Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 79, October 31, 2013.

October 31st 2013

1. Public says NO to more Tasers
2. Trying to make carding more likeable
3. Toronto Police Operating Budget, 2014 edition
4. Investigating Sammy Yatims death
5. The SIU annual report

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 79, October 31, 2013.

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 Bulletin:
1. Public says NO to more Tasers
2. Trying to make carding more likeable
3. Toronto Police Operating Budget, 2014 edition
4. Investigating Sammy Yatims death
5. The SIU annual report
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Public says NO to more Tasers

Forty seven individuals addressed the Toronto Police Boards public meeting on taser use in late September. Not a single person spoke in favour of expanding the 500 Toronto officers who are authorized to use tasers.

If there was a consistent theme among the generally earnest deputants, it was the need for the police force to change its approach from one that threatens people to one that supports residents and is understanding. As one deputant noted, it is not that individual officers need to learn de-escalation techniques, but rather than the whole police department needs to be de-escalated.

Two deputants told stories of officers who attended them in a mental crisis and they were understanding and sympathetic. Both were exceedingly grateful to run into such supportive officers.

One deputant, a mental health worker with a community organization, told the harrowing story of calling 911 after a client said she was going to kill herself. The police arrived and tasered the woman who has since lost custody of her child, has become involved in abusive relationships, has misused alcohol, has become homeless, and is in and out of the mental hospital. She said a senior officer told her, sometimes police make mistakes.

About ten speakers said they would never again call the police to deal with a problem involving mental crisis. They feared what police would do  a not unwarranted fear given that three people in mental crisis have been killed by Toronto police since the end of April.

A woman who identified herself as Philippino said her father has mental health problems and she feared that when confronted by a large police officer he would freeze up and be unable to answer the questions put to him by police and would be tasered.

Much more use of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (consisting of a plain clothed officer and a mental health nurse) was mentioned by many speakers as what is needed. Currently MCITs are in some divisions for part of the day, but speakers said they should be expanded to all divisions, 24 hours a day.

No decision was taken at the meeting, since the Board is still awaiting the new provincial regulations on taser use which has still not been published, even though it is three months since the province proclaimed that all police officers in Ontario would be permitted to carry a taser, subject to the decisions of local police boards. The next morning on CBC Radio, deputy chief Mike Federico, who was present and listened to the presentations, said he wants many more officers to have a taser. So does Chief Bill Blair.

The best comment of the night: Imagine what would have happened if during the G20 the cops had all been armed with tasers.

2. Trying to make carding more likeable

As the Toronto Police Service Board members learned at their regular meeting on October 7, deputy chief Peter Sloly has been working hard since February 2012 to make carding more palatable. He has convened an internal committee which has met regularly, apparently without the knowledge of the Board even though the Board debated and passed motions about carding no less than five times since then. His committee has published the PACER Report (Police and Community Engagement Review) now posted on the Police Board home page, www.tpsb.ca .

Generally, he proposes that carding continue - people will be stopped by officers; detailed questions will be asked about their lives and acquaintances; the information will be entered into a database and held for seven years but in a gentler manner using different words.

The practise will be called `community engagement, and the information collected `community safety notes. A specific form, whether the old 208 or the new 306, will not be used but data will entered into the database directly from the officers notebook. This will undoubtedly make it difficult to retrieve this information on a Freedom of Information Request. The idea of giving a receipt and copy of the info collected to those carded will be replaced by giving them a business card.

A community advisory committee will be established, not to review this practise but to `assess and address the issue of racial profiling. There will be stronger penalties when racial profiling is discovered, and (yet again) more and better training.

The opinions of three unnamed lawyers were sought and provided, all supporting what the police propose and saying it conforms to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code, although these opinions are not part of the report. The chiefs staff has stated that the legal opinions will not be made public.

The Board decided to schedule a special meeting  Monday November 18, 5 pm, Toronto City Hall  to hear public feedback on the PACER report. To get on the speakers list or present a brief, contact the Board Secretary, Deirdre Williams, 416 808 8094, Deirdre.williams@tpsb.ca . TPAC very much encourages members of the public to speak at this meeting in the hope we can to put an end to carding.

TPACs draft brief to the Board follows:
There are three reasons why the system of carding, street checks, and/or community engagement is wrong and should not be employed by the Toronto Police Service. The practise must be stopped for any single one of these reasons.

1) It discriminates against certain kinds of individuals.

Evidence from the last ten years of carding as analyzed by the Toronto Star show that young black males are targeted proportionately at least three times as often as young white males. That is discrimination, prohibited by Ontario legislation.

In her letter of July 2, 2013 to the Board, Barbara Hall, chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated:

The Commission has a number of significant human rights and Charter concerns with the current practice of carding. It has also heard similar concerns from community and advocacy groups. Those concerns include:
* the gross over-representation of African Canadians in the Toronto Police Services contact card database, which may indicate racial profiling;
* how interactions associated with contact cards are commonly experienced as detentions and restraints of liberty; and
* how such stops may lead to unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, intimidation, searches and aggression.

She recommended that the current practice be stopped until policies and procedures are fully developed and completely and transparently assessed against the Code and the Charter.

Tweaking the system as proposed in the PACER report will not end the racial discrimination which has occurred for more than a decade. The practise of carding must be stopped.

2) It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 8 of the Charter states Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
Section 9 of the Charter states Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Many of those stopped by police feel intimidated by police, and know that friends who have attempted to enforce their charter rights by refusing to answer questions or refusing to be searched by police, have been subject to reprisals by police. There is a major power imbalance between police and youth, and police use various kinds of strategies to force answers, such as by saying its a criminal investigation (when it isnt), or alleging that they have drugs (when they have no reasons to believe they do), or threatening to take them to the police station. In these cases, Charter Sections 8 and 9 are breached.

