1. Change and status quo at the Toronto Police Services Board
The provincial government has finally made an appointment to replace Al Leach who resigned from the Toronto Police Services Board at the end of 2003. The new appointee, to be finalized at the next Board meeting on April 29, is 76-year old former judge Hugh Locke. Mr. Locke was known as a crusading defense lawyer, but when he became a judge he seemed more convinced by the police interpretation of events.
Provincial officials indicate that they canvassed the Toronto Police Association, the Police Chief, as well as Members of the Police Service Board regarding Mr. Leach's possible appointment, which was confirmed after all approved. This appointment may help resolve the quorum problem experienced by the Board in recent months, given that there were two vacancies on a board of seven members.
The other vacancy is a result of Norm Gardner stepping aside while he awaits word on the punishment that will flow from the decision of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which found he wrongfully took ammunition from the Toronto police force. On April 16 the OCCOPS decision was released. The panel decided to "suspend Mr. Gardner without pay from his position on the Board until December 5, 2004. This represents the full period of his remaining term and is the maximum suspension available to us to impose." This means the province can now fill this position.
The Board asked the province for the right to increase its size beyond seven members, "given the number of complex issues for which the Board was responsible on an ongoing basis and to ensure continuity in the manner in which these issues are resolved by the Board," Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, has replied curtly to this request, "The Ministry has no plans at this time to reopen either the Police Service Act or its regulations to address this issue." So the Toronto Board is caught in provincial legislation which prevents it from representing a broad spectrum of Toronto society.
Another decision affecting the Board was that of former judge Sidney Robins reporting on whether Alan Heisey had breached the Code of Conduct required of Board members by certain alleged statements regarding child pornography at a cocktail party in September 2002.
Robins concluded that Heisey had not breached the Code of Conduct. "The parties to this [cocktail] conversation unfortunately misunderstood one another," he concluded, "they were operating on different wavelengths." He said, "I am satisfied that fair minded citizens with all the facts and circumstances of this matter would not reasonably conclude that Mr. Heisey's conduct at this cocktail reception discredited or compromised the integrity of the Board or diminished public confidence in it."
He said it was not his mandate to determine who leaked the memo of the conversation which had been prepared by Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie, then passed on to Chief Fantino, who passed it on to Norm Gardner, but he said: "The leak of the confidential police memo was manifestly calculated to damage Mr. Heisey's reputation and undermine, if not destroy, his ability to continue as chair of the .. Board." Given the division Chief Fantino often makes between operational matters and other things, it is unclear why he passed this memo on to the chair of the Board.
Robins has also brought a very worrisome practice to light. He notes: "It appears that police officers are under a duty to report any concerns they may have about the conduct or statements of Board members or others, and those concerns are to be 'catalogued and entered into the system' so as to have a 'history and notation' of the matter." As if that weren't enough, Robins also notes that no protocols or procedures control this procedure.
TPAC is writing the Board to determine the authority for this reporting, and if none exists, is recommending that it be stopped.
2. Strip Searches on the Agenda Again
The March 25 meeting of the Police Services Board considered the request of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services to review its strip search policy. OCCPS had received a complaint filed regarding the strip search of a 14 year-old individual (unnamed, and the report on the matter will not be made public) and while the OCCPS Review Panel did not support the complainant it did voice "concerns about the [Toronto] policy which is so broadly worded that it appears that anyone entering into the cell area would be deemed to be entering the prison population and must be subject to a strip search." The Review Panel, asked that the matter "be dealt with as a policy issue" and that "the policy for conducing Level 3 [strip] searches be reviewed to ensure that the search of persons policy is consistent with the decision and philosophy directed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Golden and individuals in the Service's custody and control are afforded the right to be secure against unwarranted and unreasonable strip searches."
The Board asked Chief Fantino to report, and the Chief made it clear that he wanted police to have the same power given to prison officials, namely to be able to strip search anyone taken into custody. The chief made a similar request in 2002, which was endorsed by the Board , although it was rejected by the Canadian Association of Police Boards in August 2002.
The Chief's report is expected at the May 27 meeting of the Board.
TPAC tried to intervene on this issue immediately after the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Golden case was released in late 2001. (The TPAC brief can be found on the website http://www.tpac.ca ). Currently, there are no reporting requirements about the strip searches police do in Toronto, although anecdotal evidence indicates that about one-third of all those who are placed in cells are strip searched. There seem to be no clear guidelines restricting strip searches to those likely to be trying to conceal drugs, dangerous weapons or other things which will allow them to harm themselves or others.
