Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 102, March 10, 2017.
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:
2. Maybe not the Way Forward
3. Ottawa officer charged with manslaughter
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The `Unfounded series which was first published in the Globe and Mail at the beginning of February is one of the most dis-spiriting pieces of journalism weve seen in quite a while. Robyn Doolittle is the chief journalist and spent several years learning that police across Canada dismiss one in five claims of sexual assault as `unfounded.
Some police forces dismissed more than one third of the sexual assault allegations brought to them. In St. John, N.B., more than half the cases were dismissed as unfounded; in Ottawa, 28 per cent. In Winnipeg, only 2 per cent of allegations are dismissed; in Toronto 7 per cent; in Edmonton 10 per cent; in St. Johns Newfoundland, 8 per cent.
In the intervening six weeks the Globe has published individual stories about how the police dismissed allegations of sexual assault. One comes away with the feeling that the police dont take the stories victims tell them with much seriousness and that there are a lot of determined and brave women out there willing to speak up.
As one might expect, many police forces have since said they are reviewing past decisions, and perhaps even changing procedures. But it is difficult to believe that on their own police will make serious changes since that has rarely happened before. As the articles note, the reason Toronto has an unfounded rate below 10 per cent is because of the law suit brought against the police force by Jane Doe more than a decade ago, followed by detailed reports on the change required by the citys Auditor General.
The Ontario government has recently devoted funds for experiments about sexual assault procedures in a number of different police forces, expressing interest in whats known as the Philadelphia model. There, police officers sit down with social agencies and legal advocates once a year to review the details of every case declared unfounded. This procedure has reduced by half the number of unfounded cases in Philadelphia.
As with many other aspects of police performance, we anxiously await change.
2. Maybe not the Way Forward
On February 23, the Toronto Police Services Board endorsed the report `The Way Forward, as the way to modernize the Toronto police service. The report, http://tpsb.ca/items-of-interest/send/29-items-of-interest/546-action-plan-the-way-forward-modernizing-community-safety-in-toronto ,
is aspirational in nature but very short on hard information. The change being proposed is not entirely clear, and there is no information about the money needed or how it will be spent. The report says there will be quarterly reports so everyone can determine exactly what change is being made, but one fears those reports will not have any hard numbers in them, just soft words.
TPAC presented a brief critiquing the report, concluding that `it will result in much confusion for four or five years before it is abandoned.
The following is a brief summary of our position paper:
`The Way Forward is a collection of mostly good ideas about how the Toronto police service should change: the officers should behave in different ways, relating better to city residents; they should do different kinds of work; they should relate better to community agencies; management should be much more progressive; the structure of policing should change; technology should be used in different ways; the culture of policing should change.
`Generally these are good sentiments. The important question is whether any of these things might ever come to pass. Change in policing is very difficult, and usually police services change only after an outside court threat or commissioned order. Can useful change happen because of this report?
The Strategy Management Office (see page 37 of the report) is given the key transformational role, but it raises many questions:
`1. The recommendations in this report call for much consultation regarding the way forward. Yet as the statement about the Strategy Management Office makes clear, the public can say what it wants, nevertheless the Board is already proceeding with its own implementation: leadership and `resources are already in place; six works streams have been established.
`This is the old story which we have experienced far too often at the Board: the Board allows anyone to say what they want, yet it carries on with whatever it wants to do. The processing of this report shows no change on the part of the Board and senior management. This is hardly a good way to begin.
`2. The report talks about new values for the police service such as openness and transparency. But the public is not told the name or qualifications of the `external project manager who has been appointed, the process followed to retain this person, or what this person will actually do and for how long and for what cost. The names of the staff who lead the two teams are not revealed: are these people who actually have a history of creating change within the police service, and if so, what was that change?
`It is good to promise openness and transparency in the future, but it is even better, if one is serious about it, to start right now. Its worrying that this proposed change is not beginning by embodying those values.
`3. One mark of accountability is seeing where the money is spent and how much. When it comes to the Strategy Management Office, theres no hint of the amount of money being spent. Thats true generally of the whole report. It assumes, as the police board and police service have usually assumed, that it can spent as much as it wants and in whatever way it wants.
`The statement on page 22 about ignoring money is extraordinary for any public body to make: "Previous public conversations about changes to policing in Toronto often became focused on costs, with competing perspectives from policing being too expensive to calls for more officers. It is our hope that money does not become the focus of discussion on our final report."
`But of course this is the way the Board and service have seen the world in recent years. No reliable budget for the police service has been made public in the past half dozen years, so the public has no idea of how money gets spent by different functions of the Toronto police service. This report follows that line of thinking: spend but dont tell. The report gives us no financial projections for the massive overhaul of stations and divisions we predict it will not save any money, but will lead to bigger expenditures nor of reshaping the police force. It says nothing about the spending on technology to permit the `big data approach even though some unspecified expenditures have already been incurred.
