Saturday, May 22, 2010

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 53, May 19, 2010.

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
In this issue:
1. Two recent Toronto deaths
2. Making sure the evidence fits
3. Taser use in Toronto
4. The G20 meeting and police consolidation
5. Assessing the Human Rights project
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

1. Two recent Toronto deaths

Two individuals have been killed by Toronto police during the past month. Both deaths have been greeted by the usual police silence about what happened.

Weilaw Duda was killed by police bullets in the port lands on April 19, and the photographs published in the newspapers make it very clear that bullets shattered the windows of the vehicle he was in. Apparently more than a dozen bullets were fired (Duda was unarmed and apparently the incident began because an officer said Duda's car injured him, although the officer was immediately released from the hospital and returned to duty), and there were at least six officers on the scene.

There is a policy in place in the Toronto police service which states: "Police officers may not discharge a firearm at a vehicle for the purpose of disabling the vehicle. Police officers may not discharge a firearm at the operator or the occupants of a motor vehicle unless there exists an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm to an officer or to a member of the public by means other than the vehicle."

The policy was under consideration at the recent inquest into the death of a youth, Duane Christian, who was shot and killed by police in 2006. In 2006, the policy was worded slightly differently, but in 2008 it was amended to preclude shooting at drivers unless they are threatening death or grievous bodily harm by means other than the vehicle (such as by shooting at people). At the inquest the officer who did the shooting testified that he would act in the same way today in spite of the policy since he disagrees with it. A staff sergeant testified to the same effect.

TPAC has written Toronto Police Service Board members and chief asking for an assurance that this policy will be enforced by management. If it had been enforced, Duda would be alive today.

Last week Toronto police officers chased an 18 year old student, Junior Alexander Manon, from a car near York University, caught up to him, and then said he died of a heart attack. Selwyn Pieters, the family's lawyer, saw the body at the morgue and said "The issue of a heart attack is a fiction. It seems that he died from physical force."

The Special Investigation Unit has identified the ten police officers to talk to, eight as witnesses.

Junior Manon was a well known and well liked youth in his North York neighbourhood. Hopefully independent witnesses can be tracked down to confirm what really happened. Many in Manon's Jane/Finch neighbourhood will come to the conclusion that this is an example of the ultimate form of racial profiling practiced by police. Events like this, combined with the recent massive raids on racialized and poor neighbourhoods that caught up innocent youth along with a few gang members, will sooner or later lead to social unrest. Will the police force change its ways to diffuse this situation? Will the Police Services Board intervene and show some leadership, by acknowledging these tragedies and vowing to find ways to ensure that police minimize their use of force?

2. Making sure the evidence fits

When civilians have been seriously injured in incidents involving police officers, the Special Investigations Unit is supposed to be called in as soon as possible in order to separate subject and witness officers and other witnesses for questioning. The SIU and many others have serious concerns that officers talk about events they have seen, agree on what happened, and then write that version of the story up in their notes. There are also concerns about cases where officers do not want to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit, resulting in interviews that get delayed for a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks.

What has now emerged is that often the officers who think the SIU will want to talk to them, meet and retain a common lawyer. While those lawyers say they play no role in shaping a common story among their clients, legal practice is that a lawyer should share information among those he represents on a case. As the Toronto Star puts it, delicately, in an editorial on May 7, this process opens "the door to potential collusion."

Worse, this practise is directly contrary to Regulation 673/98 passed under the Police Services Act. Section 6 of that regulation states "The chief of police shall, to the extent that it is practicable, segregate all the police officers involved in the incident from each other until after the SIU has completed its interviews," and "A police officer involved in the incident shall not communicate with any other police officer involved in the incident concerning their involvement in the incident until after the SIU has completed its interviews."

Those sections do not provide an exception if the officers happen to share a common lawyer.

The SIU has decided, along with lawyers representing the families of two men who were killed last year by the Ontario Provincial Police, to challenge this practice in a court hearing. Lawyers for the officers apparently will argue that this is not a matter the court needs to decide in this case. The day before the hearing on the motion was to begin, the Attorney General pulled its lawyers who were representing the SIU, from the case, leading to fears that the AG's office had buckled to police pressure. At the time of the publication of this newsletter, the hearing had not been completed and the court had not released a decision.

