Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 130, May 6, 2021

May 6th 2021

In this issue
1. Missing and Missed report
2. Police expand mental crisis teams

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 130, May 6, 2021.
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
In this issue
1. Missing and Missed report
2. Police expand mental crisis teams
3. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1.Missing and Missed report

`Missing and Missed’, is the report of The Independent Civilian Review into Missing Person Investigations by the Honourable Gloria Epstein. She was tasked to look into police actions (and inactions) around the serial murderer Bruce McArthur and the men from the Gay Village who he killed. The pictures she paints of police ineptitude in responding to reports of these missing men and others are chilling. The report is found at https://www.missingpersonsreview.ca/report-missing-and-missed .

The report is a very substantial criticism of the Toronto police as an institution, and the way it relates to the public it is required to serve. The conclusions do not lead to confidence in the police. The Executive Summary is some 147 pages in length and includes 151 recommendations many in multiple parts. The main conclusions are:

* The public is entitled to insist on transformative change in the police service (page 2.)
* Many people deeply distrust the police (page 3). Then LGBTQ2S communities are over-policed and under-protected (p.58). The vicious circle of over-policing and under-protection of marginal and vulnerable communities must be broken (page 79.) Systemic bias contributed to how a number of the McArthur-related investigations were conducted. (p. 58)
* The police service at the institutional level was remarkably tone-deaf. (page. 61-2). The police service’s web site is not effective in relating well to the community. It is much less accessible that those of other Canadian police services, such as Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton (page 80.)
* Changes in the culture of the police service are needed. What is required is a more open, collaborative, less insular, and less hierarchical institution. (page 83.)
* More training is of limited value (page 2). More training is not a complete answer to the issues identified (page 84.)
* Community partnership and engagement should be a core component of how the police service conducts missing persons investigations (page 73.) A new model is required, in partnership with social service, public health and community agencies, since missing person cases are mostly rooted in social issues rather than law enforcement (page 64.) There should be a trained civilian missing person co-ordinator at each divisional level of the police service. (page 68)
* Before 2018, many missing persons cases were not registered in the police data bases (page 67.) After the changes in 2018, missing person investigations still do not have high priority: 3 of the 4 officers in the missing persons unit are seconded to pandemic responsibilities; the unit does not have a realistic budget; the treatment within divisions of missing persons is inconsistent (page 68.)

Recommendation 4 cites Sydney Linden’s 2007 Ipperwash report, and Judge Morden’s 2012 report on the G20, both stating that Board needs to take a much more active role in reviewing and guiding operational policy of the police service.

Recommendation 146(a) is that before June 30, 2021, an implementation team of community members and the police be established to develop an implementation plan. It should present its report by September 30, 2021, and a report on implementing all recommendations should be made by April 30, 2022.

The Board and the chief responded to the report with a media release on April 13, indicating they supported all the recommendations, and regretted the way the police acted in the past, although they gave no clues about how they might accomplish the systemic change called for, or the changes needed to police culture. The Board is unwilling to schedule the item on a Board agenda – allowing members of the public to respond to it – until the chief reports on his views, probably to meet the June 30 deadline. It is the classic stance of the board: the public is only allowed to respond after the staff have determined the course of action they will take, a course which the Board virtually always endorses. We have no confidence at all that the TPS appreciates the enormity of the change that is required, or that they will make the necessary changes and meaningfully partner with community agencies and experts. If the calls to defund and detask grow louder, they have only themselves to blame.

2. Police expand mental crisis teams

At its meeting on April 22, the Toronto Police Services Board approved spending $1.8 million to expand the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams in 2021. Funds will be found within the approved police operating budget. The province will contribute $970,000 to pay for the nurses which are part of the teams.

This means that the MCIT will expand from 17 to 26 officers, consisting of 12 teams that will provide service on two shifts from 9 am to 11.30 pm with teams overlapping mid-day for 5 hours. As well, crisis intervention workers will be placed in the 911 call centre for 20 hours a day. Training for officers will increase from 40 to 80 hours, dealing with such issues as homelessness (60 minutes), personality disorders (120 minutes) PTSD (60 minutes) and Use of Force Training (60 minutes.) Reviewing the training program, it is clear that police officers are simply not knowledgeable about dealing with situations where people are in mental crisis.

In June 2020, Toronto City Council unanimously decided that the police should be detasked of responding to calls involving those in mental crisis, and that this task, and the money needed for it should be turned over the community agencies such as the Gerstein Centre. Several deputants at the April 22 meeting, including TPAC, argued that this decision should be respected, and rather than the police service expanding its existing service as proposed these funds should be released to the city so that community agencies can use them to create units available to respond to these calls.
Police staff responded that the police were filling in a gap until the community agencies were prepared to go ahead with their own responses.

The three members of Council on the Board – Mayor Tory and Councillors Nunciata and Ford – accepted the staff advice and did not advocate for City Council’s June decision. As well, no other councillors suggested to the Board that it should respect the Council decision: it was as though Council had never said anything about the issue.

Does this mean that the idea of de-tasking the police of mental crisis calls is at a dead end? Maybe not. The city has hired Denise Campbell, a real crackerjack with a good track record of making things happen, to develop pilot projects for community response by January 2022. At that point, it will probably be necessary to try to wrestle the money for these pilots from the police, but it is hard to see how the police will agree to disband the units it has just expanded. The police, as we know, resist any change which lessens their funding or their power.

One other point: the MCITs are being called `co-responders’ and are not first responders but will only be called in once primary response officers make the situation `safe.’ As we know from past events, police making the situation `safe’ has sometimes led to the death of the person in crisis.

The report by Judge Gloria Stein, `Missed and Missing’, noted above, concludes that police require `transformative’ change, that de-tasking is required with the investigation of those missing largely turned over to civilian agencies, and that the board should take a much stronger approach to controlling police operational policies. The Board and the service may have endorsed that report and supported these conclusions, but on mental crisis calls it decided to take the same old route.

3. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
E-mail: info@tpac.ca