Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 138, May 12, 2022

May 12th 2022

In this issue:
1. Meet the new police, same as the old police
2. Refusing to be serious about gun violence
3. A dysfunctional police board

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 138, May 12, 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. Meet the new police, same as the old police
2. Refusing to be serious about gun violence
3. A dysfunctional police board
4. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Meet the new police, same as the old police

Criminologist Scott Wortley and his colleagues have been studying public perceptions of race and criminal justice for many years. They have conducted surveys of about 1500 members of the public in Toronto in 1994, 2007 and 2019, the latter after the 2016 regulations prohibiting carding were put in place. The surveys were conducted by Environics Research.
The results of this research were published in a paper `Race and Criminal injustice: an examination of public perceptions of and experiences with the Ontario criminal justice system’, prepared by the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. The paper was written by Professors Scott Wortley, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Huibin Lin, all of the University of Toronto and it was published in February 2021 by the Faculty of Law Ryerson University, now Toronto Metropolitan University.
The paper concludes: `the results suggest that racial bias in the Ontario criminal justice system is just as important an issue today as it was in the early 1990s. Over the last twenty-five years, it appears that little has been done to reduce racial disparities in police stop, question, and search tactics and to increase trust between the Black community, the police, and the broader criminal justice system. To put it bluntly, race still matters.‘
Specific conclusions:
`The perception of police discrimination against Black people has increased over the past twenty-five years, especially among White and Asian respondents. Between 1994 and 2019, the perception of anti-Black discrimination within policing has remained constant among Black Toronto residents. Throughout this period, between 75% and 82% of Black respondents have expressed the belief that the police treat Black people worse than White people.’
`Black and Asian respondents are more likely to perceive bias in the criminal court system than White respondents.’
`Consistent with allegations of racial profiling, Black respondents are much more likely to report being stopped, questioned, and searched by the police than either White or Asian respondents. These racial differences exist for both traffic and pedestrian stops.’
`Compared to their White and Asian counterparts, Black people are more likely to report that the police did not properly explain the reason or justification for their last stop; Black respondents are more likely to report that they were treated in a disrespectful manner during their last police stop. And are more likely to believe that they were treated unfairly by the police during their last stop incident.’
Despite all the things that the Toronto Police force says it is doing to prevent or limit racial profiling, those actions have clearly not been effective. There’s a serious problem with policing and racial discrimination.
The apt title `Meet the new police, same as the old police’ was given to a talk Scott Wortley recently made to a conference in Edmonton where he presented the paper.

2. Refusing to be serious about gun violence

At its May 2 meeting the Toronto Police Service Board considered and adopted a report from the police service recommending tougher laws about shootings and enhanced police actions thought to be useful in preventing shootings.
The report notes that total shootings in Toronto to have increased from 166 in 2015 to 244 in 2021. (In 2005, the so-called Year of the Gun, there were 359 shootings.) The number of shootings in a public place – a street, park, bar, commercial place (like a mall), have increased in that six year period from 92 to 170. About 60 per cent of those charged with these offences were granted bail, and of those, 3 to 4 per cent were charged with gun related offences while on bail.
The report proposes several criminal code amendments: bail hearings for serious gun offences should be before a judge, not a justice of the peace; a first-degree murder charge should be laid for a shooting death in a congregate setting; and for congregate shooting offences there should be an increase in parole ineligibility. The report also summarizes the various changes that have been made within the police department to better focus the Guns and Gangs Unit on gun violence and work more productively with crown attorneys.
Everyone wants to see a reduction in gun violence in Toronto. But the police report proposes the very strategies - changes to the criminal justice system - which have failed in the past, rather than looking closely at what is causing gun violence and what works to prevent it.

Much of the gun violence in Toronto involves young men from marginalized communities and has terrible impacts on those communities.

Those who have studied issues of youth violence suggest changes to policing and the criminal justice system are not effective means of reducing it. The issue was discussed in some detail in Bulletin No. 26, February 8, 2006.

The study done in 2008 by Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling, The Roots of Youth Violence, stated that changing police and criminal justice strategies and tactics was not helpful: what was needed was youth engagement, a better investment in social programs, increased affordable housing supply and better income supports for low income families. The recommendations of this report and many others have never been seriously addressed in Ontario, or in Canada, even though considerable data has confirmed their conclusions.

The Youth Violence Commission in 2018 in the United Kingdom reached similar conclusions stating: `The root causes of youth violence include: childhood trauma, undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, inadequate state provision and deficient parental support, poverty and social inequality. Any strategy to reduce youth violence must address these root causes and will need to involve collaboration across central and local government as well as between practitioners, service providers, charities and community leaders at the local level.’

The important book `The Spirit Level’, concludes that youth crime violence is a response to disrespect, humiliation, and loss of face.

The approach of strengthening police and justice system responses to youth and gun violence has been tried since 2005, the so-called `year of the gun’ when the Guns and Gangs unit was first created. Since then many millions of dollars have been spent on this approach – exactly how much is unclear, since the police line-by-line budget does not quantify this amount, but it is certainly at least $5 million annually in recent years, so a cumulative total over the last 16 years would be at least $75 million.

But youth gun violence has gotten worse, not better. Rather than continuing with a failing strategy, the Board and the police service should have adopted changes which those who have studied the problem over many years recommend. Instead, the Board adopted a course of action which simply pushes off the solutions to the problem. Gun violence, sadly, will continue.

3. A dysfunctional police board.

John Sewell wrote to Jim Hart, chair of the police board on April 1:
`I do not understand why the Toronto Police Service Board members are so silent with my presentations on behalf of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition. We are a group that has been in existence for twenty years and have always been looking for and advocating, in a respectful manner, evidence-based ideas of how to improve policing.’
`Yet our presentations are met with no questions and no comment. Complete silence.’
`The ideas presented by us are usually ideas that have already been implemented elsewhere in Canada or by police forces in other parts of the world. Most have been tried and have been found to result in better policing at lower cost. I realize that the Board members may not agree with what we propose, but it is very frustrating that the dialogue never begins. It seems that no Board member has the slightest interest in any of these ideas, even though the Board is mandated to be the public oversight of the police service.’
`I don’t understand it. My perplexing question: when will members publicly show some interest in dealing with these kind of issues? Do members feel they are under some kind of restriction on commenting on suggestions made by members of the public about how policing in Toronto might improve?’
`I should also note that it was in October, more than five months ago, that I sent copies of my new book on policing to the Board, one for each Board member. I requested a chance to make a fifteen minute presentation on the recommendations made in the book. I followed up on this initiative several months ago and was told a meeting was still to be arranged. I can’t help but think this is another example of finding that again trying to suggest ideas to Board members is like talking to a brick wall.’
`I have spent much of the past sixty years dealing with municipal committees and boards. I have never run into the silence that so dominates the police Board.’
`I would appreciate answers so that I might better know how to provide ideas of improving how the police deal with the public and open a dialogue with the members of the Board.’
As of May 9, 2022, Mr. Hart has yet to respond, and the request to speak with the Board on the recommendations in Crisis in Canada’s Policing, has yet to be addressed with a meeting.
Is dysfunctional the proper description of the Toronto Police Service Board? Is there a better word?
4. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
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