1. Police and Demonstrations: Complaint Validated
In August, in a press release issued by the Toronto Police, a senior officer apologised for police behaviour at a demonstration, and a new policy on mass arrests was issued by the Chief. The press release itself is an extra-ordinary document, admitting a practice of preventative detention by police of some participants in a public demonstration; incarceration in a police van for up to nine hours before demonstrators were released without charge; dismissal by police of the complaint filed by one of those arrested; and finally a negotiated settlement of the appeal to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services and an apology by senior Toronto officers. Here is the press release as posted on the Toronto Police Service website in early August (since removed from that website.)
'In the matter of a hearing concerning an allegation of misconduct against Inspector Tony Crawford, directed by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, And, in the matter of the agreed resolution of the allegation of misconduct against Inspector Tony Crawford, which agreement has been reached by all parties,
'The parties hereby agree, on consent, and request that the tribunal dismiss the allegation of misconduct against Inspector Tony Crawford. The parties agree to the following statement of facts that summarizes the circumstances that lead to the allegation of misconduct arising from a protest that occurred in downtown Toronto on October 16, 2001:
'1. Four public complainants, John Milton, Sarah Kardash, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler (16 years of age at the time) and Joshua Barndt (15 years of age at the time) were detained at the demonstration and confined in a police wagon for periods of between six to almost nine hours.(Note 1) Sarah Kardash was detained in the police wagon the longest time. [Note 1: Pursuant to section 110(3) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Adam Chaleff-Freuenthaler and Joshua Barndt both waive their rights to non-publication of their identities. As such all information contained in this document may be published.]
'2. The conditions of detention in the police wagon were extremely uncomfortable due to the confined space, poor ventilation, excessive temperature, poor lighting, and lack of washroom facilities.
'3. All of the public complainants were handcuffed with their hands behind their back for the entire period of detention, apart from John Milton who had his handcuffs changed to being cuffed in front of him as a result of his arms being in spasm for approximately half an hour.
'4. The complainants were not provided with any food or water or with the opportunity to use a washroom, although Joshua Barndt and Sarah Kardash requested to do so repeatedly. As a consequence of Sarah Kardash being denied the ability to use a washroom, she was forced to urinate on the floor of the police wagon, which required the assistance of another female detainee.
'5. All complainants were ultimately released unconditionally from various police stations without being charged with any offence.
'6. In planning for the police management of the demonstration, the Toronto Police Service did not adequately anticipate or address the possibility that persons would be detained in police wagons for excessive periods of time. The Service did not adequately plan for the supervision of the management of persons detained in police wagons in order to avoid the possibility of excessive detention.
'7. In light of the inadequate planning and supervision, the parties agree that the complainants were detained for an excessive length of time and under unacceptable conditions in the circumstances.
'On October 16, 2001 a demonstration took place in downtown Toronto. In planning to police this event the Toronto Police Service drew in officers from surrounding police services. In all some 550 officers were deployed over a period of 16 hours. Forty arrests were made, although not all led to the laying of criminal charges.
'Several months after this event four members of the public filed formal complaints about the treatment they received in the hours leading up to the demonstration. The complaints included concerns regarding the manner in which they were detained in a police prisoner transportation wagon. The citizens were detained in the wagon for periods of between 6 to almost 9 hours. Police wagons are not designed for detention for these periods of time.
'The complaints were investigated and marked as "unsubstantiated" by the Toronto Police Service. The complainants sought a review of this decision by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, who ordered a hearing against Inspector Tony Crawford. Inspector Crawford had been the incident commander at the demonstration.
'The complaints have not gone unnoticed and the Toronto Police Service has now significantly changed the way it does business in relation to the detention, management and supervision of persons arrested at demonstrations and other similar events.
'The Toronto Police Service now has a Mass Arrest policy that addresses the issue of supervision and accountability for the treatment of detained persons. Washroom facilities are now provided for the use of detained persons prior to transportation to a police station. Additionally, Court Services has written a Unit specific policy placing the onus for prisoner management and care on Court Services personnel in charge of prisoner transportation vehicles. These new measures directly address the issues raised by the public complainants and will, it is hoped, prevent a re-occurrence of the unacceptable situation encountered by them on October 16, 2001.
