Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 98, June 29, 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 Bulletin:
1. The Transformational Task Force report
2. Chief supports safe drug injections sites
3. Apologizing for the bath house raids
4. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. The Transformational Task Force report
The interim report of the task force is titled `The Way Forward: Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto, and the 24 recommendations are a mixed bag with hints of new possibilities, but no firm conclusions about how the Toronto police force will be transformed. (For the full report, go to www.tpac.ca and click on Items of Interest.) The report proposes that the force will modestly shrink in size (less than 10 per cent); some functions which have little to do with policing (lifeguards on beaches) will be turned over to other branches of the civic government; some old chestnuts (such as two officers in a car and the shift schedule) will be revisited; and new technology will be purchased for purposes not entirely clear.
The biggest hint of change is about the role of officers in neighbourhoods but it is unclear exactly what it is proposed they will be doing and whether random patrol work will continue to be a major police function. Similarly, it is unclear how exactly officers will relate to other city services. Will these issues be clarified in the final report expected at the end of the year, and if so, in which direction?
The Board is holding a hearing on the recommendations on July 19. Perhaps public reaction will help to clarify what directions the Task Force should be taking to improve policing in Toronto.
What follows is commentary on each the recommendation. The report itself adds very little information to whats in the the five pages of recommendations.
1. Connected Officers:
This recommendation proposes that each officer has a smart phone. Apparently this will support officers working `in their assigned neighbourhood every day, and is a result of `focusing officers on local problem solving but no further explanation is offered.
There is no recommendation which says that officers will be re-assigned from patrol to neighbourhoods or for what period of time, so it is somewhat unclear what is being proposed. We know that neighbourhood teams have been working in several neighbourhoods for a couple of years but that is not mentioned in the report, and thus it is unclear what might have been learned from this experience.
If the report said that patrol work is a waste of time and that anonymous policing (currently the foundation of patrol work) should stop, that would be a very good change. But there are no such statements.
Accordingly, this recommendation needs much more explanation. And even if the signal being given is to move to the neighbourhood model of policing, useful change will not come about just because officers have access to expensive new technology.
2. Improved capabilities related to data, information, and analysis, including big data
No one can quarrel with better analysis. But there is good reason to question why the police department should rely on `big data. A recent report in the New York Times shows that big data is extraordinarily prejudiced in favour of wealthy white men, and is prejudicial to women, blacks, yellows, browns, and the poor. See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/opinion/sunday/artificial-intelligences-white-guy-problem.html?_r=1
And do police need even more information when they do so poorly with the info they now have? It sounds as though the police service is moving into even broader surveillance as though that will begin to resolve problems, and that is a very questionable direction. Police surveillance demands better public oversight, of which there is no mention.
This recommendation needs much more explanation and discussion. There are also very serious concerns about the cost of this and the first recommendation. Technology always comes with costs higher than imagined.
3. Disbanding TAVIS.
This is a good recommendation. Any gains in information coming from TAVIS is far outweighed by the damage done to relations with the community.
4. Risk assessment for priority response
This has to do with determining which calls for service the police should respond to (including which are emergencies), and which calls other city services should respond to. It probably also involves a replacement for 911 calls, which now is one of the only useful ways of making contact with police, although one is often put on hold.
The report suggests there are significant savings with these changes, but it is unclear exactly how they will occur.
Whats needed is some analysis of what happens now. Police do not respond to about half the calls they receive because responses are not needed. But the calls they do respond to only amount to two or three calls per officer per shift. And often more than one officer attends at a call, sometimes four or five or six.
If the police service is moving into a neighbourhood service model, its reasonable to believe (or to hope) that many calls will be made directly to the officers in that neighbourhood rather than to a central office. That would mean that only calls involving imminent violence or danger would go to a central office. How many such calls are there presently?
This raises a larger question: what do police officers actually do right now? How do they spend time on their shifts? Before agreeing to allocate resources on risk assessment, or virtually any other recommendation in this report, we need to know this. The last study in Ontario on this was done almost 40 years ago by Richard Ericson in `Reproducing Order: A Study of Police Patrol Work, and it basically concluded that in a regular shift an officer would generally spend no more than 90 minutes dealing with the public. We need a good study looking at how Toronto officers spend their time, how much time is spent doing work that civilians could do, and so forth. That will help determine how many police officers are needed.
5. Alternative reporting and follow-up for non-emergencies
This proposal also includes using civilians, and suggests reporting in person, on line and by phone. This makes good sense.
6. Improved public safety response
It is unclear how this will differ from the existing Emergency Task Force.
