1. Police intervene politically
The Toronto Police Association shows no reluctance to intervene in the political scene in Toronto. On September 27, 2003, less than a week before the provincial election, the Association took out a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail with the headline "The Toronto Police Association Board of Directors proudly endorses Ernie Eves and his fellow Progressive Conservative candidates."
The ad included a smiling photo of Eves, the Police Association logo (a maple leaf, the CN Tower and the scales of justice, with the words 'Duty, Truth, Honour'), and a Toronto police car. Small type explained why Eves and his team should be supported, Conservative candidates in the Toronto area were listed, and in big print at the bottom the reminder "Help Keep Ontario Safe. On October 2nd, vote for Ernie Eves and the P.C. Candidate in your riding."
The ad didn't have a big impact in the Toronto area, which elected only Liberal party candidates, but it does exhibit the continued politicization of the Toronto Police and its blatant intervention into electoral politics.
Section 46 of the Police Services Act states that no municipal police officer shall engage in political activity, except as regulations permit. Regulation 554/91 states that police officers can express views on any issues "as long as the police officer does not, during an election campaign, express views supporting or opposing a candidate in the election or political party that has nominated a candidate in the election."
Section 74 states that "a police officer is guilty of misconduct &if he or she contravenes Section 46 (political activity)."
Thus the law seems clear. The only question is whether directors of the Toronto Police Association are indeed police officers covered by the regulation. This issue was considered by the Toronto Police Services Board several years ago when the Toronto Police Association undertook the True Blue fundraising campaign. That campaign asked citizens to make a donation to the Police Association in return for a sticker that you would place on your car registering your support for the police. At that time many people felt the Police Association was attempting to establish a protection racket where those without a sticker would feel the full weight of police action. There was considerable public outcry and the Police Services Board was advised that directors of the Toronto Police Association were indeed police officers covered by the regulation, and the practice stopped.
The regulation involved in stopping the True Blue campaign is the same one that covers support of political candidates.
But the law has not stopped the Police Association from placing an advertisement telling people how they should vote. Perhaps the Police Association does not fear any consequences. One Toronto writer (John Sewell) attempted to lay a charge by attending before a Justice of the Peace but was told in a written decision that the proposed charge "failed to meet the criteria for process" - whatever that means.
When questioned, the Acting Chair of the Police Service Board, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, stated there is nothing that could be done since she believed board members of the Police Association are not police officers. Mark Wainberg of the Law Union of Ontario wrote Chief Julian Fantino on October 2 asking him to investigate the matter, enclosing an opinion written by the Albert Cohen, the current City Solicitor for Toronto, that directors of the Police Association are indeed police officers. To date Chief Fantino has not responded.
On October 14 the Toronto Police Association elected officer Rick McIntosh as president, replacing Craig Bromell who has retired. McIntosh has said he intends to have the Police Association endorse up to 15 candidates in the November 10 municipal election in Toronto. It's not hard to see which mayoralty candidates the Association will go after. Both David Miller and Barbara Hall have said they do not intend to support increased police spending, whereas John Tory and John Nunziata both support hiring an extra 400 officers. Tory would do that at the same time as he is recommending that the numbers of all other city staff be cut by 10 per cent.
A police state is one where police eschew any thought of political neutrality and indeed intervene on the side of those who do what the police want. In Toronto the law prevents police interference in politics, but those charged with upholding the law seem uninterested in doing so. It's as though there were no law, and as though the Police Association was being encouraged to be partisan.
2. Police Services Board Responses to Racial Profiling
After eleven months of silence the Toronto Police Services Board has finally published a report on the issue of racial profiling and is getting ready to take a position on the issue.
The issue was put in remarkable focus by the Toronto Star, which published several articles in October 2002. The Star concluded, on the basis of data provided by the police, that whatever its policies, the practices of the Toronto Police Service discriminated against people of colour, who were more likely to be stopped, arrested, and incarcerated than people with white skin. These conclusions were then borne out in much anecdotal evidence.
In the face of much criticism, the Board argued that the Star was wrong, and the only action taken was the creation, last November, of a Joint Working Group consisting of Police Board members and staff, as well as police officers, to look into the matter. The working group has now released its 109 page report.
In general, the report concludes that there are no program changes required within the police service nor should new programs be undertaken to address questions of racial profiling. Instead the 19 recommendations of the Joint Working Group take the view that whatever programs exist should be continued. This apparently flows from Recommendation 3 that "the Board and the Chief reiterate the principle of zero tolerance for racially biased policing." The assumption seems to be that since that principle is in place, nothing much could be going wrong.
There are two substantive recommendations: that the term "racially biased policing" be used instead of "racial profiling;" and that the provincial government decide on whether statistics be kept on the basis of race, colour and creed.
