Police Accountability report: candidate views, carding

John Sewell —

Police Accountability Bulletin No. 85, August 2014, reports on answers from mayoral candidates, new carding data, Iacobucci’s disappointing report, more thinking on guns, the carding “satisfaction” survey.

1. Questioning the candidates for mayor

TPAC has sent a questionnaire to all mayoralty candidates with email addresses – about 50! – asking for responses by mid-August. The results of the survey will be published in a Bulletin later in the summer.

Questions are set for a Yes or No, with an opportunity for candidates make further comments. The questions might also be appropriate for local candidates for council, and readers are encouraged to ask their local candidates and forward results to us at info@tpac.ca . The questions are as follows:

(1) Strip searches

Currently Toronto police strip search about 35 per cent of those arrested. The Supreme Court of Canada has said strip searches are degrading and humiliating.

Will you work to adopt policies by the Toronto Police Services Board to reduce the number of strip searches to less than 10 per cent of those arrested?

(2) Mental Distress

It is always a tragedy when police officers shoot and kill a person in mental distress or one who is unresponsive to police commands for other reasons. Such deaths can be reduced if officers highly trained in dealing safely and non-violently with those in mental crisis, working with a civilian having mental health expertise such as the officers and nurses who are members of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, are first or co-responders to any call involving a person suspected to be in mental crisis.

Will you work to adopt policies by the Police Service Board to make such officers first or co-responders in every division in the city for as many hours per day as possible?

(3) Record Checks

The Toronto Police Service currently releases non-conviction information and mental health information on both CPIC, the police information service, and on record checks required for employment and volunteering. Many organizations have challenged this policy, without success.

Will you work to change the police policy so that non-conviction and mental health information is not released by Toronto police unless there is a serious concern for violence to others?

(4) Two Officer Police Cars

The Toronto Police Service has a rule, imbedded in the current collective agreement with the Toronto Police Association, which calls for two officers in a car after dark. Many large urban forces in Canada, and the RCMP, have no such requirement, and only have more than one officer in a car when needed, in order to save money.

Will you agree to work to change this requirement so these officers can be put to better use?


The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy floods a neighbourhood with officers who stop and question many people. Many who live in affected neighbourhoods have complained about this intrusion which results in higher rates of racial profiling. It has not shown that the TAVIS strategy has been effective at reducing crime.

Will you agree to work to end the TAVIS way of using police resources?

(6) Diverting Youth

Keeping youth out of the criminal justice system is good for them and good for society.  The police can play a major role in this change by diverting youth from the criminal justice system rather than charging them with minor offenses.

Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt diversion policies so that the number of youth charged with criminal offenses is reduced by 10 per cent a year and youth are provided with other options?

(7) Carding

Changes have been made in recent months to the system of carding where police stop and question people in a random and targeted manner. Carding has always stopped a larger percentage of black and brown youth than whites, and even with recent changes such as requiring officers to provide a receipt with their name and number, that discrimination has continued.

Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt policies which end carding and tell officers they may not stop individuals because of how they appear, but may only stop people if their behaviour raises questions of criminality?

(8) Paid duty work

About $25 million a year is paid to Toronto police officers above and beyond their normal work for the paid duty work they do in accordance with rules, regulations, and practices requiring private companies, community organizations, the city, and others to retain officers for this purpose. Many other large cities in Canada have fewer requirements for paid duty officers, and the total annual sums paid are considerably less than in Toronto.

Will you work with the Toronto Police Services Board, the province, and other relevant parties to revise policies and procedures that considerably reduce the amount of paid duty expenses?

2. New carding data

The Toronto Star has published data about the recent carding practises of the Toronto police service. (See


Carding has dropped substantially since the Toronto Police Services Board decided in mid-2013 that officers would be required to provide a receipt with their name and badge number, as well as the reason for the stop, and it has dropped further once the new carding policy was approved by the Board in May 2014.  In August 2012, police carded more than 41,000 individuals; in August 2013, 9165; in June 2014, 1130.

But the likelihood of the person being carded increased if that person was black, from 23.3 per cent to 27.4 per cent, more than three times the carding that occurred to those with white skin. Police explain this away as a `disparity’ and not discrimination, or as an anomaly given that change was underway in the service.

