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Updated: 2017-09-22T08:26:50.371-04:00


Are the police receiving adequate training on mental illness


On February 3, 2012, a Toronto police officer shot and killed Michael Eligon, who was believed to be mentally ill. Eligon was admitted to Toronto East General Hospital on January 31, 2012 for a mental assessment and was supposed to be picked up by his foster mother on February 3, 2012. He walked out of the hospital in his hospital gown and walked around the neighbourhood looking confused and disoriented. He also had two pairs of scissors he took from a convenience store nearby. He attempted to enter into a number of homes and a few people called the police. The police arrived and an officer shot at Eligon three times when they finally found him, with one of the shots hitting and killing Eligon. This was a complete shock to the neighbourhood and brought an array of questions regarding the police and the adequacy of the training they receive on dealing with people who have a mental illness. Neighbours raised their concerns since these incidents keep occurring, as exemplified by the cases of Charlie McGillivary and Sylvia Klibingaitis that happened last year. Charles McGillivary was unable to speak due to a childhood accident and communicated through sign language with his mother and used a handful of words only she could understand. He collapsed and died while being arrested by police. They mistakenly took him for another suspect and due to his large frame and the fact that he couldn’t speak, they took him down while arresting him. McGillivary fell into medical distress and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. He was walking with his mother when this occurred and the police wouldn’t listen to her pleas that he was mentally ill and couldn’t speak. Sylvia Klibingaitis struggled with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychotic delusions. She had “peak anxiety” during the weeks prior to her death, and she made a 9-1-1 call for help during a mental crisis. She told the operator that she had a knife and that she was going to commit a crime. According to the S Investigations Unit (SIU), Klibingaitis burst out the front door with a large knife in her right hand when a police officer approached her home. The officer backed away from the house toward the curb. As she followed him toward the curb with knife in hand, he pulled his gun from its holster and repeatedly yelled, “Put the knife down!” She refused and moved closer. The officer fired three times. One bullet hit the garage door and another struck her in the chest, killing her.The SIU was contacted in both cases, and in both cases the police officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. It seems that front-line police officers are coming into more contact with people who have mental health issues, but they receive very little mental health support and training. On the Canadian Mental Health Association website, it states that a study by the London Police Department showed that between 1998 and 2001, the number of hours uniformed police spent dealing with people with serious mental illness doubled from 5,000 to 10,000. The same study showed that calls involving people with mental illness took up to $3.7 million of the $43-million London Police Department budget in 2001. The study also showed that the increase in calls was for minor nuisance crimes or no crime at all, and that violent crime among people with serious mental illness was actually decreasing.In a resolution passed in June 2003, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police recognized that "the inadequate funding of community mental health services has resulted in vulnerable individuals being at risk of increased contact with the police and increased involvement in the criminal justice system."Deputy Chief Michael Federico said all Toronto officers are given mental-health training each year when they have two days of use-of-force training. It includes instruction on how to calm situations down verbally and realistic role-play scenarios that mimic responding to someone with a mental illness. Additional training varies by specific job and the year, he said. Police in Halifax and York Region have adop[...]

Windsor Police Officers found not guilty of discreditable conduct in investigation of Dr. Abouhassan case


Two Windsor police officers Paul Bridgeman and Patrick Keane have been found not guilty of charges of discreditable conduct in connection to a complaint made by Windsor resident Dr. Tyceer Abouhassan.  Charged under the Police Act, the two Staff Sergeants were accused of trying to broker a deal with Dr. Abouhassan to drop charges laid against the doctor in exchange for him to drop charges laid against a Windsor detective resulting from an altercation.Though charges were eventually dropped against Dr. Abouhassan, Det. David Van Buskirk is set to go on trial this June following an outside agency charging him with excessive use of force, discreditable conduct, unlawful arrest and deceit for making a false record.  Adjudicator Morris Elbers, a retired OPP superintendent, oversaw the Police Act hearing and concluded the prosecution’s case against the two Staff Sergeants failed to meet “the standard of clear and convincing evidence to make a finding of guilt”.  The adjudicator’s 12-page decision stated that the investigation launched by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director relied largely on the testimony of Abouhassan’s lawyer, and on the notes of those involved.  Elbers commented that the lack of any notation by officer Keane on a meeting with Abouhassan’s lawyer was “distressing”, and described officer Bridgeman’s notes as being “dismal”.  Elbers further commented that Abhouhassan’s lawyer admitted to omissions made, and that the lawyer “concluded that all the meetings with the officers were ethical”.In response to the case, the adjudicator stated that Windsor Police should put in place policies to guarantee this does not happen again, and suggested requiring police of superintendent rank or higher be present during meetings between police and defence lawyers. He stressed the importance of properly recording such meetings, a procedure necessary “to preserve the integrity of the investigation and the transparency of the organization.”Elbers further suggested Windsor Police take “a hands-off approach when a member of their service is charged criminally”, and stated the department “should be enacting policy to prevent this situation from arising again.”Acting Windsor police Chief Al Frederick stated that the department “takes all allegations of police misconduct very seriously”, however he expressed that he was pleased with the adjudicator’s decision.    The allegations against the two Staff Sergeants stems from an altercation between Dr. Abouhassan and Det. Van Buskirk outside the Jackson Park Medical Centre on April 22, 2010.  Abouhassan has filed a $14.2-million claim against the Windsor Police, claiming he was beaten and seriously injured by Van Buskirk as a result of mistaken identity and was then wrongfully charged by Windsor Police in an alleged attempt to protect their own officers.Posted by Ben Dillon (Windsor Law I)  [...]

