Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 120, May 19, 2020.

May 19th 2020

1. The status of police body worn cameras in Canadian cities
2. Criteria for a new police chief in Toronto
3. Policing COVID-19
4. Toronto police data, 2019

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 120, May 19, 2020.

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. The status of police body worn cameras in Canadian cities
2. Criteria for a new police chief in Toronto
3. Policing COVID-19
4. Toronto police data, 2019
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. The status of body worn cameras in Canadian cities

A report prepared for TPAC shows that only two large city police services in Canada are proceeding with body worn cameras – Toronto and Calgary. And Calgary’s decision to proceed has been hampered by provincial funding cuts to the city.

The large cities which have decided not to proceed, many after they conducted pilot projects, are Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. The RCMP also decided against them.

Generally it was found body cameras were too expensive, and in some cases they were ineffective. Both conclusions were the same found in the pilot project undertaken by the Toronto police service in 2016 – see Bulletin No. 99, October 13, 2016 – but the Toronto Police Services Board, which seems to get its very large budgets approved by Toronto City council without serious questions, decided in any case last November to proceed. As the initiative rolls out, it will be interesting to see how the cost and effectiveness of body worn cameras in Toronto is monitored in real time.

The report for TPAC was prepared by a student at Wilfred Laurier University as part of a co-op program.

2. Criteria for a new police chief for Toronto

The Toronto Police Services Board decided to renew the contract of police chief Mark Saunders for one year, until Spring 2021. Thus the search for a new chief is about to get under way.

The Board has yet to suggest the criteria by which it might assess candidates for the position. TPAC suggests the following criteria would be useful:

A. Candidates must exhibit core values at a personal level:
* respect for civil liberties and the rule of law
* understanding the impact of poverty and violence on individuals and demonstrate compassion
* willingness to treat women within the police service and in the community with the same deference and respect as men.
* ability to confront anti-Black racism, and all forms of discrimination by members of the police service

B. Candidates must
* have demonstrated experience in systems change within a large organization.
* be committed to making the police service less armed and less militarized.
* be committed to diverting youth and others from the criminal justice system through working directly with social and recreational institutions

C. Candidates must be committed to providing full information to the public on police expenditures and demonstrating that expenditures for specific programs are cost effective

3. Policing COVID-19

The evidence is becoming much clearer that lower income racialized individuals, particularly women, are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in the community. They are the ones who do the service work which does not permit for physical distancing, usually for very low rates of pay that they need to survive, such as in retirement homes or meat processing factories.

TPAC was also concerned about the role of police in the pandemic, and how they enforced the emergency rules and against whom. Would these new rules be enforced against members of racialized communities in the same way as carding? Who was getting these tickets for $750??

We asked the Toronto police service and the city of Toronto to apply the same rules which now apply to carding to the new rules: to be in uniform when they are enforcing these laws; to tell people why they are being stopped; to give people a receipt for the stop, including the officers name, badge number, phone number, and the reason for the stop; to keep records of the race of those stopped; destroy records of those stopped and summoned within six months.

Chief Mark Saunders responded as follows: “I have taken the position, based upon the legislation, that the regulation does not provide the authority to conduct a `pretext stop’. In fact it requires that the officer have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a prescribed offence has occurred. Accordingly, enforcement of those Emergency Orders is not a street check.”

The reply of city staff was the following: “You have raised specific questions in relation to the offence of failing to identify oneself to a provincial offences officer which was put in place under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This offence is only applicable to charges laid under the EMCPA and does not apply to other provincial offences, including the City's temporary by-laws in relation to physical distancing. “
Accordingly, we do not have data about whether these regulations were enforced in ways which were inappropriate. There is a group of academics and activists who are tracking incidents involving police and by-law officers across the country, and who are developing tools to use with communities that encourage people not to call the police to enforce Emergency Measure offences – find out more at https://www.policingthepandemic.ca/ and https://www.wecantpolicethepandemic.ca/

4. Toronto police data, 2019

Data about Toronto police activity in 2019 is provided in a report by Chief Saunders to the Toronto Police Board meeting on May 21.

The number of individuals arrested for Criminal Code and Drug related offences last year was 26,865. That’s six people arrested by each of the 4500 uniformed officers a year, or one every two months. Or, assuming that 25 per cent of the officers are detectives, administrators and so forth and 75 per cent are front line officers, then each front line officer arrests eight people a year.

Officers attended 416,787 calls for service. Using the 25/75 ratio noted about, front line officers each answered 120 calls for service last year. Assuming each worked about 220 shifts in 2019, that’s less than one call every shift.

Of the calls for service, 50,543 involved violence (an assault or worse), and 30,689 involved people in crisis (of whom 11,784 were apprehended under the Mental Health Act.)

Conducted energy weapons were shown or used in 557 incidents, about the same as 2018, but far higher than 2015, when they were issued 303 times.

It is all fascinating information which gives an insight into how Toronto police officers spend their time in the field. And it opens up questions: what do police officers do when they are not responding to service calls? How much time do police officers spend filling out reports? What happens during the remainder of the shift? How does the TPS account for this time?

We need a good independent study to look at what police officers do to determine how to make the best use of their time on shift and the public money supporting it.

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 .

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