1. Failures in Sexual Assault Investigations, again
The Jane Doe case has created an extra-ordinary fallout. This was a case of a woman who was raped in the mid 1990s after police knew that a rapist was at large and did not warn women about it. Jane Doe successfully brought a court case against the police, and city council then instructed the city auditor to report into the investigation of sexual assaults. (The book The Story of Jane Doe describes the long drawn-out process in stunning detail, and is highly recommended.)
The City Auditor reported in 1999 and made 57 recommendations for changes on the way police should investigate sexual assaults. Since then, the Chief has reported to the Police Services Board on eight separate occasions, stating that all but two of the Auditor's recommendations have been addressed, although on many of these occasions women told the Board that the Chief's information was probably not correct.
Now, five years later, the Auditor has revisited his original recommendations in the light of current police practice to determine the extent to which the 1999 recommendations have been implemented. This latest review is very depressing, concluding: "While certain recommendations in the original 1999 report have been implemented, it is apparent that there are others which have not been addressed or implemented satisfactorily. Of significant concern is the fact that even though specific recommendations have been addressed in directives issued by the Chief of Police, police officers in certain cases are not complying with these directives."
Over half the recommendations have not been implemented, especially those calling for policy or other meaningful change. The police did not meet with community agencies dealing with women and violence during implementation, but instead focussed only on hospital and government-based groups, and youth groups. The full 2004 report, with its 23 recommendations may be found on the Police Services Board website; www.torontopoliceboard.on.ca.
This report will be on the agenda of the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on February 10. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. in committee Room 1, second floor, Toronto City Hall. To address the Board, phone the Board secretary at 416 808 8094.
2. Police Homicides
2004 was a particularly bad year for police-related deaths in Toronto. A total of six local residents were shot and killed by Toronto police:
* January 10. 63 year old Antonio Bellon, shot and killed by police in an alley near Dufferin Street and Rogers Road;
* May 21. 17 year old Jeffrey Reodica was shot in the back three times and killed by police on a Scarborough street;
* June 13. 26 year old O'brien Christopher-Reid was shot and killed in Edwards Gardens;
* August 25. 45 year old Tony Brookes was shot and killed by police in front of Union Station while holding a woman hostage;
* October 14. 32 year old Courtney Peters was shot and killed by police at a Scarborough gas station;
* December 31. A 17 year old boy was shot and killed by police in the east end of Toronto during a robbery.
In each case the police have justified their actions and in all but two cases (where investigations have not been completed), the Special Investigations Unit concluded officers were justified in tacking the action they did. Nevertheless, this is a very worrisome trend where a police-related death occurs every two months in Toronto.
The number of homicides in Toronto registered by the police in 2004 was 61, down from 66 in the previous year. However, not included in this figure are the six deaths referred to above.
2005 has not gotten off to a good start. On January 14, Paolo Medeiros was killed when police broke into his West end house at 1.30 am reportedly looking for marijuana, and used pepper spray and batons. Mr. Medeiros died during the raid which happened when his wife and six children, aged 3 to 13 years, were in the house.
3. Vacancies at the top
It is now clear that Chief Julian Fantino will be leaving by the end of February and that his contract will not be extended for the few months between his departure and the arrival of a new chief. Deputy Chief Steve Reesor recently announced that he is retiring from the force (effective March 18) to take an executive position with Frank Stronach's Magna International.
That leaves the top three positions in the force vacant, since the second deputy position has been empty since Michael Boyd, who had been deputy chief, retired more than a year ago.
This is obviously a police force set for change. It would probably make sense to assume that the deputy positions will be left unfilled until the new chief takes over and assesses resource needs.
The Toronto Police Service Board had promised public consultation around the search for a new chief. Those meetings have been arranged as follows: North York Civic Centre council chamber on Wednesday, February 9, 7 - 9pm ; Scarborough Civic Centre Committee Room 1 on Thursday, February 10, 7.30 - 9.30 pm; Toronto City Hall Committee Room 1, on Tuesday, February 15, 7 - 9 pm; and Etobicoke Civic Centre council chamber, Thursday, February 17, 7 - 9 pm. The meetings will be chaired by Councillor Pam McConnell, who chairs the Board.
The Board is asking those wishing to speak to address several questions about the direction the police force should head in, as well as respond to a draft proposal about the skills and attributes of the new chief. The questions can be found on the Board web site, and are as follows:
* From your perspective. What are the issues and challenges facing the Toronto Police Service today and over the next 2 - 3 years?
* What should the priorities be for the new chief?
The draft proposal of skills and attributes will be posted on February 1. The board's web site is www.torontopoliceboard.on.ca To register to speak at any one of the sessions, call 416 808 8089.
4. Mandatory testing for officers in high risk positions.
When former Judge George Ferguson was retained in November 2001 by the Chief to advise on allegations of corruption in the force, it was a bit unclear as to what kinds of changes he would be proposing. As documented in Bulletin No. 9, his report was completed in January 2003 but not made public until March 2004. In that report Ferguson recommended drug testing, psychological testing and financial background checks on police officers in defined high risk positions.
On January 13, 2005 Chief Fantino announced that this particular recommendation will be implemented. The Senior Officers' Organization has objected to this new policy, but has indicated that it will abide by it. Toronto Police Association President Dave Wilson has declared he will attack this policy. "We simply cannot support the judge's recommendations in these three key areas" he said. "They are fundamentally unacceptable to our members and will be challenged by our Association at every level."
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