Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 94, February 3, 2016.
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. The police pot of gold
2. Buying new Colt Carbines
3. The challenge of bringing basic change to the police service
4. Forcillo convicted
5. Officers charged with perjury
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. The police pot of gold.
In November the Toronto Police Services Board approved police spending of $1006 million in 2016. That decision was made on the basis of a report by Chief Saunders about how he had chopped various things to keep the budget only 2.76 per cent more than 2015, and on the basis of a six page summary of how that billion dollars would be spent. (The chiefs report can be found at https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftpsb.addrenhost4.com%2Fimages%2Fpdf%2F2016_Operating_Budget___Revised_Request.pdf . The six page summary budget is not included.)
But there was no full budget before the Board, nor was such a budget made public. The full extent of the spending on uniformed police officers was expressed in exactly one figure: $531 million. There was no detail about how much would be spent on detectives, or managers or front line officers, no comparisons with previous years, no suggestions of changes in priorities, no idea of new programs or programs that were cancelled because they were unsuccessful. The total of $531 million was all one saw.
A figure was given for civilians - $157 million which is $14 million more than was spent last year but again no breakdown of any kind. There has been some thought that the police force may be increasing the number of positions filled by civilians rather than by uniformed officers, given several hundred officers are performing administrative jobs that have little to do with policing but none of that is in the six page summary. One just gets the bald figure $157 million.
So what the police have been given is a pot of gold which they can spend as they want since there is no budget document to which they must be held to account. No other city department is given such latitude in spending.
Here at TPAC we decided it was worthwhile seeing a full budget last years full budget was almost 750 pages, and so we filed a Freedom of Information request in mid-November. Finally, in mid-January we received a letter saying the request was granted in full. But that letter was not correct: the only documents released were the chiefs reports and the six page summary budget which had been released before the November Board meeting.
FOI staff was informed that this was not what we had asked for, and that staff went back to police budget personnel. Here is what FOI staff emailed us on January 29:
As per our telephone conversation on January 28, 2016, after consulting with members of our Budget & Control Office, our office was notified that a 2016 Operating Budget Report (similar to budget reports prepared in prior years) was not requested by the TPSB for 2016. Therefore, a 2016 Operating Budget report was not prepared.
A 2016 operating budget report for the police service was not prepared, according to staff.
It is extraordinary to think that the Toronto Police Services Board never bothered to ask staff or the full budget, or that they didnt bother to actually see any of the detail of how the billion dollars would be spent. It is a reckless way to govern.
What the Board has apparently done is said to the police service: here is a pot of gold, and you can spend it as you like. You are responsible to no one for the way this is spent because we have not asked you to detail what the money is for.
Scandalous is not too strong a word for what the Board has done in not requiring a detailed budget. So much for Mayor John Tory and his ideas of financial accountability. This is the ultimate expression of the culture of impunity by the police service.
Regular readers of the Bulletin may remember the comments we made about the 2015 operating budget see Bulletin No. 89. That budget is posted on the Boards web site http://www.tpsb.ca/index.php?option=com_jdownloads&view=category&catid=29&Itemid=219 . When it was finally released, it was seen to be considerably different from what then Chief Blair said it was, in fact the chiefs report considerably misrepresented what the budget actually said. It seems clear now that the 2015 budget document was not a realistic description of what spending would actually occur it called for reducing front line officers by 172, and that never occurred. Perhaps it was just a place filler, and never intended to reflect spending in 2015. In 2016 the police service has simply ended the charade and has not produced any detailed budget at all. The police have their billion dollar pot of gold which allows them to do anything they want with that money.
As this Bulletin was in the final stages of preparation, CBC television approached Mayor Tory on February 1 on the issue. The Mayor said he had seen a line-by-line budget and he would call for it to be made public. A member of the mayors staff phoned to say he would see `what he could do. The mayor apparently will find the thing that staff says does not exist.
What makes one very suspicious of the Mayors claim that the Board saw an actual detailed budget, is that neither his office nor the police service has taken the simple and speedy action to calm the doubters: they could flip it in as moment by email or Dropbox to those who doubt its existence, but that has not happened.
2. Arming police with Colt Carbines
You knew that the police needed stronger armament, didnt you? That may be why the police service has gone ahead without reporting to a public meeting of the Police Services Board or telling the public, to begin buying Colt Carbines for supervisors and other members of the force. You can expect to find these weapons in most squad cars in the next few months.
This weapon is very heavy stuff. It is semi-automatic and pierces any kind of body armour. The Emergency Task Force has had this weapon for some time, but now it is being issued to regular officers so they can pull it out when they think they need it, such as when a teenager acts up on public transit or someone is in mental distress wandering on the street.