7. More efficient scheduling.
This recommendation says the shift schedule will be reviewed, which is the same recommendation which has been made for the past eight years. The current shift schedule has the same number of officers on duty throughout the 24 hours which means there is no match between demand for services and police personnel; that officers serve for a week and then are off for a week so there is no continuity; and it also pays for a four hour overlap of officers.
Changing the shift schedule will require some useful studies of other police forces in order to put the Board in a strong positon to bargain with the Police Association. We need to see how the Board will address these studies.
8. More effective deployment in vehicles.
Two officers in a car an extreme example of featherbedding - will again be reviewed as it has been for the last eight years. The only way to ensure theres a different outcome this time around is with studies showing that other forces in Canada operate perfectly well, and probably more safely, without requiring two officers in a car.
9. A risk-based response to special events
This recommendation proposes that officers may not be needed at every special event and some criteria is needed to determine which ones. This makes sense.
10. A more efficient retail response
The proposal here is to use special constables in shopping centres (just as special constables are used at universities) rather than police officers. It makes sense, but the report estimates it will save 5500 hours of policing services, that is, about three officers. So there is not much money being saved.
11. Disband the Transit Patrol Unit
Finally. This was a real duplication of the TTCs own constables, and a waste of public money. How much money? We dont know because the Board only released a six page budget for 2016 and it simply didnt get into the detail of the cost of any program involving officers. One transformation would be to require a full budget showing exactly where the one billion dollars a year is spent. There are probably 75+ officers assigned to travel transit so they will all be re-assigned.
What the report does not suggest, and it should, is disbanding the School Resources Officers, the police officers in schools program. Schools are better managed by school officials, not by police officers, and the 30+ SROs now in schools should be re-assigned.
12. Alternative delivery of the Lifeguard program
This makes sense and will free up civilians who now manage it but of course there is no saving to the public since some other branch of the city will pay for it.
13. Alternative delivery of the School Crossing Guard program
This makes sense. The use of officers in this program is relatively minor, so there is no considerable savings by shifting this to some other public body.
14. Using traffic enforcement technology to improve community safety.
This is about using a lot more `red light cameras. They are expensive no cost estimate is given but they provide good traffic enforcement and raise more than enough money to pay for themselves. Will the number of officers be reduced by using these cameras to give tickets? No information is given about this.
This probably makes sense, but more detail is required of what is actually proposed.
15. Overhauling Paid Duty.
Again this is something that has been suggested many times in the past but little change has taken place. How can anyone be assured that this time something good will happen?
16. City-wide divisional boundary and facilities realignment
This involves drawing new lines on maps, the amalgamation of some police stations, and a better system of dispatching resources to emergencies.
This sounds like a perfect opportunity to spend lots of money on consultants for studies that dont serve any good purpose. A better first step is to be clear about what police officers will be doing: will more of the force by assigned to work in neighbourhoods? Will random patrol be abandoned? What role will civilians play in the new policing model? How will police officers interact with social services in the city?
The report says that amalgamation of divisions will save money: experience with amalgamation in Toronto is that it costs money.
Until these questions are clarified the recommendations under this heading should be held in abeyance, including any amalgamation of divisions.
17. More accessible and transparent information and services
This is a repeat of recommendations 1, 2 and 5. The big concern here is the use of expensive technology.
18. Moratorium on hiring and promotions
This recommends generally not hiring new officers in the next three years, and states this will save $60 million over the next three years. It certainly makes sense to shrink the size of the police force. Whether reducing the force by the 350 officers which this recommendation proposes is the right number or not remains to be seen. Getting a better shift schedule and getting rid of the requirement of two officers in a car after dark can lead to the need for many fewer officers. This moratorium should be seen as a start to determining the number officers needed for excellent policing in Toronto.
19. Assessing Information Technology requirements
The police service has spent extraordinary sums in the past few decades on technology, some of it very foolishly. No studies should be undertaken until it is clear what the new policing model will actually look like, and then there must be very careful monitoring of what studies will be undertaken and for what purpose.
20. Alternative or shared service delivery of Court Services
This is simply a study of how court services may be delivered more efficiently. Providing the study has reasonable terms of reference, it probably makes sense.
21. Alternative or shared service delivery of Parking Enforcement.
This is yet another study of something reviewed in the past. How can it be assured that this time the study will amount to something?
22. Alternative or shared service delivery of background screenings of new recruits
This probably makes sense, but if police are not going to be doing much hiring in the next three years, there is no reason to spend energy on this now.
23. Investment in 911
This proposes a cost recovery program of some kind. But it doesnt seem reasonable or equitable to charge people who call 911, and in any case other recommendations suggest alternative contacts for non-emergency situations. This recommendation should be held in abeyance until recommendation 5 is implemented.
