Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 143, March 3, 2023

March 3rd 2023

In this issue:
1. Tracking Injustice
2. Police and violence on the TTC
3. Professional Standards chief
4. Inspector General of Policing
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 143, March 3, 2023

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. Tracking Injustice
2. Police and violence on the TTC
3. Professional Standards chief
4. Inspector General of Policing
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Tracking Injustice

Data has been released by a team of organizations, including the CCLA and the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Carleton University. `Tracking (In)Justice’ has found that since 2000, police in Canada have killed 704 individuals – which is an average of 32 people a year. Of those, 224 have been killed in Ontario, and 65 by Toronto police officers. See http://trackinginjustice.ca

The rate of police killings has increased in recent years: 35 in 2019, 51 in 2020, 57 in 2021, and 69 in 2022. One can blame various factors on the increase – the pandemic, increased mental illness, for instance – but it is clear that the police response is entirely irresponsible.

Some 75 per cent of these deaths were as a result of police shootings. Some 30 percent of the deaths were of Black and Indigenous persons, even though they constitute less than 10 per cent of the population.

Police authorities and governments refuse to collect and release this data, as though it is of no account. This represents a failure by all policing bodies and by the politicians responsible for policing matters. More importantly, policing authorities need to change policing policies to reduce and end these killings.

2. Police and violence on the TTC

There has been much attention to recent random violence on Toronto’s transit system. The response of former Mayor John Tory was to call in the police and ensure that 80 officers were assigned to the TTC. The officers were paid on an overtime basis at a cost of $1.7 million a month, and it is expected that funds will run out for this deployment by the end of April.

These random acts of violence have received a great deal of media attention, so much that the situation has been blown out of context. A recent report by David Mastracci, `The TTC, Toronto Police and The Manufacturing of Violence’, looked at media coverage and the actual violence which has occurred.

He writes: “The TTC reported 735 offences against customers in 2020...In 2021, the number of offences reported was 734, but news articles mentioning TTC violence actually dropped by about a third."

"There’s some statistical evidence that the number of violent incidents did go up notably in 2022. In December, the Toronto Star wrote that the TTC reported 451 offences in the first half of the year, which, if the rate continued, would mean about 900 total in 2022. This is an 18 per cent increase from 2021. And yet, my newspaper database search found an increase in article results of more than 300 per cent from 2021 to 2022."

"There’s an active choice being made at media outlets to use disproportionately more resources covering TTC violence in recent months than prior years, which has helped create the perception of an unprecedented wave of crime."

"I am arguing that the police currently have a vested interest in making the TTC appear to be a dangerous place in need of saving. I am arguing that the media has chosen to spend a disproportionate amount of resources on reporting about TTC violence (an issue compounded by their reliance on police in the first place). I am arguing that this media coverage can make people more scared to take the TTC than they would otherwise be. I am arguing that this fear is useful for the police. I am arguing that having more police on the TTC won’t fix existing problems, and will make others worse."
See: https://readpassage.com/the-ttc-toronto-police-and-the-manufacturing-of-violence/

3. Professional Standards chief

In Bulletin No. 139, June 23, 2022, we reported that Rick Shanks had been promotion to be the head of the Professional Standards unit, which is “charged with the responsibility of promoting and supporting professionalism throughout the organization, which includes the practices, conduct, appearance, ethics & integrity of its members to strengthen public confidence, and co-operation within the community.”

Desmond Cole has recently raised this issue again and it has received much more media attention, particularly by CTV News – see https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/toronto-police-chief-stands-by-promotion-of-officer-who-killed-two-black-men-in-the-1990s-1.6289388
It was also covered by the Toronto Star: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2023/03/02/the-optics-are-terrible-toronto-police-criticized-over-senior-officers-role-as-head-of-internal-discipline.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=star_web_ymbii

In 1993, Shank killed Ian Coley, saying the young man pointed a gun at him first. The SIU cleared him. A coroner's inquest recommended an end to using “non-white” as a term in police communications and asked for transparency about what was then known as the “Black Organized Crime Unit.”

