Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 83, May 6, 2014.
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC), 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. Carding ends, "community contacts" begin
2. Finalizing the new policy
3. Privacy Commissioner on police use of mental health records
4. Reducing police expenditures
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Carding ends, "community contacts" begin
The Toronto police practice of carding is being curtailed by the Toronto Police Services Board, and a new practise called community contacts, is being put in place.
Carding involved police in random stops, many targeting young black males, and requiring those stopped to answer a list of personal questions, the answers of which were recorded on a 208 card, information which was then entered into the police computer. Carding has been a Toronto police activity for more than a decade, and anywhere from 250,000 to 350,000 individuals were stopped in any given year.
Skin colour seemed to have a big influence on who police targeted to stop: if you were black you were three times more likely to be stopped than if you were white. As many argued, carding was an example of racial profiling in action by Toronto police, entirely contrary to the laws in Ontario. Many also argued that the activity was a kind of detention by police (there were many examples of police taking action against those who refused to answer questions) contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Carding has always been something the black community has complained about, yet the police service and the Police Board generally defended the practice, arguing it produced very useful information for the Toronto police, although examples of what that information is have never been made public. The issue finally came to a head in early 2012 after reporter Jim Rankin of the Toronto Star wrote a series of articles analyzing data from carding, and interviewing members of the black community. Rankin and his colleagues had reported on this issue for more than ten years, and that work finally brought the practice into so much focus that the Police Services Board felt it had to respond. Rankin and the Toronto Star deserve considerable credit for the new policies which have replaced carding.
The new policy (http://www.tpsb.ca/Community%20Contacts.pdf ) was largely designed by lawyer Frank Addario. It is based on the notion that police have no right to detain those they stop unless they suspect the person of being involved in a crime, and that police have an obligation to tell those they stop that they are under no obligation to answer questions.
The policy assumes that police will continue to stop individuals they dont know, and ask questions. Officers must have a `public safety purpose for such stops, although the meaning of that phrase awaits a report from the chief of police. Limits of how that term might be interpreted are in Section 4 of the Boards new policy. It is unclear what information will be sought from those stopped, although Section 5(e ) says it should not be irrelevant personal information.
It is not clear how the officer will determine who should be stopped. Racial profiling cant be used (Section 5(b), but then racial profiling has always been something officers have been told they cannot do. In most cases it seems the officer will be obligated to tell the person stopped of their right to leave and the reason for the stop (Section 5(c ). The officer will be required to provide a receipt indicating the officers name, badge number, and the reason for the stop (Section 5(f).) The information collected will be retained by the police, presumably in a computer data base, for some years.
The Boards policy is seven pages long, and will be fleshed out with operational policies from the chief. Can such a complicated and complex policy, full of hedges, provisos and limitations, be successfully implemented and followed? That remains to be seen. The Board has asked for a report in October, thought to be three months after the chiefs implementation policies are in place, as to its effectiveness.
The internal contradiction in the community contacts policy is that it assumes that an officer who knows nothing about a particular community or the people who live there, can by stopping and questioning someone learn important and useful information about that community. It is hard to see how a community member will trust an officer who is anonymous, yet that is what the policy assumes. A better way to learn the important information about a community is to place an officer in that community for a year or two so he or she is well known to everyone who lives and works there and they have enough faith and trust in the officer to give the officer important information which can help prevent and resolve crimes and other anti-social acts.
2. Finalizing the community contacts policy
The Board called a meeting on April 8 to hear public reactions to Addarios draft policy. There were some two dozen presentations, almost all of them opposed to carding and how it was carried out. Most briefs and presenters took the position that rather than try to reform the practise of carding it should simply be stopped, and that is how racial profiling would be stopped. The fact that Barbara Hall of the Ontario Commission on Human Rights spoke against carding and the new policy was not lost on the Board in assessing what it should do.
