TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 114, June 25, 2019



June 25 2019

1. Public attitudes on Toronto police service
2. Toronto police and big data usage
3. Board unwilling to discuss strip search report
4. Notes on Toronto police culture



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 114, June 25, 2019

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 Bulletin:
1. Public attitudes on Toronto police service
2. Toronto police and big data usage
3. Board unwilling to discuss strip search report
4. Notes on Toronto police culture
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Public attitudes on Toronto police culture

The Toronto Police Services Board recently commissioned a public opinion survey about how the public sees one of the most important public services in Toronto. The survey shows that a significant chunk of the population has very serious concerns about how they are treated by Toronto police. It implies that many residents believe the culture of racial discrimination runs deeply within the police service. Some 1500 people were interviewed for the survey.
See http://tpsb.ca/images/agendas/PUBLIC_AGENDA_May30.pdf

Briefly, the survey concludes:
* Only 68 per cent believe Toronto police are honest
* Only 72 per cent believe Toronto police live up to the motto `To serve and protect
* Only 65 per cent believe Toronto police can be trusted to treat all ethnic groups fairly
* Only 50 per cent believe Toronto police are impartial to all ethnic groups.
* Only  43 percent of Torontonians believe that the citys police officers engage effectively with the community.
Percentages for black and indigenous people are much lower.

If a survey found that kids thought only two thirds of their recreation workers did not discriminate, City Council would move quickly. If it found that people thought less than 70 per cent of building inspectors were honest, change would happen quickly. If it was thought hospital workers were not likely to be impartial to all ethnic groups there would be a furor.
But when it comes to policing, one of the most important public services, there seems to be a feeling among political leaders that discrimination and mistrust is simply a fact of life which does not warrant much concern or action.

When the survey was discussed at the May 30 meeting of the Board, TPAC asked for three actions: that the Board publicly acknowledge that racial discrimination is part of the culture of the Toronto police service; that the Board commit to addressing and changing that culture in the short term; that the Board retain assistance, particularly from those organizations with a track record of addressing discrimination, to create programs to make those changes.

The Board rejected these ideas, and simply issued a statement of mild concern. The key parts of the statement are:

What we learn from this community survey is critical and must be listened to carefully. It is so important that we continue to have a dynamic and comprehensive conversation around this topic  it must be both transparent, informed by community voices, as well as data-driven. We take the findings of the report seriously&.

We continue to be guided by what lies at the core of our modernization philosophy: we are dedicated to delivering police services, in partnership with our communities, to keep Toronto the best and safest place to be.

Getting that imperative concept right is an ongoing endeavour. We must continue to take stock, to listen and to figure out what we need to do differently and what we are doing well, in partnership with our communities.

In the meantime, the Board and the Service have continued to work to make progress on these issues& Listening carefully to the results of this community survey, and working to meaningfully respond to them, is part of this ongoing, important work.

One might call this a very timid approach to a very substantial problem. As for City Council which funds the police service, no member has commented on the results of the survey.

2. Toronto police and big data usage

The Broadbent Institute commissioned a study on the use of big data by Canadian police services. See
https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/big_data?utm_campaign=may21_19baa_rep_data&utm_medium=email&utm_source=broadbent

It is unclear exactly what programs are used by Canadian police forces  generally police are very secretive about what programs they use, although when it comes to big data, many studies have shown that big data programs often discriminate against racial groups and those with low income. The result is that those groups are targeted by police, and when a group is targeted, the police always find reasons to lay charges. The late criminologist Richard Ericson called this `Making Crime, the title of one of his studies of police in southern Ontario.

Thus it is important to have a good handle on the big data programs which police use to help ensure that they are not biased.

Most big data programs for police identify patterns to predict where police should direct resources  predictive policing. It is thought police in Ontario and Saskatchewan use Risk Driven Tracking data bases. Ottawa has a Strategic Operations Centre which monitors protests on social media. The RCMP uses Project Wide Awake which monitors the social media activity of individuals.

The most widely used program in North America is PredPol followed by HunchLab. Chicago police use Strategic Subject List.

What programs are used by the Toronto police service? We do not know. TPAC made a request for these programs to be identified, but no response has yet been received. One suspects this is not information the police are willing to divulge.

3. Board unwilling to discuss strip search report

In March 2019 the OIPRD issued its report on strip searches in Ontario. (See Bulletin 113.) That report points out that Toronto police do far more strip searches than any other large police force in Ontario  the Toronto police service strip searches about 40 per cent of those arrested while other large forces strip search less than one percent. More than 40 court cases since the Golden decision 18 years ago have thrown out cases brought by Toronto police because of improper police strip searches.
 
