Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 125, September 21, 2020.

September 21st 2020

1. Ontario Human Rights Commission report on racial profiling by Toronto police
2. Toronto Police Service Board an impediment to police change
3. Reviewing the recently filed 2020 line-by-line police budget
4. Police discipline system: broken
5. Settlement on class action G20 lawsuit
6. Toronto’s Anti-Black Racism Advisory Council

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 125, September 21, 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. Ontario Human Rights Commission report on racial profiling by Toronto police
2. Toronto Police Service Board an impediment to police change
3. Reviewing the recently filed 2020 line-by-line police budget
4. Police discipline system: broken
5. Settlement on class action G20 lawsuit
6. Toronto’s Anti-Black Racism Advisory Council
7. Subscribe to the Bulletin


1. Ontario Human Rights Commission report on racial profiling by Toronto police

This report reviewed the less serious cases from 2013 - 2017 where Toronto Police had a great deal to discretion to ignore an offence, to request the person cease an activity, provide a formal warning, make a pre-charge diversion, or charge with a criminal offence. Nine different kinds of offences were reviewed: failure to comply with a condition; obstruct justice; assault police; utter threats against the police; cannabis possession; other illegal drug possession; out-of-sight driving offences (where the offence is not discovered until after the driver is stopped; disturbing the peace; trespassing.

It was found that the charge rate against Black persons was 3.9 times higher than against White persons. Charges rates were even higher for Blacks in cases of obstruct justice, cannabis possession, and out-of-sight driving offences. Even more remarkable, cases against Blacks were less likely to result in conviction than against Whites, indicating the low quality of the charges against Blacks, and Blacks have more charges withdrawn than Whites. Only 20 per cent of charges result in convictions.

This report follows on `A Collective Impact’, a report on use of force by Toronto police. It found that Black people, particularly men, were twenty times more likely to be involved in a fatal shooting by police than whites, and three times more likely to be involved in a use of force case reviewed by the Special Investigation Unit. Regarding lower level use of force - that is, not substantial enough to be reviewed by the SIU – Blacks were four times more likely to be involved than whites.

The OHRC will prepare final report on next steps to be taken. In the interim it asks Toronto police to adopt legal binding remedies to eliminate systemic racism and anti-Black racial bias. It asks the province to require all police to collect race-based data on all policing activities, create a legislative framework to address systemic racism; and create effective disciplinary processes to deal with racial profiling.

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/disparate-impact-second-interim-report-inquiry-racial-profiling-and-racial-discrimination-black

2. Toronto Police Service Board an impediment to police change

The Toronto Police Service Board is a major impediment to changing policing in Toronto.

In July the Board held four virtual town hall meetings at which there were 143 deputants, and 100 written briefs filed. (Many of the written briefs were from those who chosen not to depute.)

The Board’s summary of those town halls was that five major items were addressed by members of the public: public funding (read `de-funding’); reform police culture; community safety; education and training; responding to those in mental health crisis. All of those who made their voices known were critical of police.

The Board’s response – or at least the response of the chair of the Board – was a report containing 81 recommendations filed for the Board meeting of August 18. Most of the recommendations called for reports, not for change of any kind.

At the August 18 meeting the Board heard from 34 deputants, and 15 written submissions s were made. Almost all deputants complained that the 81 recommendations did not respond to the concerns the public has expressed. There was considerable opposition to Body Worn Cameras, both because of their expense ($35 million) and because experience shows they do nothing to change the way in which police respond. Many were unhappy that little was done to change the way police respond to those in mental crisis.

The most powerful deputation came from the Ontario Human. Rights Commission. It noted that the recently released report on police racism – A Disparate Impact - which demonstrated that Black people are much more likely to be charged for offenses where the police had a great deal of discretion than white people, was given to the Board in mid-July, and a two hour briefing on the report had been given to the Board on August 4. But the ORHC was never informed of the deport being drafted with the 81 recommendations, and that report makes no mention of the OHRC report. The OHRC said the Board talks a lot about collaboration but doesn’t do it.