Take a look at the Colt web site, www.colt.com , go to Catalogue, Law Enforcement, and Products. Two weeks ago the main page of the web site featured an army squad with a helicopter in the background brandishing Carbines in a desert, but since the CBC broke the story of the purchase, that imagine has disappeared. It is not clear how much the police are spending on these weapons but each is worth several thousand dollars and it looks as though about 50 Carbines are being purchased.
Two years ago, when the provincial government changed regulations to allow Police Services Boards to provide tasers conducted energy weapons - to every officer, a fierce debate broke out in Toronto about doing that in Toronto. Virtually all of the four dozen deputants to the Board opposed extending tasers, and the Board agreed that would not be done taser would be restricted to supervisors. A comparable debate should have been held on this new level of military armament. Perhaps it is not too late to force the Board to discuss this new level of armament in public.
3. The challenge of bringing basic change to the police service
The Toronto Police Services Board commissioned a report from the consulting firm KPMG in 2015 about how the force could save money, and KPMG reported back that maybe the service should think about closing police stations and investing less money in physical facilities. It took considerable public pressure before the Board chair Andy Pringle agreed to make the report public in early 2016, and then once the report saw the light of day it didnt seem all that helpful as a way forward.
But Pringle said he was going to pull a group together to talk about the future of the police service, promising big changes later in the year. To date he has not said exactly who he intends to get to look at these issues, or what the process will be that will be followed.
Then, in mid-January, deputy chief Peter Sloly made a speech to some young techy entrepreneurs at the MARs Centre, arguing that the Toronto police service could reduce the number of officers by a few hundred if it became technologically more savvy. Apparently deputy chiefs are not allowed to talk publicly in this fashion. Mike McCormick, president of the Toronto Police Association stated he would be filing a complaint with the Board and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission asking that Sloly be disciplined for making such remarks. McCormick also said that Slolys remarks could be interpreted as sour grapes because he was not appointed to be chief, as he had hoped he would be. Sloly immediately went on holiday. One senses that some powers that be see Sloly as too much of a challenge to Mark Saunders the new chief, and that he will soon disappear from the Toronto police service.
Surely what we need if the Toronto police service is to be reformed are people willing to speak out with good ideas so a vibrant public discussion can begin. But Board chair Andy Pringle has not come forward to defend Slolys right to speak out. One fears the current exercise in change will be no more successful than any of the other promises to do things differently.
4. Forcillo convicted
Constable James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder of Sammy Yatim after a jury trial in Toronto. Sammy Yatim was a teenager in some mental distress who was killed on a streetcar in July 2013, see Bulletin No. 77. Forcillo fired two volleys at Yatim: three shots which were deemed to have killed him, and then after a pause, another 6 shots.
Some have questioned how the jury could come to its decision to convict Forcillo of attempted murder when Yatim was killed, but since in Canada it is unlawful to pry behind the jurys decision, we will never know. Some argue the latter six shots were those when Forcillo intended to kill Yatim, although since he was already dead, they amounted to an attempt to murder the young man.
Whatever the explanation, there was generally relief that the officer had been found guilty of a serious crime for his actions, and praise that the jury had found its way to register a conviction for a serious offence. There had been a worry that Forcillo would walk without conviction given the unusualness of officers being convicted of serious crimes while on duty.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said the jury decision sends `a chill to officers as they go about their work. One hopes that is the case. It was reported that in the last three years Forcillo had drawn his gun a dozen times, when it is rare for most officers to draw a gun once a year. One underexamined aspects of this case is that no one in the police service who was aware of Forcillos overuse of his gun as a threat flagged him as a risk and as someone whose access to weapons should be limited. It should have been apparent that this officer was in danger of shooting someone without cause. If action had been taken to change his behaviour perhaps Sammy Yatim would be alive today. Further, it seems worth rethinking whether every officer should carry a gun: perhaps limit guns to ETF officers who are brought in when situations clearly have the potential to be violent? Or limit them to officers who have demonstrated the ability to de-escalate tense situations without the use of force?
The Criminal Code sets out a mandatory sentence of four years in jail for attempted murder with a gun. Forcillos lawyer has indicated he will challenge the mandatory sentence, a challenge many lawyers are making to mandatory sentences. The new Trudeau government has said it will remove mandatory sentences for most crimes, leaving the matter to the judge. In this case sentence will be handed out in early March.
5. Officers charged with perjury.
Four Toronto police officers have been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice after a judge challenged their testimony in court last fall, suggesting they had constructed a case against an individual.
This is the first case to come forward after the provincial government adopted a new policy in 2013 requiring a crown attorney, on hearing a judge question the veracity of police evidence, to bring the matter to the attention of senior members in the Crown Attorneys office, who would then bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate chief of police. See Bulletin No. 65 and No. 68. The officers will first be in court in mid-March.
Another officer has been charged under the Police Service Act for firing 14 shots at a car which had stopped and boxed in by patrol cars in the Distillery District. His first hearing is also in early March.
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