'What occurred to the public complainants is not acceptable: it is not in line with the priorities of the Toronto Police Service. The Toronto Police Service acknowledges that management of these detained persons on October 16, 2001, could have and should have been addressed more adequately and it sincerely regrets that the complainants were detained in this manner.
'The Toronto Police Service takes full responsibility for those events and offers its sincere apology to each of the complainants for the fact that they were treated in such a manner as to force them to endure unacceptable conditions on October 16, 2001.
It has proven impossible to obtain a copy of the "Mass Arrest policy" referred to in the press release, since according to Police Board officials it is a "service procedure" issued by the chief without reference to the Board, and considered confidential by the Police Service. Does the procedure assume that police will engage in 'preventative' arrests, a practise which has dubious legal authority when someone intends to participate in a peaceful demonstration?
2. The continuing Fantino saga
While the Police Service Board decided in June on a tie-vote not to renew the contract of Police Chief Julian Fantino, some predicted the same tie vote would prevent the Board from moving forward in looking for a new chief. That prediction has proved correct. The matter came up at the July 29 meeting of the Board and it was unable to make a decision to hire consultants who would begin the search for candidates.
The decision on July 29 to do nothing was preceded by a discussion about whether or not the Board would be permitted to talk about the Fantino contract and why it is not being renewed. A week earlier, Mayor David Miller had ruled at City Council that public debate about this matter was not permitted by council - it was a personnel matter, he said, and in any case was the Board's business, not council's - and his ruling was upheld by a majority of councillors on a close vote. Several councillors tried to get around this decision by having the Board hold this debate but Chair Alan Heisey said the decision had already been made and unless it was reopened it could not again be discussed.
A representative of TPAC asked that the Board begin a public discussion of policing needs and priorities in Toronto and that these discussions be held before retaining consultants to begin the search for new police leadership. While that proposal seemed to have the support of four of the six members present (Alan Heisey, Pam McConnell, John Filion and Hugh Locke), the Board could not manage to find a way of moving a motion to secure this action, and in the end nothing happened at all. The matter will be discussed sometime in the future, perhaps after Alan Heisey has been replaced by a new appointee selected by City Council, which may be in October.
Chief Fantino has not been entirely passive in these past months. On June 30 he delivered a letter to all members of the force lamenting that "while some politicians and the usual police critics have feasted at our expense, the fairness and decency of the people of Toronto has shone through." He continued: "It has become increasingly evident that the Toronto Police Service is being subjected to intense public scrutiny, a great deal of sensationalism and renewed attacks by the same old 'cop-haters' who seize on every opportunity to criticize and tear down." He states that in spite of this the police continue to have the public trust and support.
He advises his officers in the last full paragraph as follows: "Do not be discouraged or distracted by the instability of the Police Services Board, the political opportunism or the rants of police-bashers. Keep doing your job by providing professional services to our citizens and leave the aggravations to me. Stay focused on the Service's core values and work diligently to support our corporate mission: We are dedicated to deliver police services in partnership with our communities to keep Toronto the best and safest place to be.' "
On August 17, the polling firm IPSOS-Reid released a poll which showed that 47% of the 448 Torontonians polled agreed to renew the Chief's contract, 32% said a new chief should be hired and 21% said they did not know. The approval rating of the chief from the poll was 65%. The senior vice president of public affairs for IPSOS-Reid, John Wright, said that "given all the publicity, 47% for this is tepid." Wright also noted that Fantino's rating had dropped from 78% two years ago. He indicated his surprise with this change, stating that it was lower than the level of support for the two previous chiefs, David Boothby and William McCormack at the ends of their term.
Toronto City Council is now considering a new Board appointment to replace Alan Heisey, who is stepping aside, and this might occur as early as the council meeting beginning on September 28. The provincial government is also considering the replacement for Board member Benson Lau, whose term expires this month.
3. Limited Police Freedom-of-Information
The provincial government passed a Freedom-of-Information law several decades ago to ensure as much information as possible about public bodies and their decisions was available to the public. Sadly, the law has often been used as a method of preventing information from becoming public although those who pursue the Freedom of Information law with care and diligence have managed in some cases to secure useful information.
One provision of the law is that requests for information must receive a response within 30 days. The response often just begins the process rather than containing the information the applicant wishes to obtain, but at least it sets things in action.