A different explanation is offered in a new American book, `Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Face and Citizenship’, by Charles Epp at al, University of Chicago Press, 2014. It concludes that while all police departments condemn racial profiling, the investigatory stop policy is embedded in police practise and criminal justice policy and police are told to stop people not because of anything they have done, but because of the way they look.

This book looks at `investigatory stops’ by police in Kansas City. These are stops which are not aimed at enforcing the law, but checking up on whether a person is up to no good. The stop of a driver could be because of a minor violation such as a license plate light that is out, a lane change, driving 2 mph over the speed limit, or for no reason at all, just that the officer thinks there might be a suspicion about the person, not because of anything the person is doing but because of how they look. These stops are exactly what carding is all about. Most of the people who stopped are innocent of any wrong-doing. As one officer said, “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find that one prince.”

These authors found that when police stops cars because of traffic infractions there is no racial dominance in who is stopped, nor in the negative reactions of those who are stopped – people usually know when they have done something wrong. It is the investigatory stop which causes anger and resentment, and is racially charged.

The investigatory stop is a new police tactic, only about 50 years old. In the early 1970s the Kansas City Patrol Study was done which showed that the amount of patrolling by police (or the lack of it) had no impact on the number of arrests or on public perceptions of safety. If patrols were not a helpful way of containing crime, what was? In the late 1970s, criminologist James Q Wilson said aggressive patrols – where police stopped as many drivers as possible, particularly suspicious ones – was a good tactic. Several studies seemed to confirm this strategy (although some years later the studies were shown to be flawed.)

In the early 1980s Wilson expanded his theory into `Broken Windows’, which argued that if you attended to the small problems (broken windows) then you would be containing and controlling the big problems (violence, etc.). The Kansas City Gun Experiment study apparently showed that stopping cars at random yielded more guns. (Some years later that study too was shown to be flawed.) Then came the War on Drugs and ordinary police officers became drug law enforcers and had a reason to stop and search cars for drugs. In the early 1990s the Supreme Court in United States ruled that investigatory stops are legitimate no matter how minor the violation of the law. In 1998 the Supreme Court ruled that officers could pat-down drivers and search vehicles.

By the mid-1990s, the investigatory stop had become common police practise. The text book used by police was `Tactics for Criminal Patrol‘ by Charles Remsberg. It said the goal was to maximize the number of stops to explore the full potential for arrest. He called it the Criminal Patrol Pyramid: 1) Develop a suspicion. 2) Find a justification for the stop (something minor) and make the stop. 3) Talk to the driver about doing a search of the vehicle and get consent. 4) Search. 5) Discover contraband. 6) Arrest.

The book notes that in reality, the driver or pedestrian is arrested for the duration of the stop, is not free to leave, and is subject to questions, a pat-down, and a search of the vehicle.

Who mostly get stopped? Latinos and African Americans get stopped almost three times more often than whites (it is the same ratio as carding in Toronto.) Why? Because to the police they look suspicious, as though they are up to no good. Almost all police departments condemn racial profiling, but the investigatory stop policy is embedded in police practise and criminal justice policy and police are told to stop people not because of anything they have done, but because of the way they look.

Police are trained to be polite and respectful, but that doesn’t change how African Americans feel when they are stopped so often: they know it is unfair, that it is discriminatory, that it is racial subordination, and that they are treated like criminals. The trust in police is broken, and there is a feeling they are excluded from full and equal membership in the community.

The evidence that investigatory stops helps fight crime is surprisingly thin; these stops probably don’t reduce the crime rate; but the costs are substantial in the anger and resentment and feeling of being targeted and excluded. These stops cause deep and lasting harm. The authors conclude with some suggestions for change: 1) Police should not stop anyone – driver or pedestrian – unless there is clear evidence of criminal behaviour or a traffic violation. 2) There must be an over-riding public safety exigency to make a stop. 3) Consent searches, usually obtained by manipulation after the stop has `arrested’ the person, should not be permitted. Searches should only occur when the officer has reasonable and probable grounds.

The book offers a sound explanation of why blacks are stopped more than three times as often as whites in Toronto: it is systemic discrimination as police officers stop those who look like they might be criminals even though they have done nothing. It is why police should only stop those who are suspected, on reasonable grounds of being involved in criminal behaviour or in a traffic violation, and they should not stop those who `look suspicious.’

