TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 23



October 21 2005

1. Toronto police force grows again
2. New strip search policy
3. Data bites from the police
4. Police officer convicted of assault
5. Job action



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 23, October 21, 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
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In this issue:
1. Toronto police force grows again
2. New strip search policy
3. Data bites from the police
4. Police officer convicted of assault
5. Job action
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Toronto police force grows again

Recent reports have stated that the Toronto Police Services Board has approved hiring 150 new officers - information that was included in Bulletin No. 22. However, it now appears that the Board has gone further than that: at its October 14 meeting it confirmed that it is hiring 250 new police officers over a 16-month period: 46 in August 2005, 50 in December 2005, 50 in April 2006; 86 in August 2006 and 18 in December 2006.

No other branch of the city government has grown so quickly  in fact most have been shrunk.

The extra annual costs of these new officers is $20 million to cover recruiting, salary and outfitting, and one can assume another $5 million will be needed to cover the costs of supervision, vehicles, radios, etc. The Board has made no serious case as to why there is a shortage of personnel that must be addressed by increasing the number of uniformed officers. Instead, the Board has used the program of the provincial government Safer Communities  1,000 Officers Partnership Program as the way to finesse this increase. The provincial government encourages municipalities to hire more police by paying half the cost. Torontos application specifies that the 175 additional officers will be used for community policing, and 75 will be used for key areas such as youth crime, guns and gangs, organized crime (marijuana grow ops), dangerous offenders, domestic violence and protection of children from internet luring and child pornography. In other words - the usual grab bag. Rather than attempting to make the police more efficient the Board has decided to simply expand.

One TPAC member put it this way: if the 250 new recruits were all black youth from the projects then maybe this could be supported as a way of getting a more representative police force and creating employment. But experience shows that less than half the new officers will be minorities and women, and almost none of them will be black youth from the projects.

2. New strip search policy

The Toronto Police have finally adopted a new strip search policy.

The new policy states that before a strip search can take place an officer must consult with the officer in charge, advising of the grounds and circumstances as to why a strip search should take place. The strip search must take place in a private area without being videotaped; clothing will be removed one article at a time, being replaced after inspection; and the person should not be left in a completely naked state after a search. Once a search is completed the officer will fill in a Search of Person form, outlining the grounds and circumstances for the search, the date, time and place of the search, identification of the searching officer and officer in charge, and whether any evidence or weapons were found.

When this matter was before the Board on October 14 TPAC raised the question of the search of transgendered, transsexual and inter-sexed persons, and was informed that the current policy is that the police now ask such persons whether they wish to be searched by a male or a female officer. This practice is not yet embodied in the new policy procedure  some community members dont think it has yet become common practice among the police - but apparently that will happen soon.

TPAC also requested that the Search of Person forms be forwarded to the Chief so that quarterly strip search reports could be made to the Board. The Chief has been asked to report on how this might occur. To a request that the report on strip search policy be made public, the Chief says that revealing all of the policy would represent risks to the officer involved. However, he indicated a willingness to show the full policy to members of the Board, noting that was the civilian oversight of police that is appropriate.

This new policy is in general conformity with the kind of policy that TPAC has been attempting to get in place since the `Golden decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in late 2001.

3. Data bites from the police

The latest set of data bites from the Toronto police is found in the 2005 Environmental Scan. This is a 241 page booklet, prepared annually by the Corporate Planning branch of the police, and sold by the police for a cool $50.

Crime is again down in Toronto  the drop in the overall crime rate over the last ten years is now approaching 23%, mostly during the late 1990s, but the decrease since 2000 was continued to be steady, if modest. Much of the decrease results from fewer property crimes but there have also been fewer violent crimes. All of this has occurred while Torontos population has continued to grow from about 2.2 million ten years ago to over 2.5 million today. Toronto is now ranked well below the middle of Canadian cities in overall crime.

Violent crimes receive much media attention but they appear not to be increasing; in fact, they are falling slightly in spite of the increase in population. A small increase is seen in the use of offensive weapons such as guns. Calls from the public for assistance because of guns or shooting have not increased. Motor vehicle thefts are down considerably from close to 20,000 in 1996 to just over 10,000 in 2004 - police think at least some of this decrease is a result of their attempts to identify and target auto theft hot spots and suspects, and to try to educate potential victims.

The number of people charged with criminal offences continues to maintain its general level of the past five years, about 50,000 persons. This means that each person is charged on average with four criminal code offenses for a particular incident. There are about 5200 officers, so on average, each officer arrests less than 10 people a year, or one about every six weeks.

