TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 36, June 28, 2007



June 28 2007

1. The Ontario Ombudsman reviews the SIU
2. Fantino speaks his mind, and the investigation begins
3. Truth not Tasers
4. Lets not debate police issues
5. Searching for head of new complaints agency



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 36, June 28, 2007

This bulletin is published almost 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. The Ontario Ombudsman reviews the SIU
2. Fantino speaks his mind, and the investigation begins
3. Truth not Tasers
4. Lets not debate police issues
5. Searching for head of new complaints agency
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. The Ontario Ombudsman reviews the SIU

In early June, the Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin, announced that his office was to investigate the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the provincial body which looks into police actions involving serious injury or death. Marin said his office had received an increasing number of complaints about the SIU, particularly about the timeliness of investigations, possible lack of objectivity, and reporting back to victims and families.

The press announcement stated that the investigation will focus on operational effectiveness and the credibility of the SIU. The report is expected to be available in November.

Marin headed the SIU from 1996 to 1998. He then served as Ombudsman for the federal Department of National Defense and the Canadian Forces, until appointed to his present position two years ago. As Ombudsman he has produced a number of provocative reports.

Members of TPAC met recently with Ombudsman staff to discuss the SIU. TPACs experience is that SIU seems to be part of the policing hierarchy rather than representing an outside citizen-based voice on policing matters. The SIU provides the appearance of accountability without the substance, and functions as another line of defense for the police. TPAC fears that the focus of the investigation is narrow when what is needed is something which begins to tackle the question of police accountability to the community at large. Without the presence of a general sense of police accountability, it is difficult for any police complaints mechanism to function well.

2. Fantino speaks his mind, and the investigation begins.

Julian Fantino, now head of the Ontario Provincial Police, has an uncanny ability to crystallize issues in ways you never thought might happen, in ways that raise issues about his credibility. It has happened again in respect to the recently resigned RCMP commissioner, Guiliano Zaccardelli.
Zaccardelli resigned because of the heat being generated around his leadership of the RCMP. As reported to the federal government in mid-June by lawyer David Brown, Zaccardelli was an autocratic leader who punished whistleblowers, particularly those who had leaked information about the mismanagement of pension and insurance funds. Brown said the RCMPs management structure was horribly broken, and that Zaccardelli used the RCMPs command-and-control culture to shut down dissent, ruling with an iron fist.
The allegations of mismanagement of the pension and insurance funds had been investigated by the Ottawa police force, but the federal auditor Sheila Fraser said several months ago that investigation was not good enough, and because RCMP officers were used in the investigation, it was not independent. Brown agreed, and recommended that the Ontario Provincial Police review the investigation by the Ottawa force. Opposition parties had demanded a full public inquiry of the RCMP, but Brown rejected that course of action.
And just as the OPP is about to begin its work, Fantino has made his views known. He said Zaccardelli has been so vilified over the pension fund issue. I would like to think there is goodness and commitment and dedication and honourable duty in every person, said Fantino. To the extent I have known commissioner Zaccardelli, thats how I have known him.
In an editorial on June 21, the Globe and Mail summed up the problem. The highest standards of independence and propriety are needed for the investigation of a major Canadian institution and its leadership. Mr. Fantinos comments suggest an old boys network is in charge.

Its hard to remember a single occasion in recent memory when the head of a police force has publicity defended the reputation of someone who might be involved in an upcoming investigation. Justice needs to be seen to be done. That will be difficult now.
3. Truth not tasers
A new web site has been established by Patti Gillman of Vancouver in honour of her brother Robert Bagnell who was tasered by Vancouver police and died in police custody in 2004. Evidence at the inquest was that one of the tasers produced two and a half times the electrical output in the manufacturers specifications; the other taser produced 84 times the electrical output of the specs.

The site is www.truthnottasers.blogspot.com Ms Gillman obviously spends a great deal of time on the site  it is regularly updated with breaking news from across North America.

The site is suspicious of the new term that so-called experts use to account for deaths after being tasered  excited delirium. This is a condition not recognized by any reputable medical organization yet it seems to be the preferred explanation for death after taser use. The site notes that 272 people have died in North America after taser use, 13 in Canada.

4. Lets not debate police issues.

After the car crash near Finch and Islington killing three teenagers early in the morning of June 2, TPAC wrote the Toronto Police Services Board asking to make a presentation in the hope that the Board would change its policy and prevent Toronto police from engaging in car chases, at least as an experiment for a specified period of time.

The chair of the Board, Dr. Alok Mukherjee refused to schedule the matter on the Boards agenda stating (as the email from the Board secretary reads) he agrees that the recent deaths of the three young people is a very serious matter and that responsible police practices is an equally serious matter. However, he believes very strongly that it is premature to engage in public discussion of a police practice, i.e. pursuits, until all the facts surrounding this specific tragic incident are available to us. 

As was later learned from comments of Board member Hugh Locke, it seems that there will be a strong argument from the police that a chase did not take place. (Gary Clewley, a lawyer who represents the Toronto Police Association, was quoted in the press as saying the officers were pursuing at not much more than 100 km/h, but maybe he was wrong, or maybe that doesnt represent a chase speed. )

The facts of this specific incident are hardly the issue. Police chases in general are a big problem. The last province-wide study was done in 1999, and it concluded on the basis of evdince over a six year period that one person is injured for every four police chases. That study resulted in a new regulation, 546/99, which requires officers to weigh the public advantage of a chase, the risk to public safety, and do a number of other things which are highly unlikely to happen as the car is flying along the street. Why shouldnt we talk now about the wisdom of chases and possibly making a change which could improve the safety of the public and officers?

And theres another example about this new approach by the Toronto Police Services Board to avoid debate. On the first weekend in June, the Women Against Poverty Collective held a demonstration about housing for abused women. It was an orderly affair with demo leaders staying in touch with senior officers on site, but it ended when police, in an unprovoked action, physically attacked several of the women, and then arrested them. The Collective wrote to the Board asking for a meeting to talk about the violent reaction of the officers in the hope that some procedures and expectations could be changed. The Board treated the letter as a complaint, and declined to meet.

The Collective will be holding a media conference and demonstration at Police Headquarters, College Street, on July 19th at 11:00 am. The event will also point out problems that women who have been victims of male violence experience when dealing with the police, either being charged along with the male or being ignored (as in the Wyann Ruso case, reported in earlier Bulletins.) For more information, contact womenagainstpoverty@gmail.com or call 416-417-8962.

It may be a new Board policy: lets not debate police issues.

5. Searching for head of new complaints agency

The provincial government has now posted the advertisement for the Director of the Independent Police Review body, which was established by the recently approved Bill 103. Applicants must file by July 6. The posting can be found at http://www.pas.gov.on.ca/scripts/en/AdvPosDetails.asp?num=2

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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