3. Taser use in Toronto

As reported to a recent meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board, in 2009 Toronto police used the taser 309 times in 273 incidents (down from 367 uses in 2008.) 45 per cent of the time police simply showed how the taser sparked or turned on the laser sighting system; 13 per cent of the time they pressed the taser against the skin to cause pain; and the taser was fired in full mode the other 41 per cent of the time.

Not all the full firings were intentional. The report notes that 18 of these full firings (15 per cent) were unintentional. The report says that officers who fired unintentionally received more training.

Three quarters of those using the tasers were front line officers: only one quarter were members of the emergency task force.

As in 2008, 40 per cent of the subjects on whom the taser was used were deemed to be emotionally/mentally disturbed; and a further 25 per cent under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Police report no serious injuries resulted from taser use. The report can be found at, and go to April 22, page 23.

4. The G20 meeting and police consolidation

The meeting of the leaders of the G20 countries will take place at the Metro Convention Centre near the CN Tower on Saturday June 26 and Sunday June 27, but the disruption will ripple out before and after those dates. In the name of security, the police are being given a very free hand with the city.

Some 5000 officers, from Toronto and other forces including the RCMP, will be available that weekend, many in full riot gear with very large guns. Already announced is the plan to establish a secure perimeter in the large superblock from King Street south to the Lakeshore, from Spadina Avenue to Yonge St. This will be an area with increased numbers of police officers and patrols. A fence will be located somewhere near the perimeter, but the police will not yet say where it will be. The Metro Convention Centre and hotels being used by summit attendees who are Internationally Protected Persons will be surrounded by more security fences that will be set up at least a week before the meetings occur. Those hoping to gain entry beyond the perimeter to their place of work or their residence can apply for a permit ahead of time to have speedier access, but others will face long delays. Police indicated the personal information collected for these permits will be destroyed following the meeting.

For a day or two before the Saturday, parking within the perimeter will not be permitted. The eleven child day care centres within the perimeter will probably close down on the Friday and maybe the following Monday. Business owners in the area have expressed great concern about the disruption to their businesses and many will be in shut-down mode for that week. One large law firm has already decided that there will be no client meetings on site for the week before the event since access will be questionable. Already the Blue Jays baseball team has cancelled its Toronto games in the nearby Rogers Centre for that week and will decamp to Philadelphia.

Police are always anxious to secure perimeters for security reasons and those perimeters have been expanding in Canada for such events in the last decade. Police have established an approved 'protest zone' - north Queens Park - which is far away from where any of those attending the summit might be found. The PATH system under the financial district was closed one weekend so the police could simulate a hostage taking and help sort out how they will work with private security. An entire warehouse type building in the port lands has been prepared to hold G8/G20 protestors who are arrested. The notion that police concepts of security trump other ideas of how the city operates is worrying, particularly for those with an interest in political expression.

Apparently the police will introduce a new idea, encrypting the police radio so what's said cannot be picked up on the kind of scanner journalists have used to find out what is happening. Former chief Julian Fantino had found his own way to get around the scanner, which was giving supervisors a cell phone, and having front line officers call on that private number which couldn't be scanned. It seems the encryption will continue with the Toronto force once the G20 leaves town.

5. Assessing the Human Rights Project

For the past three years, the Toronto police service has been working with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to identify any discrimination in employment policies and practices, and in how policing is delivered. The project is now at an end, and the Board is spending $150,000 to get an independent evaluation about whether it has made any difference. The evaluation will be completed in 2014.

All well and good, one might say, to spend a pile of money and another four years wondering how the police are doing about discrimination. But what about racial profiling? The data published by the Toronto Star in February proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that blacks are stopped three times as often as white, charged three times as often, and held in jail three times as often. How much proof is needed before one concludes that as an organization the Toronto police force systematically discriminates on the basis of race?

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