Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 72, November 24, 2012

November 24th 2012

1. Carding and receipts create distance between the Board and the Chief
2. Police 2013 operating budget  flat-lined?
3. Charles Roach dies
4. Reviewing police record checks
5. G20 issues continue

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 72, November 24, 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. Carding and receipts create distance between the Board and the Chief
2. Police 2013 operating budget  flat-lined?
3. Charles Roach dies
4. Reviewing police record checks
5. G20 issues continue
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Carding and receipts create distance between the Board and the Chief

The carding issue and the requirement that police give a receipt for this action appears to be causing considerable strains in the Toronto police hierarchy.

The matter was scheduled at the Board on Wednesday November 14. The Board had specifically asked in July that Chief Blair put in place by November 1 some system of providing receipts for every person who was stopped and carded by the police. Blair reported to the November Board meeting that The Service will issue a receipt to members of the community who are the subject of a Street Check. The receipt will include the name of the person to whom the receipt is issued, the name of the officer issuing the receipt, the location, date & time, and the reason for the interaction.

As for a Street Check, Blair noted: In moving forward, the term used to describe an interaction between a police officer and a member of the public where a contact card (Form 208) or an electronic field investigation report (FIR) is completed will be referred to as a Street Check. In so doing, the Service is adopting the common nomenclature in use by Police Services throughout the Province to refer to the practice sometimes referred to in the community as carding. 

He reported that On November 1, 2012, a Routine Order was published announcing the creation of the Community/Police Contact Receipt and detailing operational requirements for members. Between the November 1 and November 30, 2012, the new form will be printed and distributed to the field units, appropriate amendments made to Service procedures, and the FIR interface and hard copy Form 208 modified. The receipt will be fully available for use on December 1, 2012.

There was much interest in this item, and almost a dozen people asked to speak on the matter to the Board. As well, a number of members of the Justice is Not Colour Blind campaign and its supporters, held a small demonstration in front of police headquarters, arguing against police stops. (Most deputants agreed that police stops were wrong, and that since it seemed clear that police would refuse to stop this practise, then receipts were the best thing that could be done.)

At the conclusion of the demonstration shortly before the meeting was to begin at 1.30 pm, a half dozen police officers gathered at the doors of Headquarters, and refused to allow anyone to enter the building to attend the meeting. Several people who had not been part of the demonstration, including several people who had registered as deputants were also refused entry. Former mayor John Sewell, for instance who had filed a brief on behalf of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, was refused entry, as was lawyer Johanna Macdonald of Justice for Children and Youth (also a registered deputant,) and notable lawyer Selwyn Pieters. In all, about twenty people were denied entry. Officers said the meeting room was full.

After thirty minutes, two of those scheduled to present deputations were allowed entry. (Sewell was asked for identification. He presented his business card and the officer said: I need to see government identification with a photograph.)

Within a further 45 minutes, the remainder of the crowd were allowed in.

It seems that Chief Blair had taken this action on his own. The argument that there was no room for the extra people was phony. Theres an overflow room adjacent to where the Board meets which has a video feed, and that has been set up in the past when theres a large crowd. As well, the meeting room itself can easily accommodate another twenty chairs. Further, it was well known that police carding is a serious issue for many people and it would produce a crowd. When a decision is made to restrict the number who can attend a meeting on such as serious issue, it is clear someone has their priorities wrong. There was no real question that the demonstration would continue in the meeting room, and if by chance it had, the Board could easily have dealt with that, particularly since there were so many who wanted to speak on the issue. One can only conclude that closing the meeting to some two dozen people was a very provocative act.

Several Board members apologized to those not allowed in, and a week after the meeting the chair wrote to some of those denied entry, apologizing, and saying it would not happen again.

Strong presentations were made by a number of different people, including Howard Morton for the Law Union of Ontario (arguing that carding infringes the Charter of Rights and Freedom); Noa Mendelsohn Aviv for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (making the same point by saying receipts were at least a step forward and police practices on stops needed to be changed;) Johanna Macdonald for Justice for Children and Youth (arguing that police have to make it clear that people do not have to answer questions about their personal lives, and police need to tell people of their rights;) Moya Teklu of the African Canadian Legal Clinic; and half a dozen others. TPAC asked for a major communications initiative by the police before any receipt program is implemented so that people would know what police are doing; a monitoring program to ensure the stops and receipts are appropriate; and a request to review the receipt form being used.

