TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 84, June 26, 2014.



June 26 2014

1. Cavoukian sues Toronto police for disclosing mental illness information
2. Non-conviction information released by Toronto Police
3. Restricting police guns
4. Strip searches
5. TAVIS and the downtown east side
6. Ideas about the police?



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 84, June 26, 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
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In this issue:
1. Cavoukian sues Toronto police for disclosing mental illness information
2. Non-conviction information released by Toronto Police
3. Restricting police guns
4. Strip searches
5. TAVIS and the downtown east side
6. Ideas about the police?
7. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Cavoukian sues Toronto police for disclosing mental illness information

On June 4 the Information and Privacy Commissioner on Ontario sued the Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto Police Service seeking an order that the Board and Service comply with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

At issue is the refusal of the Toronto Police to implement a policy in conformity with MFIPPA that the Mental Health Disclosure Test will be used in determining the disclosure to CPIC of any attempted suicide or threat of suicide. The Test states that unless there is a threat of violence to others, the information should not be released. Commissioner Cavoukian makes clear in her affidavit accompanying the law suit that the Board chair Mr. Mukherjee had indicated that the Board is neither ready nor able to support the IPC recommendations and the police service takes the same position. See http://www.scribd.com/doc/228292524/Affidavif-of-Ann-Cavoukian-June-4-2014

Other police services in Ontario currently comply with the law and do not release such information. TPAC wrote to speak to the Toronto Police Service Board June 19 meeting asking that instead of fighting the law suit it comply with the law and require the police service which it is charged with governing to do the same, without delay.

The chair of the Board, Alok Mukherjee, refused to put our letter on the agenda, stating it would not be appropriate for the Board to engage in any kind of public discussion, including its position or positions, regarding a matter that is presently before the courts. Apparently the Board thinks it is more appropriate to continue to disregard the law and fight the law suit.

The Ontario Medical Association agrees with the IPC. OMA president Dr. Ved Tandam released a statement stating Ontario's doctors believe that safeguarding patient personal health information is of the utmost importance. All threats of suicide or suicide attempts are not indicative of future harm to others and discretion should be exercised appropriately before entering this data into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Although maintaining public safety is rightfully a prime objective for law enforcement, this must be balanced against the legal protection afforded to individuals by privacy legislation.

2. Non-conviction information released by Toronto Police

The Toronto Star has apparently had no trouble finding stories which show how harmful the Toronto police service is in releasing non-conviction information. One individual recently found the Toronto police had released information into CPIC, the nationwide police computer system, about a marijuana charge from 1990  a charge that was dismissed by the court  and that information was used 24 years later to deny him entry into United States. A woman who applied to volunteer with a social agency asked for a reference check. Police said she was a person of interest in a case of a child in need of protection: thats what police recorded after a pizza burned in the womans oven, the fire alarm went off and the police attended along with the fire department. See
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/06/22/no_judgment_no_discretion_police_records_that_ruin_innocent_lives.html

TPAC, along with other organizations, has on several occasions in the last two years asked the Toronto police board to amend its policy of releasing non-conviction records, and indeed that has been recommended by the Association of Ontario Chiefs of Police (see Bulletin No. 81), but the Board shows no interest in doing so.

At the June meeting of the Board, TPAC asked the Board to change the assumption about the release of non-conviction information in Vulnerable Sector Screenings. The assumption the police use is that non-conviction information should be released, and if someone challenges that, the police will reconsider the matter. TPAC asked that the assumption instead be that non-conviction information not be released, unless there was a serious issue police felt had to be known.

This position is best expressed in the recent report of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association False Promises, Hidden Costs which recommends:

A) Police services should not disclose non-conviction information on
criminal record and police information checks.

B) Until Governments legislatively prohibit the disclosure of non-conviction records for criminal record and police information, there should be a strong presumption against the disclosure of any non-conviction information on vulnerable sector checks. Non-conviction information should be disclosed only in exceptional circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of this information will mitigate an identifiable risk to public safety.

