Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 22, September 23, 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. Gun violence in Toronto and public response
2. Police spending set to increase again
3. SIU Annual Report
4. Strip Search, the mystery
5. Better Policing for Toronto seminar: a summary
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Gun violence in Toronto and public response
It seems that hardly a weekend has gone by in the last few months when there has not been a gun death reported in Toronto. As of writing this Bulletin, the 59th homicide of the year has occurred in Toronto - a very high number compared to recent years. Last year there were 60 homicides in the city, and the year before, 64. Of the 59 homicides this year, 41 have involved a gun.
In August, after an in camera session, Mayor David Miller announced that the Toronto Police Service Board agreed to hire the 150 new officers, increasing uniformed staff from 5,260 officers employed today to 5,456. Thus at a time when crime is falling substantially the police are seeing a significant increase in the number of staff. The provincial government has agreed to pay about 40% of the $12 million that it will cost to hire these new officers.
The idea that this outburst of crime will be resolved by more police is not one that Mayor Miller agreed to in the past. When former Police Chief Julian Fantino urged in Spring 2004 that more officers be hired, Mayor Miller had said, The city must play a different role from the police. The city must emphasize the prevention aspect. Instead, the Mayor advocated more funds for social programs.
Chief Bill Blair has already found new 100 officers to work on the street he found then by reallocating them within the force.
Others have said that there is an increased prevalence of guns on Toronto streets. But an August 23 story in the Globe and Mail story concluded from an analysis of police data that the 1332 guns seized by police in the first eight months of this year is virtually the same as the number by this time last year, or this time in 2003.
Miller had it right the first time: the issue is about social programs. Cut social programs to the citys most needy residents and you are bound to pay the price. Cuts began in a serious way with the government of Mike Harris in 1995 - cuts to school programs, school recreation facilities, welfare, affordable housing, public health, and municipal services. Those who might have a found a way out of trouble through these programs instead found themselves into the vortex of drugs, gangs, and violence. Those who are creating this mayhem are Mike Harriss kids, and these problems wont be resolved by more police, even if thats where we are spending our special dollars.
2. Police spending set to increase again
In a report to the September 6 meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board, Chief Bill Blair laid out his expenditure intentions for the next three years.
He expects to spend $746 million next year an increase of $53 million over this years expenditure and that doesnt include the $12 million needed for the 150 new officers recently authorized by the Board. Blair says this amount is needed just to continue doing what the police are doing now.
Just to keep things in perspective, the police budget in 2001 was $600 million.
In 2007, estimated expenditure is $774 million, and the year after that, $804 million. City council already is nickel-and-diming its other programs, reigning in every attempt to increase expenditure, but the police budget continues to increase.
City budget staff have set targets for the police, as for other city services. Blair says the police will exceed the city targets by $22 million next year, $50 million in 2007, and $80 million the year after. He also states in his report: I will not support any staff reduction to achieve a funding target. Later in the report he says, Lay-offs would be completely untenable.
Mayor Miller said theres an enormous budget challenge for the city in 2007 and 2008, but then added, We need to ensure the Toronto Police Service has the resources it needs to succeed.
He then proposed to ask the province for money. The provincial government, which is responsible for the administration of justice, shifted the cost of court security to municipalities in 1990, and that cost is paid through the police budget. In the last 15 years court room space in Toronto has almost doubled, and the number of full and part-time staff responsible for court security has increased from 275 to 560. Miller wants the province to pay these costs.
It was an entirely reasonable argument, but it hardly puts the citys own house in proper order. Its always weak to argue, in the face of significant budget problems, that change is not possible and someone else should start paying the bills. The Board quickly endorsed this approach. City Council approval will be needed at budget time.
The mayor and others could have replied by suggesting that the city is not a bottomless pit of money, and that the more money consumed by the police the less thats available for other services which have very positive human impacts. They could have pointed out that, measured by police data, the amount of work done by each officer seems pretty minor and is decreasing, which indicates a need for rethinking how policing can be delivered more efficiently. Other police forces have been forced to be more efficient. Why not Toronto?
3. SIU Annual Report
The annual report of the Special Investigations Unit which investigates any incident of police violence is now available at its website, http://www.siu.on.ca . In the year 2003-04, the SIU investigated 192 incidents and laid a total of two charges. The SIU has 58 employees, 46 of whom are directly involved in investigations in the Toronto area. Response time to incidents is about one hour and 20 minutes. Those interested in the SIU should read this annual report.
4. Strip Searches, the mystery
The appropriate policy for strip searches by Toronto Police has been a matter of some contention since the Supreme Court decision in the Golden case was released in late 2001. TPAC has been urging the police for the last 3½ years to adopt a policy that requires the police to show reasonable and probable grounds as to why a strip search is necessary and to require that officers write this down and get it approved before a strip search takes place. While all of this might sound very reasonable, to date it seems impossible to get the police to agree to this procedure in order to limit the number of strip searches and the intimidation that accompanies them.