Lawyer Peter Rosenthal represented Coley’s family at the inquest in 1995. He said, “Someone who killed two people like that, under questionable circumstances, should not be the head of professional standards in my view. He should not have been allowed to continue as a police officer.”

Later that year, a court judgment says Shank and his partner arrested a young man named Paul Reece after stopping him on the street next to a car with its motor running. The officers testified the man pushed them and ran, they chased him to his house and his family members testified there was a brawl.

A civil lawsuit alleged that Shank and his partner took Reece to a cemetery on the way to the police station and beat him; a video shows an unconscious Reece being pulled from the police car and a photo from one court proceeding shows Shank holding up bloody knuckles.
The criminal court judge said there was no lawful reason to arrest Reece: “The officers were simply acting intuitively on a hunch, as in their view the area is a “drug infested area” and the vehicle might be stolen.”
Shank faced no internal discipline for the incident and the civil lawsuit was settled out of court.

In 1997, Shank shot and killed Hugh Dawson in a drug bust as Dawson, unarmed, sat in his car driver’s seat. The SIU charged Shank with manslaughter, who claimed that Dawson had reached for his gun. A first trial resulted in a hung jury; a second resulted in an acquittal.

Police chief Myron Demkiw said Shank has been performing “at the highest level” since and deserved a promotion to lead the professional standards unit. “He was exonerated and cleared. And he has been an exemplary police officer serving our public, keeping our city safe.”

City Councillor Jamaal Myers asked the chief to reveal the records on the decision to promote Shank over any other qualified candidate without Shank's history, but the chief refused. Myers said, “The onus is on them to show us that they did their due diligence on this individual and this individual is the right individual for this position.”

In a statement, the Toronto Police Board said its promotions procedures recognize that police officers may be involved in incidents that prompt “scrutiny, concern, complaints or charges” but allows promotions in some cases where there was a finding of no wrongdoing. “The Board’s Policy, and the associated Service Procedure and promotional process, have carefully balanced the need to ensure that all relevant information is considered when assessing a Service Member’s suitability for promotion, with the importance of honouring the presumption of innocence, a tenet central to our legal system,” the Board spokesperson said.
We confirm what we stated in Bulletin No. 139: Shank’s appointment displays a police culture which is replete with violence and racism.

4. Making policing policies and procedures publicly available

On March 2 the Board had a recommendation before it to expand the posting on the Board and police service web sites of some police policies and procedures.

In 2012, Mr. Justice Morden, in his report on Toronto police and the G20, recommended that all Board and service policies be posted online so that the public had access to them. That recommendation has yet to be adopted by the Board. In 2020 the Board agreed that all policies and procedures `of public interest’ be posted, but that did not include all procedures. For instance, it did not include procedures regarding note taking or dealing with confidential informants.

The recommendation before the Board on March 2 went a bit further, saying procedures which “govern the interaction of police with the public” should be posted online. But it does not implement the Morden recommendation. TPAC argued before the Board that the Morden recommendation should be adopted, and all procedures should be posted, in a form that will not endanger the efficacy of investigative techniques and operations. The Board rejected our suggestion and adopted the more limited postings.

5. Inspector General of Policing

Ryan Teschner, executive director of the Toronto Police Service Board, has been appointed the Inspector General of Policing for Ontario, a new position created under the Community Policing and Safety Act, passed by the provincial government in 2019. It’s a five-year appointment.

Duties include monitoring and conducting inspections of police boards and their members (including where there’s a local board for the OPP) and their services, to ensure compliance with this law, giving advice to same, although he cannot deal with issues of misconduct of officers. He also deals with complaints about board members.

We had great hopes for Mr. Teschner when he was appointed to the Toronto Police Services Board (see Bulletin No. 109, July 16, 2018) but for whatever reason, his position did not lead to a more focused or progressive Board.

5.Subscribe to the Bulletin
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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
E-mail: info@tpac.ca