Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 86, September 8, 2014.

September 8th 2014

1. Questions on policing to mayoralty candidates
2. Bill Blair to be replaced as chief
3. Recruiting officers who know Toronto
4. Body cameras
5. The negative impact of police stops

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 86, September 8, 2014.

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. Questions on policing to mayoralty candidates
2. Bill Blair to be replaced as chief
3. Recruiting officers who know Toronto
4. Body cameras
5. The negative impact of police stops
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Questions on policing to mayoralty candidates

Policing is a key issue for Toronto City Council. Policing costs eat up about $1 billion a year, or more than 40 per cent of the citys largest source of revenue, property taxes, and money spent on policing isnt available for other important city priorities. Council holds a majority of seats on the seven member Police Services Board. Three members are appointed by Council (two councillors and one citizen), and another member is the mayor or the mayors appointee.

As well, what the police do has a major impact on the lives of Toronto residents, not only during events such as the G20 five years ago (the Pam Am Games are coming in 2015) but in day-to-day interactions, such as racial profiling which demeans those profiled, or the number who are strip-searched unnecessarily, and so forth.

So it makes sense to know where the candidates for mayor stand on policing matters, and TPAC devised a questionnaire to solicit the views of the mayoralty candidates on the issues we think are critical. Our questionnaire was emailed in late July to all mayoralty candidates whose email address we could find (more than 50).

Nine responses to the TPAC questionnaire were received. Those respondents overwhelmingly agreed to the eight police policy issues raised in the questionnaire, all almost always answering an unconstrained YES to each of the questions.

The respondents were: Jeff Billard, Olivia Chow, James Dalzell, Chihn (Jack) Huynh, Jon Karsemeyer, Dewitt Lee III, Sketchy the Clown, Erwin Z Sniedzins, and Richard Underhill. Of those thought to be front-runners, only Olivia Chow answered the questions.

Candidate John Torys campaign said it was considering a response, but never did. Candidate David Soknacki (who has said he will save $65 million by tackling the current shift schedule) never responded, nor did candidate Rob Ford. All three were provided with a reminder letter in mid-August. Several other candidates who have been quoted as concerned with policing issues did not respond.

The questions were as follows:

1. Strip searches. Will you work to adopt policies by the Toronto Police Services Board to reduce the number of strip searches to less than 10 per cent of those arrested?

2. Mental Distress. Will you work to adopt policies by the Police Service Board to make such officers first or co-responders [for every call involving mental distress] in every division in the city for as many hours per day as possible?

3. Record Checks. Will you work to change the police policy so that non-conviction and mental health information is not released by Toronto police unless there is a serious concern for violence to others?

4. Two Officer Police Cars. Will you agree to work to change this requirement [of requiring two officers in a car after dark] so these officers can be put to better use?

5. TAVIS. Will you agree to work to end the TAVIS way of using police resources?

6. Diverting Youth. Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt diversion policies so that the number of youth charged with criminal offenses is reduced by 10 per cent a year and youth are provided with other options?

7. Carding. Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt policies which end carding and tell officers they may not stop individuals because of how they appear, but may only stop people if their behaviour raises questions of criminality?

8. Paid duty work. Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board, the province, and other relevant parties to revise policies and procedures that considerably reduce the amount of paid duty expenses?

The full questionnaire can be found in Bulletin No. 85, http://www.tpac.ca/bulletins.cfm.

As noted, the respondents usually answered Yes to all questions. The few quibbles were as follows:

Olivia Chow states, answering question 5 about TAVIS, I oppose racial profiling and as mayor would say so loudly. I am not prepared to oppose TAVIS in all cases, but do support ensuring any racial profiling ends. When TAVIS is used, most of the time we dont incorporate social and community agencies enough to build a stronger community. Regarding question 4 about the two officer per car requirement she states I look forward to working with the Police Services Board, on which I have served and have a track record of working for savings, to develop a sustainable police budget.