Then the Board and Chief Blair discussed the matter. Blair referred on three or four occasions to the carding stop as an `investigation, which makes it clear that it is not something being carried out by police to improve community relations  it is being done to gather information, as though those stopped are involved in criminal activity. To justify the stops, he noted that 70 per cent of those stopped do not live in the neighbourhood where they are stopped  again implying that those stopped must have been where they were for a criminal purpose. He re-iterated that the police force is opposed to racial profiling, missing the obvious fact that virtually anyone who looks at the stop/carding data concludes that racialized youth are clearly targeted. Its as though having good principles justifies bad actions.

Several Board members asked to see a copy of the receipt, but Blair was unwilling to provide one, arguing it was at the printers. As one Board member said, I thought we would see this before implementation. Blair was adamant in refusing to provide the draft receipt when a Board member asked that it be provided to the Board later in the meeting, saying We dont normally provide Board members with copies of this information, and saying he was just complying with the Boards direction in July. In fact he so challenged Board members that the Board was required to formally re-open the July decision in order to request that implementation be delayed until the Board could see what Blair thought the receipt should look like.

Then the Board began to question exactly what the police were recording in the 208 carding form. The 208 form goes so far as to record whether an individuals parents are separated or divorced and who is the main care-giver  this more than anything else indicates the form is created for young people. As several of the deputants noted, it is entirely wrong for police officers to be stopping people at random and asking these questions as though they are entitled to this information. Councillor Michael Thompson and several other Board members said they wanted to review the 208 card and the information it collected. Blair reacted that this was `operational, implying it was beyond the Boards scope. Suggestions were also made that community consultations were required on these issues.

A copy of the 208 card can be found at http://www.tpac.ca/show_issues.cfm?id=163

The result is that the matter will again be before the Board, on December 15 when Board will be able to see the proposed receipt, the Chief will report on the 208 card form and whether it conforms to board policies, and the Board will be able to discuss implementation. This should prove an interesting discussion: what information required in 208 can the police collect without an arrest?

One has the sense that this issue is getting bigger, not smaller, and that the Board is much more willing than the Chief to change police practise about randomly stopping racialized youth.

2. Police 2013 operating budget  flat-lined?

The impossible seems about to occur. In recent decades the Toronto police have never been held to a budget that does not exceed the amount spent the previous year. Police always seem to require more money just to stay even, and they have always managed to convince the Board and the City Council that even if other departments are cut to the bone, they should get more funding.

It looks like 2013 will be different. When the Chief presented his sliced down 2013 budget for $949.1 million at the November Board meeting, the Board balked: it said it did not want to approve anything more than $927.8 million, the budgeted amount for 2012. The Chief argued that the $21.3 million increase was entirely a result of negotiated wage increases, but the Board didnt seem to think that was important.

In early November, Chief Blair said that complying with the city guidelines would result in lay-offs. Quoted in the Toronto Star, he said Meeting the 0% target would require significant staffing reductions, which I am not recommending. The Star continued: `To achieve the citys target, a layoff of 137 uniform officers and 52 civilians, or 189 personnel in total, would be needed and that would seriously impact the delivery of policing services, Blair says. Police wouldnt be as quick to get to calls and enforcement levels, convictions and clearance rates would drop, he warned. (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/cityhallpolitics/article/1285740--police-budget-chief-bill-blair-says-zero-hike-will-mean-189-layoffs )
In fact, the Chiefs budget proposal recommends that the number of officers should be expanded from the current 5378 officers to 5400 at the end of 2013. In 2013, 180 officers are expected to retire or resign. The chief proposes to not only replace each of these officers, but increase the number by 22, which means that he hopes to hire 202 new officers in December 2012 and in 2013. He estimates the cost of the new hires in 2013 will be $11.2 million.

TPAC wrote to the Board: It makes good sense for the Board to begin to reduce the size of the police force. In all likelihood, a new collective agreement negotiated for 2015 with the Police Association will delete the requirement of two officer police cars after dark, and that will mean a substantially reduced need for officers as Toronto begins to accept the efficiencies of one officer cars as police forces do in many other Canadian cities. Further, that contract will almost certainly delete the shift schedule which has officers working 28 hours during every 24 hour period  a most inefficient use of public resources  again meaning the size of the police force can be reduced without impacting negatively on service to the public. The Board should begin to plan for this by not permitting the force to be expanded in the next three years, but to shrink in size as retirements and resignations occur.

