Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 30, July 28, 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
In this issue:
1. Ending Racial Profiling
2. Name Badges or Not?
3. Leadership of the Police Association
4. Subscribe to this bulletin
1. Racial Profiling
Racial profiling means targeting individuals by appearance, not behaviour thats the simple and straight forward definition offered by David Tanovich in his new book `The Colour of Justice.
Tanovich is a professor at University of Windsor, and has done important legal work on racial profiling, an activity that might be both unlawful and unconstitutional, but is practiced by most police departments on a daily basis. Tanovich recounts example upon example of racial profiling, noting that most of the time it occurs it is never reported because the victims are afraid.
He argues that proactive policing results in indiscriminate stopping and searching of non-white residents, individuals he calls `racialized since the police have mad ea n issue of their race. He states, To be conducting countless numbers of stops of racialized youth, when the overwhelmingly majority of those stopped will not be a gang member or in possession of a gun, is an inefficient and unreliable use of resources. For example, a recent study suggests that 8 percent of Black youth are involved in criminal gang activity. The study also showed that while Black youth were overrepresented in gangs (4 percent of White youth reported gang membership), Whites still make up more gang members than any other racialized group (36 percent).(p.101)
The many examples provided of racial profiling are depressing in that they seem to be integrated into existing police work. Tanovich concludes that police and security forces have no intention of taking the necessary steps to determine whether, and to what extent, racial profiling is a problem within a particular police service. He proposes that mandatory data-collection is required, much in the way that the Kingston police force has done (see Bulletin No. 3, September 2003, at http://www.tpac.ca ), requiring officers to make a note of every stop they make. (This is a requirement in most American jurisdictions.) He argues that police forces must have a protocol banning the use of racial profiling, noting that in New Jersey it is a criminal offence.
He also suggests that pretext stops of cars where police use their right to indiscriminately stop any vehicle to see what they can find encourages racial profiling and should be removed as a permissible police tactic. He argues that race should never be part of a police description of a subject since it does little to assist in describing an individual, and allows police to draw in many, many innocent people noting, for instance that it provides no assistance to define a subject as a black male when there are 143,000 black males in Toronto.
Most of the data is disturbing. The War on Drugs has turned into a war on black individuals in Toronto, with far higher arrest rates for black than for white individuals, even though white people are much more likely to be involved in drugs. The Canada Customs department targeted black women as drug carriers from certain countries and in one study forced 536 individuals to have bowel movements to reveal what was inside their bodies. It turned out that 8 out of 10 of those who were required to do this procedure were entirely innocent.
`The Colour of Justice is a powerful book, with strong arguments in its extensively footnoted 183 pages of main text. Unfortunately, one fears that few are listening. As Tanovich notes, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, about half Canadians supported the idea of racial profiling. When the government of Canada came to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act in2001, it specifically rejected recommendations to include a section that would have prohibited racial profiling.
`The Colour of Justice, by David Tanovich, is recently published by Irwin Law, at $35.00 hardcover.
2. Name Badges or Not?
In March 2005 most people in Toronto thought that finally Toronto police officers would be identified by name, wearing a name badge. That decision was again confirmed in November and has again been confirmed at the meeting of the Toronto Police Service Board on July 10.
The implementation of this decision has been delayed because of objections by the Toronto Police Association, claiming that the identification of officers is contrary to the Occupation Health and Safety Act since it puts officers at risk - the risk that they will be identified by criminal elements and attacked or threatened at their place of residence.
To deal with the matter the Chief undertook an extensive study to determine what other agencies do and what the results actually are. The Chief did a survey of 13 policing agencies of which 11 required officers to be identified by name, not just by number, as is the case with the Toronto Police force. The forces that use names have indicated in the survey that officer identification had never been an issue, and some of those forces have used names rather than numbers for a considerable length of time - Florida Highway Patrol since 1939; Vancouver Police Service since 1987; London Police Service since 1981; Waterloo Police Service since 1973, and so forth.
The Chief also looked at other ways of identifying people once their name was known, including searching the internet, but he determined the best way to get the name of an officer is simply to telephone the station, say that you have a badge number and would like to write an officer by name for something well done. In 9 out of 10 calls made to local stations the caller received the first and last names of the officer; and in the remaining case the last name and an initial was given.
Looking for some middle ground the Chief recommended to the Board that the wearing of name badges be discretionary which, given the position of the Police Association, means very few officers would care to be identified by name. Fortunately, on the initiative of board member Hamlin Grange, the Board unanimously declared that name badges will be required to be worn by all uniformed officers.
The next question is when this might happen and what objections the Police Association might continue to make.
3. Leadership of the Police Association
Dave Wilson is running for re-election this fall as president of the Toronto Police Association. Also running for the presidency is Mike McCormack. Son of a former chief. There is some question as to whether or not this struggle for leadership led to the 500 page complaint filed by the Association against Chief Bill Blair and other senior officers regarding allegations of racism after a black inspector was asked for identification when using a police station gas pump. (That alleged incident is cited by Tanovich as another example of racial profiling.)
When the complaint was filed with the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services in June, several Toronto Police Service Board members were skeptical of its legitimacy. Board Member Pam McConnell was quoted at the time as saying It reads like a bad soap opera and a very poor mystery story.
One wonders whether we might hear from candidates to lead the Police Association about some way in which they will encourage their members to become more accountable to the public and more integrated into Toronto life. Better accountability would seem to be in the interests of the individual officer since it would provide much more of a link to the communities policed, much less hostility from community members, better access to useful information, and generally make the day-to-day job more enjoyable. From the outside, at least, it would seem to offer much to the rank and file officer. And one can think of what an agenda to achieve this might include - an end to racial profiling; asking more officers to live in Toronto; agreement about officers wearing name badges; ways to work more closely with the community; increasing the per centage of women and people of colour on the force.
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