The OIPRD report makes a number of recommendations, including the proposal by the Supreme Court in the Golden decision that police be required to do a Level 2 search  a pat down search - before a strip search authorization is requested of a superior.
 
TPAC wrote to the Board in late March asking that the report be scheduled at the April meeting of the Toronto Police Service Board so it could be discussed. The Board refused. The agenda of the Board meetings is prepared by the Board chair, Andy Pringle, and he has consistently refused to put matters of public interest on the agenda when requested by groups like TPAC. Thus the OIPRD strip search report has yet to be discussed publicly by the Board.

TPAC recently wrote to two of the more progressive Board members, Marie Moliner and Ken Jeffers, asking that they ensure the report is on the agenda for the next Board meeting. Neither had the courtesy of responding to the request.

TPAC has had a response from the executive director of the Board, Ryan Teschner, who indicates that the strip search will be before the Board at its September meeting. That means the report will come forward six months after it was issued. In that period of time, some 10,000 more people will be strip searched by Toronto police than would happen if the recommendations of the OIPRD and the Supreme Court in the Golden decision were implemented.

Thats simply not good enough. One might call this a reckless concern for the public interest.

4. Notes on Toronto police culture

There are two criteria which must be met for actions to be considered part of the culture of an organization. The actions must be widespread in the organization, and they must be persistent.

`Widespread assumes that the actions often occur in the organization  not all the time, but with considerable frequency so that when they do take place no one thinks twice about them, they just say, yes, thats the way things work here. Not everyone has to take these actions, but those who dont, realize theres not much they can do about them. The actions are frequent enough that theres no thought of penalizing or criticizing the actors, and theres no allegations that the actors are `bad apples.

`Persistent means the actions continue over a relatively long period of time, usually measured in terms of years.

If deviant actions are widespread and persistent, it is fair to conclude that those deviant actions are part of the culture of the organization. They define the way the organization functions.

There are three aspects of the culture of the Toronto police organization which deserve comment:
a) it is racist and discriminatory;
b) it humiliates and intimidates those it arrests; and
c) its leadership refuses to acknowledge and respond to these problems.

To deal with each in turn:
a) There is substantial data to indicate that Toronto police discriminate, particularly against those who are black and/or indigenous people. This was very evident when police carded individuals in Toronto, and black or indigenous people were many more times more likely to be stopped and carded by police than others. Since carding has been substantially restricted by the provincial government, this no longer occurs with such frequency.

But discrimination continues in other activities, such as holding in detention black people arrested for drug possession much more frequently than others. It also appears to happen when police stop drivers for alleged driving offences. Recent studies from the Ontario Human Rights Commission indicates that black and indigenous people are more subject to police violence than others.

b) If you are arrested in Toronto, theres a 40 per cent chance you will be strip searched. Other large police forces in Ontario strip search less than one percent of those arrested. As the Supreme Court of Canada has noted, strip searches are demeaning and humiliating, but Toronto police do them frequently.

c) Toronto police leaders take no action to deal with these issues. For more than half a dozen years Toronto police were challenged to stop carding, but both the Board and the leadership consistently refused to do so. The Board challenged the Toronto Star, all the way to the Court of Appeal, for trying to obtain the data about carding. Carding was restricted by the provincial government, not by any action of the Toronto police or the Toronto Police Services Board.

Police leadership and the Board has refused to take action about discriminatory arrests in respect to drugs. It has also not taken strong action when a recent public opinion survey indicated a significant section of the Toronto population believes the police discriminate against some ethnic groups.

Police leadership, including the Toronto Police Services Board, has been challenged for more than a decade to reduce the number of strip searches, and it has consistently refused to take any action to do so. Since 2001 (when the Supreme Court of Canada issued the Golden decisions about the need to limit strip searches,) the Board and the police force has been subject to 40 court decisions challenging its strip searches, but those decision have not led to change.

It is clear that the culture of policing in Toronto, from the Toronto Police Service down through police leadership, includes discrimination against black and indigenous people, humiliating and demeaning those arrested, and the unwillingness to address and rectify these short-comings.

It is shameful that this is the culture of one of the countrys largest police forces. Imagine if any other organization thought that this kind of culture was reasonable or normal.

What can be done to change this culture?

5. 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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