Three deputants supported some or all of the recommendations. One member of the Board’s mental health committee thought the expansion of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams was a good start but wanted it to be a first responder: he made no further comment on the other recommendations. Norm Gardner, a former chair of the Board, congratulated the Board on its report. He criticized the OHRC report, totally misrepresenting it, by arguing there was a lot of gun violence which showed why police should be stopping and arresting members of the Black community. One deputant who said he was new to Toronto said he was optimistic about the report.

Board members listened to the deputations, asked a total of six questions (of no import), then unanimously adopted the 81 recommendations.

It was clear the Board has no intention of responding to public interest in changing the way in which policing works in Toronto. The three elected members on the Board – Mayor Tory and Councillors Francis Nunziata and Mike Ford – are clearly out of touch, as it the chair, Jim. Hart, Council appointee. The three provincial appointees are no better. This Board looks as though it will attempt to stand in the way of any meaningful change to policing in Toronto.

3. Reviewing the recently filed 2020 line-by-line police budget

The Toronto Police Service has now published the line by line 2020 operating budget online, as requested by Toronto City Council in late June. It is a massive, lengthy document which is difficult to make sense of, and does not help much in determining where money should be spent.

One way of looking at it is to compare it with what Chief Saunders said it was trying to do when it was filed with the Board for approval in December 2019. There are significant discrepancies between what the chief said and what is in the budget, a problem that was also evident in the last line by line budget that the police service filed some seven or eight years ago.

The chief’s report suggested there were four major staff changes proposed in the 2020 budget, but none are accurately reflected in that budget.

The chief’s report stated that the budget proposed an increase of 140 officers in the Public Response Unit, that is, officers available to respond to calls for service. But the budget shows that the number of officers in the PRU would increase by 202, from 1663 at the end of 2019 (even though that year’s budget had provided for 1731 officers) to 1865 in 2020. That is a significant discrepancy, amounting to extra expenditure above what the chief had proposed of about $6.5 million.

The chief’s report stated that 40 new Neighbourhood Community Officers would be hired and while the budget shows that a in several divisions that number is being hired, one division shows a reduction of 21 such officers, so the net gain is only 19 officers.

The chief’s report states that 8 new traffic officers would be hired, probably to deal with the complaints that police had substantially reduced the number of traffic violations registered. The budget shows that there were 273 officers in the Unit at the end of 2019 (that year’s budget had provided for 283 officers) and that the number provided for in 2020 was 278, a gain of only five officers.

The chief’s report stated that five new positions would be added to the Equity, Inclusion and Human Resources Unit. While the budget reflects this change, as of August 2020, none of those five positions have yet been filled.

The budget provides no detailed information on the section `Organized Crime Enforcement,’ which includes the Integrated Guns and Gangs Task Force, the Drug Squad, Financial Crimes, and the Bail, Parole, and Fugitive Squad. These units are all found in the `Detective Operations’ section of the budget, from which it can be deduced that some 136 civilian and 402 uniform staff are employed in these units at a cost of well over $50 million.

One thing becomes very clear: unless there is a very clear idea of what the agenda for policing in Toronto should be, it is very difficult to determine where funds should be spent. The budget generally just carries on what was done in the previous year, providing a picture of what the cost of the existing kind of policing will be for the coming year, with of course the changes suggested by the chief even though those changes are not reflected in the line by line budget.

4. Police discipline system: broken

Complaints against the police in Ontario are dealt with by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. That agency either refers the complaints back to the police force for investigation or, less frequently, investigates the complaint itself.

After the OIPRD reviews complaints to the extent that it is confident enough to lay a charge, outcomes are usually unsuccessful when the charge is tested at the disciplinary tribunal level, with cases being dismissed or penalties being so minor they are ineffective. There are a number of factors leading to these results:

1) The hearing officer is a police superintendent or his designate. The prosecutor for a discipline case, as stated in Section 82 of the Police Service Act, is appointed by the chief of police. The appointees are often current or recently retired senior police officers who have an obvious bias to fellow officers.

