TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 37, September 27, 2007



September 27 2007

1. Counting the guns in Toronto
2. Personal information released by police
3. Police Association challenges name tags
4. Crime as a provincial election issue
5. Taking home big pay
6. Latest crime statistics in Canada - crime is down
7. A public forum on policing?



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 37, September 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. Counting the guns in Toronto
2. Personal information released by police
3. Police Association challenges name tags
4. Crime as a provincial election issue
5. Taking home big pay
6. Latest crime statistics in Canada - crime is down
7. A public forum on policing?
8. Subscribe to the Bulletin.
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1. Counting the guns in Toronto.

The outcry against gun crime is substantial, and police hold many media events to reveal another stash of guns just uncovered. But at the end of the day there is very little hard information about guns in the city. Toronto Police Accountability Coalition wants this to change, and weve made a request to the Toronto Police Services Board for an annual audit which responds to the following kinds of questions:

1. How many guns did the police recover during the year?
2. What kinds of guns were these--i.e. handguns (and if handguns, were they automatic, semi-automatic, single shot, and of what calibre), rifles, shotguns,
automatic weapons, or air guns, etc.? What is the name of the manufacturers?
3. How many and what percentage were obtained by:
a. theft from private gun collectors. In what city, province (state) and country was the collection located?
b. theft from private ownersresiding where? Properly or improperly stored?
c. Purchased on the black market? Place of registration, manufacture or distribution?
d. Legal possession, i.e., the gun recovered was legally registered to the person who used the gun in a crime/incident which led to its confiscation.
e. Purchased from gun dealers, gun shops, etc. and where? In Ontario? Other provinces? In the U.S.and if so from which States?
4. How many and what percentage of guns were unidentifiable, and for what reasons?
5. How many of these weapons were in the Canadian gun registry?
6. How many were smuggled into Canada, and from where?
7. In what type of incident were the guns used?

Our request is expected to come before the Toronto Police Services Board at its next meeting on October 18.

2. Personal information released by police

If you are applying for a job, or to volunteer for a social agency, almost certainly youll be asked to supply some kind of note from the police that you do not have a criminal record. You make the application to the police knowing that you have never been convicted of anything and then the ugly truth is revealed and your chances of getting that job or volunteering for that agency are sunk: the police say you were charged with some crime in the past, as though being charged is the same as being convicted.

It happens all too often, since the police include in their data base individuals who are charged but not convicted, or the charge was withdrawn, dismissed because of a lack of evidence, or stayed, or whatever. Police hold on to fingerprints, photographs and records for these non-convictions, and estimate they have records for about 100,000 of these incidents. The policy to retain these documents was challenged in court more than five years ago and the Court of Appeal ruled that the police had to show why retaining a particular record was in the public interest.

Since then, the matter has been taken up by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario which has argued that these non-conviction records must be destroyed. In a report to the September Police Services Board meeting, the Chief said that this is not practical, since there are 140,000 charges brought before Toronto courts annually, of which 45 per cent result in non-conviction. Instead, the chief proposed a new policy which allows individuals to apply to have the records destroyed, and sets up an appeal process in cases where the individual is not happy with the police decision to keep them.

The IPC and the Criminal Lawyers Association argued that while the police proposal might be an improvement over the existing arrangements, it was still contrary to the Charter of Rights. TPAC appeared at the Board to argue that whatever decision was made about retaining records, the key issue was making sure that the police did not reveal this information to anyone. If you are not convicted of a charge, its not fair that the police can imply that you somehow were involved with it - that runs against the notion that you are innocent until proven guilty.

The members of the Board engaged in a long and muddled debate, the underlying theme being that by retaining this information the police were keeping information that would be helpful in solving crime in the future, information which was of such benefit to the public at large that it trumped any individual rights. After much back-slapping between Board members, the Board unanimously agreed to adopt the new policy, since the appeal process was seen as a step forward, and the Chief was asked to report within six months on the concerns raised. One had the sense that the big issue for Board members was not whether an individual had been found not guilty, but whether one had been charged: being charged means the police have a chance to intervene in ones life whether or not the court had decided the charge was upheld.

