Revised policy on police strip searches

By Gerald V. Paul
Good news for the community: the Toronto Police Services Board will consider a revised strip-search policy stating such searches “cannot be conducted simply as a matter of routine policy.”

And according to the recommendation each time a strip (or level 3) search is conducted, the officer must fully explain his/her reasons to the arrested person and record them.

However, The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition headed by former Mayor John Sewell, said officers should have to conduct less invasive searches for potential weapons or other items before a Level 3 search is required. He said officers should record reasons for conducting the more invasive search and require the approval of a senior officer.

The Coalition is asking the force to reduce the number of “unnecessary “ and “humiliating” strip searches conducted by officers, citing data showing more than half of the people arrested undergo such searches.

Sewell cited 2011 numbers obtained through a Freedom of Information request that show 55 per cent of people detained are subjected to Level 3 search.

In September 2005, the board asked that the search procedure be amended to remove automatic strip searches for those detained.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading for detainees regardless of the manner in which they are carried out.”

The court ruled then that such searches cannot be carried out “simply as a matter of routine policy.”

However, between 2009 and 2010, the Toronto Police carried out over 50,000 strip searches of detainees.