John Sewell —
This Toronto Police Accountability 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 Bulletin:
- The Chief recommends tasers for all Toronto officers
- The 2017 police budget reveals little about police plans
- Body cameras: wasted money
- TPAC brief on strip searches
- RCMP and sexual harassment against women
- The Chief recommends tasers for all Toronto officers
When the budget sub-committee of the Toronto Police Services Board held a public session on October 11, the several members of the public who spoke complained that $750,000 had been placed in the 2017 capital budget for the purchase of tasers. The board chair Andy Pringle said that no decision had yet been made on this item, but that Chief Saunders would be submitting a comprehensive report to the October 20 Board meeting on why all officers should be equipped with a conducted energy weapon.
In Bulletin No. 96 (April 2016) we had speculated that the chief would be soon making such a recommendation. He has delayed it so the decision on proceeding and funding the purchase can be made at one time, much like a knock-out blow to those opposed to this weaponry.
Four years ago, in October 2103, the Toronto Police Services Board held a hearing on providing all Toronto officers with conducted energy weapons. Forty seven individuals spoke at that meeting: not one favoured more tasers for the police service, and the Board subsequently decided to take that advice. (See Bulletin 79, October 2013.) Now it seems that decision will be challenged by the current Board, and one will have to wait and see if the Board agrees to schedule a public hearing.
In the meantime, it is important for all those who believe the extended use of conducted energy weapons is wrong to attend the Board meeting at 1 pm, Thursday October 20, to voice their disapproval.
- The 2017 police budget reveals little about police plans.
The Toronto Police Services budget papers for 2017 consist of two sets of documents, packaged together. One is the line by line budget for 2017, some 390 pages; the other is senior staff commentary on the budget, about 60 pages.
The two documents seem to bear no relationship to each other.
The Commentary proposes net spending for 2017 of $1002 million, which is $2 million less than 2016. The commentary states that there will be salary savings because of the hiring moratorium recommended by the Transformational Task Force. Average uniform staff in 2016 was 5224; average projected for 2017 is 5072; for 2018, 4912; and for 2019, 4767. So the uniformed force will drop by about 450 officers in the next four years. Civilian staff will be reduced in 2017 to 1865: figures are not given for 2016, but in 2015 there were 1994 civilians. The salary savings are almost outweighed by the increase in pay because of the contract settlement last year.
To reach the City Council target of a 2.6 per cent reduction from last year, another $24 million would need to be cut.
None of the information in the Commentary is reflect in the line by line budget. In fact budgets and staffing for the five police departments remains almost exactly the same as 2016. This leaves a number of unresolved issues:
- a) There is no information given about where the reduction in about 150 officers in 2017 will occur. Will it be spread equally among the divisions and the detectives? Are there certain priorities about where the cuts will be made and work which needs more attention?
- b) There is no information about where the reductions in civilians – it looks to be an almost 10 per cent cut in civilians – will occur.
- c) No information is given about the savings which will result from the cancellation of the TAVIS program, nor the savings which will result from the substantial curtailment of carding.
- d) No funds or staff have been trimmed from the recruitment function even though no new officers will be recruited for the next three years.
- e) Budgets usually establish work priorities, but this budget seems to imply not much will change.
- f) Nothing seems to have been done in the past year to replace officers with civilians when it has been pointed out on many occasions that civilians trained for specific tasks can perform those tasks better than those trained to be police officers, and for less cost.
- g) Nothing has been included to implement the recommendations of the Transformational Task Force, although maybe the increase in staffing around the chief is for this purpose.
The one general conclusion drawn by TPAC is that once again the police department simply wants a big pot of money which it can spend as it wants, without any real oversight. Other municipal functions have to say exactly what they plan to do with the money, but not the police. One hoped that the Transformational Task Force would have signaled an end to this way of running the police force, but so far it has not.
TPAC told the budget sub-committee that the case has not been made for why the police should be awarded any funds above and beyond what City Council has requested, namely $978.6 million. According to the 5 October Toronto Star, Forum Research found that of citizens polled, “a majority — 54 per cent — think Toronto police service can afford to trim its budget compared to 44 per cent who say it cannot.”
The budget goes before the Toronto Police Services Board on October 20.
Until the police produce a budget document which accurately reflects where it expects to spend money, and a document which makes the case for any extra money, the net operating budget for Toronto police for 2017 should be $978. 6 million.
