Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 21, July 22, 2005
This bulletin is published monthly by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
In this issue:
1. Better Policing for Toronto a day-long seminar
2. British Government restricts use of tasers
3. Towards a new police complaints system
4. New Provincial appointee to the Toronto Police Service Board
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Better Policing for Toronto a day-long seminar
In conjunction with the Centre of Criminology at University of Toronto, the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition is holding a one-day public seminar entitled `Better Policing for Toronto. It will be held on Saturday, September 17, 2005, 9:30 a.m. 4:00 p.m., at the Innis College Town Hall, University of Toronto campus (Sussex and St. George Streets).
The morning sessions will consist of brief presentations of the latest research on a variety of current policing issues such as:
1. Effective civilian oversight of police forces
2. Are two-person police cars effective and efficient?
3. What can we do about police chases?
4. Policing and prostitution: new and better approaches
5. What are the health impacts of stun guns?
6. Practical strategies for policing violence against women
7. Do we need police horses?
8. Policing demonstrations and events sensibly
The topics for presentations will be finalized by September 7.
The afternoon session, from 2 4 pm, will consist of a panel discussion:
`Controlling and preventing racial profiling: some strategies
* Representative of Bill Blair, Chief of Police, Toronto
* Professor Scott Wortley, Centre for Criminology
* Alok Mukherjee, Toronto Police Services Board
* Representative of Association of Black Law Enforcers.
Chair: Tammy Landau, School of Criminal Justice, Ryerson University.
There is no charge for this event. All those interest in policing are invited. Because space is limited, it is necessary to register in advance by sending an email with your name, address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org . Telephone contact: 416 977 5097. We thank the Centre for Criminology for its financial support for this event, including lunch.
A colour poster suitable for posting can be downloaded from our web site, http://www.tpac.ca .
2. British Government Restricts Use of Tasers
While the Toronto police force is in the process of buying 500 new tasers so they can be used by more police officers, the British Government has stated that tasers will not be available for general use by officers. A statement to this effect was made in early July by Hazel Blears, Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety in the face of considerable pressure from the Police Federation in the United Kingdom for taser use by front line officers.
Heres the report from BBC News for July 3:
`Ms Blears said, [The] taser is quite a dangerous weapon. It is a less lethal option other than firearms, but it is not an everyday weapon used in everyday circumstances.
`My feeling at the moment is that it is substantially different from handcuffs and a truncheon, and I would not want to see everyone on the streets having that kind of weapon. She said the specialised firearms teams equipped with Tasers were trained in split second judgements.
`A spokesman for the Home Office concluded: Safe as it is, there is no doubt Taser is an aggressive response and the government believes it should only be used in strictly controlled conditions.
3. Towards a New Police Complaints System
Attorney General Michael Bryant hosted a meeting of several groups in late June to discuss their reaction to the Lesage recommendations and proposals for ways forward to a new police complaints system. TPAC was at the meeting along with Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Criminal Lawyers Association, Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Operation Black Vote Canada, The Association of Black Law Enforcers, and Scadding Court.
Several attendees suggested that further meetings like this one should be scheduled with community representatives around the province, particularly with representatives from the women's and anti-violence communities. The Minister indicated that he would be doing so.
Most of those in attendance felt the meeting was positive, and they were optimistic that legislation would be introduced in 2005. TPAC presented a brief generally in support of the direction outlined by Mr. Justice LeSage, but we made several general proposals, and asked for changes to several of the recommendations. Here are the key points in the TPAC brief, which found general support from the other groups present:
`1. We ask that legislation be introduced by November 1, 2005 with a commitment to hold public hearings in various locations in the province. We would like an undertaking that the Bill would be given third reading and royal assent in the spring of 2006. This would ensure that the new arrangement is in place a year before the next election in 2007.
`2. Mr. LeSage recommends that advisory groups be put in place in each region. We believe they should be appointed and established now so that they can begin to talk about how the new legislation might work in order to assist people in making presentations about the legislation when the hearings are held this fall or next spring.
`3. We believe the Minister should make a commitment that there will be significant and sufficient funding for this initiative. We are unable to estimate how much money would be needed to begin this initiative or what monies might be spent in ensuring years. However, the commitment for significant and sufficient funding would be a first step.
`The following are the recommendations we believe require specific changes:
`Recommendation No. 7
This recommendation suggests that complaints should be filed within six months and that only in limited circumstances could that time frame be varied. We believe the limitation for filing complaints should be one year and that there should be a broad discretion to accept complaints after the limitation period has run out. We believe there are no good reasons to restrict the time limit on valid complaints, and that a one year period is a reasonable suggestion as to when most complaints should be filed.
This proposals suggests that complaints will be divided into three areas: policy, service and conduct. It proposes that policy and service complaints will be dealt with by the chief whereas conduct complaints will be dealt with by the new complaints mechanism. We believe there are two problems with this approach. Many complaints are a combination of all three areas. Second, in Toronto the chief has taken the position that he is responsible for matters of operating and service policy and that these are areas in which the Board should not engage. Thus the effect of this recommendation is to maintain that current system. We believe that policy and service are matters in which the Board should be engaged, provided it does not enter into discussions about individual cases. We do not think the matters or complaints about them should remain simply in the purview of the chief.
`Recommendation No. 9 is also influenced by Recommendation No. 3 in which it is proposed (in the last bullet) to divide the complaints into these three different categories.
`We would suggest first that the complaints not be divided into these three areas and, secondly, that the Boards ability to deal with policy and service items and complaints about these matters, should be confirmed, provided the Board does not deal with individual cases.
`We believe it may be useful to introduce into Recommendation No. 9, along with the amendments we propose, some concept that complaints could be labeled as frivolous and vexatious and that these could be dismissed without further consideration.
`Recommendation No. 11
This recommendation outlines penalties for an officer who interferes with complainants. We believe that recommendation will be strengthened if the word serious is placed before the word misconduct so that it is clear that an officer who interferes with complainants will face a significant penalty.
`Recommendation No. 13
This recommendation deals with the manner in which investigations will be taken and assumes that many investigations will be done by the police service itself or by another police service. We believe the investigations should be done by independent persons not by police officers. Further, we would urge that a presumption be stated that the complaint has legitimacy. Our view is that many of the current investigations done by police officers presume that the complaint does not have legitimacy and we believe this is wrong.
`Recommendation No. 16
This recommendation proposes that no more than half of the investigators be former police officers. We believe that no more than 20% of the investigators be former police officers.
`Recommendation No. 19
This recommendation deals with standards of proof. There are two questions about standards of proof. The first is the standard of proof needed to undertake a hearing. We believe the standard that should be used is basic and simple: the hearing should proceed if it is clear the complainant is not demonstrably lying. Unless it is shown that the complainant is clearly not telling the truth then the complaint should be able to proceed to the hearing stage.
`The other standard of proof is that needed by the hearing officer before a finding can be made. We believe that balance of probabilities may be a bit too low, but beyond a reasonable doubt is certainly too high. We think a middle ground should be used such as clear, cogent and convincing evidence.
4. New Provincial Appointee to the Toronto Police Services Board
The Provincial Government has finally announced its third representative to the Toronto Police Service Board - Judi Cohen. Ms Cohen has worked as a transportation planner for Transport Canada and the TTC, and currently is marketing and business director for an international engineering consulting firm. She has chaired the Community Police Liaison Committee for 13 Division; has served as a member of the Community Editorial Board of the Toronto Star; serves on committees for the Toronto Board of Trade; is a provincial appointee to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Board; and serves on the board of an affordable housing company, Homes First. Ms Cohen is actively involved with the Ontario Liberal Party.
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