Police require major overhaul

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 60, May 2011. In this issue: 1. Rethinking Toronto police: a public forum 2. The cost of paying suspended police officers 3. Strip search proposal at Board 4. Standing in the way of informed police boards 5. Sexual harassment within the Hamilton police force 6. Police document many during G20 meeting 7. Proposed changes to rules around the SIU 8. Paid duty system: the city auditor reports

By John Sewell –

1. Rethinking Toronto police: a public forum

TPAC is sponsoring a public forum on the evening of Monday June 21 to discuss new and alternative ideas about police issues in Toronto. There has been much public discussion (and dissatisfaction) about Toronto police during the past year, and now is an appropriate time to discuss alternatives. Speakers and the location of the forum will be announced in early June.

The evening will include brief speeches to identify key issues, followed by round tables in which members of the audience will participate in an issue of their choice, followed by a brief summary of conclusions about ways to move forward.

Key issues:
a) Where should we cut money in policing?
b) Alternatives to how police deal with young people.
c) How do we get police to treatment everyone equitably?
d) Challenging police culture.

Reserve the date: Monday June 20, 7 pm. Speakers and location will be announced in early June.
All are welcome. No admission charge.

2. The cost of paying suspended police officers

Staff Inspector Steve Izzett, head of the Intelligence Division, was suspended from the Toronto police force in September 2008 when he was charged with misconduct under the Police Services Act for allegedly harassing a female officer and for oppressive behaviour.  As required by Section 89 of the Police Services Act, the suspension could only be made on the basis that Izzett receive his full pay.

The Public Salary disclosure for Toronto police shows that in 2010 Izzett received $134,306.99 in salary, and a further taxable benefit of $5,837.43 for personal use of a police car.  Assuming his pay was a bit less in 2008 and 2009, Izzett has received about $350,000 from the police budget since being suspended.

It is unclear why it has taken almost three years to schedule the hearing in this case – one can assume that an investigation preceded the laying of charges, so that the suspension was not something that was sprung on police managers. Some explanation is required for this tardiness. Maybe the Act should require hearings to occur within 6 months.
The issue of paying officers on suspension has been raised several times in the last decade. In September 2006 Chief Bill Blair reported on the matter to the Toronto Police Services Board, noting that the rationale behind the policy was that “police officers hold a public office and are not compensated for the duties they perform, but rather for the office they hold.”  The suspension issue had been raised by Chief Fantino in 1997, then again in 2002 and 2003, and on each occasion the provincial minister had no interest in amending the Police Services Act. In 2006 when the board asked for an amendment that would allow the chief to order suspension without pay in limited circumstances, the same negative response was received from the government.

Quite clearly the law needs to be changed so that suspensions within the police service can be made without always being required to continue paying suspended officers. Assuming 0.5 per cent of Toronto officers are under suspension at any one time, that’s a cost of more than $2 million a year paid to those not doing any work.

One other question: why was Izzett given a police car for his personal use while suspended? In fact, why are police cars given to any senior officer for personal use? Shouldn’t police cars be kept for police business?

3. Strip search proposal at Board

At the April 7 meeting, TPAC asked the Toronto Police Services Board to modify the strip search policy to ensure it better reflected the 2001 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Golden case, when the court stated that strip searches were so intrusive they should rarely be used by police. TPAC argued that if more than half of those arrested in Toronto are subject to strip searches, the policy clearly does not conform to the court’s decision.

TPAC asked for relatively simple amendments to the policy; before a strip search is undertaken, police should be required to do a frisk or pat-down and record why that frisk showed that a strip search was required. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sent a strong letter in support of the TPAC proposal.

The chair of the Board, Alok Mukherjee, argued that his opinion stated in 2006 was still valid, namely that the current policy conformed to the court decision. He also said that the strip search policy posted on the Toronto police web site is not the `real’ policy, even though the Freedom of Information Officer alleged it was. Chief Bill Blair said the real policy was kept secret from the public for operational reasons.

After a somewhat rancorous discussion, the Board agreed with the suggestion from Councillor Michael Thompson that the chief report on the number of strip searches conducted in 2010. But the Board expressed no intention of changing its policy.

4. Standing in the way of informed police boards

The insularity of senior police officers, and their attempt to shrug off civilian control, never fails to amaze.

The most recent example is the active opposition of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) to the training of police board members that the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards has been attempting to carry out.

The OACP went so far last year as to write the Minister of Community Safety and Correction Services saying it opposed any training that the police board association tried to deliver, as well as any training it wanted to provide using consultants. It would only agree to training done directly by the ministry itself.

