When the Toronto Police Services Board held a public hearing on November 18 on carding, some two dozen people spoke, only one of whom thought that the revised approach proposed by the police force in its PACER report should be implemented. Everyone else attacked the activity of carding (or street checks) as contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedom, and/or infused with racial profiling. — John Sewell
Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 80, December 11, 2013
At the end of the meeting the Board members held a brief interchange and, as stated in a Board press release of December 11, “the Board agreed that the potential for racial profiling associated with this practice is a significant issue that demands urgent attention.”
That press release continued: “Since that time, the Board has been actively engaged in developing this crucial policy. The Board has retained external counsel to assist with this work. It is pleased to announce that Mr. Frank Addario, a prominent lawyer with significant expertise in criminal and constitutional law, has agreed to provide legal advice in the development of its policy and in charting a framework for moving forward. The Board will be working with Mr. Addario to refine the key issues and develop a draft policy for public input.
“This work is a key priority for the Board as a whole. The Board has heard and taken to heart the concerns of the community. It believes that in order to create a policy that is comprehensive, legally sound and robust, it must proceed in a measured and thoughtful manner. It is also imperative that members of the public receive sufficient time to read, digest and reflect upon any proposed draft policy so that the process of consultation is meaningful and valuable.It is expected that the Board will release a draft policy for public consultation early in the new year, followed by the adoption of a new policy.”
This seems like a good step forward. Most of those who spoke on November 18 would be pleased with Addario’s appointment, since he has been a strong voice for progressive policies. One suspects his advice on carding would run contrary to the opinions given in support of carding by three lawyers to the police service, advice the police service refuses to make public.
But we need to wait and see what transpires. Rarely has the Board taken a major policy decision that runs contrary to the wishes of the chief and the police force. The last time that was done was when the Board, under the leadership of Alan Heisey a decade ago, said it would enforce the law and not permit officers to be involved in political activity. One opening in the carding case is that since the Board decided in the summer that officers were required to provide receipts with their name and badge number, the number of youth carded has reportedly fallen by 75 per cent, which would indicate that the rank and file itself is challenging the chief’s plan on carding. Perhaps we are about to see major worthwhile change.
Officers killed on duty
Toronto Constable John Zivcic was killed on December 2 when, in attending to a call, his cruiser crashed into another car, he was ejected, and died in hospital. Police authorities held a funeral involving thousands of officers in a major show of force, and the Police Board provided $71,000 for the reception following the funeral.
Workplace deaths are always of significant regret, and employers bear a high responsibility to determine how they can be prevented. Once sympathies have been expressed—to compound the death, Zivcic’s young wife is pregnant—it’s important to ask what can be learned from the death.
We should remember that being a police officer is far from the most dangerous kind of work. An article in Forbes Magazine in August did not place police among the top ten most dangerous jobs.
The Toronto Star published a summary of the 25 officers killed on duty since the police force was created in 1957. Half of those deaths were from accidents, nine of which were the result of vehicle collisions. Was there something the officer could have done to avoid or reduce the fatal outcome? Was the collision a result of speeding? Could the fatality been avoided, as Star columnist Joe Fiorito suggested in the case of John Zivcic, by wearing a seat belt?
Reducing fatalities and injuries on the job is the employer’s responsibility. We hope the police service will study deaths on the job and learn from them.
Another police shooting
On the evening of December 13, police shot an 18 year old youth on the Yonge Street subway at Queen Street. Details remain sketchy, but it seems more than a dozen shots were fired by four officers. The youth apparently had a gun, was apparently heard to say he had nothing to live for,
and no passengers on the subway car have come forward to say they were threatened. The youth is in hospital, but has not yet been publicly identified. The SIU was called by police about 40 minutes after the shooting, and by Tuesday none of the four officers involved in the shooting had been willing to talk to the SIU.
This is the third police shooting in this part of the city in the past five weeks: they have also occurred at Wellesley and Sherbourne, and at Church and Gerrard. Shootings also take place outside of Toronto, witness the naked unarmed man shot and killed in Ajax by Durham police in early December.
Perhaps related to this incident, on December 12 the Police Services Board agreed to expand its use of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team into 54 and 55 divisions, using Toronto East General Hospital as the partner. TPAC asked that the agreement specify that the MCITs would be available for both the afternoon and evening shifts, and that the Teams be called out at the same time as the Primary Response Unit so the MCIT could be available early in an incident rather than after the police had ‘got it under control.‘ Neither change was agreed to.
