Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 136, February 23, 2022

February 23rd 2022

In this issue:
1. Police Board to consider Artificial Intelligence policy

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 136, February 23, 2022
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. Police Board to consider Artificial Intelligence policy
2. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Police Board to consider Artificial Intelligence policy

On Monday February 28, the Toronto Police Services Board will meet to consider a policy on the use of Artificial Intelligence technology (AI).

This is a very important meeting for two reasons: AI raises all sorts of concerns about racial bias and hidden discriminatory assumptions; and the Toronto police would be the first police service in Canada to have a policy on AI, which means it will be the template on which all other police services will establish their own policies. Getting an appropriate AI policy is critical.

As noted earlier (see Bulletin No. 114, June 25, 2019), many police forces in Canada have been using AI for some years. Toronto police officers used facial recognition systems without senior management knowing about it or turning a blind eye (see Bulletin No. 119, April 3, 2020) before the practice was finally halted. The provincial government which is broadly responsible for policing in Ontario has shown no interest in providing direction or governance on this issue.

All of which is to say that it is good that the Board is considering an AI policy. The question is what an appropriate policy would be.

The executive director of the Board, Ryan Teschner, drafted a policy and in November 2021 made it public, asking for comments from the public by mid-December. (See Bulletin No. 134, November 24, 2021.) TPAC was one of the four dozen groups or individuals which responded to the consultation, commenting on the draft policy. All of those responses can be found in Mr. Teschner’s report to the Board, item 6.3 on the February 28 agenda.

While many indicated that they were pleased the Board was addressing issues of AI, all of the responses expressed unease at the draft policy. In many cases briefs noted specific short-comings or oversights, and suggested substantial changes; in some cases the use of AI was entirely rejected.

The final policy is now being recommended to the Board. Changes to the November draft are minor and insignificant. It is as though it was decided that the public consultation was simply for show, and the feedback should not be taken seriously.

The recommended policy can be found as Item 6 on the Board’s agenda, see https://tpsb.ca/meetings/meetings-past.

TPAC has filed a brief to the Board meeting on Monday with three points:

1. A Technology Review Committee consisting of independent experts and community members must be established to provide advice to the Board and the Service on the use and operation of any AI. This committee should undertake the impact assessment of all AI programs being considered or being used by the service; its reports should be public; and the Board should be required to follow its advice unless it specifies the reasons why that cannot be done. The Committee should be adequately funded from within the police budget.

The recommended policy states in Paragraph 1 that procedures and policies for the review of AI technologies will be developed `in consultation with’ various bodies and experts. But as has been seen with the consultations on the draft AI policy, the feedback has been generally ignored. The public is not protected with such a weak process. That is why a Technology Review Committee is needed.

2. The five risk categories in the recommended policy are not appropriate and this approach should be abandoned in favour of a system where all AI technologies are considered risky. Many of the submissions on the consultation made this point, noting that the characteristics proposed in various risk categories either had a meaning that was unclear, or were placed in the wrong category.

3. Paragraph 16 in the recommended policy states that the chief has until December 2024 – almost three years from now – before reporting on AI programs now in use. Given the concerns about AI, this is far too long. The need to report on AI programs in use is immediate. The reporting date should be advanced to May 1, 2022.

TPAC has told the Board – whose job it is to represent the public in policing matters - that if public consultation is to have any meaning, the draft should be referred back to staff for further consideration in conjunction with the many individuals and groups who have shown an interest in the matter.

To file a letter with the Board, or to make a deputation at the meeting, go to www.tpsb.ca , click on `meetings’ and then on `deputations’. That will tell you how to file either a letter or register for deputation. The timeline to do this is short: letters and deputations must be filed by this Friday at noon. The Board does everything it can to make it very difficult for members of the public to address issues considered by the Board, including only allowing five minutes to address an issue as broad and important as AI. (One might remember that the Board gave only three business days for members of the public to file letters or deputations on its $1.25 billion operating budget for 2022, as well its capital budget.)

2. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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