Jon Karsemeyer says questions 5, 7 and 8 require more review, and he gives a conditional Yes to questions 4 and 6.

Apart from that, all the answers were YES. Given the overwhelming support shown by the respondents, we think these 8 issues form a strong agenda for change in policing in Toronto.

The contact info for the respondent candidates is: Jeff Billard, jeffbillard@gmail.com; Olivia Chow, www.oliviachow.ca ; James Dalzell, dalzellj@gmail.com; Chinh (Jack) Huynh, huynh.cn@hotmail.com; Jon Karsemeyer, jonskampaign@gmail.com ; Dewitt Lee III, leeformayor2014@gmail.com ; Sketchy the Clown, sketchy@sketchyformayor.com ; Erwin Z Sniedzins, esniedzins@gmail.com ; Richard Underhill, rich@underhillformayor.com .

It might be worth sending an email to some or all of these respondents to congratulate them on their positions: they would help to make important changes to better policing in Toronto. It might also be helpful to ask other candidates (such as John Tory, www.johntory.ca and Rob Ford, www.robfordformayor.ca) why they did not respond and where they stand on these issues. Fifty, sixty or more emails to John Tory might attract his attention.

2. Bill Blair to be replaced as chief

Bill Blairs five year contract as chief of police expires next April. Apparently one term of that contract required that he indicate by the end of July whether he wished it to be renewed. He said he wanted a renewal, but the Board in a private decision said it was refusing to renew. No reasons were given by the Board for its decision, although the Board chair Alok Mukherjee talked about the need for change.

TPAC immediately asked to be on the agenda for the August Board meeting, thinking that if the Board was about to start a hiring process it was important that the principles involved be clearly spelled out. Our letter read as follows:

Before the Board begins the formal process to hire a new chief of police, we believe the Board should be clear about its goals in this exercise, and what it wishes to achieve. Since the Board is the publics face in the governance of this important public service, these goals should be made public and the residents of Toronto should have a good chance to review them and make comments. The city is now entering an important civic election in which these goals about policing can be widely debated.

We believe the important goals for policing and a new chief in the next decade are as follows:
`1. A police service that respects residents of and visitors to the city including:
- recognizing the diversity of peoples within the city
- a cessation of activities which result in racial profiling, such as stops where there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity
- a substantial reduction in the rate of those arrested who are strip searched
- an increase in the diversion rate from the criminal justice system of those involved in minor infractions of the law
- ensuring police do not release information such as non-conviction or mental health information which does not involve harm to the public
- reviewing the need for every police officer to have a gun

`2. A police service which is efficient and economical, including:
- ending the mandatory practise of two officers in a car after dark
- ending the shift arrangement where the force is paid for 28 hours during a 24 hour period
- reviewing routine patrol work which appears not to reduce crime or prevent crime

`3. A police service which responds to current social pressures, including
- ensuring that those officers who are first responders to calls involving those in mental distress are highly trained in such activities
- training new recruits in conjunction and co-operation with social agencies
- reviewing hiring practises to address the need for special skills which cannot be brought into the force with the current recruitment process
- engages communities and works with various communities to understand and reduce violence and disorder

`4. A police service which is as transparent as possible in its activities including:
- fair and open reporting to the Board, and the Board to the public
- an understandable budgeting system which is made public.

`We ask the Board to release its own list of goals for the next decade of policing in Toronto and seek feedback from those wishing to provide it. We believe this list is a start and can certainly be improved, but it is the kind of direction the Board should embark on in beginning to consider what kind of a chief Toronto should be looking for.

Chair Mukherjee refused to put our letter on the agenda, saying instead it will be considered during `community consultations, whatever and whenever they are. We responded by writing all members of the Board:

We submitted the following letter for the Board meeting on August 14, but the chair refused to put it on the agenda. As usual, we met all of the rules of your procedure for getting on an agenda. It is very discouraging that the chair uses a veto power that is not outlined in the rules in order to prevent debate about important policing issues.

