Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 140, September 22, 2022

September 22nd 2022

1. A new police chief; more of the same
2. Policing questions for candidates
3. The negative impacts of neighbourhood policing

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 140, September 22, 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. A new police chief; more of the same
2. Policing questions for candidates
3. The negative impacts of neighbourhood policing
4.Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. A new police chief; more of the same

When the Toronto Police Service Board embarked two years ago on a process to hire a new police chief, it retained a head-hunting firm to scour the world for a new chief, and it also retained Environics to consult with the public on the matter. Environics filed its report in the late summer of 2021. (See Bulletin No. 131, August 31, 2021.)

Quotes from the Environics report are telling. The report notes what those consulted thought of the present Toronto police service: `Frequent references included: “racism” and “untrustworthy,” as well as perceptions of a ‘gang mentality’ among Toronto police services members. Stakeholders often used words aimed at the Service as an institution, using descriptors such as “colonial,” “insensitive to culture,” “militaristic” and “rooted in racism”…

`On a more optimistic note, some participants mentioned words like “trying” or “changing” in recognition of efforts by the Toronto police service.’

`At some point in all the consultations, stakeholders referred to a perceived persistent lack of trust in the service. For some community members (especially in Black and Indigenous communities), this lack of trust is tied to their lived experiences of racism and discrimination when dealing with the Service, including perceptions of over-policing and the criminalization of certain behaviours. Others felt that trust has been eroded through a perceived neglect of certain communities and lack of authentic engagement.’

As we noted in Bulletin 131, the recent attempts by the Board to change the Toronto police – in 2016, The Way Forward : Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto (see Bulletin No. 98, June 29, 2016); in 2020, the 81 recommendations made in response to the murder of George Floyd (see Bulletin No. 125, September 23, 2020) – have had little positive impact on how the police go about their work.

Whatever work the head-hunting firm did to attract candidates from around the world was not enough to convince the Board to do something different: it decided, in the age-old tradition of Toronto police boards, to hire from within. The Board chose interim deputy chief Myron Demkiw, who has been with the Toronto police service for 32 year – virtually the whole of his working life.

In our opinion Demkiw is firmly embedded within police culture – it would impossible to work in an organization for more than three decades and to be consistently promoted to more and more senior positions without embracing that culture. And his resume makes that clear: he was the commander who led the raid on the Pussy Palace, the lesbian club, more than two decades ago. This raid resulted in a successful human rights complaint and settlement against the Toronto police service. Demkiw is also one of seven officers who sued then councillor Kyle Rae for defamation after Rae’s comments about the raid, a case of using the courts to intimidate anyone who would criticize police actions.

As interim deputy chief, he was responsible for the Professional Standards branch which metes out discipline within the Toronto police service, and he recommended last year that that branch be headed by Rick Shank, an officer who killed not one but two Black men in the 1990s. His report recommending the appointment of Shank states that `a check of internal sources, including Professional Standards, Diversity & Inclusion, Legal Services and Labour Relations, reveals no historic or current information on file indicating that the officer should not be recommended for promotion.’ (See Bulletin No. 138, June 22, 2022.) Sexual discrimination and violence against Blacks have not stood in the path of Demkiw being appointed chief.

At the end of the day, the Environics report on public attitudes to the Toronto police apparently had no influence on the Board’s decision. After finding the candidate within the Toronto police service, it is fair to say retention of the head-hunting firm was a waste of public money.

But worse: neither the Board nor the new chief offer any hope that the Toronto police service will change.

2. Policing questions for candidates

The municipal election is on October 24. It will be a new world stripped of local democracy since the province passed legislation giving the mayor of the city extraordinary new powers and stripping those powers away from city councillors: the power to set the city budget; the power to hire and fire senior staff; the power to re-organize council; the power to appoint committee chairs and heads of boards and commissions.

But councillors can still raise policing issues and we hope those who are elected, as well as the mayor, will raise those issues. Here are questions you might ask candidates at meetings:

Council can appoint two councillors and one person not on Council to the Toronto Police Service Board. Are you willing to support and appoint individuals who hold progressive views about policing?

The Board and the chief have stated they are very much opposed to discriminatory actions by the police force, but they have refused to make discrimination an offence to police conduct. Will you press the Board to put in place policies which punish officers who engage in discrimination?

A wide range of policing experts and community members alike have increased demands to significantly decrease police budgets and redistribute that funding to communities to address marginalization and the root causes of violence. Do you support detasking and defunding police? Will you take steps to reduce and reallocate the police budget?

Fewer than four per cent of all calls for police service involve violence yet every officer who attends calls has a gun, a conductive energy weapon and body armour. Will you press the Board to begin to disarm rank and file officers, so that only the Emergency Service is armed?

Many police cars that are on the road after dark in Toronto are staffed with two officers, even though almost all calls do not involve violence. Toronto is one of the few large police forces in Canada that continues to have two officers in a car after dark. Generally having one officer in a car will save tens of millions of dollars a year. Will you press the Board to instruct the chief to generally staff cars with one officer after dark unless the particular situation demands a different response?

Recently the City awarded parks security contracts to private companies to carry out patrol and enforcement duties in parks, including evicting homeless people from those parks. They are essentially a private police force that targets and criminalizes vulnerable people. Will you oppose the City's use of private police in parks?

Of course there are other significant issues needed to reform policing in Toronto, but these are a start. We encourage you to raise these issues with candidates.

3. The negative impact of neighbourhood policing

A new study using data from five cohorts of public school students in the New York City Department of Education reveals starkly different experiences with neighborhood policing across racial/ethnic groups. The study finds "that long-term exposure to neighborhood policing has negative effects on high school graduation, with important differences across racial/ethnic groups. Using gap-closing estimands, we show that assigning a sample of Black and Latino students to the same level of neighborhood policing as White students would close the Black–White gap in high school graduation by more than one quarter..."

"...Black and Latino youth are more likely to experience aggressive forms of neighborhood policing throughout adolescence and are disproportionately impacted by this exposure. Together, the racial/ethnic differences in both exposure to and the effect of long-term neighborhood policing create a double disadvantage, particularly for Black students, that perpetuates systematic and institutionalized inequalities. This double disadvantage constitutes a form of “hobbling”, a social process that restricts demographically targeted children’s right to a public education, limits their social mobility, disempowers communities subjugated by race and class, and sustains structural racism."

The report was prepared by Joscha Legewie, associate professor of Social Sciences, Harvard. It can be found at https://read.dukeupress.edu/demography/article/doi/10.1215/00703370-10188919/317747/Long-Term-Exposure-to-Neighborhood-Policing-and

One suspects that replicative research in Toronto would yield rather similar findings.

4. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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