Is the force generally too large today? Some would argue it is. Macleans Magazine, 25 August 2011, noted: "Toronto has about 216 officers per 100,000 citizens. Thats the fourth highest rate of police personnel among the countrys 30 largest police forces, for a city with a crime severity index that ranks a lowly 17th."

TPAC also suggested that money could also be saved in the premium pay category by being more efficient about the court matters officers attend. Other police forces, Vancouver for example, ensure that court appearances are scheduled when officers are on duty; other forces also limit the attendance of officers in ways that should be done in Toronto but are not. Officers should attend trials, but should follow the practise of other police forces and not attend pre-trials or bail hearings except in exceptional circumstances. By being more efficient and restricting officer attendance where they are not absolutely required, money can be saved. Further, the number of officers who are now attending a specific court often seems excessive. 

The Board will apparently be reporting on a budget that complies with the city target of flat-lining the 2013 budget.

3. Charles Roach dies

Charles Roach was a beacon of strength for the Black community in Toronto and Ontario. He took on discrimination as a personal cause for more than fifty years, and used his many skills as a lawyer and spokesman to create a more just society in Toronto and Canada. His law firm has been at the forefront of many of the most important civil and social rights struggles in the city. His illness  brain cancer  was public knowledge, so his death on October 2, 2012 was not unexpected, but he will very much be missed.

4. Reviewing police record checks

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association report on the changes needed to police record checks (see Bulletin No. 71) was before the Board on November 14, and the Board asked the Chief to report on the CCLA proposal to require notification and hearings if police intend to use non-conviction material for police check reports. That report is expected by February or March.

5. G20 issues continue

It has come to light that when the Office of the Independent Police Review Director  the body which considers complaints against the police in Ontario  issued its report on the 300+ complaints it had received about police actions during the G20, it quietly told the police forces involved that they should not commence disciplinary action against the officers involved. The reason given was that when the OIPRD report was released in May 2012, some 22 months had elapsed since the events of the G20 in June 2010, and
there is no obligation to deal with complaints about events more than six months in the past.

One might remember that the OIPRD report was damning about what the police did. Gerry McNeilly of the OIPRD said the Command Centre became `dysfunctional during the events; it didnt know how many officers were available at any particular time, or for what duties; and communication with officers in the field frequently broke down.

Record keeping by police was so shoddy that the number arrested is unclear. Toronto police give different figures - 1118 or 1112 or 886; RCMP says 1115, and McNeilly concluded the real number is 1140. Often the arresting officer provided no written report on why someone was arrested which is why most charges were dropped. (The Complaints Commissioner for the RCMP said RCMP officers arrested only seven people - of which two were under-cover Toronto police officers - but he couldnt say what the arrests were for since the Toronto police did not have any paper work on those seven.)

McNeilly said police officers `seemed to send a message that violence would be met with violence. Officers couldnt keep up with those few who were breaking windows and burning police cars since they were wearing 100 pounds of riot gear and/or the vans carrying them around got stuck in grid-lock and were not authorized to drive through red lights. Cops from outside the city were not provided with maps and didnt know the city well enough to know where to go.

The detention centre on Eastern Avenue was badly planned and managed - there were major problems about how people could make telephone calls or consult with lawyers - and the superintendent decided on his own to keep people there more than 24 hours rather than releasing them.

Countless people were illegally searched by police in various parts of the city because officers were told to do that. Almost everyone arrested was strip-searched.

In short, police planned very poorly for the event; the training of the 10,000 or more officers was incomplete and inadequate and very general; the police managers were inept; and virtually all of the personal injuries which occurred were caused by police.

Chief Bill Blairs response to McNeillys report was to charge three dozen officers with misconduct under the Police Services Act for removing their name badges. All the others officers who used excessive force, unlawfully detained and arrested people, or did illegal searches, were not charged.

This outcome might change. Lawyer Clayton Ruby, with the support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, has asked the Ontario Superior Court to overturn the decisions not to pursue complaints of misconduct. The case comes before the court in the first few months of 2013.

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
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