Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 68, May 1, 2012.

May 1st 2012

1. Police Board, not responding to persons with mental illness
2. How the SIU investigated Michael Eligons death
3. New member of police board
4. Truth in the court room

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 68, May 1, 2012.

This Bulletin is published 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. Police Board, not responding to persons with mental illness
2. How the SIU investigated Michael Eligons death
3. New member of police board
4. Truth in the court room
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Police Board, not responding to persons with mental illness

What was most surprising about the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on April 19 about how the police deal with those in mental crisis was the wide-spread agreement among the deputants about what the police should be doing.

Pat Capponi, the co-chair of the Boards subcommittee on mental health, said that she, like other deputants, was distressed by the killing of Michael Eligon outside the East General Hospital. She recognizes that some people are reluctant to call police where mental illness is involved, knowing what the police might do. She thinks that more comprehensive training of police is needed, and more debriefing of officers after events to ensure that results are improved in the future. She said de-escalation must be the goal, and officers should learn that some questions are not appropriate (such as asking about medications). She agrees that Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs) should be established in all divisions, on a full-time basis. She feared tasers, and recommended their use not be expanded. She recommends that officers who have positive reactions to those in mental crisis be rewarded.

Cindy Rose, a nurse, said she is a member of the Community Police Liaison Committee in 54 Division, and because of a family member with mental issues, she has had many interactions with police and fears them. She said it should not be a crime to have a mental illness. She said that police do not use enough de-escalation, and that the de-escalation strategies used are often badly done or wrong. She thinks the existing training is inappropriate, that police need better partnerships with agencies, and they should work directly with front-line workers. She thinks the MCITs should be in all divisions, 24/7.

Douglas Pritchard, a chemical engineer, said he was present when Michael Eligon was shot. He said that officers are poorly prepared for such incidents, and the use of force approach predominates. Police need to show more than lip service to de-escalation. He thinks the MCITs should be everywhere, 24/7.

Victor Willis, executive director of the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, recounted his own involvement with those in mental crisis particularly through PARC which serves adults living with mental health issues. He said that the two days of training police receive annually on this issue is simply not good enough and needs to be reviewed since it appears not to be effective. He wants the MCITs extended as others suggested.

Jane Pritchard, a doctor to the homeless and marginally housed, asked for adequately trained first responders, and noted her reluctance to call police when dealing with someone in mental crisis.

Anita Szigeti, a lawyer dealing mainly with those with mental health issues, said her clients are afraid they will be harmed by police; that in spite of inquests in recent years there is no improvement in police interactions with the mentally ill; that police lack the necessary training. She said a peer support model of mobile crisis intervention is the preferred first response by her clients. She agreed de-escalation rather than control should be the goal; that taser use had to be very limited; and that what was needed was a public inquiry to study the issue and come up with a comprehensive strategy.

Jennifer Chambers of the Empowerment Council (a voice for clients of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), said training in de-escalation must be increased, the MCIT should consist largely of consumers/survivors, and should be in all parts of the city 24/7.

John Sewell spoke for Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and varied the proposals in the written brief (see Bulletins 66 and 67) by suggesting that given the difficulty of some hospitals to provide mental health nurses as part of the MCITs, the police should consider teaming up with psychiatric survivors who met appropriate criteria.

Other speakers were Miguel Avila, Anthony Prussky, Don Weitz, Darlene Marett, and Reuben Abib for the Black Action Defence Committee. As well, several letters were filed. One was by the Taylor Massey Work Group, a group of seven community agencies, urging MCITs 24/7 and more police training. Lawyer Lydia Riva, who represents many individuals dealing with mental illness, asked for more de-escalation and less Use of Force; an expansion of MCITs 24/7; and much better police training. Councillor Janet Davis also wrote, expressing the same concerns as others.

There was also a small peaceful demonstration in front of Police Headquarters by about ten members of the Never Again! coalition. It advocated the same kinds of changes.

But apparently that wasnt good enough for the members of the police board. Rather than running with the main points of agreement, the Board decided to ask the police chief to report on the matter at an unspecified date in the future. He is to look at successful models globally, and consult with stakeholders, doctors and academics.

The chiefs deputy Mike Federico made a presentation to the meeting, noting that calls involving emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs, as the police refer to them), represent only 0.03 per cent of all calls, and of all calls of any kind there were only 64 cases of serious injury, clearly implying that the police were doing a very good job already. He noted there were mobile teams in 11 of the citys 21 divisions, and that the other divisions are served by well-trained officers. He says police training already emphasizes de-escalation.

