Righting the egregious wrongs in the police service

Believe it or not, there is good news about the possibility of an improvement in the delivery of police services in Ontario.

The bad news is that too many police officers in Ontario do not care about public opinion on this subject. In fact, many junior and senior police officers have clearly demonstrated that their definition of good police services does not coincide with the public’s definition.

No less a legal luminary than retired Superior Court Judge Romain Pitt has repeatedly made pronouncements on the good news and the bad news. Citing various authorities on the subject, Justice Pitt identifies four principles that, when put into action together, result in good police services.

According to those principles, police officers need to earn the trust of the community, identify themselves with the community, be impartial in the application of the law and use the minimum of physical force in carrying out their duties.

Without police adherence to those principles, Justice Pitt argues, enhanced rules on policing enshrined in new laws will not get us the better quality police services we deserve.

Numerous activists, supported by legal opinion, have insisted that carding is both illegal and unjust. Because carding involves random street checks and collecting of data on the persons being “checked”, this process is basically racial profiling that provides illegally and unethically collected information.

Therefore, corrective justice requires that those perniciously obtained data bases be destroyed. Full stop. No negotiation.

Continuing down this journey to justice and equity in the delivery of police services, we need to see a reduction in the influence exerted by the Toronto Police Association on our Toronto City Councillors and on our Mayor.

We will be sure that that influence has been reduced when we see the termination of “off-duty assignments” that provide police officers with juicy financial benefits that are unethical and grossly unfair to our City’s taxpayers, both individual and corporate .

We will be even more secure when the budget for the Toronto Police Service reflects the same restraint in annual allocation, expenditure and cost-effective efficiency as obtains in most other areas of the City’s operations. Efficiency must include the use of appropriate technology and the strategic allocation of human resources.

Another incisive input from Justice Pitt has been highlighted in a Report recently released by the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman, Mr. Paul Dube: the use of excessive force is embedded in the mere12 weeks of basic training our officers receive. The Report entitled “A Matter of Life and Death” states in part:

“The majority of their training focuses on exerting authority and establishing control over armed or hostile subjects, principally by drawing their weapons and yelling commands.”

Can we look forward to our police officers being trained to consider and practice de-escalation techniques in such circumstances?

Our shopping list for better quality policing would be incomplete without a line item for transparency and accountability in the operations of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

In that regard, is it too much to ask that SIU reports on police “incidents” be made public, especially in cases that do not result in charges being laid against the officers involved?

Fortunately for us, the current Premier of Ontario does have the political fortitude and the policy integrity to assume “legal and moral” responsibility for righting these egregious wrongs.