Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 90, May 7, 2015.
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. New chief for Toronto
2. Once again, carding
3. The new four year contract for Toronto police
4. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. New chief for Toronto
It was the summer of 2014 that the Board indicated that the contract of Chief Bill Blair would not be renewed when it expired in April 2015 and that the Board would be looking for a transformative leader. The Board was never clear about why Blairs contract would not be renewed, nor was it clear about the kind of change it expected the new chief to make. Change was the only thing that was certain.
The Board retained a consulting firm with international contacts to find the best person for the job, and it ran a community consultation process with a handful of poorly attended meetings in the city.
But John Tory, the new mayor elected in October, with an agenda that had never been made clear before, quickly moved to change directions with a new Board. Tory criticized the chair, Alok Mukherjee, as not moving the right directions. He immediately made it clear that Michael Thompson, a black councillor who had pushed hard to change the policy about carding and to get a different kind of police chief, would not be reappointed to the Board.
Tory also decided to sit on the Board, rather than choosing another councillor to represent him, which is the normal turn of events given the mayors schedule. Andrew Pringles term expired at the end of November but there was a four month delay before work began on appointing his successor (which remains unresolved). Pringle is a close ally of Mayor Tory.
The other two council members on the Board, Frances Nunziata and Michael Del Grande would also be replaced, with councillors Shelley Carroll and Chin Lee.
The Board which had begun the search for a new chief was much different from the Board which continued and concluded the search.
In the first few months of 2015 there was a quiet lobby happening on behalf of Peter Sloly who some saw as being the most progressive candidate available, since he has been introducing new programs in the police service for some years. Most recently he brought forward the PACER program which tried to redesign carding, although as noted in these Bulletins, it never went far enough. He also introduced neighbourhood policing, where officers are assigned for a two year period in specific neighbourhoods to get to know and work with people. People in the Sloly camp felt that Sloly was being passed over in the search.
It was widely rumoured that two black officers were on the Boards short list, Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders, as well as another deputy chief, Mike Frederico. If there was an outside candidate, that was never revealed.
Then near the end of April, the day after Bill Blair officially left, the Board announced the new chief, Mark Saunders. Saunders has been with the Toronto police service for 32 years and has steadily risen in rank to become a deputy chief, but he is not well known. It is hard to think of any issue on which he has taken a leadership position in those three decades. Some Board members said he gave astoundingly good interviews during the search process, although since the announcement the interviews with the media have been brief, pedestrian, insulting (referring to those who are unfairly targeted by police in random stops as collateral damage, a remark he apologized for the next day but the damage had already been done) and without flair or imagination. The head of the Police Association, Mike McCormack said he was pleased with Saunders appointment.
How Saunders will perform as chief is an open question, although one suspects that spending three decades without rocking the boat means making change is not a key element of his leadership.
Within two days of his leaving, Bill Blair announced that he was a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in a Scarborough riding.
2. Once again, carding
The Police Service Board also decided, in mid-April, to abandon the progressive policy controlling the way police interact with members of the public. Carding is the activity where police stop and question individuals who are not suspected of any criminal activity, requiring them to answer a series of questions, which are then recorded in a police data base and kept on record for years. Carding is a process of racial profiling by police: they stop black youth far more than others.
The April 2014 policy required police to tell those stopped that they had the right (under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) to walk away, and to give them a receipt with the officers name and number and the reason for the stop. The police disliked these controls so much that 90 per cent of carding activity ceased. Chief Blair refused to operationalize the new policy. TPAC, among many others, raised the question of whether this was insubordination by the chief.
The new Board (with Mayor Tory) made the strange decision of appointing a mediator to resolve the differences with the chief. The mediation had the Board agreeing to get rid of the police warning, and also the receipt. The mediated settlement was before the Board on April 2 at which there were some 30 deputants, all arguing that the mediated results carding would now be called `community engagement - were unsatisfactory. The matter was deferred for two weeks, when again there were many deputants arguing against the change. Issues were raised with the Information and Privacy Commissioner which had yet to be consulted about privacy issues, but those concerns were brushed aside.
Chair Mukherjee took the position that this was a `work in progress, as though this was not a final step in a process which had earlier arrived at fundamentally different results. Chief Blair raised the question of whether or not he was insubordinate. He made two astounding statements. First, he said the Board was told by the Ministry (presumably the Ministry of Community Safety) that the April 2014 policy was not lawful. He then said that the mediator, Walter Winkler, the former chief justice of Ontario had said the April 2014 policy was not consistent with the Police Services Act. The Board was asked by TPAC to provide these legal opinions but it did not respond to the request. (Legal advice in support of the PACER policy was also a tactic used in the past to support a dubious opinion, and the police refused to release that legal advice as well.)
