1. Chair of Police Services Board steps aside
After originally rejecting the request of other Board members to relinquish his duties, Norm Gardner, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, has agreed to step aside while an investigation is conducted into his receipt of a handgun from a Toronto gun manufacturer. The investigation was requested by the other six members of the Board, and is being conducted by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. In the meantime, Gardner continues to receive his $91,000 annual salary as chair.
Gardner received a handgun from the principals of Para Ordnance, a Toronto gun manufacturer, last February. Apparently the firm asked Gardner to intervene to get a booth for the company at the convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Toronto in 2001 for the original $25,000 asking price. The company ultimately paid $7,500 after Gardner arranged an introduction to a police public relations officer. Gardner claims the maximum fee was reduced after organizers realized the original fee was too high.
The Ontario Provincial Police learned of the gift in May, while conducting wiretaps of the company's phone while conducting an unrelated investigation. Police told Gardner they knew of the gun, and Gardner apparently told them he had simply forgotten to pay for it. Three weeks later, in early June, he sent Para Ordnance a cheque for $700. The gun has a market value of between $1,200 and $1,500.
Since that story became public, it has now been revealed that the invoice sent to Gardner by Para Ordnance on February 27 indicates that there was no charge for the gun. One principal of the firm says he has known Gardner for about a decade, and that Gardner was offered a choice of one of three guns. Gardner disputes both statements.
Gardner has a long history of involvement with guns. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon for many years - less than two dozen people have such permits - and he shot a robber of his bakery in the early 1990s.
For reasons which are not yet clear, the Ontario Provincial Police concluded that charges should not be laid in this case. The current investigation by the Commission is into the more limited question of discreditable conduct, which may lead to an order requiring his resignation. It is expected the preliminary aspects of the investigation may be concluded by the end of June.
2. Auditing the Sexual Assault Audit
By Jane Doe
Toronto Auditor General Jeffrey Griffiths is currently conducting a review of the 57 recommendations for change in police investigations of sexual assault that he made in 2000, in order to determine if they have been implemented. They are detailed in a document popularly known as the Jane Doe Social Audit.
Here is the short version of the two sides: The Police Service claim they have implemented all but two of the recommendations. Women working in the anti-violence sector (women's shelters and rape crisis) claim that two recommendations have been implemented. Mutual use of the number two is our only point of agreement.
Women's agencies (referred to as "those people" or "special interest groups" in police responses) were not part of the consulting process ordered by the auditor three years ago to effect change. Instead, Chief Julian Fantino embarked on an alternate method and met with government and religious groups who work with youth. For that reason alone, women have called on the Police Services Board to direct the chief to begin again, and, on the Auditor General to find Fantino's responses unacceptable. (There are 55 additional reasons for our position, the majority of which focus on the need for increased and improved training and policy changes.)
At this point, the most we can expect is that the Auditor General will reach the same conclusion as community stakeholders. If he does, this is what will happen: The auditor's findings will be presented to the powerful audit committee of city council. A majority vote of support from them will return the review to city council. Then council's majority vote will see the matter sent back to the Police Services Board who must direct the Chief to restart his process.
Sounds a little accountable right? But wait. It is then in Fantino's power to claim that the entire matter is "operational" - meaning that it does not fall under the domain of the Police Services Board (which authorizes the Board to deal with policy matters) but under his control as Chief since it deals with operational issues. It's his Catch 22.
If I've lost you by now, if you are unaware of "operational" versus "policy" issues in policing or the Police Service Act; if you are wondering where the buck stops (it's with Public Safety and Security Minister Bob Runciman;) if you do not understand the machinations of city council - then, it might also be time for us to begin again. We might restart our own process to effect police accountability.