`This represents the same old way the Board and service has proceeded for many years. There is no change here.
`One very good way of measuring change is looking at how much money is spent and where. It is not something the Toronto police like revealing.
`4. Another good way of indicating change is to show that in hard numbers. There are no numbers given to indicate the success or otherwise of the Strategic Management Office. In the section on Gun and Gang Violence the report actually says success will be measured on `positive outcomes achieved instead of numbers. (page 29.) Why does the report not say something such as: the police will reduce strip searching practice from the 35- 40 per cent of those currently arrested to the levels proposed by the Supreme Court of Canada, which is below 10 per cent? Why cant the report propose a target of no person in mental crisis being killed by the police service? Why cant the report target an increase say of 10 per cent a year of youth who are diverted from the criminal justice system? In short, why are there no numeral targets for change?
`5. Apparently the culture change which is promised in this chapter by the Strategy Management Office will be carried out by existing police officers, the very people who have not been willing to make that change in the past. Proceeding in this manner is apparently based on the assumption that police culture is quite malleable, an assumption which most reasonable people would challenge.
`Asking police to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is a pipe dream. Culture eats strategy for lunch.
`Culture change is clearly the most difficult challenge for the police service yet the chapter on it in The Way Forward manages to skirt the most important changes that are required. The report blames police culture on structure and provincial legislation (page 34 35) which is surely wrong, since so many examples of police culture are contrary to that legislation witness the exhibited racism of the police force in such activities are carding and the laying of charges. Expecting a change in structure to address these cultural questions is wrong-headed.
`We believe any serious attempt to change police culture requires the following:
`a) Ensure that social workers, community workers, and other specially trained and experienced people are hired and laterally injected into policing. Taking in new staff as recruits reinforces existing culture, and that method of hiring must be minimized.
`b) Hire senior managers from outside the policing community. That will help ensure that existing culture is not further entrenched.
`c) Change police training in location, content and teachers.
Training takes place in the isolated facility in Aylmer, Ontario, (and then for Toronto officers at the Toronto Police College) reinforcing from Day One the misguided idea that police officers are different than other people. Train would-be officers along with other students at a community college or university which teaches students the kinds of things that police officers should know.
`The content of police training is now skewed to the technical side of police work, not how policing should complement other social activities.
Training new employs and police using police as their instructors only re-enforces existing culture.
`d) Ensure shifts are changed to accommodate non-uniform working hours serving a community focus.
`e) Adopt a reward system, in addition to promotion, to highlight and positively sanction "excellence in policing" based on this new way forward.
`f) Better integrate functions and funding so that social programs and agencies that prevent crime and are proven effective at preventing young people, people with mental health problems, and others from coming into conflict with the law, are well funded; and that policing should focus on response to crime rather than trying to fulfill social work functions.
`g) Reduce the police presence in low income and marginalized communities.
`The report currently says it will result in `a stronger police presence (page 20) which is one impact of what the existing muscular police culture is all about trying to get people scared of what the police might do. The report even suggests that putting police officers in schools improved community safety and security (page 23), apparently forgetting about the gratuitous criminalization of students.
`h) Ensure that those brought in to assist in managing change have a record of applying an equity lens to institutional change.
We find it difficult to believe that proceeding as outlined in The Way Forward will result in any change. It will result in much confusion for four or five years before it is abandoned. It will probably also cost the public considerable sums of money.
`Before proceeding further we suggest the following courses of action:
1. Prepare a budget which shows exactly what the different units in the police service spent in 2016, and make that budget public.
`2. Prepare a budget which shows the amounts estimated to be spent by units contemplated by implementing The Way Forward and make it public. This will also indicate some of the staffing levels contemplated for the Primary Response Unit, Neighbourhood Policing Unit and the Investigative Response Unit. It will also say how much is estimated for new technology, for division re-alignment, and so forth.
`3. Prepare and make public the strategy for addressing culture change within the police service and within the Board, addressing the issues raised in this brief.
The Board listened to the TPAC brief, asked a few questions, then received it. Mayor John Tory said the report was `a job well done;, and said of course the Board wants hard numbers, and he expects the chief to supply them.
3. Ottawa officer charged with manslaughter
The Special Investigation Unit has charged an Ottawa officer with manslaughter after Abdirahman Abdi was killed in 2016. Mr. Abdi was in mental crisis at the time and was in a confrontation with two Ottawa police officers, dying later in hospital. Constable David Montsion has been charged.
It is unusual for the SIU to charge officers.
Mr. Justice David Tulloch has been reviewing the SIU, the OIPRD and OCPCA for the provincial government, and is scheduled to release his report later this month.
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