Given deputy chief Federicos presentation, one was left with the feeling that the police think they are doing everything they can. Having heard the presentations, there was no hint from the police hierarchy that they learned anything or that change might be a good thing. Its as though the members of the police board missed the boat.

Why couldnt at least one member of the Board have said I think something needs to be done? Why the reluctance of board members to take responsibility of the fact police have killed three people in mental crisis within the last nine months? When will we have a board and a police service willing to make the changes needed so the deaths of the mentally ill at the hands of police is no longer something experienced every four or five months in this city?

2. How the SIU investigated Michael Eligons death

In mid-March, the Special Investigations Unit reported there were no grounds to lay criminal charges against the police officer who shot Michael Eligon. But by chance some of the investigation was filmed by a television crew. The video shows that one of the SIUs investigators was wearing what seems to be a police ring; it also shows investigators apparently arriving at their conclusions before they had completed interviews.

The ring wearer has been suspended and disciplined, apparently because the ring created the appearance of pro-police bias, something that many have complained about in the past. The other investigators have been counselled.

The Never Again! Coalition has requested a new investigation, and that the Ontario Ombudsman have jurisdiction over the SIU. Maybe it is also time to change the legislation concerning the functions and role of the SIU.
3. New member of Police Board

Marie Moliner has been appointed by the provincial government to be a member of the Toronto Police Services Board for the next three years.
Ms Moliner is a lawyer, and currently a regional executive director of the federal department called Canadian Heritage. AS a young lawyer she worked for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, then for the Public (police) Complaints Commission (as it then was), then was counsel to the Clare Lewis task force on race relations and policing.

She served on the board of United Way of Toronto for almost ten years, participated in the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, is actively involved in the DiverseCity Fellows, and recently joined the board of the Centre for Social Innovation.

The interview conducted for her appointment by Queens Park is at http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&BillID=&ParlCommID=8959&Date=2012-03-27&Business=Intended+appointments&DocumentID=26143

4. Truth in the court room

This Bulletin has published several instances of police officers, under oath, saying things that were the exact contrary of the truth. One example in Bulletin No. 25, December 2005, (see http://tpac.ca/show_bulletin.cfm?id=73) involved Toronto police officers having no memory of having used pepper spray  until the recipients son pulled out the bag containing the sweater that had been sprayed and the court room had to be cleared. Another, from Bulletin No. 23, October 2005 (see http://www.tpac.ca/show_bulletin.cfm?id=72) involved the Toronto officer who, according to his testimony and that of his three colleagues, was assaulted by a young thin teenager  but then the video was displayed, showing the officer bashing the young kid against a truck. That officer was charged and convicted of assault, received a jail term and was removed from the Toronto police force.

Usually, not much happens after an officer says things that are not true in court. The Toronto Star has recently concluded an investigation showing that since 2005, there have been at least one hundred instances in Canada where judges have accused officers of not telling the truth. The articles can be found at http://www.thestar.com/topic/policewholie

Twenty eight of those cases involved a total of 34 Toronto officers determined by judges to have misled the court.

In Ontario, there is no procedure to ensure instances are investigated where a judge expresses opinions that an officer is not telling the truth. Lawyer Clayton Ruby was before the Toronto Police Services Board on this very issue last November, and, as we reported in Bulletin No. 65 he suggested that:
1) Crown Attorneys should report to police authorities any judicial findings that Toronto officers did not testify honestly or acted to violate constitutional rights;
2) The officer-in-charge, or any officers present should have a duty to report any such findings to the chief;
3) The chief should order a transcript of the reasons for decision in any such case;
4) The chief should then report every such instance to the Board, with the transcript;
5) The chief should further report on what action was taken on the matter;
6) The chief should report annually to the Board on such matters.

Chief Bill Blair assured the Board that these matters were regularly investigated when they came to staff attention, and this was confirmed by Deputy Chief Mike Federico. The Board instructed the chair of the Board to discuss these policy proposals with Blair and report back, but, as seems to happen with more regularity than one would wish, the report from the Chair has yet to surface.

In the interim, Queens Park has said it will look at whether a provincial-wide policy should be put in place to deal with instances where judges are critical of police testimony.

5. 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.
- end -

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