But the Board soldiered on, and a second draft was produced by Addario for a meeting on April 24 when about a dozen speakers voiced their opinions. The new policy substantially restrained how community contacts would work by requiring officers to have a public safety purpose for the stops and outlining what that might mean. At this meeting it was clear that the Board was going ahead with a new policy, so most briefs concentrated on changes which should be made to the new draft.
Lawyer Peter Rosenthal began the meeting by arguing strongly that one section of the new policy a section which Addario himself said he did not think was needed should be deleted. Section 4 (a) (iv) stated that a valid public safety purpose justifying the community contact was Collecting intelligence relating directly to an identifiable, systemic criminal problem and pursuant to a Service or Division-approved initiative. Rosenthal argued that this section authorized the TAVIS sweeps, where a large group of officers swept through a neighbourhood stopping those it wanted to at will, and that TAVIS sweeps were the worst example of carding and its harmful impacts on a community. Other speakers, particularly the Law Union of Ontario, made the same point, and the Board agreed to delete this section.
Many speakers argued for the need for an officer to provide a receipt including the name, and badge number of the officer, as well as the reason for the stop. The Board agreed to add this requirement. It was noted that after the Board had decided last April to require a receipt for carding that carding dropped 80 per cent.
Some deputants noted that the `community contact procedures will continue to sully the relationship of the police and those they stop. The new policy itself recognizes this problem, asking the chief to establish procedures that minimize the potential of negative effects of the procedure.
The amended policy was adopted unanimously by the four Board members present: Alok Mukherjee; Councillor Michael Thompson, Councillor Mike Del Grande, and Marie Moliner.
The difficulties in the new policy can be seen in some of the commentary in TPACs brief to the April 24 meeting:
We ask the Board to consider how the new draft policy will work. Heres what we think will happen:
(1). Where is the officer assigned in order to make random or targeted stops, i.e. community contacts? Not Bay and King. Not Rosedale or Forest Hill. Hes (or shes) assigned to the place where crime is thought to happen, and that will undoubtedly be a low income neighbourhood. Thats where he can expect the people to hang out who are visible and vulnerable enough to randomly stop and question.
The officer doesnt know the neighbourhood he is policing in, and doesnt know any of the people. If he did, then he wouldnt be stopping people randomly and he wouldnt have to target individuals he would greet them as an acquaintance like others who work in the neighbourhood.
(2). In the assigned neighbourhoods, who does he decide to stop? Probably people who he thinks look as though they might be criminals or involved in criminal activity, and he thinks he can tell that by the colour of the skin, the clothes the person has on, the way the person walks, the people he is with. In our mind thats racial profiling, and it is what random stops have always been about.
(3). What does he say to the person randomly stopped? I want to ask some questions. You arent under arrest, and you can walk away at any time, but I do have some questions.
Do you live around here? Where exactly? Do you live with your parents? No, you dont? You are just visiting? Why are you visiting this neighbourhood? Are you here to buy drugs? Buy a gun? Meet with gang members?
Maybe these arent the right questions, but what do you want the officer to ask?? Since theres no crime which is being investigated, what is the officer trying to learn?
(4). What does the officer do when the person says F off? Or when the person says I dont deal with cops. Does the officer get into an argument and tell the person not to swear or be disrespectful?
What does the officer do when the person walks away or even more suspiciously runs away?
Run after the person, assuming the person is guilty of something? Tell the person to stop? Pull out his gun if the person does not stop?
These are the real life questions raised by the draft policy: where does the officer go to stop people; who is stopped; what questions are asked; what happens to someone who refuses to participate.
The Board did one other thing: it allocated an extra $250,000 in the 2015 budget to put the information gathered into the police database. It is unclear why this money is needed, since the data collected from community contacts will clearly be significantly less than for the carding of the past.
Watch the April 8 meeting: http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=16&sid=3431&gid=204409
Watch the April 24 meeting:
3. Privacy Commissioner on police use of mental health records
TPAC complained when a year ago the CBC broke the story of a woman being denied entry into the United States because she had tried to commit suicide five years earlier. Apparently US Border guards had the information from the CPIC, the Canadian police information computer system. We subsequently asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) to review the matter.