Recently the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, reviewed FOI compliance by the Toronto Police Service and found that it only complied with the 30 day provision last year in 32.5% of the 2794 requests made. This means that in more than two-thirds of the Freedom of Information requests the police are not acting within the law. Toronto Police response to FOI requests within 30 days has been consistently falling since 1999 when more than 80% of requests were responded to within the time limits prescribed by law. By way of comparison the response rate of the police in Halton Region is 100% to the 617 requests, Niagara 84% (690 requests), Durham 78% (586 requests), and Hamilton 71% (1245 requests.)
Chair Alan Heisey has asked the Chief to report to the October Board meeting on how a 58% response - equivalent to the City of Toronto compliance rate - can be achieved during 2005.
4. Strip Search Policy
The strip search policy of the Toronto police continues to be an issue. For the last several years TPAC has argued that the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in late 2001, the Golden case, rejected strip searches except in extraordinary cases. Yet the Toronto Police continue to do them almost as a matter of routine practice. Our continued requests for a policy that conforms to the Supreme Court has never met with support from the Board - until its meeting of July 29. At that meeting on a proposal from Chair Alan Heisey the Board agreed to seek an opinion from the Board's solicitor on the extent to which the current policy complies with the Supreme Court. It is expected that report will be filed at the October Board meeting.
5. A Woman of Colour Speaks Out
Doreen Guy was a police officer for more than two decades with the Toronto Police Service. As a woman of colour she experienced considerable discrimination. When she retired earlier this year she made a remarkable speech about her police her experiences. Several excerpts follow.
"My difficulties started during the first six months in uniform, I was still on probation. I confronted a male officer who was making derogatory remarks and using racial slurs against young black males. At that time , I was naïve enough to think that once I let it be known that I did not appreciate these comments, then my wishes would be respected.
"You see, I know that some of my people are the victims of socio-economic hardship. I also know that some of us have made some very unsavoury choices in our lives. The fact remains that I love my people intensely and I will not stand by and watch them being mistreated or discussed in a derogatory or demeaning manner. There are some issues for which I have no tolerance; racism is definitely on the top of the list.
"Here I was, a rookie, still on probation, going toe to toe' with what we consider to be a senior constable with more than ten years service. From that day, rumours started to spread throughout the service like wildfire. It was determined I could not be trusted. No one wanted to work with me because it was said if something happened I could not be relied on for back up'. You see, in police lingo', back up could mean going to someone's assistance if they are in physical danger. It could also mean that when there is trouble of another kind we all have the same version of events.
"It was determined that I could not be trusted and my life at that time could only be described as hell'. Rumours were developed to justify the terrible way I was treated. It was said that I was incompetent, not very bright, and should not have been hired. It was also said the only reason I was hired was because the standards had been lowered to hire women and minorities.
"I would be paraded for duty and assigned to work with one person, a few minutes later I would be put with someone else. Whenever the person refused the supervisor would put me with yet another person. This would occur three or four times before we left the building. There was also the silent treatment': the officer would resent being in a car with me and would not make an attempt to be civil."
She continues to describe the discrimination and concludes "The saddest part of this whole episode was that my unit commander and supervisors had it within their power to address the situation. They could have made my life a lot more tolerable but no one lifted a finger. I don't know if they simply did not know how to address the situation or did not have the courage to do so, either way, they did nothing."
Ms Guy later describes how, some years later, she is taken under the wing of Keith Forde, supervisor of 52 Division, where she stayed for 15 years, although all her attempts at promotion failed. In the late 1990s she joined with other Black officers who had experienced the same problem; they challenged their alleged low scores on promotion tests and had them reversed. But for her it was the last straw, and she decided to prepare to leave the force.
The full text of her remarkable speech can be found at http://toronto.cbc.ca/news/retire_speech04.pdf
6. TPAC Survey
In the next few weeks TPAC will be undertaking a survey of readers of this Bulletin and their friends to determine what people see as the five most pressing issue for the Toronto Police Service, and the five key characteristics that should be sought in a new police chief. This survey form will be sent to all subscribers, and it is hoped you will forward it to your friends and colleagues. It can be completed on your computer and returned by email to us. Watch for it in the next few weeks.