Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 124, August 13, 2020.

August 13th 2020

In this issue:
1. `Police Reform in Toronto’; the Board’s response
2. The body camera proposal

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 124, August 13, 2020.
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC), 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. `Police Reform in Toronto’; the Board’s response
2. The body camera proposal
3. Subscribe to the Bulletin

1. `Police Reform in Toronto’; the Board’s response
Until a few days ago, the Toronto Police Services Board had been silent about the murder of George Floyd, the many demonstrations demanding police reform which followed, and the decisions of Toronto City Council at the end of June (reported in Bulletin No., 123.)

Jim Hart, the chair of the Board has now filed a report entitled `Police Reform in Toronto’ to be considered at the (virtual) Board meeting scheduled for August 18. The report includes has a fulsome summary of the many public deputations presented in four sessions the Board arranged in the past few weeks.

Hart’s report includes no less than 80 recommendations most of them asking for reports from the interim chief and/or other persons and agencies. Few recommendations actually involve specific actions apart from preparing reports. The full document can be found on the Board’s web site, tpsb.ca, and go to the agenda for the August 18 meeting.

TPAC believes that if the Board approves the 80 recommendations not very much will change in the way policing is done in Toronto. It is serious change which the public wants with policing, not just more tinkering with the illusion of change.

Here are some of the things which won’t change, since they are not addressed in this document:

1. Officers will continue to have a gun, a taser and a baton, and most will wear body armour to ensure they look appropriately intimidating and invincible.
2. The police service will continue to strip search about 40 per cent of those it arrests in spite of reports and court cases arguing it should be strip searching about one per cent of those arrested.
3. Police patrols will continue as in the past with two officers in a car after dark which is a waste of resources and leads to risky pursuits and behaviour.
4. Officers will continue to be managed as they now are by the same managers who have years and years and years of experience within the police hierarchy, fully enthralled in a police culture with its systemic history of discrimination against Blacks, Indigenous persons and persons of colour.
5. The first responders to calls involving persons in mental crisis will continue to be armed front-line officers, not Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams or other community-based responders. The risks of those in crisis being injured or killed remains as it is today.
6. Disciplinary hearings concerning police activities contrary to the Police Services Act and police policy will continue to be heard by uniformed officers who are part and parcel of police culture.
7. There is no reason to think that fewer Black or Indigenous persons or person of colour will face discrimination from the police in the near future.
8. Police will continue to lay three or four charges against a person for a single incident, even though almost two third of those charges will not be supported at the court level, and there is no thought of implementing a pre-charge screening protocol such as that used in other provinces to protect those the police charge and to save the time and energy of those in the criminal justice system.
9. The Guns and Gangs Unit will continue even though it has not been shown to reduce the gun violence impacting youth in Toronto.
10. A new chief of police will be hired before a new agenda for policing in Toronto is agree to.

TPAC is again asking the Board on August 18, as we did in our letter to the Board of June 12, for a process for new ways of thinking about policing and new ways of proceeding. We suggest this process must be led by a group of people - let’s call it The Police Change Group - which has wide credibility among those who are demanding change and by the public at large. The Toronto Police Service Board is not such a group: the Board has not distinguished itself in recent decades in defining or resolving major police issues, which is one reason we are at the place we are today. The Police Change Group to lead this process should consist of 12 – 15 people, (at least 60% women/non-binary/trans), some of whom have distinguished themselves in thinking deeply about policing, some with strong roots in the communities impacted by policing, some who are considered excellent representatives of the community at large because of their activities in the past. Certainly several members of the Board should be part of this group.

To determine who these people might be, it will be important to bring together four or five acknowledged leaders in the community to prepare a list of those it thinks should be asked to serve on this group. They should be gender diverse leaders of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities, who have worked in large organizations, and know about making systemic change. It is important to ensure that people who are knowledgeable about the intersections of gender, racism, mental health and addictions issues are represented in this group.

The list they propose should be circulated for approval to major organizations in the city and a final decision arrived for the composition of the Police Change Group by these four or five acknowledged leaders.

The function of the Police Change Group will be to define the issues that must be addressed by the police service and its leadership. It will involve such matters as:
* transforming police culture
* defining clearly the functions police now deliver which should be delivered by other organizations and clarifying the role of police in our city
* addressing how systemic change can occur within the police service, including police oversight
* ending systemic anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism within the police service
* strategies for disarming and de-militarizing the police
* changes in senior management of the police service, including bringing in senior managers from outside of policing.

The Group will not be expected to have the answers to all the important questions but it should suggest processes which will help get there. It should be asked to report within six months. Funding should be provided to the Police Change Group, initially in the amount of $100,000, with further funds to be provided as the Group proposes.

2. The body camera proposal

Also on the August 18 Board agenda is the police service report on instituting body worn cameras, something the Board has wanted to do since 2016 (in spite of the report it received that year indicating that it was not much of a useful idea), and something City Council decided it wanted at its meeting at the end of June.

The chief reports the cost for the first five years will be $35 million and it seems there will be a continuing annual cost of about $5 million.

This is an extravagant expenditure for an organization which loves to spend money. There is no good evidence that body worn cameras will do anything to improve policing as has bene reported in numerous Bulletins in the past few years. All the useful videos of deviant police activity have been taken by bystanders. Giving police yet another technological fix at public expense is not reasonable and the. Board should reject the proposal out of hand.

3. Subscribe to the Bulletin

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca 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 .

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
Tel: 416-977-5097 E-mail: info@tpac.ca