The police service apparently has three legal opinions which all conclude that carding does not infringe the Charter. Since the police refuse to make these opinions public, it is difficult to know whether the police interpretation of the opinions is correct or whether the legal opinions themselves deal with the reality of carding.

3) As a strategy for gathering information it is inefficient and offensive.

Police want to create good relations with youth, but carding creates hostility with youth, as it would with others who are stopped and interrogated for no good reason. Police need good relations with communities, but carding creates insecurities and people in communities who are constantly carded shown they do not want to co-operate with police  a reaction which probably allows more crime to occur than if police had fostered good relationships. To those stopped, carding seems like a racist activity since blacks are stopped far more frequently on a proportional basis than whites. Senior police officers can say as often as they want that racial discrimination will not be tolerated, but those who are carded feel it happens every day, and the evidence shows it does.

Carding prejudices the many who are not involved in crime and creates much unneeded cost by requiring police to enter a lot of data in the computer that has no relationship to criminal activity. For all of the stops made, it discovers very little crime.

Using euphemisms such `community engagement and `community safety notes cannot hide the fact that this activity is still carding and this practise must stop. Trying to beautify something which is wrong  by community engagement, by intercultural development, and so forth  does not make it right.

We also note that PACER recommends getting rid of the 208 Form, or the mysterious 306 Form, apparently to save officers time. No matter what the real reason this surely will make this data hard to access by members of the public since there will be no way to file a Freedom of Information request to get this data in bulk. We remember that the force and the Board fought very hard against releasing carding data to the Star from the 208 Forms, forcing it all the way up to the Court of Appeal which in 2009, after a three year court battle, required the release of the information.

As well PACER proposes that instead of someone getting a receipt explaining the reason they were stopped, they receive a business card. This is ludicrous. The receipt was requested to ensure there was a written reasonable justification for being detained and frisked.

The Board must take leadership in this situation when police management wants to go down the same old path which is wrong for the reasons stated above. The Board should declare that carding will no longer be tolerated in the Toronto Police Service and it should put senior managers in place who will ensure this happens. Once that is done one can talk more realistically about how police can regain their reputation in communities in Toronto.
3. Toronto Police Operating Budget, 2014 edition

The police budget for next year will be considered by the Board on November 7  but of course it is yet to be made public. There are promises it might be available at the end of the day on November 1.

The struggle over the 2013 budget was pretty ferocious, with the chief being told spending would not exceed $930 million, the same amount as 2012. It seems unlikely the budget will continue that trend: the chief was permitted to hire 202 new officers, of which 180 would replace retiring officers and 22 would represent an expanded police force. Some of the cost of those new officers would be pushed to 2014, so that will probably be added to the $930 million, as well as the normal inflationary costs.

As well, the chief has in his hands a report from a consultant on the question of how many officers Toronto needs. TPACs requests to get the terms of reference for the study, learn the name of the consultant, and get the recommendations made, have all been refused by his office. Its entirely likely the chief will pull this report out of his back pocket to justify more spending, and if he doesnt one can assume the consultant has recommended a smaller police force.

Many people are wondering how the antics of Mayor Rob Ford relate to the budget. The mayors activities occupy much of police investigations into drugs in Etobicoke, and the police appear to have a copy of the famous video apparently smoking crack cocaine. Does the mayor dare to use the same tough approach to the police budget as he takes to other spending? Or will he give the police budget a pass in the hopes they will give him a pass?

Police spending eats up 25 per cent of the property taxes generated in Toronto. Its a pity the Board is not more transparent, and gives the public a very small window to look closely at this billion dollar budget.

4. Investigating Sammy Yatims death

Chief Bill Blair is required to do his own investigation into any incident which the Special Investigations Unit has been called in, as in the case of the death of Sammy Yatim. He has retained former judge Frank Iacobucci for this task, with the instructions: The mandate of the independent review will be to review the policies, practices, procedures and equipment of the TPS with respect to the use of lethal force or potentially lethal force, in particular in connection with encounters with persons who are or may be emotionally disturbed, mentally disturbed or cognitively impaired. The Justice's review will also look internationally for related best practices.

Mr. Iacobucci has not been authorized by the chief to hold public hearings, but one can imagine that he would be receptive to written suggestions.

5. The SIU annual report

The SIU has published its annual report for the year ending March 31, 2013: http://www.siu.on.ca/pdfs/ar_2012_13__english___acessible.pdf .

Ian Scott, who has just retired after five years as director of the SIU has made five recommendations:
a) Instead of being an arm of the Ministry of the Attorney General, the SIU should be an independent agency accountable to the Legislature.
b) There should be legislative guarantees that police officers notes are completed independent of any third party conferral, including conferral with lawyers.
c) There is no need for witness officers to consult with lawyers or police association representatives or to have them present during their interviews.
d) There needs to be a legislated definition of serious injury so that all police services use the same uniform definition.
e) The Director needs the power to refer matters to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for an independent investigation and adjudication of disciplinary issues arising from its investigations

The report notes that SIU-type organizations have been or are being established in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec.

During the year, 372 cases were opened by the Unit - a 22% increase from the previous year. The annual SIU caseload for the last five was 311 cases, which is more than a 50 per cent increase from the preceding five-year period. During the year criminal charges were laid in 14 cases against a total of 17 officers.

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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