1. Reviewing the Police Budget
Once again the Toronto Police Service Board has told City Council that unless it receives a whopping increase in funding for 2004, policing services in the city will deteriorate. The actual request is for $688 million, an increase of $53 million over last year, "to deliver the same level of service as in 2003." It is almost 60% more than the $506 million it received in 1996. The Board seems to believe that annual increases are relentless, like clock-work, there is nothing that can be done about them.
Well, maybe this is the year that something is done about the police budget.
To make a reasonable analysis of police spending, a full line-by-line budget must be made available. This is something the Police Service Board has refused to do during the last decade. Unlike all other city services, it gets away with sending just a few pages to council for approval. The result has been that no serious analysis of where money is spent in the police service can be made.
There must be several slush funds in the police budget. Chief Fantino's report of October 15, 2003 on the budget notes that 2003 included many unexpected and uncontrollable events for police - SARS, demonstrations about the Iraq war, the Rolling Stones concert, the August black-out, difficult homicide investigations - yet all of these were funded from within the budget. Clearly, if these unusual incidents had a real cost to them (as the chief alleges) those amounts should be deducted from normal budget expenditure for 2004. But that has not occurred, which means there is a slush fund in the budget to deal with these unexpected expenses.
There are certainly places where efficiencies can be found in police work. Many would suggest that police presence at demonstrations is an expensive over-reaction and should be curtailed. The chief says much time is spent investigating each vehicular accident - in the order of 120 minutes for a property damage collision; and twice that long for a personal injury collision. Re-establishing collision reporting centres would seem to be a reasonable alternative, at considerable savings. The Chief has said his officers spend an average five hours at every domestic call in which they intervene. Perhaps the police should have better relations with social agencies so that the agencies could be called in to deal with the situation rather than the police trying to be social workers.
Perhaps police deployment needs to be reviewed. Studies indicate that police safety improves if there is only one officer in every police car, rather than the present (very expensive) rule requiring two officers in every car after 5:00 p.m. This is a saving which actually improves officer safety.
These are just a few suggestions. The availability of a line-by-line budget would obviously help to reveal where efficiencies can occur.
At the same time, perhaps low priority programs should be reviewed and not funded. Currently, the average police officer arrests ten persons per year, that is one person every six weeks of which maybe two of these arrests involves a crime of violence. It makes one wonder whether good use is being made of officers during the long periods between arrests.
In any case, the city can't afford to let the Police Board spend an extra $55 million to get the same policing as last year, particularly if it can't find $38 million to avoid a TTC fare hike.
The police service can't be expected to change direction overnight and put good management policies and efficiencies in place quickly after so many years of profligate spending. But perhaps 2004 is the year when they are told they must stay within the range of expenditures in 2003. That should be the request of city council to the Police Services Board. The Board should do everything possible to live within the net amount approved for the budget in 2003, about $635 million. That will not be easy. It will require innovation and change. Some would say it's about time.
The City's Budget Advisory Committee will hold half a dozen public hearings on budget matters in the first three weeks of January. (The mayor will announce dates and places early in the New Year.) Individuals and groups may make presentations about their thoughts at the hearings. This seems like a good opportunity to raise these kinds of issues in a public fashion so that Toronto begins to get the policing it can afford and that will serve it well.
Members of the Budget Advisory Committee are: David Soknacki, Chair; Joe Mihevc, Jane Pitfield, Sylvia Watson, Shelley Carroll, Kyle Rae, and Peter Milczyn. The committee secretary is Betty Henderson, 416 392 8088.
2. Creating a Police Complaints System That Works for the Public
On November 27 TPAC held a public meeting on the critical elements required for a successful system of complaints against the police. There were three speakers - Tammy Landau (Ryerson University), and Mariana Valverde and Scot Wortley of the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto. About 40 people attended and participated in a lively discussion summarized below.
The summary only needs two points to be made by way of additions. First, the basic elements listed below must be fleshed out by detail, and (as usual) the detail will be very important. Second, this complaints system is intended for members of the public, not for officers in the force who are unhappy about disciplinary issues. The current system is burdened with internal discipline issues, but this complaints system is not intended to deal with those issues.
One overriding factor was stressed again and again at the meeting: no complaints system can deal well with a police force that is not managed well. If a police force is to serve the community and its officers well, it is absolutely crucial that the decision-makers in the police force encourage public debate, ensure high management standards and address questions of the internal police culture. A good complaints system cannot be a replacement for good police management and public oversight of the police force. A complaints system on its own can only deal with instances of behaviour that are at variance with a wide understanding of how the police should serve the community.
The meeting suggested that certain changes should be made to the Police Service Board. The Board should be expanded in size, and should represent the great diversity in the city. It should engage in a very public discussion of its mandate and role. It should review with care its relationship with the Chief and set limits on what is meant in the Police Service Act by the Chief's control of "operational" decisions. There was discussion, but no agreement, on how members of the Police Service Board should be selected, whether by appointment or by public election. It was agreed that the Police Service Board should establish incentives to help achieve good police practices.
Regarding a good complaints system that works for the public, four main points were emphasized:
Lodging a complaint.