Meanwhile, if you were charged but not convicted, you can expect this information to come back to haunt you. One is reminded of Jerome Slotniks book, which argues that the police hold most of the power in the criminal justice system because of all the things they can do long before their actions ever get tested in a court. His book is called `Justice Without Trial.

3. Police Association challenges name tags

You may have noticed that Toronto officers now sport name tags with their first initial and their last name, pinned on their chests. (TPAC played the leading role in this change.)

But this has not been a change that the Toronto Police Association has been happy with. The association opposed the change when it was suggested, claiming it would make officers sitting ducks for those who were unhappy with their actions, and they would be harassed at home. TPAC pointed out that most large American forces have name tags and find no adverse effects , whereas ready identification creates a much more friendly attitude toward those the police deal with on a day-to-day basis.

TPA objections delayed the implementation of the name tag program, but it has finally gone ahead. The TPA objection continues at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The Board ordered an inspector to report on the objection, and he said it has no merit. TPA is continuing by asking for a Board hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

4. Crime as a provincial election issue.

John Tory and the Conservative Party have made crime a central part of the October 10 provincial election. One television advertisement states that seven of ten murders in Toronto were committed by individuals who were on either on remand on other charges, or on parole. The allegation is that if the McGuinty government cared about crime it wouldnt allow this to happen.

But Tory and the Conservatives have got it wrong. As Ian Urquart of the Toronto Star has pointed out, less than half of the murders are the result of such individuals. In any case parole is a federal not provincial responsibility, and the granting of bail is done by a judge, not by the government, a government which in fact has told its crown attorneys to oppose bail for gun crimes.

Its another instance of cooking crime statistics to try to get them to say what you want them to say, and then blaming the provincial government for matters outside its control.

5. Taking home big pay.

Most police officers enter the service as fresh young individuals in their early 20s, making handsome pay in the high $50,000s with good benefits, a significant amount for most recruits who have not been to university. As the years go by, most will advance through ranks to become first class officers with pay in the $60,000s and $70,000s, and some will become more senior police managers with much higher pay.

But thats only part of the story. Police also get extra pay for a host of other opportunities - overtime, being hired to direct traffic around construction sites, on film sets, and so forth. As the chief reported recently, last year 708 employees of the police department earned more than $100,000. About 130 of these individuals were senior managers; the rest were employees with a base pay rate below $100,000 with handsome top-ups from these other activities.

6. Latest crime statistics in Canada - crime is down
Statistics Canada reported during the summer that crime in Canada is down. The total number of Criminal Code offenses is the lowest it has been since 1978; violent crime has not been this low since 1990; and property crime is at this same level as in 1970.

The homicide rate in Ontario is 1.54 per 100,000  well below the national average of 1.85. Robberies, break-ins, and motor vehicle theft rates in Ontario are also below the national average. The rate of crime and violent crime in urban Toronto (most of the GTA) is lower than any other large or medium sized city in Canada except Quebec City.

The data is available at http://www.statscan.ca . Click `By subject on the left hand panel, then click on Crime and Justice. The most recent report is titled `Crime Statistics in Canada, 2006.

7. A public forum on policing?

Toronto Police Accountability Coalition is interested in furthering public debate on policing and policies that underlie police work in Toronto. Every year or two we hold a public session focused on an issue or two where informed speakers are invited, and a public invitation is made for those interested to attend.

Were thinking of arranging something for late in 2007 or early in 2008. We are canvassing our readers for their interest. What would you like to see a session on? Let us know by sending an email to info@tpac.ca ,

8. Subscribe to the Bulletin.

To subscribe, or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to j.sewell@on.aibn.com with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca.

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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