- Body cameras: wasted money
The police report on body cameras goes before the Board on October 20. It states that “Overall support for the body-worn cameras was extremely strong in the community,” and that “people believe the cameras will make the police more accountable, improve public trust in police, and help ensure professional service.” A majority of police officers apparently support the cameras.
But those beliefs do not provide a rationale for spending the significant funds needed to equip officers with body cameras and to make those cameras operational, particularly when the pilot project does not conclude that the cameras were particularly helpful in policing.
The report on the pilot project states `a relatively small number of officers‘ wore the cameras during the pilot, and `there was no significant incident or situation that arose that would have provided an opportunity for the body-worn cameras and associated video to demonstrate value, or lack thereof, for police accountability and public trust.”
Yet accountability and trust were what the public wants from body cameras.
Because of the small number of officers involved in the pilot, the report concludes `the quantitative results were not compelling.’ No cases with body-worn camera evidence went to court, so it is impossible to assess the use of the cameras in court.
Nor did the pilot come to any conclusion about when the cameras should be turned on. The public wants them on all the time, while police think the cameras limit their ability to use discretion, so they don’t want them on all the time. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada thinks it is difficult to justify continuous recording. But if there is no agreement about when cameras will be on or off, what do we do? Leave it up to the officer involved? Few think that makes any sense.
The report also says that `video corruption was a major technical issue’ and recovery was not always successful. It hardly gives one confidence.
So there are significant concerns arising from the pilot project: it does not make a strong case for police using body-worn cameras. One could conclude from the pilot project report that it is not worth proceeding.
Then there is the cost problem. The cost of buying cameras for all frontline officers would be $85 million over ten years. The cost of storing the videos would be $20 million for year one, and about $50 million over five years. Unlike the $85 million purchase price of the cameras which is a one-time cost, storage costs are ongoing, incurred annually.
The extra administrative and support costs were not estimated in the report, although they are referred to. The report says that each officer needs about two hours during every shift to upload, classify and redact the videos made that day, time that can’t be spent doing other police work. The report estimates that cost at up to $20,000 per officer per year. That would be a cost of tens of million dollars a year.
Having spent $432,000 public dollars on the pilot project, with these findings it is reasonable to call a halt to considering body-worn cameras at least at this time. But the police department is ever optimistic and in the capital budget for 2017 – also before the Board on October 20 – one finds a recommendation to spend a further $500,000 to begin implementing body cameras.
TPAC believes the cost is too great and the results are not supportive. Maybe other jurisdictions which agree to implement body cameras will produce evidence which will provide a road map for Toronto police. But it makes no sense to proceed spending a further $500,000, as staff recommend, at this time. The Board and senior management should look to other more effective ways to enhance the accountability and public trust which the public requests.
- TPAC brief on strip searches
The Office of Independent Police Review Director is studying the use of strip searches by police forces in Ontario. TPAC has submitted the following comments to the OIPRD.
We have been before the Toronto Police Services Board many times in the past ten years trying to get the Board to adopt a strip search policy which conforms to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the 2001 Golden case, and which respects those who have been arrested. The Board has consistently refused to propose a policy to reduce the number of unnecessary strip searches carried out by the Toronto police.
Here is what the Golden decision says about the impact of strip searches, in Paragraph 90:
“Strip searches are thus inherently humiliating and degrading for detainees regardless of the manner in which they are carried out and for this reason they cannot be carried out simply as a matter of routine policy. The adjectives used by individuals to describe their experience of being strip searched give some sense of how a strip search, even one that is carried out in a reasonable manner, can affect detainees: “humiliating”, “degrading”, “demeaning”. “upsetting”, and “devastating”. . . Some commentators have gone as far as to describe strip searches as “visual rape”….Women and minorities in particular may have a real fear of strip searches and may experience such a search as equivalent to a sexual assault…The psychological effects of strip searches may also be particularly traumatic for individuals who have previously been subject to abuse…Routine strip searches may also be distasteful and difficult for the police officers conducting them.”
Paragraph 94 states:
“… a “frisk” or “pat-down” search at the point of arrest will generally suffice for the purposes of determining if the accused has secreted weapons on his person. Only if the frisk search reveals a possible weapon secreted on the detainee’s person or if the particular circumstances of the case raise the risk that a weapon is concealed on the detainee’s person will a strip search be justified. Whether searching for evidence or for weapons, the mere possibility that an individual may be concealing evidence or weapons upon his person is not sufficient to justify a strip search.”