The police service received 1.9 million calls for service in 2004, which is comparable to the past five years. More than half of the calls came through the 911 service, although less than half those calls required a police response of any kind. Of the police responses, only about half were considered priorities requiring police attending within one hour of the call.

The police standard is to respond to 85% Priority One calls within six minutes; however, they are unable to meet this standard. Only one-third of the Priority One calls received a response within six minutes in 2004, compared to 45% in 1996. The same slippage is noted in respect to Priority Two and Three calls where the police are not close to meeting the standards they have set for themselves.

It is interesting to look at the calls responded to in relation to the number of officers. The police responded to about one million calls for service, that is, to half the calls received. Dividing that by the number of uniformed officers, reveals that on average there are 200 calls a year for each officer. Assuming every officer works 225 days a year, thats less than one call a shift.

The average service time, that is the officer time spent on a call, has increased enormously, from 168 minutes a call in 1996 to 262 minutes last year. Average service time for priority calls has doubled from 73 minutes in 1996 to 147 minutes in 2004. There are significant opportunities for police efficiencies in containing and reducing average service time and the report recommends this. It states, These results seem to indicate that the problem of timely response to calls has worsened and requires some immediate attention.

The forces progress in respect to hiring more women and minorities is very modest. The report notes that 43% of Toronto residents can be considered visible minorities and 52% are female. But only 14% of the force are visible minorities and 26% female; and most of the visible minorities and females are civilian staff, not uniformed staff. In fact, 72% of the uniformed officers are white males, 12% of the force are visible minorities and 15% are female. While there are some attempts to get more women and visible minorities, the change is very slow. It is hard to get either minorities or women into supervisory positions although it does occur, witness the recent appointment of a female deputy chief and a Black deputy chief.

4. Police officer convicted of assault

Toronto Constable Roy Preston never realized the trouble he would be getting himself in when he charged Said Jama Jama, a Somalian refugee, with assaulting a police officer two years ago. By chance the interaction between the two was caught clearly on a videotape. The assault police charge was withdrawn, and Preston himself was charged with assault.

Preston was convicted in July, and in late September was sentenced to 30 days in jail. It is highly unusual for a police officer to be convicted, and even more unusual to find one jailed. The judge in the case, Peter Wilkie, thought Preston abused his power, then lied about what he had done, and then tried to cover up his misdeeds. The police service immediately suspended Preston without pay, but when he filed his appeal after spending a few days in jail, he was back at work on full pay, pursuant to sections of the Police Service Act which give police officers in this situation far more rights than any reasonable employer would agree to.

Hanging fire is the issue of what happens to the other three officers who were present when Jama Jama was assaulted: apparently all three made notes in their notebooks that Jama Jama assaulted Preston. These notes appears to be fabrications of what actually happened. Can a police officer do that and still hold onto his job?

Throughout this situation, Preston has been strongly defended by Dave Wilson, president of the Toronto Police Association. Wilson complained about the media coverage, as though that caused the problem. Not once was there a hint from him that the Police Association thought that what Preston did was wrong or inappropriate or unacceptable.

5. Job action

Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Association has authorized job action to press the Toronto Police Services Board for a better offer in contract negotiations. In early October the Association instructed its members to wear baseball caps rather than the required police hats; in mid-month it instructed its members to exercise more discretion in issuing traffic tickets (interpreted by many to mean that police will issue many fewer traffic tickets), and on October 18 the Association instructed its members to only respond to calls for service, and not to do any proactive policing. Newspaper reports state that the dollar value of tickets issued is already down $500,000 a week.

The officers have been without a contract since the end of 2004. The Association has been arguing that Toronto police should be the best paid in the country  asking for $75,000 for a first class constable, that is one who has been on the force for three years. Apparently there is no major differences between the Board and the Association over salary  the Boards offer of a 12.75 per cent wage increase over four years has generally been met with favour, although the Association has suggested four years is too long.

The dividing points appear to be the Boards refusal to continue to offer a lump sum `retention payment of up to $2000 as in the previous two years, arguing that because of the high wage level in Toronto officers no longer need an incentive to stay with the Toronto force. Further, the Board is asking to cancel the fifth lunch break on a four day work week, and to extend working hours about four hours per month, which the Association sees as requiring an extra week of work a year.

As this Bulletin was being finalized, the Board was considering its legal options, and the TPA was increasing its rhetoric. Since police are not permitted to strike, binding arbitration waits in the wings.

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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Please circulate this Bulletin to friends and colleagues who might share an interest in policing. We appreciate your comments or suggestions for stories which should be sent to j.sewell@on.aibn.com.

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