Blair then argued that it is not insubordinate to uphold the law, which was what he was doing by refusing to implement the April 2014 policy. He then asked for a statement from Mukherjee that he was not insubordinate. Mukherjee then said There was none by which he meant there was no insubordination. It felt like Mukherjee was collapsing under the pressure.
When decision time came, only two members of the Board spoke: Councillor Shelley Carroll and Marie Moliner. Moliner moved deferral of the mediated settlement and retention of the April 2014 policy. She used an analogy with the right for women to vote 100 years ago, saying that if 100 years ago she was a man she would not have supported the womens vote. She argued that today, for those who are not black to support a police policy which racially profiles blacks is a lot like men voting against the right of women to vote. Carroll supported the deferral.
The motion to approve the new policy no warning, no receipt was carried 4 2. After the meeting adjourned, Mayor Tory explained his position, arguing that there was an impasse that had to be resolved, and that the only way of doing that was by approving the mediated policy. Presumably the impasse for him was that carding had been reduced by 90 per cent, something he must have thought was unacceptable.
In the background was the possible argument that carding produces really useful information for the police. Officers have been cited as saying off the record that carding gives the police information they use in wire-tap affidavits. But that argument has never been used publicly as a justification for carding, which leads one to doubt its credibility.
The most powerful deputation against carding was given by Desmond Cole. He has written a searing piece about how the police have treated him, a black man, in Toronto, for Toronto Life. See http://www.torontolife.com/author/desmondcole/
Meanwhile, lawyer Vilko Zbogar has asked the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for an investigation under Sections 22 and 25 of the Police Services Act into the conduct of members of the Police Services Board for refusing to enforce the April 2014 policy. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has also threatened action since it considers the new policy to racially discriminate against people.
The new chief Mark Saunders has said he does not expect to make any changes to the new policy. He says he is willing to have community consultations, but that no one should expect any changes to be made about carding.
3. The new four year contract with Toronto police
In the midst of the discussion about the new chief and the new policy on carding, the Board announced that it had reached a settlement with the Police Association on a four year contract which, unlike carding, cannot be changed. It provides a wage increase of 2.75 per cent starting in 2015, and totalling 8.35 per cent over four years. Police officers in Toronto are hardly underpaid: more than half earned more than $100,000 last year, yet this increase is more than any other group of civil servants at the municipal or provincial level can expect during this four year period.
The Police Association gave up a few minor things to get this agreement. New recruits after the date of the contract will not receive the extra sick pay gratuity or additional vacation allowance (both awarded to existing officers above and beyond the work they do) when they retire in thirty five or forty years. It is clear that these benefits are real gravy and should be cut, but it is only for new recruits so the benefits will not be felt in the lifetimes of many of those reading this bulletin.
The Association agreed to a second change. Currently, new recruits are promoted each year to become a first class officer in five years, moving their rate of pay from $65,000 to $95,000 a year in that five year stretch. The contract now says that for new recruits, promotion will take place every 14 months instead of every 12 months, so the first class pay rate will not be achieved for almost six years instead of the current five years. It is difficult to think of any other job where the rate of pay increases almost 50 per cent in six years or less.
The Boards media announcement trumpeted that the agreement was negotiated over four days without using a mediator. One might say it is something of a sweetheart deal. The Board must have decided surely Mayor Tory played a role in this that the big issues where the real savings can occur were never introduced into bargaining.
Three major constraints to making police work more efficient and saving public money are: retention pay (where officers get an extra 3 per cent pay reward for being with the force for five years, and an extra 9 per cent after 23 years), the shift schedule, and the policy of requiring two officers in a car after dark, all of which are embedded in the collective agreement. All police forces in Ontario complain about Torontos retention pay policy which other forces have been required to match. Many large police forces in Canadian cities have abandoned the two officers in a car policy: it does not improve officer safety and it is much too expensive. Getting rid of it in Toronto would probably result in saving $75 or $100 million a year.
The shift schedule has officers working three shifts in every 24 hour period shifts of 10, 10 and 8 hours, so officers work 28 hours in every 24 hour period, with a four hour overlap. There are as many officers working at 4 am as there are at 9 pm, which is also a crazy way to spend money.
The new agreement says nothing about retention pay, but it does say that shift schedules and two officers in a car will be discussed by joint union/management committees. This has been done before, without benefit to the public, and it is not difficult to predict that the talk will drag out without resolution, and if they ever go to arbitration, they wont be resolved in the public interest.
This is not an agreement that serves the public interest, but it is what we have for the next four years. Will it give labour peace, or if so, was it worth it? More than anything, the contract shows the Police Association seems firmly in the drivers seat when it police spending in Toronto.
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