With the new Board in place, it seems possible a more progressive strip search policy could be put in place - providing enough members of the public make their voices heard. The position advocated by TPAC in the past seems to be still appropriate. It asks for a policy which:
includes a statement that strip searches are not a routine police practice but are done only in exceptional circumstances, that is, no more than 5 per cent of all searches;
deletes the consent of a person as an authorization for a strip search, since any consent will most often be given under duress;
requires that in advance of any strip search, the officer write, on a form designed for this purpose, the reasonable and probable grounds making the search necessary, and that these grounds be approved by a supervisor before a strip search may take place;
requires strip search authorization forms to be forwarded to the Chief on a monthly basis so the chief may report monthly to the Board to ensure the Supreme Court decision is being complied with;
where it is necessary and where there are appropriate grounds to conduct a strip search, it must be conducted by a member of the same sex and outside of the presence of members of the opposite sex. Transgender/transsexual people must be accommodated and their Charter rights protected - consultation with this community is required;
Anyone subject to a search should be advised of available complaint procedures, and given the extreme violative nature of a strip search (as recognized in Golden), the complaint procedures be improved to address such complaints.
Letters to the Board on this issue should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org , or telephone 416 808 8094 to register to speak at the Board meeting on May 27.
3.Small Changes to Police Budget
In November 2003 the Police Services Board approved its 2004 budget, asking City Council for $691 million, a 9% increase over the 2003 budget of $634 million. Much public discussion ensued about the wisdom of this $60 million increase, but the Chief defended it as being absolutely necessary to deliver the same kind of policing as experienced in the past year with minimal small improvements.
Public debate meant the new Board required more information to be made public about the budget, and the Budget Advisory Committee asked that the increase be scaled back by $14 million.. The chief offered cuts, many of which were not considered acceptable since they involved the contracting-out of cleaning staff (already rejected by City Council), deferring some expenditures to future years, and so forth. The Board spent a day hearing from the public on the matter, although more than half of those who attended and spoke were police officers or members of police liaison committees established by the force.
The Budget Advisory Committee pressed on with its demand for a lower increase, and the final net spending of the force for 2004 is budgeted at $679 million.
Several recommendations of the Budget Advisory Committee will have long term implications. One is that "city staff continue working with the Toronto police board to identify longer term opportunities for savings, and report to the Board and Council in June 2004 on a review process for the 2005 budget deliberations." Another is that "The Toronto Police Services Board be requested to obtain the services or assistance of those who have expertise in police operational matters to assist in assessing opportunities for savings in future years, particularly 2005."
One issue about police spending attracted little attention. Chief Julian Fantino's budget report dated March 17, 2004 contains the following paragraph:
"As a result of world events and the recent political climate, the Operations Section of Intelligence Support was formed and tasked with updating terrorism activity and post 9/11 information. The immediate impact of September 11th, 2001 resulted in expenditures of $500,000 in specialized safety equipment, and $300,000 in premium pay. The long term impact includes the increase of 8 officers in the Counter-Terrorism Unit, improved security and intelligence, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear preparedness. As is incumbent upon all major cities within North America, and the world at large, the Operations Section gathers and maintains data such as: intelligence information regarding anti-war demonstrations, security details, set up of Operations Centre during US led war with Iraq, etc. "
The budget material released by the force does not include a line for 'Intelligence Support', so it is unclear how much is spent on these activities, although the annual cost of 8 officers in the Counter Terrorism Unit would be in the order of $1 million. Is it comforting to think money is being spent by the police attending and gathering information about who attends anti-war demonstrations in the city?
4. Police Transparency
TPAC has written to the Police Services Board, asking that, in the cause of better transparency, officers be required to wear a badge with their name clearly visible to the public. The basics of the brief were set out in Bulletin No. 9. It is hoped the matter will be considered by the Board on April 29
5. Police Complaints
The Board will have before it on April 29th a draft report on police complaints. Apparently at that meeting a date will be selected in early May for a special evening meeting to hear from the public on this issue.
The Attorney General, Michael Bryant, is also beginning a process of drafting legislation and has written to a number of groups recently indicating that "we plan on engaging people in a review of civilian oversight during the late spring or early summer." Mr. Bryant requests names of organizations with which he should be consulting and these may be forwarded to him at email@example.com
The TPAC brief on what is required in a good police complaints system may be found at the website http://www.tpac.ca
6. Hiring a New Deputy Chief
TPAC proposed to the Toronto Police Services Board that it undertake a broad public discussion on policing in advance of embarking on a hiring process for a new deputy chief. However, at the Board meeting on March 25 it was decided that the Board would hire a consultant to help in the search for a new deputy. It appears the Board has not outlined any process for defining selection criteria.