TheBulletin.ca

April 2018 Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin

This TPAC 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
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In this Bulletin:
1. Alok Mukherjee writes about his ten years as police board chair
2. Deadly Force
3. Not dealing with racism
4. Moving backwards on policing
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Alok Mukherjee writes about his ten years as police board chair
Some people look at their past as a series of realized opportunities; some as thwarted failures in getting ahead.  Alok Mukherjee sees his past as a series of conspiracies against him which prevented his good ideas from being adopted.
`Excessive Force: Toronto’s Fight to Reform City Policing’ is Mr. Mukherjee’s book about the eleven years he served on the Toronto Police Services Board, ten years as chair. The sub-title is somewhat misleading. He does not talk about the various people and organizations which have tried to reform policing in Toronto, but rather about his attempts, often in back rooms without telling the public or larger world what he was doing. What he tried to do was his solitary fight, not Toronto’s.
And the theme is that there were many who stood in his way and upset what he thought should happen. Police Chief Bill Blair was a big problem, often duplicitous, according to Mr. Mukherjee. So was Mike McCormack and the Toronto Police Association, as were mayors Rob Ford and John Tory. The book, written with the help of Toronto Star journalist Tim Harper, is a litany of failed opportunities. It implies that Mr. Mukherjee always thought it best to act alone, without drawing in allies who could provide the muscle needed to make change. To that extent it provides a good lesson about the limits of going-it-alone in politics: it’s a recipe for not being successful.
The details provided of the stories he recounts makes it clear that he kept notes of everything he did, often citing emails and private communications. All the big issues are here. Carding receives much attention, although he never mentions that as a Board chair he apparently voted first to deny the Toronto Star access to carding data, then appealed the arbitrator’s ruling to release the information, then appealed the Divisional Court’s decision to confirm the arbitrator’s decision, until the Court of Appeal put an end to the matter by stating the Freedom of Information Act was passed to ensure such information was made available to the public. It took the Toronto Star more than three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the information which showed how carding was largely directed at stopping and questioning blacks.
He provides much background information about the police actions on the G20 meetings in Toronto in 2010, and while he notes that the inquiry led by Mr. Justice Morden shows the Board was negligent in not constraining police activity, he never makes the case as to why the Board was not firmer in demanding information from the chief before the mayhem caused by the police occurred.  Of course, he thinks the major problem was Prime Minister Stephen Harper forcing the G20 meetings to happen in downtown Toronto.
There are several chapters about how badly police treat the mentally ill, using the title `Culling the Other’ for one chapter. It concluded that because governments have refused adequately to fund mental health facilities society is saying “Okay, police officers, you can kill some of these people.” He never mentions the idea that if teams of plain clothes officers and mental health professionals (Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, as they are called in Toronto) were first responders, maybe most of these deaths would not occur.
The police budget, which has escalated from a few hundred million dollars in 2004 to over one billion dollars in 2015 when he resigned receives some attention, but apart from paid duty and transferring school crossing-guard duties to the city – both of which will save very small amount of money – there’s not much meat about coming to grips with police expenditures. He doesn’t  deal with the large savings which could happen if the shift schedule (which has officers working 28 hour sin every 24 hour period and requires as many officers on duty at 4 am as 7 pm) were changed to something more reasonable, or cancelling the rule requiring two officers in a car during the evening and night.
In a chapter is titled `The Elaborate Illusion of Police Accountability’, he criticizes the heads of the Special Investigations Unit for being ineffective when he was chair, and generally thinks the SIU plays no useful role in police oversight. He calls the Office of the Independent Police Review Director `toothless.’  He thinks many of the recommendations of Mr. Justice Tulloch to reform the SIU and the OIPRD are in the right direction, although he wants all review mechanisms to be consolidated into one organization. He doesn’t tangle with the idea that a strong police service board could provide the direction needed for a more responsive police force. While he laments the power of the Toronto Police Association, he never notices that the Association is strong because the Board is so weak.
He castigates the militarization of police, questions whether all police officers should have guns, and  says it is unclear how many officers Toronto needs. Police culture is mentioned on several occasions, although it is never defined in a clear and precise way.
The final chapter, `The Way Forward’, outlines what he thinks should be done in the way of reform, but it is mushy. More and better training is needed; some officers should be hired as specialists; a better vision of policing is required (although what that is in never discussed; governance needs more muscle and authority; community policing should be defined.
One wishes Mr. Mukherjee had been clear about these matters when he was chair, and that he had created public discussion about these and other issues the book touches on. Now that he a professor at Ryerson University and is no longer in a positon of authority, it seems he is interested in change. It’s a pity he didn’t use the time he was chair of the Toronto Police Services Board to attend to that agenda.
2. Deadly Force
The CBC has done good research and discovered that between 2000 and 2017, 461 people died across Canada as a result if interactions with the police. See https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform-custom/deadly-force
Some 70 per cent of victims suffered from mental or substance abuse problems; it is not known about the other 30 per cent.
In Toronto, 52 people died, of which 63 per cent suffered from mental or substance use problems; 14 were unarmed. Of the 52, 18 were black, which is three times higher than the per centage of blacks in Toronto. No one was killed in 2017.
As a result of the 461 fatalities, seven officers were charged criminally; two were found guilty although both charges are under appeal.
Clearly, big changes are needed across the country to ensure people are not at risk of being killed by police officers.
3. Not dealing with racism
TPAC appeared before the Toronto Police Services Board in September 2017 noting that the Toronto Star reports that for a decade before 2014 (the latest data available), Toronto arrested three times as many Black people  per capita as white people for simple possession of marijuana. The data used showed that all arrests were of individuals with no previous involvement with the criminal justice system.
See https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2017/07/06/toronto-marijuana-arrests-reveal-startling-racial-divide.html
The same report shows black people were more likely to be held without release, or with restrictive bail conditions. There is no reason to believe that what occurred before 2014 is still not occurring.
We stated that the Board and the service have ample policies against racial discrimination, but these policies are not reflected in practice and urged that this must change and discriminatory activities must be punished by management, as occurs in other public agencies. We asked the Board to ensure racial discrimination does not continue and that management makes the necessary changes.
The Board asked the chief to report back in January 2018 on the issue.
Since no report was forth-coming we asked in mid-March to be on the Board’s March meeting to discuss the matter. We were told the chief is aware the report is required and we would be noted when it appeared. We asked again in April and were again told the report was not prepared yet.
One gets the sense that the Board does not place racial discrimination by officers, and how this might be curtailed, anywhere near the top of its agenda. Disgraceful.
4. Moving backwards on policing
Doug Ford, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and hoping to be Premier after the election in early June, has said hewould re-institute TAVIS, the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. It was funded by the province and saw Toronto police officers swarm through poorer neighbourhoods, responsible for some of the worst racial discrimination by Toronto police, and a substantial factor in the provincial government enacting a regulation to restrain carding. Bringing back TAVIS would be a serious step backward.
Further, the Party’s community safety critic, Laurie Scott, thinks the recently enacted Safer Ontario Act is disrespectful of police. Apparently the paryt intends, if it becomes the government, to roll back many of the sections of the Act which try to hold the police accountable.
TPAC thought the Safer Ontario Act, while moving in the right direction, did not go far enough. Making the police less accountable is a step in the wrong direction.
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin.
To subscribe or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca.
— John Sewell