Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 41, April 15, 2008.
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
In this issue:
1. Torontos TASER protocol
2. Expanding the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams
3. Impressive police salaries
4. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Torontos TASER protocol
Our attempts to get a copy of the TASER protocol used by the Toronto police force have been unsuccessful, but a recent court case has revealed what appears to be a large part of it. The case R v Walcott concerned a charge of possession of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking. And the judge stayed the charge for the reason that the police used the TASER on Walcott while he was naked, handcuffed, and on the floor, and the judge decided that was unnecessary use of force.
In the course of the decision, Judge Brown states (in paragraph 16): Under the Toronto Police Services Taser Policy the devices are considered an appropriate force to employ when a subjects behaviour is considered to be at the `assaultive level or above. The TPS Taser Policy provides that police officers may use a taser as a force option to prevent themselves being overpowered when violently attacked, to prevent a prisoner being taken from police custody, to disarm an apparently dangerous person armed with an offensive weapon, to control a potentially violent situation when other use of force alternatives are not available, or for any other lawful and justifiable purpose. He later quotes an officer stating that the Policy does not permit the use of TASERs as a form of punishment, and where practical an officer is supposed to issue a verbal caution before deploying a taser. The case can be found at http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2008/2008canlii11374/2008canlii11374.pdf
One issue that came up at the March meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board was the way in which TASER use by police is reported. Currently, no data is given as matters such as whether a warning was provided before use. Since so many of those against whom TASERs are used in Toronto are, according to police, emotionally disturbed or mentally ill, it would be helpful to know exactly which ground (of those stated above) was cited by officers to justify TASER use. Chief Bill Blair was requested by the Board to report on a more comprehensive reporting system at a future Board meeting.
Regarding the court decision to throw out the charge, an editorial published on March 22, The Globe and Mail concluded, Good for the judge. But will the Toronto police department discipline any of the officers involved? Dont hold your breath.
2. Expanding Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams
The Toronto Police Services Board agreed with a recommendation from staff at its last meeting to sign contracts with the Scarborough General Hospital to provide Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams to three Scarborough divisions, 41, 42, and 43 Division. This service a plain clothes officer teamed with a mental health nurse - will be available between 1 pm and 11 am in these divisions to respond to calls where officers on the scene of an incident have identified someone in mental crisis.
Several problems are still to be worked out. The police force had proposed that one officer per division be provided for the team but 10 hours a day, seven days a week clearly needs more than one person. The chief will report further on this. As well, the reluctance of hospitals to participate fully in the teams probably has to do with money hospitals are required to pay the cost of the nurse, and unlike the police force, which actually finds that the teams save it time and money, there is no saving to the hospital. TPAC is writing the Minsitry of Health and Long Term Care to ask that it supports MCIT by paying for the cost of the mental health nurse.
Peel Regional Police announced that starting April 1, it will provide a similar service, initially in Mississauga. The Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) is run in partnership with The Canadian Mental Health Association and Saint Elizabeth Health Care. Like MCIT, COAST involves a plain clothed police officer and a mental health professional working together and attending calls for service involving persons in a mental health crisis. Comparable programs already exist in Hamilton and Halton Region. For further information, see http://www.peelpolice.ca
3. Impressive police salaries.
Provincial legislation requires that all public bodies reveal the name and salary of all staff receiving in excess of $100,000 in any calendar year. In 2005, 249 members of the Toronto Police service took home more than $100,000. In 2006, that figure jumped to 702, and the large increase was explained away as an anomaly because of contract payments.
Yet in 2007, 769 officers were paid more than $100,000 last year, almost 15 per cent of the police force. About 150 of those were in senior management categories with large salaries such as the chief, at $270,000, and staff sergeants, at $102,000 and upwards. But 622 were lowly constables or detectives. One constable whose normal rate of pay is in the range of $63,000 took home $153,000; another took home $151,000. It seems they (and many many others) secured enough overtime to increase their standard salary by 50 or 75 or 120 per cent.
One officer made $102,000 yet worked not single day last year. He was `on leave because he had been charged with extortion, obstructing justice and other things which meant he was not permitted to work - but he still was paid.
It is very difficult to think of any other large organization, public or private, where 15 per cent of employees make such immense salaries.
Currently negotiations are underway between the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Association for a new contract. City Council has approved the $800 million net budget request for police services this year, and amount that consumes 30 per cent of the property tax revenue generated in the city. At other times of the year our leaders might talk about better control of police overtime costs, but that is not happening now. On this issue there are too few people speaking out.
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