The organization accepting complaints must be independent of the police. It must be community-based so that it is accessible, and complaints should be able to be filed at a number of different locations (including police stations) and on the internet. It must be able to function in all of the different languages in the area served by the police force. It must be supportive of complainants and ensure that complaints can be laid by the homeless without a permanent address. It must work with community agencies. It must permit third parties - such as witnesses to events about which they wish to complain - to file complaints. It must be willing to accept complaints about behaviour that is systemic within the force.
Investigation of complaints
The investigating body must be independent of the police and its staff must understand police culture. Investigators must be competent and have the power needed to do their job. Investigation must be done quickly within short time lines, both to secure evidence and satisfy complainants. The privacy of complainants must be respected and the complainant should be advised of the progress of the investigation at important stages. The investigating body should be proactive, looking at matters that appear to require investigation even if no complaint has been received, and it should be willing to tackle policy and systemic issues rather than just individual incidents.
At an early stage in the investigation, complaints should be screened as: 1) ones in which an informal resolution might be sought, in which case the complainant's agreement should be obtained for such resolution; 2) ones for which a more serious investigation is necessary or if it appears an informal resolution is not possible or appropriate.
Informal resolution would consist of the complainant willingly talking with the officer(s) involved, in the presence of the investigating body, and a resolution being agreed to.
Adjudication of the complaint
In cases where informal resolution of complaints is not possible or appropriate, it will be important to have an adjudication process that is seen by all parties to be fair and independent of both the police and of the investigators. Such an adjudication body must be established. The standard of proof required to support a complaint should be "balance of probability" not a criminal standard such as "proof beyond a reasonable doubt". The adjudication body should have the power to call a public inquiry into the incident or matter being investigated. In appropriate cases it should have the power to refer complaints to the criminal justice system or the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
The meeting was uncertain of whether a decision of the adjudicating body should be subject to appeal or review and, if so, by whom.
Discipline should be meted out in cases where the complaint is confirmed, and it should be decided on by an independent body in conjunction with the police chief. (It would be improper to entirely remove the matter from the Chief s discretion, but, on the other hand, it would be inappropriate to leave it entirely to his discretion.) The discipline should be appropriate to the incident and its ramifications. Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that the disciplinary action is implemented.
The independent body should have the power to follow up on disciplinary decisions, including intervention to ensure that policy changes and training recommendations actually occur.
3. New Police Services Board members
Toronto City Council has appointed three new councilors to the Toronto Police Services Board for an 18 month period: John Filion, a progressive councillor from North York and an ally of Mayor David Miller during the recent municipal election; Pam McConnell, a progressive councillor from Cabbagetown for the past decade; and Case Ootes, who served as Mayor Mel Lastman's deputy, chairing council meetings, and seen by many as a fair and reasonable person.
The city's citizen appointee, Alan Heisey, will continue until a replacement is appointed, and that doesn't appear to be soon, if at all. This means that when the Board chooses a chair at its first meeting on January 6, Heisey will be the logical choice to become chair.
The current chair, Norm Gardner, is on leave pending a public hearing by a panel of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services into allegations that he received a gun in return for intervening with a company wishing to secure a table at a police conference. Gardner has continued to receive full compensation for the past six months - at an astounding $8000 per month, or almost $50,000 since he was relieved of his duties, The hearing begins on January 19 and since there are eight or nine witnesses, is expected to last five or six weeks. If Gardiner resigns from the Police Services Board, OCCPS may lose jurisdiction, putting an end to the inquiry. If Heisey is appointed chair, Gardner's compensation would terminate, and that may leave him little reason to continue on the Board.
When (or if) Gardner resigns, his place will be filled with an appointment by Dalton McGuinty's government. All in all, big changes are in store for the Police Services Board.
4. Racial profiling again
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has issued a report entitled 'Paying the Cost: The Human Price of Racial Profiling'. The report argues that racial profiling exists in Ontario, and recommends that strong actions should be taken by all government agencies (including the police) to counter it. In particular, it makes two recommendations directly concerning the police:
Police services across the province should install cameras in police cruisers to allow for monitoring the interaction between the police and public.
Police officers and private security guards should wear name badges that are clearly displayed.
The Ontario Provincial Police is now undertaking an experiment with cameras in police cars. This recommendation was released the day before a video camera tape was released showing that a Toronto police officer punched a coloured youth in the face after the youth had broken up a fight in a parking lot last summer. The police previously stated the youth had been injured in a fight and then attacked an officer, which led to the youth being charged by police with assaulting an officer. The video pictures make it clear that until being punched in the face by the officer, the youth was not injured, and had not made any attempt to approach or go after the officer.
Chief Julian Fantino said he would investigate the incident. He argued strongly that video cameras should not be installed in police cars because it smacked of a sentiment of not trusting the police. The other recommendations by the OHRC about racial profiling seem to have been lost while the focus is on this technological fix to a problem that is much broader that what might be caught on a fixed camera. Racial profiling is clearly a significant problem in society, and new directions are required if it is to be fairly addressed.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission report can be found at