Individuals and communities involved in seeking change in police procedure and protocol must make ourselves aware of the similar, sometimes identical, work of diverse populations to identify racism, sexism and homophobia in police culture and the inadvisability of engaging in remedies which do not include transparent mechanisms for implementation. There are valuable lessons to be drawn from inquests, audits and investigations into the deaths of Edmund Yu, Gillian Hadley or Wade Lawson, and the crimes of the Balcony Rapist and Paul Bernardo. There are lessons in what has not worked, cannot work and why. There are strategies to be adopted and built on, others to be discarded as co-optable. There are coalitions to be built.
One lesson we must learn is that we cannot continue to produce easily isolated documents that call for change, but then which collect dust on the shelves of police chiefs and other politicians because they do not include effective strategies for implementation. Another is the extraordinary difficulty in changing the police culture by hoping for the best from police leaders.
Jane Doe is a member of the Audit Reference Group established by city council and author of the book "The Story of Jane Doe" (see review which follows.)
3. Book review: "The Story of Jane Doe"
Published by Random House, $39.95, hardcover, 363 pages.
Two dominant emotions that engulf victims of rape are shame and guilt,
but what makes The Story of Jane Doe such compelling reading is that Jane Doe was raped, but she never saw herself as a victim.
"I was clear," she told a group counselling session, "that the act was not on me but on the man who raped me, and like [the other victims], I was not responsible for his crimes." She continues, sadly, "I don't think they understood, although they wanted to. I wish I knew better ways to tell them."
With the absence of guilt, this book about a traumatic event is both engrossing and empowering. Jane Doe - she remarks on several occasions how fortunate she was to have this other persona to protect her - was raped, and then decided to do something about it. She learned that others had been raped in similar circumstances and when it was clear the police had absolutely no intention - indeed, an aversion - to alerting the community to the problem - promptly worked with friends and colleagues to put up signs in the neighbourhood. The rapist was arrested within 24 hours of the posters going up.
Then follows the preliminary hearing and the trial, the repulsive behaviour of the many police officers and the exclusionary nature of the court system, all providing good reasons why 90 per cent of women who are sexually assaulted do not report the crime to police, and in only 4 per cent of reported cases is there a conviction. "If only half of all charges reported result in convictions," she writes, "something is very wrong. At 4 per cent we have disaster, farce, permission to rape."
Doe then adds the kind of example which makes the book compulsive, an example which reveals the extraordinary biases and assumptions by which we live. Noting that many rapists use a defence of implied consent she writes, "Try applying the idea of mistaken belief in consent to another crime. Someone steals your car. You left it unlocked and the thief claims you wanted him to take it and that is what he honestly believed at the time." It's ludicrous.
Once the rapist is convicted and sentenced, the story moves forward as Doe decides to sue the police for neglect of duty and Charter of Rights violations. This could have been the section of the story most difficult to wade through, given the legal and procedural issues, but it is made fresh and interesting by the way the different characters in the court struggle are sketched, the ability of Doe to talk in different voices - as narrator, diarist, and as a life story teller - and her bright tone, which never sinks to cynicism. The attacks on her character by professional witnesses brought forward on behalf of the police are painful and disturbing. "My past had been used against me. To discredit and malign me because I was suing police for negligence and Charter discrimination. If that's how we're going to do it, I thought, surely the past of the police officers involved would have been more relevant?"
Finally, she wins that court battle too, and provokes the social audit by the city auditor into police investigations of sexual assaults, which turns out to be an award-winning report. The book concludes with several brief chapters describing how the police managed to avoid implementing most of the recommendations, and the brittleness of the police hierarchy.
What sustains the books is its unfailing optimism - that may seem like a strange word but there's no other quick and concise way to account for Jane Doe's energy, her ability to look intelligently at social context she's in, and her constant asides and allusions to the larger cultural world. It's a strong, powerful and engaging work.
4. Policing data for Toronto
The following data about police activities in Toronto comes from the 2002 Environmental Scan complied by the Toronto police force. This year's Environmental Scan is expected in the next few months. The data generally shows that calls for police are decreasing, crime is decreasing, and that considerable police energy is directed at automobile accidents.