TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 71, September 27, 2012.



September 27 2012

In this issue:
1. Changing the carding policy of Toronto police.
2. The personal information released by police
3. Police drones and the future
4. Were Toronto police effective in reducing shootings this summer?
5. Expanding the police boards role



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 71, September 27, 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
***
In this issue:
1. Changing the carding policy of Toronto police.
2. The personal information released by police
3. Police drones and the future
4. Were Toronto police effective in reducing shootings this summer?
5. Expanding the police boards role
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
***
1. Changing the carding policy of Toronto police.

As reported in recent Bulletins, the Toronto Police Service Board has been clear that it wants the police service to change the way it cards youth (most of whom are racialized) and provide those stopped with a copy of the carding or a receipt acknowledging the stop and reason therefor, but Chief Bill Blair and his staff dont seem happy with the change. The matter was again discussed by the Board on August 15, and the Board minute sums up the results of that meeting well:

In response to questions by the Board, Chief Blair and Deputy Chief Sloly emphasized that, despite the complexity of the review, the TPS is working as quickly as possible to examine all the significant operational and financial aspects of providing contact card receipts and that the additional time approved by the Board at its previous meeting is still required to complete this task. Chief Blair also advised that the November 2012 report will include an implementation plan detailing how a form of receipt or record will be provided to individuals who are stopped by the police.

The Board approved the following Motion:

THAT the Board request the Chief of Police to implement an interim measure, effective November 01, 2012, pending the outcome of the comprehensive review which will be provided to the Board at its November 2012 meeting.

So once again the Board has taken the lead. On Wednesday November 14, the Board will again revisit the issue of police stops, and Chief Blair will report to the Board. Well see if the chief follows the decision of the Board to have an interim measure in place.

TPAC believes it is important to have as many people as possible attend this meeting to make it clear that police must give those stopped information in writing on why they are stopped as well as the name and number of the police officer. Members of the public are needed at the meeting to show the Board that it must continue to require the chief to provide this information even if the chief does not want to do it.

The meeting will take place on the second floor at police headquarters, 40 College Street, starting at 1.30 pm. Anyone who attends will be permitted to address the Board (at least that is what the rules say.) The Board secretary is at deirdre.williams@tpsb.ca . If you wish to be informed on this issue, please send us an email at info@tpac.ca, and we will provide regular updates on where things stand so you can be prepared for the meeting.

2. The personal information released by police

When a prospective employer asks you to obtain and present a police check to verify that you arent a criminal, you never know what the police will say, as reported in previous Bulletins. Polices services, including Toronto, think their job is to report not just criminal convictions, but virtually anything they deem relevant about your life. The Toronto Police Services Board recently established a subcommittee to review the current police service policy.

Now the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has waded in with its report on the subject Presumption of Guilt? The report concludes that there is an urgent need for greater fairness and clarity in the police background check process. Mechanisms should be established that place tighter controls on the disclosure of non-conviction information. Specifically:

1) Non-conviction records should be regularly reviewed and destroyed in the overwhelming majority of cases.
2) Non-conviction records should be retained for inclusion in a police background check only in exceptional cases where police believe that doing so is necessary to reduce immediate public safety threats. The decision to treat a case as an exceptional one should be done at the time that the non-conviction record is created; i.e., immediately after the charge is dismissed, withdrawn or otherwise resolved by way of a non-conviction.
3) Where the government requests that a decision be made whether to retain a non-conviction record, the affected individual should be notified and provided with a right to make submissions.
4) If it is decided that retention is appropriate in a given case, the affected individual should have a right of appeal in front of an independent adjudicator.
5) Where non-conviction records are retained, they should be disclosed only in relation to certain employment or volunteer positions.
6) Proper monitoring mechanisms regarding the use and impact of all forms of police background checks should be put in place, including adequate data collection and public reporting.
7) Provincial human rights legislation should protect individuals from unwarranted discrimination on the basis of non-conviction disposition records.

Implementation of these safeguards would greatly reduce the privacy and human rights threats associated with the disclosure of non-conviction records without undermining legitimate public safety objectives.

The report can be found at http://ccla.org/our-work/public-safety/presumption-of-guilt/

3. Police drones and the future

Police drones are here  in fact the Halton Region police force just west of Toronto has had a drone for several years. It came into the news recently because its drone discovered marijuana plants in fields outside of the town of Milton. (See http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/09/13/halton-police-find-744k-worth-of-drugs-using-high-tech-pot-spotting-drones/ )

The drone in question costs $60,000, is made in Waterloo, and runs for almost half on hour on batteries.

The big question with this new technology is, what are the rules? Is a search warrant necessary to fly over someones property gathering information, and/or to listen to conversations? Can the police use this as they want? Is the provincial government setting some guidelines?

In a 2004 case, R. v. Tessling, the Supreme Court of Canada considered whether evidence obtained by the RCMP should be allowed to be considered. The RCMP used a Forward-looking infra-red camera (FLIP) to determine that heat was coming from a building. The RCMP obtained a search warrant for the premises and found marijuana growing, and charges were laid. The accused tried to have the evidence excluded. The note on the case sums up the decision of the Supreme Court as follows: Technology must be evaluated according to its current capability, and its evolution in future dealt with step by step. Concerns should be addressed as they truly arise. FLIR technology at this stage of its development is both non-intrusive in its operations and mundane in the data it is capable of producing. The taking of a FLIR image therefore did not violate the respondents reasonable expectation of privacy within the scope of s. 8 of the Charter.
See http://scc.lexum.org/en/2004/2004scc67/2004scc67.html .