New Rules for Web Surveillance under Bill C-51


The Conservative government has introduced a law that will increase police power in monitoring Internet-surfing of Canadians.  Bill C-51, titled “an Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts”, would require Internet Service providers (ISPs) to install and use equipment allowing the police easier access in monitoring and viewing stored Internet-surfing history of their clients.  Under Bill C-51 the police would have the power to have ISPs collect and preserve Internet surfing data for anyone suspected to be engaged in criminal activity without requiring a warrant. Bill C-51 will also allow police to more easily activate cellphone tracking mechanisms to track the whereabouts of suspected criminals.  While cellphone tracking of suspected terrorists can currently be performed for up to 60 days, the new law would allow police to track suspected terrorists for up to one year.  Public Safety Spokesperson Julie Carmichael claims that the new measures are aimed to bring our laws into the 21st century, and will provide police with the tools needed to do their job.   She wrote: “Rather than making things easier for child pornographers and organized criminals, we call on all Canadians to support these balanced measures”.  She stated Bill C-51 follows policies adopted by Sweden, the United States, Australia and Germany, and claimed the Bill “strikes an appropriate balance between the investigative powers used to protect public safety and the necessity to safeguard the privacy of Canadians”.Many advocates of Internet-privacy - including the privacy Commissioner of Canada, have expressed fear over the Bill’s impact on civil liberties, and have warned the government not to adopt the bill on the grounds that it would lead to serious infringements of civil liberties.  Opponents of the Bill have claimed that the new laws would allow police to obtain personal information on suspects at any time without first obtaining a warrant, while the current law allows police to bypass warrants only in emergency situations.  In response to the proposed Bill, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) claimed the law will be difficult to justify, stating they “could not find a sufficient quantity of credible examples” for an older version of the legislation.  In defence of Bill C-51, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stated that opponents of the Bill were “putting the rights of the child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens”.  In response to Toews’, federal Privacy Commissioner said in a recent letter to Toews that she sees no valid arguments to justify legislating these new surveillance powers over the Internet.   In 2009, then Public Safety Minister Pete Van Loan cited kidnapping where police had to wait 36 hours to obtain a warrant as evidence of the need for Bill C-51.  However in rebuttal, digital policy expert Michael Geist revealed that the incident did not involve any requests to ISPs by police for customer data.  Posted by Ben Dillon (Windsor Law I) [...]

Can Racial Profiling be Eradicated in Montreal?


A couple months ago, a Quebec Superior Court ordered a new trial for Joel Debellefeuille, who refused to show identification when stopped by Montreal police. The police report pointed out “reasons” for the stop including the fact that the car belonged to a man by the name of Debellefeuille but the person they had stopped was a black man who did not “correspond at first sight to the owner”. The report also stated that Debellefeuille sounded like a Quebecois family name and not a name of another origin. Finally, the intercepting officer specifically wrote that the primary reason he stopped Debellefeuille was because of his race. Cases like this one - coupled with the fact that in the first half of 2011 they received 10 complaints against the Montreal police force for racial profiling – caused the Quebec Human Rights Commission to create a report with 93 recommendations to address racial profiling and discrimination in Quebec.As a result, Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Montreal police chief Marc Parent have outlined a ‘zero tolerance’ policy surrounding racial profiling with the goal of having a better understanding of vulnerable groups in society. The proposal calls for equal access to jobs, housing and social programs as well as monetary aid from the Province to help fight poverty and the resulting issues that arise from it.  The Mayor also stresses the responsibility that the public has in making Montreal a more tolerant community. At a press conference on the new initiative, Mayor Tremblay spoke of Montreal as an example of multiculturalism and stressed that, “Profiling in any shape or form is unacceptable”. However, there is valid concern that the plan, press conferences and statements, however well intentioned, will end up simply being symbolic and ignoring both the root causes of profiling while also failing to provide consequences for when it occurs. For instance, Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations commented on the policy stating that, “The real skepticism lies in the position of the Police Brotherhood Union on racial and social profiling, and how it will work with the police management team to equip all officers with better management skills to police a diverse city. To date, the position is not clearly articulated where the plan of action is concerned.” Niemi says that two recommendations specifically would have an immediate impact. First, that Montreal police revise the tactics being used by their anti-gang unit, which, he says, has been known to target young black men as being suspected of being gang members. The second is that Montreal police alter their policies regarding incivilities, which can include any public conduct deemed to be uncivil such as talking loudly, jaywalking or spitting in the street. The willingness of police to stop and fine people for these actions give them the leeway to go after a broad range of people as they choose.The effectiveness of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy will depend on willingness at all levels of policing to keep an open mind and implement true changes that are meant to reach the root cause, not to quell negative press. What seems to be lacking are any concrete plans on how these police officers will be trained to think different about minority populations. Do these elected officials truly believe that years of inherent biases can be eradicated simply by stating that they are inappropriate? What would the most important changes be in trying to rid policing of racial bias and profiling? Similarly, what would the appropriate penalties even be for officers that participate in profiling, whether intentional or not?Posted by Melissa Crowley (Windsor Law II)[...]