24. Comprehensive culture change and human resources strategy
This includes a number of ideas which will be detailed in the final report:
a) benchmarks for measuring culture change.
The best benchmarks should be dealing with performance, since thats the one thing which will measure any changes in police culture. If the benchmarks simply deal with culture as attitude, it will be useless. TPAC has developed a comprehensive list of 43 benchmarks to measure police effectiveness.
b) better management
This looks really mushy. Why cant the police force hire good managers from outside policing? Why does hiring always have to take place from within? Hiring managers from other organizations who might not know much about policing but know a lot about good management should be a recommendation but it is not mentioned.
Another good management tool is a detailed budget. That is not something which the Police Service created this year. It is required.
c) partnering with an academic institution to professionalize policing.
A better approach would be to hire new police staff by job descriptions rather than taking officers at the bottom of the organization and then trying to retrain them.
d) more innovation.
The idea is to have a staff group responsible for fostering innovation. Thinking about innovation in a systemic way is a good idea for an organization with spends one billion dollars a year.
e) redesigned training for officers
Not only will they have new training for young recruits, but they will require all existing officers to be retrained. This is an extraordinarily expensive way of doing things, and it does nothing to counter police culture. The training of officers for the past twenty years to better respond to those with mental illness has had precious little impact on the police force. How can we assure that the training will be more effective? Perhaps after training, officers need better supervision and mentoring by those skilled in particular areas. As well, hiring people with the needed skills through job descriptions not hiring at the bottom and having people move up - is more sensible than trying to get existing staff to learn new skills.
f) better performance management for officers
Sure, but if you dont hire the right ones, does it matter?
g) program of rewards
A program to reward officers for doing terrific work is a good idea, as is disciplining officers who do bad work.
2. Chief supports safe drug injection sites
The City of Toronto Board of Health has proposed that three safe drug injection sites be opened in the city, all three located centrally where health facilities now provide free needle exchange. Insite in Vancouver has provided this service for some years, showing that lives can be saved and drug users can find better options to improve their lives when connected with staff at the facility. But Insite was strongly attacked by the government of Stephen Harper, and the interest in establishing a safe drug injection site in Toronto was generally put on hold, particularly since then police chief Bill Blair was adamantly opposed to safe drug injection sites, saying they increased drug use.
But then the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision to support Insite, and Justin Trudeau committed to permit such sites if elected. Under the leadership of councillor Joe Cressy, the idea was revived in Toronto in the past eight months. Many community leaders signed on to support such sites, Mayor John Tory gave cautious approval, and when the Board of Health took its decision to proceed this spring, there was virtually no community opposition.
Now Chief Mark Saunders has said he is not opposed to the safe drug injections sites being opened in Toronto. I am supportive of measures that reduce the incidence of overdoses and death, he said. This is a positive and progressive stance, and as the first police chief outside of Vancouver to adopt such a position, he deserves praise for his leadership.
The matter goes to Toronto City Council in July for final approval.
3. Apologizing for the bath house raids.
As part of Pride week celebrations, Chief Mark Saunders apologized for the bath house raids which took place in February 1981 when more than one hundred officers raided four gay bath houses, arresting 300 men. The raids cause much needless damage to the clubs, and more than 90 per cent of the charges laid were withdrawn or dismissed.
"The 35th anniversary of the 1981 raids is a time when the Toronto Police Service expresses its regrets for those very actions. It is also an occasion to acknowledge the lessons learned about the risks of treating any part of Toronto's many communities as not fully a part of society," Saunders said.
"Recognizing diversity requires consistently renewed practice strategies and reaching out to communities and vigilance in challenging stereotypes. Policing requires building mutual trust and that means forging links with the full range of communities that make up this extraordinary city. The Toronto Police Service recognizes the lessons from that period have continuing relevance for the creation of a more inclusive city."
Rev. Brent Hawkes worked with the chief to secure the apology.
But many in the LGBT community were not impressed. The raids were clearly co-ordinated by senior leaders in the police force and were designed to intimidate and harm members of the gay community, but that was not acknowledged in the apology. Nor was the fact that so many gays feared they would be outed at a time when there were no protections from being fired.
Chanelle Gallant, a lesbian activist involved in the committee opposing the police raid on the Pussy Palace in 2000, was quote in the Globe and Mail saying the apology was `well-intentioned but continued, `we didnt feel like it spoke to all of the issues that remain. & It leaves out the criminalization and violent targeting of racialized, indigenous and marginalized groups within and outside of LGBTQ communities.
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