The IPC has recently released its report The Indiscriminate Disclosure of Attempted Suicide Information to US Border Officials. For the full report, see
The report states that local police services have discretion as to whether information related to a suicide attempt is recorded on CPIC. Police Services such as Hamilton, Waterloo, Ottawa, and the Ontario Provincial Police all exercise discretion in determining what to post to CPIC but Toronto Police Service has a policy requiring the uploading to CPIC of information related to every threat of suicide or suicide attempt.
The report recommends that automatic uploading be stopped immediately and it only occur if theres violence involved or hinted at, and that some process be established for someone to get the information, if posted, removed. The IPC establishes dates for its recommendations to be implemented.
4. Reducing police expenditures
In the last Bulletin we reported on how the attempts of the Toronto Police Service, using the Chiefs Internal Organizational Review, had not managed to find significant savings. We made a number of proposals to the Board which could get police spending in line:
a) Two-officer cars. Significant savings can be achieved by the Toronto force moving away from the requirement of two-officer cars after dark. Theres a small reference to the fact that one-officer cars function just as well as two-officer cars on page 160 of the Strategic Analysis. The Board should immediately get the studies done of the many large Canadian police forces which function well with one officer cars so it can be implemented here. This is a matter that is part of the collective agreement which will be renegotiated starting later this year, so there is no time to losing in addressing this issue which can save tens of millions of dollars a year.
b) Shift Schedule. The current shift schedule, as the Strategic Review notes, requires an equal number of officers on duty as all times in the 24 hours cycle, even though crime activity is very low during about half those hours. Further, the shift schedule has four hours of overlap in every 24 hour period, which means the service costs 15 per cent more than it should. Further, the shift schedule creates a major discontinuity in work patterns since an officer is away from work almost every second week and will not return to the same shift for about four weeks. It literally makes for crazy work and must be renegotiated to provide better working arrangements and financial savings. This is also part of the collective agreement which will be renegotiated starting later this year, so there is no time to lose in addressing this issue which can also save tens of millions of dollars a year.
c) Patrol work. Richard Ericson, the U of T criminologist wrote in Reproducing Order: a study of police patrol work (University of Toronto Press, 1982): The bulk of the patrol officers time was spent doing nothing other than consuming the petrochemical energy required to run an automobile and the psychic energy to deal with the boredom of it all. (page 206) There is strong data that police visibility on patrol does not increase feelings of security in the community, nor does patrol play any role in reducing crime. Patrol is not an effective police function. It needs to be rethought so that police resources can be put into productive work. The Board should lead a rethink of this issue, including pilot projects where patrol work is substantially cut back and the results assessed.
d) How police spend their time. Little is known about exactly how officers spent their time. Ericson looked carefully at this for both patrol officers and detectives in suburban Toronto forty years ago, and found that much of the officers and detectives time was not put to good use. That may be the situation today. One current example of the problem is found in Appendix 4 to the Strategic Analysis where officers complain of the waiting times at hospitals with emotionally disturbed individuals, which leads one to question why the police force has not moved more forcefully into establishing Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams throughout the city to save money. Only a good study of how officers spend their time will shine light on this issue, and the Board should undertake these studies without delay.
e) The court system. Many of the comments of officers in Appendix 4 to the Strategic Analysis (of CIOR) show how dysfunctional the court system is, and the demands it places on officers. The chance of the police reforming the court system seems limited, but a better strategy is to create a police service which saw itself as diverting as many minor cases as possible from the court system rather than laying charges for so many minor matters. Some experiments with diversion by Toronto police are already underway, but more initiatives should be undertaken. Getting serious about diversion will save money for the police and for society at large, and it will require a different way of assessing police efficiency, since it will not reply on the number of charges laid. The Board should commit itself to showing how this can be done.
We suggested that addressing these five issues can produce savings of at least $100 million a year, or about 10 per cent of the policing budget. The Board showed little interest in following up any of these ideas.
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