Police Dogs and Excessive Force


Christopher Evans is now suing the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) as a result of injuries he sustained from what he alleges to be “excessive use of a police dog”. In June of 2011, Mr. Evans had smashed a window on a bus and subsequently fled the scene on his skateboard.  He was then pursued by a police force and a police-dog. Mr. Evans was “caught” by the dog that bit him so severely that the artery in his leg was nearly hit and Mr. Evans needed almost 100 staples to be closed.Background – Police DogsThe Vancouver Police Department’s Dog Squad has been in operation since 1959 and it is the oldest municipal dog squad in Canada. Dogs and dog-handlers go through extensive training that starts when the dog is young in order to train the dog well, and to formulate a “bond” and comfort-level between the dog and dog-handler. There are two circumstances in which a police-dog will be used on a suspect: (1) When the dog-handling police officers believe that a criminal offence has been committed and (2) When the dog-handling police officers feel that the use of force “is needed to apprehend the suspect”. ObservationsThe main issue involving police dogs is whether using them constitutes excessive force, and if so, when can using a dog be justified? Police dogs are well-trained and can readily be thought of as any other weapon used by a police officer. As stated in the article, Professor Stan Coren of the University of British Columbia explained that “a dog can kill a person in less than 30 seconds”. This was quite possible in the case involving Mr. Evans where: had the dog bit through to the artery in his leg, Mr. Evans could have bled out in moments. Police dogs are employed in situations where a suspect needs to be apprehended. In the case of Mr. Evans, it seems fair that a police dog was used as Mr. Evans had the advantage of his skateboard while fleeing.  However, what is of particular concern is what the dog was trained to do after it had apprehended the suspect. Are dogs being trained to employ excessive force on suspects that the dog determines to be a threat? Or, was it merely because Mr. Evans continued to resist that the dog persisted in attacking him? What is noted in the article is that dogs are trained to stop attacking if the suspect goes “slack”. However, is it really that easy to go “slack” when being pursued by a potentially deadly animal? Of particular concern is the safety of the public at large and the ability to control a police dog, particularly a police dog that goes “rogue”.  Granted, police dogs in force are selectively chosen and trained well. However, anything is possible when there is no control over the dog that may “read” a situation incorrectly and attack anyway. If a deadly attack were to occur, can it simply be concluded that the dog went rogue? Or, was more need to be done when training and controlling the dog? Some may see how it is possible that a dog can be used as a “scapegoat” for police officers who, rather than using force themselves, rely on the dog to do it for them.  An attack by a dog would face less public outcry than an attack by a police officer. Further, very few, if any articles have emerged where a police dog has killed a suspect. Likewise, little negative feedback has surfaced regarding the use of police dogs, even in situations where they attack suspects severely. On the flip side, the use of police dogs has become a helpful tool to the police. Dogs are used in an array of activities including: finding missing persons; detecting explosives; searching for narcotics, drugs and alcohol; crowd control and several others. Dogs have significantly keener sensory abilities than humans and can conduct searches and chases much faster than humans. In many regards, a dog is an extremely intelligent and useful weapon when trained properly and employed correctly by police.  Like any weapon or force employed by [...]