The American Civil Liberties Union recommends that warrants be obtained for the use of drones: http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/protectingprivacyfromaerialsurveillance.pdf

4. Were Toronto police effective in reducing shootings this summer?

After the Danzig Street shootings in Scarborough on July 16 when two people were killed and 23 were injured, Toronto police began a program where police had a much stronger presence on the street in neighbourhoods thought to be centres of crime. Police chief Bill Blair dubbed this as the `summer safety initiative and says it cost about $2 million to cover the overtime costs involved.

The program ended in mid-September, and in an interview in the Toronto Star, Blair claims the program was a significant success: only two killings took place during this time, when in previous years more than three times as many murders occurred during this time period. He says shootings and murders were down more than 60 per cent. See http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/1257262--chief-bill-blair-says-toronto-police-have-ensured-that-people-behind-spate-of-gang-violence-can-t-hurt-anyone

Did the extra police presence mean there were fewer shootings? Did the police presence cause the decline, or was it just a coincidence? If the police presence caused the murder rate to drop, shouldnt we reshape the police force so that more officers are placed in locations where serious crime has occurred and fewer of them are assigned to random patrol or to sweeping neighbourhoods?

These are important questions, but the answers never come easily. The very same questions are addressed in a remarkable new book by Franklin Zimring of the University of California in Berkeley, The City that became safe: New Yorks lessons for urban crime and its control published by Oxford University Press, 2012.

Crime in New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens) has declined substantially since 1990. Homicides have shown an 82 per cent decline; Rape, 77; Robbery, 84; Assault, 67; Burglary, 86; Auto theft, 94; Theft, 63. About 60 per cent of the decline occurred between 1990 and 2000; the other 40 per cent since 2000. Crime rates in other large American cities also declined about 60 per cent from 1990  2000; but the decline seen in NYC since then is not seen in those other cities. For instance, the decline over the 18 years in Los Angeles is only half what it is in NYC.

Why did crime continue to decline so substantially in NYC after 2000, but not in other US cities? Thats the question Zimring tries to answer.

He shows that the racial composition of the population does not relate to crime changes in NYC; nor does immigration, unemployment levels, the number of single parent families, nor failure to complete high school. Other commonly used explanations also do not account for the crime rate differences. In NYC, the numbers in jail has declined since 2000 just as the number of crimes has declined. The percentage of youth in NYC has increased modestly but youth arrests and crime have dropped. Drugs remain available and the percentage of those arrested with drugs in their system (as shown in urine tests) has remained about level, so drug availability and price do not explain the crime decrease. He says we know some things do not reduce crime  imprisonment, particularly for long periods; and the war on drugs.

Zimring concludes that the only explanations seem to lie with the police and what they have done.

The number of police has increased in NYC: 17,770 in 1990; 25,000 by 2000; and down to 20,000 by 2005 where it remains. But there is no way of analyzing whether the number of police had anything to do with the decline in crime.

The police followed two priorities in the time frame involved; first, drive the drug markets off the street, but generally dont worry about reducing drug use; and second, reduce drug-trafficking violence. The size of narcotics squads were reduced, and more officers were put on the street to follow these priorities. These priorities were pursued using crime statistics (Compstat) to inform tactics, deployment, and enforcement. Police emphasized hot spots for enforcement, intervention and monitoring, and targeted public drug markets for arrest, surveillance, and attack.

Unfortunately no model was used which allows a good assessment of these priorities to determine how well each of them and the tactics pursued, worked.

At the same time, Zimring notes there was an aggressive and significant increase in stopping and frisking mostly young Hispanics and Blacks  a fourteen fold increase. Zimring thinks there is no evidence that this stopping and frisking added any value in terms of the decrease in crime rates. He suggests that before this tactic is continued, it needs to be tested to see what effects it has apart from raising the emotional temperature of young Hispanic and Black men.

Where did all the criminals go? Zimring thinks they must have changed their behavior, and maybe there is no such thing as a `career criminal. The broad lesson that emerges from the huge drop in [crime] in New York is the variability of most crime to modest changes in circumstance. &Criminal offenders are more malleable and criminal events are easier to prevent than the conventional wisdom has recognized. We dont have to change the world to substantially reduce safety crime, but, he concludes, we dont know the specific mechanisms to use.

The questions Zimring asks and tries to answer in the New York context are the same ones that Chief Blair raises. Whats clear is that serious analysis is critical before jumping to conclusions, and that analysis should lead to some carefully designed and monitored experiments with police resources before deciding on the path ahead.

Zimring also compares crime rates in New York City with those in Toronto and Montreal (and other cities) in 2008 for each 100,000 residents. Homicides: NYC 5; TO 2; MTL 1.6. Robbery: NYC 222; TO 113; MTL 133. Burglary: NYC 226; TO 362; MTL 755. Auto theft: NYC 128; TO 279; MTL 601. In 1990, the murder rate in NYC was 30.

He makes the interesting point that now NYC may be as safe as Toronto in terms of major crime categories.

5. Expanding the police boards role.

The Ontario Association of Police Service Boards has said it generally agrees with the expanded role for Boards recommended by the Morden report on the G20. (See Bulletin no. 69). Morden had concluded that the legislation in place since 1990 authorizes Boards to review and be responsible for operational policy rather than taking a hands off approach and leaving it all with the chief. The OAPSB has asked for some clarification of what the new relationship might be with police management, but it seems the association is not quarrelling with the broad principles. See
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/1258153--g20-fallout-police-boards-association-agrees-with-report-calling-for-stronger-oversight .

6. 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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