And then in Paragraph 98:
“.. . a strip search is a much more intrusive search and, accordingly, a higher degree of justification is required in order to support the higher degree of interference with individual freedom and dignity. In order to meet the constitutional standard of reasonableness that will justify a strip search, the police must establish that they have reasonable and probable grounds for concluding that a strip search is necessary in the particular circumstances of the arrest.”
We believe that on the basis of the Golden decision, a strip search rate of about 5 per cent of those arrested would be reasonable.
But the Toronto police refuse to comply with the Golden decision. During the last ten years the number of strips searches conducted by the Toronto police has increased.
In 2001, 32 per cent of those arrested were strip searched. In 2004, the number had jumped to 37.4%, and by 2010, almost 60 per cent – 31,072 persons. In 2011, it was about 55 per cent and we believe it has continued at about that level. Toronto police claim, using Record of Arrests, that the per centage of those stripped searched is about 34 per cent: we worked out per centages on the basis of the number of individuals the police reported were arrested in each year, and we believe that reflects reality much better. In any case, the numbers are far too high.
The number arrested annually for drug offences in Toronto is less than 7000; the number arrested for crimes of violence involving a weapon was probably less than 5000. The Court stated in the Golden decision that the strip search must be for evidence related to the grounds of arrest or for weapons. Then why were the many thousands of other individuals strip searched?
The report of the Chief of Police dated January 28, 2014, to the Toronto Police Service Board indicates what the police found when doing searches. Table 2 lists the number of times items were found during a Level 3 and 4 search. We believe that the most of the items found would have easily been found if only a Level 2 (or pat-down) search had taken place, since most of these items were earrings, lighters, watches, lip baum, belts, etc. These items are almost never hidden in underwear. Perhaps in some cases drugs might be hidden in underwear, but they could surely have been found in a pat-down search.
The fact these items are found does not require or justify a Level 3 search. A Level 2 search would work just as well.
The large number of strip searches which take place is a matter of clear intention by the Toronto Police Service, which apparently has no intention to comply with the Golden decision.
In July 2011, for example, Police Chief Bill Blair sought to rebut criticisms of strip searching as a routine practice by declaring, “If it was routine, it would be 100 per cent.” Based on this position, Blair suggests that any strip search rate below 100 percent qualifies as non-routine, and hence would be in compliance with the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling, which is an extremely dubious proposition.
Issues of non-compliance were brought into sharp relief in late 2013 when, on December 11, Constable Sasa Sljivo of 22 Division testified in court that over the years he had stripped hundreds of people completely naked. In addition to acknowledging his ignorance of R v. Golden, he testified that his coach officer (police mentor) instructed him to strip arrestees completely naked. When asked by the Toronto Star whether Sljivo had ever been disciplined as a result of these procedural violations, Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash did not respond.
Further, even when instructed by the Board to reduce the number of strip searches, the Toronto police service has refused to do so. At the Toronto Police Services Board meeting of February 19, 2013, the Chair of the Board filed a report dates February 5, 2013. (It is listed in the minutes for February 19, 2013, as item #P26.) Appendix A of that report is the Chair’s chronology of events since the Golden decision, and on page 2 of that Appendix one finds the following:
“At its September 6, 2005 meeting, the Board receives a report from the Chief indicating that while the Chief was of the belief that the procedure, without amendment, was in compliance with the decision in R. v. Golden, the requested amendment has been made. The procedure, as revised, “…removes the direction of mandatory level 3 searches for those entering the prison population.”
The request for the change of policy so that strip searches were not mandatory was made by Albert Cohen, the Board’s solicitor at that time, in order to comply with Golden. The policy was then changed – but the practice did not. The police force continued to strip search everyone held for a show cause hearing contrary to Board policy and contrary to the lawyer’s advice about Golden. This was confirmed to us at the end of December 2012 when we received the results of a Freedom of Information Request concerning the number of strip searches in 2011. Our FOI request asked for the total number arrested, the number subject to a Level 3 (strip) search, the number held for a show cause bail hearing, and the number held for a show cause hearing and strip searched. The FOI response states: “All Persons Show caused are subjected to a Level 3 search.”
