened in were substantiated, the rest were unsubstantiated for a variety of reasons: 692 were closed after investigation; 323 were informally resolved during or after investigation; 337 withdrawn; 59 were closed after a request for review; 21 deemed to have already been investigated; and so forth.

In short, the OIPRD substantiated about 3 per cent of all complaints filed. Of those 107 substantiated complaints, 81 were considered `not serious, so nothing was done about them. The remaining 26 complaints  or 0.5 per cent of all complaints filed - were deemed `serious.

The OIPRD cannot impose penalties, so these `serious cases were referred to the affected police force for disciplinary action under the Police Services Act. The report notes that as of March 31, 2011 exactly one (1) disciplinary decision was made by a police force on these 26 serious complaints, but as of early February 2012, two other disciplinary hearings have been posted on the OIPRD web site. Thus three disciplinary hearings have been held for events that took place in April, June and August 2010 - more than 17 months ago. It is unclear what the `serious complaints involved, but none of the disciplinary cases posted involve use of force, and in each case the penalty was foregoing about a weeks salary. Judging from the three decisions posted from the previous year, on average if the officer is found guilty (of discreditable conduct), the officer loses about 40 hours in pay.

The OIPRD received 357 complaints about the police from G20 activity in June 2010, and it screened out 149 of these complaints and says it is working hard to analyze the information to produce a meaningful report. It says it has hired 10 staff on a part time basis for this, and has conducted 425 interviews. It has also done a report recommending that Toronto Police chief Bill Blair begin disciplinary proceedings against five officers for assaulting complainant Adam Nobody during the G20. The lengthy report can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/01/19/toronto-g20-adam-nobody-report.html

The cost of the OIPRD for the 2010 / 2011 year was $5.4 million. It has 49 full time staff. The result of this money and staff was the conclusion that 26 complaints against the police in Ontario during the past year were `serious, although only three of those cases have resulted in discipline. No wonder that police officers feel they have a free hand to do as they want.

The 2010  11 report can be found at: https://www.oiprd.on.ca/CMS/oiprd/media/image-Main/PDF/6022_OIPRD_AR2011_EN_Final.pdf

4. Not Fixing the RCMP

Reports were so dismal about the muddled state of morale in the RCMP that when Stephen Harpers appointee Commissioner William Elliott finally stepped aside five months ago, there was great hope that the RCMP would soon enter a new era.

A new commissioner was appointed in November - deputy commissioner Bob Paulson, and he quickly made some tough statements about the need for change. But within two months the Harper government told Paulson that he could not meet with members of Parliament unless Public Safety minister Vick Toews gave his approval. Before making public statements, the RCMP would have to check with Toews office. In late January Paulson said he thought he had some flexibility to talk to whoever he wanted.

This is not the way to fix Canadas largest police force. What needs to be done was set out in the 2007 report of the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. That document was very critical of the way the RCMP was managed, and it made three significant suggestions for change: independence from government; a civilian board of management; an independence complaints mechanism. Task Force chair David Brown stated:

A modern-day police force cannot spend its days mired in endless bureaucracy and administration with the federal government. The RCMP is not just another federal department  nor should it be. Members of the RCMP have the authority to make life and death decisions every day  they fight organized crime and infiltrate terrorist cells - but they don't have the authority to make simple expenditures or hire a new person without hours of paperwork and process.

Therefore, the first recommendation of this Task Force is to establish the RCMP as a separate entity from government with separate employer status. It should be granted full authority to manage its financial affairs and human resources within broad parameters pre-approved by Parliament.

This major new level of responsibility leads us to the second recommendation in our report. It quickly became clear to us that today's RCMP does not have the capacity to exercise the responsibilities it will acquire as an entity separate from government. It's going to require building new capacity at every level throughout the RCMP to take on the weight of these new responsibilities.

A central element to building this capacity will be a new civilian Board of Management of the RCMP that is responsible for the overall stewardship of the organization and its administration. This will include the oversight of financial affairs, resources, services, property, personnel and procurement. The level of independent responsibility being recommended for the RCMP must come with accountability. As such, this Board would be ultimately accountable to the Minister  and through the Minister to Parliament.

On the issue of accountability and transparency, it became apparent that radical changes were also required in the way that the RCMP accounts to the public, to elected officials and to its members and employees. The current separation of complaints between the External Review Committee and the Public Complaints Commission is inadequate and neither body has sufficient authority to compel real action.

This led to the Task Force's third fundamental recommendation  the creation of an Independent Commission for Complaints and Oversight of the RCMP (ICCOR). This new Commission will incorporate the functions of the existing bodies  but provide for expanded responsibilities and authorities consistent with an Ombudsman.

The Commission will have official independence, be established by legislation, report publicly on recommendations and findings, have the capacity in appropriate circumstances to consider complaints and initiate and conduct investigations with the power to summon witnesses and compel testimony.

The Commission will allow for the tracking and evaluation of all complaints in order to identify and better address systemic issues, trends or deficiencies in policies and procedures; it will have the authority on its own initiative to review any aspect of policing operations.

The findings of this new independent Commission relating to discipline or grievance situations would be binding on the Commissioner  unlike the current process. Recommendations relating to police operations or policy would be made public and be put before the Commissioner or the Board of Management.

We believe that these three fundamental changes: making the RCMP a separate entity, with a professional Board of Management and a single, enhanced oversight and complaints body will allow for the kinds of structural, cultural and governance changes that are needed for all other detailed recommendations to have real effect. See
http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/rcmp-grc/rcmp-tfr-eng.aspx )

None of these three changes have been made. Instead of giving the RCMP the independence it requires, and its own board of management, the government is tightening its hold on the RCMP. Its hardly a recipe for improvement.

5. 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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