The report of the Joint Working Group was released in late September and a public hearing was held on October 8, generally providing about 10 days' notice Only four written submissions were received at the hearing, and they generally focused on the need for an independent tribunal to investigate complaints against police activity, the need for a much improved recruitment process, and general support for the collection of race based data providing it is used in a manner which attempts to end rather than reinforce discriminatory practices.
It is hard to say the report of the Joint Working Group is anything other than a disappointment. The evidence produced in the Toronto Star articles made it very clear that the practices of the Toronto Police Service results in discrimination against people of colour, a conclusion backed up by much anecdotal evidence - yet the Working Group made no attempt to deal with this data or this experience. Further, the Group's report refuses to deal with current police hiring practice that results in 80% of new hires being white males, hardly a reflection of the current Toronto population. Hiring on the basis of the current make-up of Toronto society would require very serious changes to hiring practices, but the Working Group does not propose this. Further, while the Board in the past has been clear about recommending new provincial legislation allowing it to establish an independent complaints process, the Joint Working Group's report fudges the kinds of changes that are actually needed.
There is one further opportunity to address these questions and the Working Group's report - the regular meeting of the Toronto Police Service Board, 1:30 pm on November 13. To make a submission (either oral or written), telephone 416-808-8090 or email. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The report of the Joint Working Group is, strangely, not on the Toronto Police Service website. Instead, with careful searching it can be found on the Toronto Police website at http://www.torontopolice.on.ca, on the right side of the screen under "Recent Publications".
3. Recent Police Statistics
The police service is unlike any other municipal service in Toronto - requests for service are actually declining, which cannot be said for any other service delivered by the city.
This conclusion is apparent from the 2002 Environmental Scan recently released by the Toronto Police Service. This document reviews police and crime statistics for the year 2002.
The number of calls per officer has declined by 10.6% from 1998, and the number of crimes per officer has also decreased from 1998, by 5%. These declines in work demands on individual officers is reflected in the general decline in crime, not only in Toronto but in other Canadian cities. The total number of persons charged in Toronto in 2002 from non-traffic Criminal Code offences was 47,383, a drop from previous years. This represents less than 10 crimes per police officer per year.
As in previous years the number of actual offences exceeds the number of persons charged by about four times - each person is generally charged with about four offences for the same set of circumstances. Nevertheless, the number of non-traffic criminal code offences has dropped from 285,000 in 1992 to under 200,000 in 2002.
All violent crimes are falling in number, as they have since 1992, except for a very slight increase in sexual assaults and an increase in purse snatching. This has occurred even though the population of Toronto has grown by about 25% in the last ten years.
Crimes involving violence to the person represent about 18% of all criminal code offences, or about 36,000 charges, of which three-quarters are for "assaults", that is scuffles between people where not much physical harm is done. Scary crimes such as home invasion (198 charges in 2002), car jacking (83 charges), and bank robberies (131 charges) have all decreased since 1999. Similarly, drug offences have decreased to a total of 9196 charges and the number of people charged has dropped to 3181.
One would be hard-pressed to claim that crime is out of control in Toronto. It clearly is reducing at a very satisfactory rate.
Youth crime in Toronto continues to decline as it does in other Canadian cities, and the number of youth aged 12-17 charged in 2002 totalled only 7084. (More than half the instances of youth crime occurred on school property.) Similarly, in spite of the major emphasis of the Harris/Eves government on the rights of victims, the number of victims of crime also continues to decline except for child abuse within the family and family violence.
Traffic accidents are down slightly from the previous year but are higher than a decade ago. In 2002, 97 people were killed in vehicular collisions, and of those 50 were pedestrians. This is obviously a very serious problem in Toronto that needs attention. The police continue to spend dizzying amounts of time dealing with each collision - an average of 105 minutes for each collision involving property damage, and 230 minutes per collision involving personal injury. These extra-ordinary amounts of time spent (four hours for a personal injury accident!) are the result of directives from the Chief and the decision to do away with collision reporting centres. One suspects there might be better ways of using the expensive resources of police officers.
Response times to calls continue to fall far below service standards. The median response for an emergency call is eight minutes, but only one-third of the responses to Priority 1 calls occur within six minutes - when the Service Standard says 85% of the responses to such calls should occur within six minutes. Response time for non-emergency calls averages 27 minutes but only 76% of non-emergency calls get a response within one hour. This too is well below the set service standard.
In spite of all of these decreases in the amount of work and the number of calls per officer, the Police Service itself continues to increase in size. The total strength is now 7,073 personnel, an increase from 2001. Uniform staff number 5,334, also an increase from last year.
The 2002 Environmental Scan Update, dated May 2003, is available from the Corporate Planning Section of the Toronto Police Service at a cost of $30.00.