Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 42, June 30, 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. What about those guns?
2. Moving backwards on sexual assaults
3. Waiting for changes to the police complaints mechanism
4. Police in schools
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. What about those guns?
Led by member Harvey Simmons, TPAC has been trying to get some sense from the Toronto police service on guns. (See Bulletin No. 37, September 2007.) But the police force does not seem to be responding well.
Take a look at the 2007 Statistical Report of the Toronto Police, http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/publications/files/reports/2007statsreport.pdf
Pages 31 33 contain the info about guns.
The charts on page 31-2 say 2,603 firearms were seized by the Toronto Police Service in 2007; 817 in crime situations, 1,786 in non-crime situations. No information is given as to how many of these were registered, whether they came from private owners, gun clubs, dealers or the black market, or why they were seized. Did the police have good reason for seizing these, and if so, were charges laid? We dont know. Apparently the Toronto police do have information on the provenance of firearms because a May 5, 2008 article in The National Post quoted an anonymous TPS officer who stated, More than 70% [of firearms seized by Toronto police] come from the U.S. But this statistic is not included in the report.
Another chart says 70 guns were reported to the police as stolen. No information is given as to where they were stolen from, if they were registered or if they were properly stored.
Another chart says there were a total of 45 firearm thefts. It is unclear how this 45 relates to the 70 reported as stolen. Another chart says 70 stolen guns were recovered. Does that mean that the police recovered every gun that was stolen? Surely that did not happen or if it did, there wouldnt be a gun problem in the city.
The same anonymous TPS officer quoted above also stated that about a quarter of the firearms seized by Toronto police turn out to be stolen from legal gun owners. But if 2,603 firearms were seized during the year, this would mean that about 650 guns were stolen from legal gun owners. How does this square with the figure of 70 reported stolen?
In short, this info is gobble-de-gook. It give one no sense of what is happening about guns in Toronto. The charts and figures amount to bafflegab.
The situation becomes even stranger if one looks at the recently issued 2007 Annual Report of the Toronto Police Service. It can be found at
Go to page 13 where there is a chart `Mapping the missing link in gun crimes. See if you can make any sense at all of the diagram. The chart is bizarre. It explains absolutely nothing.
This is not good police research, and good research is what is needed to understand guns in Toronto. Why are tax dollars used to fund this kind of misinformation?
2. Moving backwards on sexual assaults
Its been an open secret since the City Auditors report in 1999 that the Toronto police do a less than satisfactory job in responding to sexual assaults against women. The audit was done after the courts had ruled that the Toronto police force was guilty of negligence in its investigation of the sexual assault of Jane Doe. (The excellent book `The Story of Jane Doe, published by Random House, tells this extraordinary saga, see Bulletin No. 2, June 2003.)
That report still on the citys web site, www.toronto.ca/audit - had more than 50 recommendations for the police service, telling the service to work closely with womens organizations. For four years little happened but then in 2003 when Councillor Pam McConnell was appointed to the Toronto Police Services Board, she took up the suggestion of the womens community to establish a Sexual Assault Audit Steering Committee to help implement the auditors proposals. That finally happened in 2005
The committee included Jane Doe and several other women knowledgeable about issues and organizational change, as well as senior police officers. It was innovative for outsiders and police officers working together as equals on a committee.
The committee worked slowly but with success. Women monitored police training classes and made important changes to that training. Recommendations were made about the way that community alerts to women should be made, and the way investigations should be conducted, although these changes were not fully implemented. One gigantic hurdle was the police culture which is extremely hostile to change; another is the difficulty of doing anything different within a large organization. But the steering committee did its best.
Then, last November, without warning, the chair of the Police Services Board Alok Mukherjee, told the committee members that the committee was being terminated. Mukherjees report only arrived before the Police Services Board in late May, when he proposed the police were now going to implement the auditors recommendation on their own.
Half a dozen womens groups, and TPAC, were at the Board meeting to say that given its past record, the police force was unlikely to make the changes needed so that women, the chief victims of sexual assaults, could find a responsive police force when they were attacked. Pam McConnell, who before the meeting had agreed with dismembering the committee, scrambled to propose an advisory committee and police monitoring their own training about sexual assault. The Board agreed with McConnells motion.
It is hard to see what will be accomplished by destroying a steering committee that functioned reasonably well as community members and police officers worked together, and then creating a new committee where the police and the community dont work together. This is not progress.
When the city auditor reports again in 2009, one suspects he will again say the police dont get it when it comes to sexual assaults against women.
3. Waiting for changes to the police complaint mechanism.
It is now more than three years since Mr. Justice Patrick LeSage made his recommendations for a new police complaints mechanism for Ontario. (See Bulletin No. 19, April 2005.) It is sixteen months since the provincial government passed Bill 103, proposing a new method of dealing with complaints against the police. (See Bulletin No. 33, February 2007, and No. 32, January 2007.)
But the government seems to have but a tiny interest in implementing the Bill. Two months ago there was talk in Queens Park in hiring Gerry McNeilly, formerly of Legal Aid Manitoba, to be the director of the new organization. He is now apparently installed in an office at Queens Park, but his voice mail does not identify him or his position, and it has proved impossible to determine when the new complaints will be functional.
4. Police in schools.
It appears that police in uniform, with guns, will be placed in some Toronto schools this fall. The idea of police officers in schools had been raised as a possible method improving safety in schools, and school officials suggested it would be done in a casual fashion, with officers in T-shirts and slacks, not in uniforms, and not armed.
But Chief William Blair says he believes in uniformed armed officers, and thats what will be in schools. Blair suggests the presence of officers will also help to improve understanding between kids and cops.
TPAC believes this is not a useful suggestion. Outside of schools, relations between police and some kids particularly kids of colour is poor. Kids of colour complain about being stopped by police for no reason at all except their colour. Until police show they can maintain and foster better relationships in the community, they should not be introduced to schools.
Heres what Irvin Waller, professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa says in his new book `Less Crime, More Order; the truth about reducing crime:
When we invest in solving problems by tackling the risk factors that cause crime, we get less crime. We have to stop a political reaction to crime, that is, more punishment and police, and replace it with a political strategy, that is, more prevention and smarter use of policing to solve the risk factors that solve crime. & Our taxes are used for more police and prisons instead of more public health nurses, youth workers, college teachers, job trainers and so on. (page xvi)
What is desperately need is not more police officers, but more social programs to address the needs of families with limited financial resources housing, recreation programs, family support, education. Putting police in schools is not the solution.
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