Business Plan or the next three years
The Business Plan for 2014—16 for the police service was before the Board at its December 12 meeting (http://www.tpsb.ca/FS/Docs/Publications/ ). It sets out priorities in the most general of terms, stating the intention is to ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’ some particular result for virtually every police activity, but never detailing what would represent success or meeting a target. One could sum up this business plan by saying: we hope to do a better job in the next three years.
TPAC thought a better business plan would be clear about a more limited number of specific goals, and suggested the following be included in the Service Priorities for the next three years:
(1) Reduce Level 3 strip searches from the current 65 per cent of those arrested to 20 per cent of those arrested by 2016 in order to better reflect the Supreme Court decision on strip searches.
(2) Implement procedures with the objective that not one person in mental crisis is killed by Toronto police in a single year.
(3) Study random patrol activities to determine better use of police resources.
(4) Place one third of new recruits with social agencies for at least a two month period as part of their training.
(5) Scrap the mandatory rule of requiring two officers per police car after 4 pm. (This might be part of the labour negotiations which will occur in 2014.)
(6) Arrange a shift schedule with minimum shift overlaps (currently overlaps occupy 4 hours in each 24 hour period) and maximum continuity of officers in particular communities. (Also part of labour negotiations which will occur in 2014.)
(7) Extend the neighbourhood policing model—placing specific officers in defined neighbourhoods for a two year period on regular shifts—to 75 per cent of police divisions.
(8) Phase out the TAVIS approach of overwhelming communities with officers stopping people for street checks.
(9) Replace carding/street checks with information-gathering methods which conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are more respectful of communities, and are less prone to racial profiling.
(10) Establish a program which, on the advice of social agencies, recognizes and rewards officers whose actions strengthen the bonds of social justice.
(11) Seek a legislative framework so that, like other organizations, management can terminate the employment of officers when appropriate.
(12) Divert more youth from the criminal justice system so that the number charged with criminal offenses is reduced from the 2013 number by 25 per cent by 2016.
(13) Address the over-use of the 911 emergency line by implementing a system which, recognizing that many of those using 911 are not calling about an emergency, diverts one half of calls to a non-emergency number by 2016.
We note that these issues have all been raised at Board meetings by our group, by other members of the public, or by the police service or the Board itself in the past year or two, but the Board was not impressed and simply received the brief. It’s as though the Board has to reject, as a matter of principle, any thoughts that come from the outside world.
Public perceptions of Toronto police
The Business Plan contained an interesting section on how the public views the Toronto police; apparently, a decline in confidence.
- According to the telephone survey conducted for the Toronto Police Service in 2012, most people (84%) said they felt safe in their neighbourhoods in 2012, down from 96% in 2011 and 90% in 2003. However, in 2012, as in 2011, more people said that they felt ‘very’ safe than said they felt ‘reasonably’ safe.
- While people were less concerned about many crime and disorder issues in their neighbourhoods in 2012 than in 2011, they were equally or more concerned about guns, gangs, and drugs.
- In 2012 fewer people said they were satisfied with the Service overall: the proportion of those very or somewhat satisfied in 2012 (81%) was a decrease from both 2011 (97%) and 2003 (94%). Again, however, the proportion who said they were ‘very’ satisfied was higher in 2012 than in recent years.
- Similarly, while fewer people said they were satisfied with delivery of police service to their neighbourhood in 2012 (84%) than in 2011 (97%) or 2003 (88%), over half in 2012 said they were ‘very’ satisfied with delivery of service to their neighbourhood—the highest proportion seen in the past decade.
- Between 2011 and 2012 the proportion of Toronto residents who said that they believed Toronto police officers targeted members of minority or ethnic groups for enforcement doubled: 17% said they believed this in 2011, increasing to 34% in 2012. The proportion in 2012 was also higher than ten years ago in 2003 when 28% said they felt that Toronto police targeted members of minority groups for enforcement.
- Continuing the recent trend of decrease, 72% said they felt the officer(s) treated them with respect during the contact in 2012, down from 83% in 2011. Both years were also a decrease from ten years ago in 2003 (87%). Similarly, in 2012, the proportions of people rating the officer(s) they had contact with as polite, helpful, or professional were lower than in 2011 and 2003.