3. The disappointing Iacobucci report

Media release,

On July 24, former Supreme Court of Canada judge Frank Iacobucci, who had been retained by Chief Bill Blair to report on Use of Force options after the shooting of Sammy Yatim, issued his report. See http://www.tpsreview.ca/docs/Police-Encounters-With-People-In-Crisis.pdf

TPAC’s media response was the following:

‘Reading the recommendation of Frank Iacobucci in his report `Police Encounters with People in Crisis’, one is reminded of Albert Einstein’s  definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting to get different results.

‘That is largely the approach taken in this report. Mr.  Iacobucci recommends that police need better training; supervisors need better training; police need better liaison with mental health agencies; recruit selection procedures need to be better; discipline procedures need to be better; the police service needs to write down its statement  of policies and principles; more study needs to be done on the effectiveness of police training.

‘These are the kinds of recommendations that have been made by coroner’s juries for more than a decade, and as we know from the deaths of Sammy Yatim and others, they have not been effective at making the changes needed. Why should we expect any difference this time around?

‘Mr. Iacobucci had the chance to recommend significant change and he did not. He could have recommended that those with the most expertise in dealing with those in mental crisis in Toronto – the Mobile Crisis Intervention  Teams – be first responders in mental crisis calls, but he does not. Instead he recommends (No. 3) they be `notified’ of every call when it is received, a slight change from the current arrangement of being notified when the officers arrive on the scene.

‘Mr. Iacobucci notes that in Hamilton, Ontario the mental health team is a first responder. We told the Toronto Police Service Board that this was the case a year ago but Deputy Chief Mike Federico who is in charge of the MCITs, told the Board that we were wrong, and there were no first mental health responders in Ontario . That’s the kind of problem we have: the senior person who is in charge of these matters does not seem open to looking for the good practices and policies, but instead challenges those with different and more accurate information.

‘At some point Mr. Iacobucci seems to hope that those with mental health training will be first responders, saying the service should develop such a program. (No. 43) He never says why the current MCITs should not immediately be first responders where and when they are available (since they are currently not in all divisions and not 24 hours a day.)

‘Mr. Iacobucci could have said the Toronto police service should change its recruitment policy to make a job description which says it specifically wants to hire people with a mental health background, but he does not. Instead, he thinks there the police should be more selective in its general recruiting (No. 6, 7, 8, 10) with better screening of those recruited (No. 11, 12, 13). People have suggested these changes for the last decade and it hasn’t been effective. He says the service should consider whether to recruit those who have special training (No. 9) – maybe in ten years we could see this change, maybe not.

‘Mr. Iacobucci suggests that conducted energy weapons should be made more available to Toronto police in a pilot project which is subject to much scrutiny. (No. 52). The Toronto police service will love this recommendation and we believe they will press to implement this recommendation as a priority since it is how they really want to deal with those in mental crisis, and last year recommended that several million dollars be spent on these weapons. It is the wrong approach. We should not spend any more money on conducted energy weapons or other Use of Force options.

‘What’s needed is a serious change in the police culture of command and control. Mr. Iacobucci hardly addresses this issue, instead asking for a refinement of the Use of Force model (No. 41) to include de-escalation as a tactic. It is the old approach of just adding things on to what the police already do rather than being clear that there must be change in the way police act.

‘Mr. Iacobucci had a real opportunity to make change which would ensure our police force could respond well to those in mental crisis, but he seems to have not taken the opportunity. We are disappointed. This was not money well spent.’

4. More thinking on guns

In the last Bulletin we reported how our request to the Toronto Police Services Board to consider restricting guns within the police service was rejected out of hand. But the idea (which is not new, and we can’t claim ownership of it) is being advanced by others. The Globe and Mail editorial on the Iacobucci report asked “How about a pilot program to see what policing would be like not with more weapons but with fewer?” and “What if a gun was – like a taser for Toronto police today – a special weapon that had to be specially called in for exceptional situations?” See http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/are-the-police-soldiers-or-social-workers/article19762097/

Royson James made the same point in a Toronto Star column, wondering “if the police have too much fire-power for the reality of the streets they patrol.” See http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2014/07/26/police_culture_change_must_be_matched_by_fixing_mental_health_system_james.html

5. The carding satisfaction survey

One initiative approved in May by the Toronto Police Services Board as part of the new carding practice was a survey about how satisfied people were by the way they were being carded. It sounds like an odd notion (particularly after reading `Pulled Over’, the book referred to above), but nevertheless, it is proceeding.

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