We agree with those who have said the Board has not been transparent on this issue. No one knows why the Board made the decision about Mr. Blair's contract. No one knows what the Board expects to do next. No one knows what the Board is trying to accomplish because the Board has not said what its goals are.

The Board is intended to be the voice for the public in regarding to policing policy, but you are being silent and the chair's actions in preventing our letter from being discussed at the Board tries to ensure that others cannot be heard at the Board, which is the place where debate should occur.

No Board member acknowledged or responded to our letter. We will again attempt to get the Board to discuss future plans about hiring a new chief at its public meeting rather than trying to continue to shut down public debate about a very important public issue. The Board has said the new chief will be named in January.

One other issue: Blairs contract with the Board apparently provided that if he applied for an extension and was turned down, he would receive an additional year's salary, reported as $365,000.00. He applied for a two year extension, and even if he did not want to serve another two years as chief, it was very much to his benefit to apply for the extension since that guaranteed the extra payment. This kind of a contract term seems entirely unnecessary, although it is often what some senior managers are offered. The Board should be required to make the draft contract public before the new chief is hired.

3. Recruiting officers who know Toronto

The Metropolitan Police, the police force in London, England, announced in July that henceforth it will only recruit people who have lived in London for three of the past six years, and it will also consider recruits with minor criminal convictions. The deputy mayor for policing said We have got to recognize that having a majority of your workforce that travel in very large distances to come to work, do not even live or have never resided for any period of time in the city, cannot be healthy. If you come in and you dont know anybody, its very hard to be an effective officer. 

The decision was apparently made to better reflect Londons diversity, and hiring will be on the basis of `competence including cultural competence, and not on colour or quotas. See http://rt.com/uk/172700-metropolitan-police-recruit-londoners/ .
In Toronto, it is thought that more than 95 per cent of current officers do not live in the city. Arguments have been made that a police force consisting mainly of people who live in the city they police might provide better policing, but the response was always that such a restriction would infringe the Charter of Rights and Freedom, although that has not been tested in court. Perhaps it is worth pushing the issue again.

4. Body cameras

The three leading candidates for mayor  John Tory, Olivia Chow, and David Soknacki  have all said they support Toronto police wearing lapel cameras. Lapel cameras were also recommended by Frank Iacobucci reporting on the death of Sammy Yatem. The capital and operating costs of such cameras have not been released, and some argue that the last thing we need is to spend more money on police technology when there are systemic policies driving police behaviour.

A one month study done in 2012 in a small American city showed that when officers wore lapel cameras, the use of force went down significantly, the number of complaints from the public fell, and compliance by members of the public with police requests increased. These are all good outcomes. See http://www.policefoundation.org/content/body-worn-cameras-police-use-force .

5. The negative impact of police stops

It is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a very high social cost of police carding, that is, the random stopping by police of individuals who seem to police to look `suspicious but are not engaging in criminal activity. An article in the last Bulletin (No. 85), summarized the findings in a new book, showing that investigatory stops caused resentment and exclusion, and that there was no solid evidence they reduced crime. More data from a 2013 study has now been summarized by the University of Toronto publication, Criminological Highlights, and shows that the stops themselves result in an increase, not a decrease, in criminal behaviour .

The new study followed more than 2000 youth over a four year period. The conclusion,
according to Criminological Highlights, is that Stop-and-frisk interactions between youths and police may have the unintended consequence of increasing future delinquent involvement. Thus police practices of engaging in high rates of stops, many of which are unproductive or innocent, may be counterproductive (p. 956). For both youth who are stopped and youth who are arrested, delinquency amplification is partially explained by the attenuation of prosocial bonds, changes in deviant identity, and increased involvement with delinquent peers (p. 956-7). See http://criminology.utoronto.ca/criminological-highlights/ , Volume 14, No. 4, page 8.

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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