TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 29, May 24, 2006



May 24 2006

1. Taser use increases
2. Hiring a police force that looks like Toronto
3. Its hard being on camera
4. Out of jail and onto the street



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 29, May 24, 2006

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. Taser use increases
2. Hiring a police force that looks like Toronto
3. Its hard being on camera
4. Out of jail and onto the street
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Taser use increases

The fears that TPAC and other groups expressed a year ago that allowing many more police officers to carry tasers would lead to much more taser use are now realities.

The Toronto police service had previously restricted taser use to Emergency Task Force members highly trained to use restraint, but this March began equipping front line supervisors with the `stun gun. A report to the May meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board spells out the results of the new policy.

For the month of April 2006, the 65 front line supervisors to whom tasers had been issued fired the taser on nine occasions and threatened its use on three occasions. During the 12 months of 2005, the ETF threatened the use of tasers 183 times and fired them 66 times. The front line supervisors use of tasers is three times more than the threatened use, a stark contrast with the ETF personnel. Further, if the first month of experience is borne out over a year, in 12 months this small group of officers will have fired the tasers into individuals more than 100 times, which would be almost 50% greater than the number of times the ETF used tasers last year.

One shudders to think what will happen when 500 front line supervisors have the taser at their disposal. If the experience of the these first 65 is any indication, three or more Toronto residents will be tasered every day, and this city will soon be concerned about citizen safety, just like in American cities where tasers are regularly employed. Amnesty International has expressed its concerns in its report on taser use, see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr511392004

A request to the Board to rethink taser use failed.

2. Recruiting a police force that looks like Toronto

For the last two decades the Toronto police force has said it is committed to securing a force that starts to reflect the people who live in Toronto, but that never quite seems to happen and the force remains overwhelmingly white and male. The evidence of the continued failure was apparent in a report before the Board at the May meeting.

In the three years 2003 - 2005 the percentage of females in the police force increased marginally, by 1.5% to almost 16%. The recruitment of women of colour is quite simply pathetic: in the last three years the force has hired a grand total of 13 women of colour, to bring the per centage on the force up to 1.3 per cent.

Just by way of comparison: in Vancouver 20.7 per cent of the police force is female; in Montreal, 27 per cent; in the RCMP, 19 per cent; in Chicago, 23 per cent. (Data is available on respective web sites.) Torontos police force is certainly not leading the way on this issue.

Another opportunity for the force to show that it was serious about recruiting a force that reflects the residents of the city came in early May, when 141 new recruits were sworn in. Your diversity truly reflects the city sang Mayor David Miller at the ceremony. Except it didnt. Twenty per cent of the new recruits were women; 24 per cent were people of colour.

While this is more reflective of the citys diversity than past induction events, thats hardly what Toronto is like. More than half of Toronto is female; more than 35 per cent consists of people of colour. The crop of new recruits is much more male and white than the city is. Why cant the police get it right?

Toronto police are in the midst of a hiring binge which probably wont be seen again for another decade. This is the time to start hiring to reflect Torontos diversity if we want people who live here to feel at ease with our police force and if we want to get a police force that actually understands and cares about our citys needs. There is no reason why at least half of new hires should not be female and more than one third of colour. Those should be the minimum targets of the police service. Anything short of that means that the police service is not hiring in a way that reflects the basic composition of Toronto society.

3. Its hard being on camera

The Toronto police web site (http://www.torontopolice.on.ca) talks in an upbeat way about the new in-car video cameras apparently installed in 18 cars to record the way that Torontonians are dealt with by the police force. As the web site notes, the cameras face in and face out, and will record the interactions between the police and the public. The camera project came about after a video camera caught teenager Said Jama Jama being beaten by a Toronto police officer who claimed exactly the reverse had occurred. (That officer has been found guilty of assault, and has appealed his 30 day sentence.) (See Bulletin No. 23, October 2005.)

But not so fast. As a hilarious report before the May Board meeting made clear, the pilot project isnt yet quite operational. There have been difficult problems with systems hardware and software; with improper installations; with conflicts between the new system and the existing police systems; with other technology; with shipping of replacement parts. The police service will continue to dabble in the technology swamp until November, then report in March of 2007 on whether to go ahead with the in-car video idea. Its unclear how much money has been spent on the pilot project so far, but more than six months have been consumed.

Meanwhile, Toronto taxicabs use an in-car camera so successful that police use photos from it to track down suspects involved in taxi crimes, including several recent horrific murders of cab drivers. The technology for in-car cameras obviously exists, but for some reason its not good enough for the Toronto police, the same force which five years ago refused to use information technology off-the-shelf for a few million dollars but instead decided to create its own eCOPS system, which has consumed more than $17 million (see TPAC Bulletin No. 14, November 2004) and still is not fully operational, five years later.

It reminds one of the recruitment question: is the Toronto police force actually committed to this objective? Does the force really want to be on camera for the work it does or - how can we put it  is it too shy?

4. Out of jail and onto the street

A new study by the John Howard Society and the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at University of Toronto concludes that as many as 1000 adults are released each year from Ontarios correctional institutions and courts onto the streets of Toronto. Little or no discharge planning happens for these individuals who have no place to live. Many end up living in shelters, waiting for their next arrest. Amber Kellen of the Society says Its a sad, costly and futile cycle. Worse, it actually creates more homelessness in Toronto.

Its an amazing way to spend a lot of money, from street to jail to street, paying police officers and lawyers and judges and custodians and guards in the process. A recent study in Toronto found that the cost of putting someone up in a shelter for a year is $16,100, while the cost of putting that same person in permanent housing with support workers, is $11,600. (That report can be found at http://www.toronto.ca/housing/pdf/tentcity5.pdf see page 31.) Putting people in shelters and jails and then shelters again costs even more: helping them into permanent housing would cost less and help people get back on their feet.

The report, `Justice and Injustice: Incarceration and Homelessness in Toronto can be accessed at http://www.johnhowardtor.on.ca/ .

5. 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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