- According to the Service’s annual survey of high school students, most students in each of the past ten years said they felt safe in and around the school at any time of the day, with the proportion slightly higher in 2012 than in 2011 or 2003 (89% in 2012, 87% in 2011, 84% in 2003).
- When asked about the most serious policing problem in and around their school, drugs and fighting were usually the top two answers each year. In 2011 and 2012, bullying/cyber-bullying was also a frequently noted problem, followed by robbery.
- In 2012, 15% of students said that they’d been bullied in the past 12 months, while 11% said that they’d been cyber-bullied. These proportions changed little from 2011 when 15% of students said that they’d been bullied in the past 12 months and 12% said that they’d been cyber-bullied.
- More students in 2012 than in 2011 or 2003 felt that the relationship between police and students was good or excellent (47% in 2012, 43% in 2011, and 31% in 2003).
- Just under half (47%) of the high school students in the 2012 survey said that their school had a School Resource Officer (SRO). There was no difference in feelings of safety at school between students in SRO schools and students in non-SRO schools: most students in both groups felt safe. Students in SRO schools were, however, more likely than students in non-SRO schools to say they felt comfortable talking to police about crime or other problems at the school, to say they’d tell police if they were the victim of a crime, to say that they didn’t believe that officers targeted members of minority or ethnic groups for enforcement, and to say that the relationship between students and the police was excellent or good.
By including this data in the Business Plan, it has been released ‘under the radar’ as it were. Will it lead to the police adopting new approaches, or will they just tough it out?
The ‘right’ number of officers
As reported in previous Bulletins, Chief Bill Blair has retained consultants for a study on how many officers are needed to police Toronto, and apparently the study has been completed and submitted to the service, although TPAC has been unable to obtain any information about the consultants, the terms of reference, the cost, or the recommendations.
But the Business Plan contains some hints about the study. It says the study addressed two questions:
(1) What is the number of police officers required for the Toronto Police Service?
(2) How does this number of police officers break down by TPS Command Areas/Units, including the identification of those Command Areas/Units where current staffing levels are over/under the recommended levels resulting from the review?
The consultants apparently answered these questions and “presented a comprehensive capacity staffing model that allows for strategic decisions to be assessed for impact against staffing and service delivery.”
None of this information was available to the public for the 2014 operating budget, but information from the study will be made public “in the near future.”
Tasers, no news
The provincial government promised, when it announced in September that Tasers could be much more widely used by police in Ontario, that new guidelines would be posted for Taser use before the end of the year, and would be subject to at least 30 days of comment before coming into force. The guidelines have not yet been posted, which means wider Taser use cannot yet occur.
In Toronto, the Board has decided to delay making a decision. No money has been put in the 2014 Operating Budget for new Tasers.
Keeping the 2014 Police Operating Budget police secret
TPAC has usually reviewed the police budget and commented on it. But not this year.
This year the only information presented to the Board was an explanatory report by the Chief on high level changes from the 2013 budget. No budget document itemizing spending by the various divisions in and functions of the Police Service was presented to the Board. When we challenged Board members on refusing to present a document which outlined police spending, they suggested it was a good idea, and perhaps it should be done for the 2015 operating budget.
So it is not possible for a member of the public to know where police are spending public money, and that surely is why budgets need to be presented and approved.
For example, the police service is undertaking a new initiative, neighbourhood policing, where officers are assigned to a specific neighbourhood for a two year period so individual officers get to know residents in the neighbourhood well, and residents get to know the officers. While only a limited amount of information has been made available about this program, it seems like a good idea. How much money is being spent on this initiative, and where is this money coming from? Maybe more should be spent on this initiative, maybe less; a good budget presentation would give us the detail needed to assess this initiative.
Another example might be the mounted unit. How much is being spent on it, and is this an important priority?
Another example is the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team. How much is spent on this, and why can’t it be expanded from the current 12 divisions to all 17 divisions, and be available 24 hours a day? What would be the financial implications of that, particularly since the chief has reported that the MCIT actually saves the police force money?
These are questions we think need to be addressed but that can’t happen in a vacuum: we need a good detailed budget. Yet the Board approved spending in the order of $950 million—about $30 million more than last year—without this information. This is not a good way to protect the public interest.