In March of this year the Board asked then Interim Chief Mike Boyd to amend the strip search policy to require that officers engage in a case by case analysis prior to undertaking a strip search. Chief Blair in a report to the September Board meeting says that he has made that change but that the new policy cannot be made public due to the sensitive nature of some of the material.
TPAC was at the Board meeting in September to again ask for a strip search policy which ensures that strip searches are not routine. There is no data at the moment about how often strip searches occur but many defense lawyers think that virtually everyone who is arrested and put in a cell in a police station is strip searched. There is no data on how many times a strip search uncovers material that is contraband or dangerous to the person arrested or others. Many people believe that very few strip searches reveal any contraband or dangerous material, so most strip searches are nothing by intimidation. TPAC again pressed the Board to adopt a policy of requiring officers to write town the reason why the search was necessary, to get that approved by a supervisor and then to record what they found in the course of a strip search. The hope would be that regular reports about strip searches and what they find would be available.
The Chair of the Police Service Board Councillor Pam McConnell once again referred our ideas to the Chief and asked him to review them. She apologized that the newly adopted policy on strip searches cannot be made public and that the public cannot know when strip searches will occur or whether they are used for anything other than intimidation. Why must a policy on an action as important as this be kept hidden away?
The Board says it hopes that more information on its Strip Search policy can be made available at its October meeting.
5. Inquest for Otto Vaas death
The Ontario corner has finally announced that an inquest will be held into the death of Otto Vaas, who died on August 9, 2001 after an altercation with Toronto police. The announcement indicated that, once again, evidence will be introduced about how the Toronto police deal with mentally disturbed individuals, apparently going over the same ground as previous inquests. (See Bulletin No. 17, February 24, 2005, for the coroners recommendations in the case of Edmund Yu; Bulletin No. 18, March 16, 2005 on the police decision to buy more tasers; and Bulletin No. 5, November 2003, regarding the non-guilty verdicts of the police officers charged in Vaas death.)
The inquest will begin on January 9, 2006, in the Coroners Courts, 15 Grosvenor Street.
6. Better Policing for Toronto seminar: a summary
Report on September 17 Seminar, Better Policing for Toronto
*** A list of the source material supporting the presentations made at the seminar can be found in the `Issues section of the web site, http://www.tpac.ca . ***
The September 17 seminar sponsored by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and the Centre for Criminology at University of Toronto was generally a great success. About 150 people registered for the conference although, since it was a glorious mid-September Saturday, and not all of them attended. In the morning the attendance was about 60 people; in the afternoon it was closer to 100.
The morning presentations were relatively short and but they generally provoked interesting questions. All but one of the presentations were accompanied by notes, posted on the TPAC website. These notes provide references for the source material referred so people can review this material and decide to act upon it.
No. 1: Zack Levinsky, a student at the Centre of Criminology, presented on civilian oversight of police, generally stressing the need for a more effective complaints process that looks for systemic change. Good oversight includes independence, accountability, and transparency. The Lesage recommendations on civilian oversight are now being considered by the government which appears ready to act on them. However, it was noted that the Toronto police will not provide the base data on occurrence reports which would allow close analysis of police actions. In fact there are serous issues about accountability: Toronto police object to wearing badges which identify them by name.
No. 2: Dena Demos, a doctoral student at the Centre of Criminology, presented on the policing of demonstrations. Police have various techniques and strategies that they can use, including a powerful array of criminal and other laws, and significant use of force. Three different approaches can be taken: control of the situation; a service approach where police negotiate the management of the demonstration with those present; and a hybrid approach where the soft hats are in the foreground and the armed hard hats are close by. Police generally take the service approach when they are dealing with groups where they think they know the membership and the leadership, but they take the control approach when they are dealing with the youthful or antipoverty groups they feel are too informally structured. There is a sense that police are taking more of a control approach since 9/11, but there appear not be any formal studies on this matter. It was noted that the police are apparently spending much more time and energy on intelligence gathering and monitoring those involved in demonstrations.
No. 3: Marianna Valverde, a professor at the Centre for Criminology, presented on police chases and reported on studies from the United Kingdom indicating that in most cases police actions in chases escalate the risk and harm that might occur. Also in the UK, studies found that about half of those being chased were youth who did not have licenses. About one-third of chases ended in accidents and 1% in death. In a US study it was shown that a majority of chases began after there was a traffic violation rather than a known criminal offence.
There seemed to be considerable evidence to show that female officers are involved in chases much less than male officers. Many male officers seemed to be concerned about not letting the bad guy get away and if there was no chase, police authority would be challenged.
No. 4: Rashmee Singh, a student at the Centre for Criminology, reported on stun guns or tasers. She noted that there are no studies on the health impacts of the current form of taser that is used, although there are some studies on the weaker taser. There are many reports of deaths following the use of tasers Amnesty International says it is about 150 in North America but little in the way of information about causation is available.