The report makes the point that non-conviction information has almost no impact on expected behaviour, and that even conviction information is of little use. See http://www.ccla.org/recordchecks/falsepromises .

The Board has shown no interest in changing the policy about the information released by Toronto police. One has a sense Board members refuse to do anything which the police service might question, as though representing the public interest is not within their purview.

3. Restricting police guns

Should all Toronto police officers carry guns? TPAC recently asked the Board to look closely at this question.

Interesting data in the Professional Standards Annual report for 2013 brought this question to the fore. Page 31 of the Report notes that a firearm was pointed at a person by Toronto officers 1037 times during 2013, presumably as a warning to the person. In a further 211 cases the handgun was drawn but not pointed.

In the scheme of things, guns are rarely employed by officers, but when they are employed (and drawn or pointed), it is entirely possible for something to go wrong. We thought it made sense for the Board to ask the question: is there any good reason why all officers need to have a gun? Perhaps officers and the public would be better off if only a small percentage of officers carried guns.

Conducted energy weapons  tasers  are only available to about 10 per cent of the Toronto police force, mainly supervising officers. This seems to work perfectly well, ensuring that officers can draw on this resource when they think they need to. Why not apply the same thinking on the availability of handguns? It would represent a very progressive step that would not endanger officers  it might make their jobs even safer  and would provide better safety for the public.

TPAC asked the Board to request a report from the Chief on the impact of limiting handguns to a relatively small number of officers, as is done with tasers. The Board showed no interest in asking for such a report and our letter was simply filed away.

4. Strip searches

Once more, at the June meeting, the Board was asked to only permit a Level 3 (strip) search to be undertaken after an officer had carried out a pat-down Level 2 search. (The description of these searches can be found in Bulletin No. 64, the special issue on strip searches.)

Deputy police chief Mike Frederico took the lead in arguing against any such restriction on strip searches. First, he said, the police were not required to do things sequentially, such as only doing a Level 3 after a Level 2 search. When challenged on the fact that strip searches rarely find anything  most items are found in pockets, and very very few are found in underwear  he said The discovery of items does not validate the search. What validates the search is the reasonable belief that something will be found.

That begs the question. How can the belief be `reasonable if it is wrong 99 per cent of the time?

Chief Blair cut in to add that safety was the primary reason for the search, not the discovery of evidence. Is he implying that a naked person is safer than someone in underwear?

As has happened in the past on this issue, Board members seemed uneasy, but they were not about to rush into action. Instead, they suggested maybe better training was needed, and Frederico promised hed be able to present a training scenario to the Board at a future meeting. Whether whats presented has any relation to the training which happens in the real world of policing remains to be seen.

5. TAVIS and downtown east side

That the Board curtailed the use of Toronto AntiViolence Initiative Strategy (TAVIS) in connection with carding (See Bulletin No. 83), does not mean the end of TAVIS. The police have pulled it out just in time for World Pride celebrations in the downtown east side, from the `gay village around Church and Wellesley further easy to Parliament Street.

Many have expressed concerns about this police action. It looks as though police are sweeping the streets in advance of the World Pride celebrations.

There is no question that the downtown east side experiences more violence than it should. This is a result of social factors  homelessness, poverty, alcohol, and drugs  and police action through TAVIS is not the remedy. TAVIS will criminalize the very people who are the victims in this area and will do nothing to dampen violence in the short or long term. We question the timing of this intervention, when community members and workers have been calling for access to a 24 hour drop-in for women and trans people, affordable housing, and other community investments, not more aggressive targeted policing.

Whether the police will modify their normal TAVIS activities to ensure that those who call the downtown eastside home and who work on its streets do not pay the price of attempts to sweep Toronto's problems under the rug while the world comes to visit, remains to be seen.

6. Ideas about the police?

If you have suggestions about changes the police need to make, wed like to learn about your ideas, and consider whether we can help take an appropriate initiative. Please write us at info@tpac.ca.

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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