Apparently officers have not followed the Board policy on strip searches since 2005, that is, for the last ten years. This refusal to do so is hardly by chance or by omission: our organization has been before the Board many times since then asking for very simple and reasonable changes and in every case our requests have been refused. What must be done to get the police force to conform to the advice of the Board’s lawyer in 2005 and to confirm to the law as set out in Golden?
We want the number of strip searches to be reduced as much as possible so that those arrested are not humiliated or degraded. There is an easy way to do this: require an officer to first conduct a Level 2 search as suggested by Golden – this is an intensive frisk which may require removing outer clothing like a sweater, but not regular clothing. The existing police policy defines it as follows:
“Level 2 Search means a more thorough search that may include the removal of clothing which does not expose a person’s undergarments or the areas of the body normally covered by undergarments. The removal of clothing such as belts, footwear, socks, shoes, sweaters, extra layers of clothing, or the shirt of a male would all be included in a Level 2 search.”
Only if this search leads an officer to the reasonable belief that the individual is attempting to conceal evidence related to the grounds of arrest or weapons – or is concealing something which might be used to harm that person or someone else – should the officer proceed to a Level 3 search. We think that in all but a handful of cases, the Level 2 Search will not provide any reasonable belief for thinking that something is hidden in underwear, and thus a Level 3 Search will not be required. Many thousands of Torontonians will be saved from being humiliated and degraded.
It is entirely unfair and inappropriate – and we believe unlawful – that so many people in Toronto are subject to a procedure by Toronto police that is humiliating and degrading and is contrary to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. We have no reason to believe that the level of strip searches by other police forces in Ontario is much different than those in Toronto. What is needed is a new province wide policy as follows:
- A) Before a Level 3 strip search is undertaken the officer must first have conducted a Level 1 and Level 2 search, and those searches must have led the officer to believe that something was being concealed.
- B) The officer must write down in an appropriate form what was learned in the Level 1 and 2 searches, why a Level 3 strip search is considered reasonable in this instance, and what probably will be found relating to the reasons for arrest or in the nature of a weapon – or something that will harm the person or others. Written approval of a senior officer should be required for such a search.
- C) The officer should then record in writing the results of the Level 3 strip search, specifically identifying what was found, if anything.
We urge the OIPRD to recommend a policy which reduces unnecessary strip searches that appear to be done for the purpose of humiliation and belittlement. These unnecessary searches are not in conformity with the Golden case. Requiring Level 2 searches first and then doing a Level 3 search only if reasonable and probably grounds are revealed through it, will do the job and conform to the Golden decision.
We believe the new policy should be clear and specific in respect to when a strip search may be undertaken, rather than being a general policy.
One further point requires attention. The Search of Persons Policy found on the Toronto Police Service web site is not the real policy: it is a sanitized version of the real policy which the Police Service has tried to keep confidential – we obtained it from Toronto lawyers after the courts required the police to produce it. It is now listed on our website. It does not conform to the Golden decision. This kind of trickery must stop.
- RCMP and sexual harassment against women
Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has announced that the two class action law suits brought by women claiming they were sexually harassed while working for the RCMP will be settled with the payment of $100 million, to be disbursed by a former senior judge.
Mr. Paulson had tears in his eyes as he apologized for what had happened to the more than 200 women who had signed on to the two class actions. He expects that more than 1000 former RCMP female employees will be filing claims. The $100 million is public money – it is not out of the pockets of any members of the RCMP, past or present.
What Mr. Paulson did not say was that the officers who did the harrassing will suffer consequences for their actions. It is known that some have since been promoted and the rest have simply carried on being police officers. These officers have proceeded with their careers as though they did nothing wrong, at a cost to the public of $100 million.
Most women came forward because they did not want this to happen to anyone else. Paulson talked vaguely about better training, but if there are no consequences for improper behavior, it is unreasonable to expect different kinds of behavior in the future. Women in the RCMP will remain at risk. If male RCMP officers show no respect for their female counterparts, it’s reasonable to conclude they will show no respect for female members of society, particularly those who are disadvantaged. This, of course, is evident in the blind eye of the RCMP when asked to deal with missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Paulson got it wrong. Apologies were certainly in order. More importantly, disciplining those males who did the harassing was required and it has not happened. Until it does, once cannot expect the RCMP to be a police force which has the respect of society at large.
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