2) Elite lawyers, often paid for by the Police Association, routinely represent police officers. The complainant is notably self-represented, rarely thinking that a lawyer would be needed for a complaint. The defense treats the tribunal as a traditional criminal law courtroom space, which means they are the only ones who are able to call the OIPRD-admitted evidence into question and use adversarial tactics such as opting to cross-examine the complainant. They tend to attack the character or memory of the complainant/witness in order to degrade the evidence. The hearing officer, the de facto judge, does not act as referee since he is a senior police officer and not trained as judges.

3) There is a lack of clarity about the appropriate standard to assess police misconduct. Charges laid according to the Police Services Act are generic and interchangeable: Insubordination, Discreditable Conduct, Unlawful or Unnecessary Exercise of Authority, and Neglect of Duty. There seems to be no rhyme or reason what offenses these charges correlate with. They encompass offenses as diverse as (1) illegal searches of vehicles, (2) illegal strip searches, (3) inappropriate use of force with obvious physical injuries but not serious enough to invoke the Special Investigation Unit mandate, (4) using police resources such as police records, for non-police purposes, (5) using profane and abusive language toward members of the public, (6) unlawfully entering dwellings, (7) not maintaining proper notes, (8) disabling in-car camera/audio recording.

4) The disciplinary tribunal relays OIPRD-based public complaints back to the municipal police service to impose a penalty. There is no oversight from a neutral party, no ability to appeal, there is no process geared towards providing remedies available for the complainant; instead, the penalty is discipline-based. Since the Police Services Act does not permit officers to be suspended unless they are fully paid, penalties are often taking a few days’ pay from an officer. The Police Services Act provides for harsher penalties which go unused. Some penalties applied that are not listed in Section 85 of the Police Services Act, such as publishing the discipline decision published on the Toronto Police Service Intranet, or requiring the officer to take a training course. In some cases the penalty is not published.

For all the OIPRD's emphasis on "handling public complaints" and "providing police oversight", the fact that complaints must be "tested" by these disciplinary tribunals means that they make it impossible for the OIPRD to accomplish what it set out to do. There are virtually no gains for the public's participation in disciplinary tribunals; after 4 to 5 years of waiting for the disciplinary hearing, the public is rewarded with nothing, or close to it. Police officers face lax penalties as a result of the system's inherent kinship with the offending officer.

This is clearly broken disciplinary system. It requires independence from police and neutrality of the key players at a minimum. It requires transparency.

5. Settlement on class action G20 lawsuit

A class action suit brought on behalf of the more than 1000 people arrested (and then finally mostly released after hours of incarceration) during the G20 demonstrations in n Toronto in 2010 has now been settled. Many of those involved were `kettled’ by police and held for hours on the street, surrounded by police who refused to allow them to leave, during a driving rainstorm. The settlement called for payment on more than $16 million to those affected.

While it is useful that the police have been called to account for their actions, it is entirely unreasonable that the police authorities responsible for these problems - such as the then chief of police Bill Blair, now a Minister in Prime Minister Trudeau’s government, suffers no penalty and pays none of the compensation that will be paid. The public will bear the cost, and the police authorities themselves are scot free of any responsibility. It is yet another example of how the police are insulated from accounting for their actions.

6. Toronto’s Anti-Black Racism Advisory Council

The Toronto city manager is recommending to City Council the establishment of an Anti-Black Racism Advisory Council. It has a wide mandate to provide advice to Toronto City Council on issues on racial and other issues affecting the Black community including “Supporting efforts to promote equitable outcomes for Black Torontonians on issues relating to policing and the criminal justice system.”

Perhaps this Advisory Council can begin the hard work of changing policing that the Police Board seems so uninterested in.

The report goes to the City Executive Committee on September 24, and to City Council at the end of the month. See http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.EX16.1

7. 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