OACP’s opinion clearly carries weight: if the local police chief opposes board members going for training, you can be sure that most members would not cross the chief. It was an effective way of ensuring that Board members would be ineffective in providing good governance to local policing.

In March of this year, the head of the police board organization wrote an angry letter documenting how OACP had stood in the way of good training, and showed there is no legislative requirement that training be done by the ministry, as OACP claimed. OACP backed down a bit, saying that training about `legislative authority’ of police boards must be done by the ministry, and it wouldn’t stand in the way of other training being done by the police board organization.

Police services boards in Ontario cannot be effective mechanisms for governing police forces if police chiefs take these kinds of actions to keep members from strengthening their ability to provide oversight and ensure accountability.

At the moment, OACP exists because the public pays it costs through local police boards subsidizing the costs of chiefs to participate in OACP business. Perhaps that subsidy should be ended.  Why should the public subsidize those who wish to prevent the education of police board members?

5. Sexual harassment within the Hamilton police force

In 2005, three female officers with the Hamilton police force complained that they were being sexually harassed by their commander, Kevin Dhinsa. They provided statements to the professional standards branch. Eventually, 12 female officers claimed sexual harassment by Dhinsa. Finally, Chief Brian Mullan laid 24 charges of misconduct against Dhinsa.

The Hamilton Police Association decided to represent Dhinsa, and not the 12 female officers. The Association argued the charges laid by Chief Mullan were filed eight days after the deadline in the legislation. The charges were thrown out. Dhinsa returned to work without penalty or protocol for his behaviour.

The complainants appealed the dismissal of the charges but these appeals failed because the courts ruled it was the chief, not the women, who was the complainant under the legislation, and therefore the women had no status. The chief was not willing to join the appeals.

The women decided to pursue their case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A hearing was finally – six years later – about to begin at the beginning of April, but a settlement was made two days before the hearing at which Dhinsa was required to testify. Sadly, the terms of the settlement are confidential.

One suspects that whatever the terms, they cannot make up for the poisonous environment for women in the Hamilton police service, caused by the many cases of  sexual harassment and by the fact that their employee representative, the police association, refused to represent them.

As for Kevin Dhinsa, according to the Toronto Star he is currently on secondment to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

6. Police document many during G20 meeting

It’s well known that police arrested just over 1,100 individuals during the G20 meetings last June in Toronto, and that charges have been dropped in all but a few dozen of those cases. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has reported, the Toronto police refuses to delete information in their databases about those cases where charges were not proceeded with, putting those individuals in jeopardy in cases where they require a reference letter.

The Toronto Star found, through a Freedom of Information request, that police also carded a further 558 individuals; that is, they stopped, searched and questioned these individuals, recording details about names, addresses, etc. for police records. In virtually every case the search was not legal, or if the individual consented, the consent was given under duress.

Nothing one learns about police behaviour during the G20 gives one confidence in the decisions taken by Toronto police.

7. Changes to SIU powers

Former judge Patrick LeSage has reported to the Ontario government on changes to powers surrounding the Special Investigations Unit. He proposes a clear definition of `serious injury’ which provokes an SIU investigation; a requirement that officers being investigated must retain different lawyers than witness officers; that officers cannot talk to other officers until after the SIU has completed its review; that officers must write up their notes at the end of the shift (rather than writing them up after meeting the lawyer.) The recommendations, which the government says it will adopt, can be found at
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/siu_report/report.pdf .

8. Duty pay system: the city auditor reports

The City Auditor has recently reported on the paid duty system where Toronto police officers are hired to perform work either required by city permit rules or desired by a private firm. There were 41,000 paid duty assignments in 2009, paying officers $24 million that year. 3700 officers worked an average of 100 hours during the year, giving each $6500.

The auditor notes that duty pay ($65 per hour) is about double regular pay, and sometimes officers take duty pay assignments which interfere with regular work assignments.

The administrative system which runs paid duty involves 35 full time staff, the cost of which is partially covered by application fees. About $1 million is paid by the public through the police budget. Rather than increasing fees to balance the books, the auditor suggests reducing costs; he notes that uniformed officers perform clerical functions such as data entry, a considerable waste of resources.

The auditor notes that the city does not have a bylaw about when duty officers are required, just a haphazard permit system with rules not found in other neighbouring municipalities. (For instance, a paid duty officer is required for any road work taking place within 30 meters of a signalized intersection; few other cities have such a rule.) As well, while Toronto requires paid duty officers at many film-shoots, in New York City no such requirements exist.

In short, it’s a haphazard system which needs careful scrutiny. The Auditor makes many specific recommendations. The report is found athttp://www.toronto.ca/audit/2011/policeservice-mar23.pdf
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, 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