Sewell: Cops in schools; tasers; cop brawl; union boss

In this issue: 1. Police in Toronto schools 2. Braidwood Inquiry on tasers 3. Silence on police brawl 4. New head of Police Association 5. Complaints office to open 6. Police compensation

By John Sewell –

2.1002249.sewellThis Police Accountability 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
In this issue:
1. Police in Toronto schools
2. Braidwood Inquiry on tasers
3. Silence on police brawl
4. New head of Police Association
5. Complaints office to open
6. Police compensation

1. Police in Toronto schools

Police are expanding their permanent presence from 22 to 36 public high schools, and from 8 to 12 Catholic high schools in Toronto.  In the Catholic system, that means there are police in half the high schools; in the public system, police are in 40 per cent of high schools. Fifteen months ago there were no police in any high schools in Toronto, so the change is significant.

Neither school board has ever voted to approve these changes.  To the contrary, trustees have been nimble about avoiding such a vote, instead relying on an informal arrangement between Toronto police and school officials.

Putting police in schools was originally done for perceived reasons of safety, but no one claims that as a rationale today, perhaps because those called in to advise on issues of schools safety (such as Julian Falconer) have opposed this change.
Peter Barrans, the safe school officer for the Catholic board, was recently quoted by The Catholic Register as saying “the primary purpose of the program is not safety, but on building positive relationships between schools, students and police.” John Campbell, chair of the public board, said much the same on a recent radio show. Police chief Bill Blair says the program is just an extension of the idea of community policing.

There is no data to suggest that the presence of an officer either reduces crime or improves safety, or that it improves relationships between the police and students. Although the program has been operational for a full school year, no one seems to have collected data about its impact, and no surveys have been done about how attitudes might have changed of police in schools.  Campbell has said public board staff have been asked to collect data, but he’s unclear when it will be available.

Most of the schools with police (in both the public and Catholic systems) are in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke. None are in the downtown area, but there are police stationed in Eastern Commerce, Danforth, and Northern. Why the divide?  Do police who work downtown already have a good relationship with youth and so they don’t need to be located in schools?  Would downtown parents object to this intrusion by the criminal law enforcer?

The cost of a Toronto police officer is about $100,000 a year, for pay, pension, supervision, and equipment, so the cost for 48 schools is almost $5 million.  One suspects students might do better if instead of police, schools hired another 48 social workers, guidance counselors, librarians, or music teachers. Many Toronto youth, particularly youth of colour, think things would improve if they were just treated with more respect by police on the street.

If a police officer was posted to your work place, you might wonder what the officer was doing there. When the officer says he is just trying to improve his relationship with you and your fellow employees, you would probably complain. Students have difficulty complaining and they are required to be in school – it is their work. Calling the officer a `school resource officer’ as the two school boards do, doesn’t change the situation.

2. The Braidwood inquiry.

Thomas Braidwood, a judge retired from the British Columbia Court of Appeal, was appointed by the British Columbia government to make recommendations on the use of tasers, and to provide a record of the death of Robert Dzienkanski in the Vancouver airport.

A report was issued in August ( and Mr. Justice Braidwood concluded:

“It is not helpful to blame resulting deaths on `excited delirium,’ since this conveniently avoids having to examine the underlying medical condition or conditions that actually caused death, let alone examining whether use of the conducted energy weapon and/or subsequent measures to physically restrain the subject contributed to those causes of death.”

“The unanimous view of mental health presenters was that the best practice is to de-escalate the agitation, which can best be achieved through the application of recognized crisis intervention techniques. Conversely, the worst possible response is to aggravate or escalate the crisis, such as by deploying a conducted energy weapon and/or using force to physically restrain the subject. It is accepted that there may be some extreme circumstances, however rare, when crisis intervention techniques will not be effective in de-escalating the crisis. But even then, there are steps that officers can take to mitigate the risk of deployment.”

On the use of the taser:

“1. I recommend that officers of provincially regulated law enforcement agencies be authorized to deploy a conducted energy weapon only in relation to enforcement of a federal criminal law.
“2. I recommend that officers of provincially regulated law enforcement agencies be prohibited from deploying a conducted energy weapon unless the subject’s behaviour meets one of the following thresholds:
. the subject is causing bodily harm; or
. the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the subject’s behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm.
“3. I recommend that, even if the threshold set out in Recommendation 2 is met, an officer be prohibited from deploying a conducted energy weapon unless the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that:
. no lesser force option has been, or will be, effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm; and
. de-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques have not been or will not be effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm.”

3. Silence on a police brawl

In the last Bulletin we reported on the fight that ensued between four Toronto police officers in the parking lot outside the venue where Fitenite was held last March.
Since regulations under the Police Services Act deems this activity as `discreditable conduct’ (both for the assault and for impugning the reputation of the police force) we wrote the Toronto police chief in early June to find out how charges were proceeding.

Our answer came in early August from J. Ramer, superintendent of Professional Services, stating “This matter was investigated by Professional Standards and the officers involved have been identified. Unfortunately I am unable to provide you with any further information as section 80 of the Police Services Act requires me to maintain strict confidentiality with respect to the matter.”

Section 80 was passed in 2002 when the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves  government was in power. It states  “Every person engaged in the administration of this Part shall preserve secrecy with respect to all information obtained in the course of his or her duties under this Part and shall not communicate such information to any other person except, (a) as may be required in connection with the administration of this Act and the regulations; (b) to his or her counsel; (c) as may be required for law enforcement purposes; or (d) with the consent of the person, if any, to whom the information relates.”

We do not have the names of the officers, and Professional Standards will not advise on any hearings unless a name is first provided.  So the police maintain strict control in regard to their own wrong-doing – even if they hold press conferences to announce the name (and sometimes more) of someone they have charged with an offence.

4. New head of the Toronto Police Association

Mike McCormack, the chief organizer of FiteNite, was recently elected as head of the Toronto Police Association. The vote was relatively close, separating the front-runners by 106 votes.

Mike McCormack has been an officer for 23 years and comes from a police family. His father, William McCormack is a former Toronto police chief; his brother Bill is an officer, although since 2004 facing criminal charges in connection with the club district in Toronto. Mike McCormack faced charges under the Police Services Act in 2004, (See Bulletin No. 11, March 2004), but they were dismissed. Last month he was convicted of insubordination for using a police information computer for personal purposes.

5.  Police complaints office soon open to the public

The Office of the Independent Police Review (OIPR), which was established by legislation two years ago, will be open for business on October 19. It is unclear where the office will be located.

The office has indicated it will not accept complaints about events that occurred before the legislation was proclaimed (which happened on September 18), or perhaps when the office opens.

6.  Police compensation

The Toronto Star recently reported on the operations of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, an Ontario government agency established to assist individuals who have received injuries or losses as a result of criminal activity against them.  The Board refuses to divulge its records, but it has released a small percentage of its decisions to Star reporters. The reporters found that since 2005, 400 police officers and prison guards in Ontario have received payments from the Board for alleged injuries suffered on the job. The size of some of the payments seems very large for the limited injuries suffered, but they dwarf the payments to individuals who have suffered serious consequences but are not police officers.

The larger question is why police are permitted to apply to the Board. If they are injured on the job, isn’t the appropriate route for them to apply for workers’ compensation?