There are reports of an overuse of tasers by police but there is no evidence showing the possession of tasers means the police negotiate less. Nor are their studies to show that tasers are only used in the place of a gun.
A pilot project is now underway in Toronto concerning the expanded use of tasers by Toronto police, but as far as is known there is no requirement for a mandatory doctor examination of those who are tasered, or even interviewing those tasered. According to the information collected by Amnesty International, 80% of those who are tasered are unarmed.
No. 5: Mariana Valverde reported on new attempts to deal with prostitution. She indicated that criminal law is the problem and the law needs to be reformed but the politicians shy away from this. She noted that in two Australian states street soliciting and brothels were both legalized with apparently relatively positive results. In an Edinburgh neighbourhood an informal agreement was struck about soliciting between sex workers, the police and the City council, and generally the police and councillors were pleased with the results. However, because of a change in the neighbourhood affected, which became more gentrified, the agreement faded away.
The key is involving the sex trade workers and it was generally found that self-regulation was better than coercive action, and that the two important criteria are the safety of the women and the protection of the neighbourhood.
The hypocrisy of the situation in Toronto was noted where the politicians have limited the number of licenses for sexual massage parlours to 40, but have given another 160 licenses to holistic health centres which are in the same business. It was noted that a human rights charter challenge has been filed in Vancouver against street solicitation and there is some sense it may succeed at the Supreme Court of Canada.
No. 6: Rashmee Singh presented on violence against women. She thought that the biggest change needed is to ensure that all women who report violence are given information on the Victim Witness Assistance Program. The Victim Witness Assistance Program is present in all courts but too often women do not connect with it; do not know about it; have a language barrier, or feel it is inappropriate for them. Police could play a very critical role here since they have the most contact with the women and could ensure information on the program is delivered to them. Apparently this occurred until about five years ago. About 80% of the women who call some agencies for assistance about domestic violence do not speak English and they report that police do not call interpreters enough nor provide enough information.
As well, police often charge both partners with assault, letting the courts sort out who was the aggressor, and that puts many women at a disadvantage, given their more limited access to resources, and the challenges they face retaining custody of their children. It was also noted that police response to domestic calls is the slowest response time to calls. It was also suggested that maybe Childrens Aid Society workers could be helpful in providing information about the program.
No. 7: Mariana Valverde reported on the number of officers and their impact on crime. She noted that quality is much more important than quantity. There is much academic literature on the question of fairness or procedural justice and the activities of those that the police deal with: the more fairly you are treated fairly and with respect by the police, the more law-abiding you are afterwards. Trust and social cohesion are very important and it means simple behaviour rules for the police such as not swearing is critical. There seems to be good evidence that having more officers does not reduce crime and the money would be better spent elsewhere.
We broke for an excellent hot lunch, for which we thank the Centre for Criminology.
The afternoon panel on racial profiling began at 2:05 p.m. It was chaired by Tammy Landau, School of Criminal Justice, Ryerson University., and included:
Keith Forde, Deputy Chief of Toronto Police; Scot Worley, Professor, Centre for Criminology; Alok Mukherjee, Toronto Police Service Board; and Selwyn Pieters, of the Association of Black Law Enforcers.
Keith Forde indicated his long standing concern with racial profiling and said that training is useful but even more important is monitoring actions in the field. He says that at the moment racial profiling is treated as simply discreditable conduct; he thinks it should be a specific offence under the Police Act.
Selwyn Pieters presented on behalf of the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE), emphasizing the need for enhanced training, different recruitment strategies, testing, and surveillance.
Scot Worley reported on the study he had done with the Kingston Police on racial profiling, noting that 400 forces in the United States had done similar studies, that all forces in the United Kingdom are doing it, but Kingston is the only force in Canada that has undertaken such a study. He thought that one of the key aspects of the survey was how important it was as a measure for accountability which he said was a major policing issue.
Alok Mukherjee listed some of the things the Police Service Board is doing to address racial profiling, including: recognizing and naming it; training senior officers in equity and inclusivity; formulating policy to try to ensure that the police organization reflects racial diversity (which he admits has much work to do on promotions) and establishing benchmarks to measure questions of accountability. He also indicated that the police are evaluating the effectiveness of police/community liaison committees and are working with a number of groups on alternatives to the use of lethal force.
It was noted that the Police Association leadership has instructed its members not to wear name tags on their uniforms, another sign of the wish not to be accountable. It was also noted that in Kingston when police leadership began to monitor the of assault officer charges, it found that several officers laid many of these charges and when they asked officers why this had happened, the number of charges went down considerably.
It was also noted that it is very difficult to collect racial profiling data in Toronto, given the complexity of the city. Different kinds of measurements will be needed in stops, searches, types of complaint.
The day adjourned at 4:30 p.m. after TPAC members encouraged those in the audience to help bring initiatives to help create policy changes at the Toronto Board.
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