Willful blindness in Toronto Police Dis-Service

Does the Toronto Police Service (TPS) have a (poor) quality of service issue or a (poor) public image issue? Or is it bedeviled by both these challenges?
What is the evidence that proves these issues are real? If they are real, who is to be held accountable?
Two or three years ago, I spent a few months looking for answers to those questions. At first, shortly after the Pacer Report on carding came out, I was hopeful there was a good chance that reasonable solutions could be found. Carding is defined as random street checks and collection of personal data carried out by police officers in situations in which the persons carded were not suspected of being linked to a crime.
Subsequently, when carding became the subject of constant pitched battles between the TPS Board and the chief of police and when those battles became public spectacles, I began to lose hope. Eventually, I held the political leadership of the city responsible for the crisis over police carding and had no alternative but to grant the new mayor an F-minus grade for his callous back-tracking on his commitment to eliminate carding.
Since that systemic failure for which the mayor was not by any means the only party to be deemed responsible, I accepted and publicly endorsed the legal opinion that carding is illegal because it is a blatant violation of the basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in Canada’s Constitution.
The fact that so-called “racial minorities”, especially Black males, have been the prime victims of carding adds insult to injury. Such racial discrimination represents not just an ugly stain on the public image of the TPS but a total betrayal of its duty “to protect and serve” the public in a responsible and equitable manner.
And then, instead of getting better, things got worse.
After decades of accusations of police brutality, the “unprofessional” label continues to haunt the TPS in cases involving persons displaying mental health challenges. Use of excessive force in such cases has now led to a curious but very significant court verdict: Constable James Forcillo was declared not guilty of second degree murder in the shooting death of troubled young man named Sammy Yatim, but guilty of attempted murder instead. The legal technicalities of that verdict are so delicate as to warrant years of future use in law studies and may result in several appeals to higher courts by the both the defence and Crown prosecutor.
The quality of training and quality of service issues raised in that court case are fundamental. The TPS Board stands publicly accused of “failing” to act on and or to frontally address the contents of a recent study on future options for increasing efficiency, improving effectiveness and reducing expenditure in the operation of the TPS. The study points to major strategic changes that can bring positive results and specifically recommends much greater use of technology-based operations which would require fewer officers.
It should be borne in mind that one of the key reasons for commissioning that study was the continuous challenge of controlling the TPS budget which is eating a larger and larger slice of the budget for the City of Toronto every year. Since salaries and allowances are by far the largest segment of the TPS budget, any reduction in staffing will result in a significant reduction in the overall expenditure for policing.
So I have no doubt that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) does have both a (poor) quality of service issue and a (poor) public image issue.
But which officials or entities are accountable for the failures inherent in that systemic “poverty”? I do not doubt that the vast majority of police officers are responsible, reasonable and committed to the public good.
I am also confident that new legislation and ground rules being prepared by the Ontario government will mark a substantive step forward in reducing carding to a minimum. The province should go even further in pursuit of more effective delivery of police services by amending its Police Services Act to clarify and strengthen the role of police service boards.
On the other hand, I am less hopeful for the other aspects of the operations of the TPS.
The TPS has lost its priority ranking in the agenda of the mayor and his advisors. Did it really have one, beyond the carding issue?
There will be no substantive improvement in the day-to-day operations of the TPS unless the union, the Toronto Police Association, agrees. And that will not happen voluntarily.
There will only be hope for moving forward if for the association itself decides to take the initiative, at the very least in the important task of improving the negative public image of the TPS.
I am not holding my breath for these last two options to find favour with the Toronto Police Association.