RCMP Training Postponed Amid Racial Profiling and Abuse Findings


On January 27, the RCMP scrapped a program to send hundreds of police officers to Arizona for drug recognition training after learning that a recent U.S. Department of Justice Report found “reasonable cause to believe” that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had engaged in a practice of misconduct that violated the U.S. Constitution and Civil Rights Act, 1964. The Report, at page 2, also indicates that the violations are to such an extent that the DOJ is prepared to commence civil proceedings against the Sheriff’s Office if it does not comply with a federal judicial process to reform the detachment’s practices immediately.The DOJ found cause to believe that violations occurred in the following areas: 1. Discriminatory practices including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos; 2. Unlawful retaliation against individuals exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, including but not limited to practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and 3. Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by punishing them and denying them critical services.  The Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:  1. Failure to implement policies guiding deputies on lawful policing practices; 2. Allowing specialized units to engage in unconstitutional practices; 3. Inadequate training and supervision; 4. An ineffective disciplinary, oversight and accountability system; and 5. A lack of sufficient external oversight and accountability.   In addition to these formal pattern or practice findings, the investigation uncovered additional areas of serious concern, including:  1. Use of excessive force; 2. Police practices that have the effect of significantly compromising MCSO’s ability to adequately protect Latino residents; and 3. Failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.  The Report is drawing concern in Canada because the Maricopa County police detachment has partnered with the RCMP for years, with Maricopa officers instructing in Canada and RCMP officers doing “field certification” at the county’s jail. That field work has included having RCMP officers, from both municipal and provincial forces, practice drug recognition training on individuals arrested for allegedly driving while impaired. Although Deputy Commissioner Doug Lang cancelled the partnership with Maricopa within days of being alerted to the Report by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, noting that it brings “into question” certain police practices in Maricopa County.But some are speculating that the implications span wider than Maricopa County and may impact criminal investigations and cases that are already before Canadian courts, as the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office is said to be responsible for training upwards of 85 percent of all drug-recognition experts in North America. As a result, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Executive Director David Eby has called on the RCMP to conduct a retroactive review to determine if the training RCMP officers have received over the years is reliable and complies with Canadian societal norms and constitutional standards. According to the Montreal Gazette, RCMP Inspector Allan Lucier responded by saying that although the drug recognition materials the RCMP uses were developed in the United States, they have been modified to ensure they conform to Canadian laws. Mericopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has called the investigation and attempted reforms politically orchestrated and an “invitation to illegals”. Arpaio is also currently under fire for his office’s failure to properly investigate more than 400 sex crimes, which has also prompted calls for his resignation. The Justice Department has given[...]

Ottawa Police Association Considering Equipping Officers with Cameras


In response to growing concern over the use of racial profiling and excessive force within the Ottawa Police Service, the Ottawa Sun reports that the new president of the Ottawa Police Association, Matt Skof, believes that this misperception would be dispelled if officers were outfitted with small personalized cameras recording their interactions with citizens.

Skof denies that racial profiling exists amongst Ottawa police but contends that the measure is nevertheless necessary to protect officers, result in cost-saving for the City of Ottawa, and restore public confidence in the police. This comes in the wake of several high-profile civil claims against Ottawa Police for racial profiling and police brutality. In the cases of ChadAiken, Stacy Bonds, TerryDelay and RoxanneCarr, video recordings show Ottawa police using what is being argued amounts to excessive force and unconstitutional search techniques.

In June 2011, the Ottawa Police Service approved a newpolicy aimed at preventing and responding to officers engaging in racial profiling and discriminatory treatment. The police was drafted with the assistance of LEAP.

Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law III) 

Improving Transparency and Accountability


With Project Accountability, acting Chief Al Frederick has demonstrated that he is prepared to respond to the public demands for accountability and transparency following allegations of police misconduct including the vicious beating of a local doctor and attempts to cover it up.The blueprint for change and its 27 recommendations should lead to significant change in both culture and procedure. In particular, the adoption of the more liberal definition of "serious harm" which triggers the duty to report incidents to the SIU, enhanced training, new conflict of interest rules, organizational review and a comprehensive external policy review that will be conducted by the OIPRD are all salutary measures. The acting chief has shown strong leadership and should be considered as a viable candidate to be the next chief.However, other actors in the justice system such as judges, Crown attorneys and defence lawyers also play an important role and must respond appropriately to police misconduct.If, for example, the police believe that Crown attorneys will not report their misconduct or that judges will not make findings of misconduct or denounce it through appropriate sentences, any efforts by police administration will be thwarted.Any blueprint for change must include these key actors.It must also be acknowledged that there are human rights issues facing the WPS that need to be remedied. For example, unconstitutional strip search practices, allegations of discrimination, and the recruitment, retention and promotion of female, racialized and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender officers.Former chief Gary Smith was a leader in his commitment to changing the human rights culture of the WPS. He partnered with many organizations including the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Windsor Law's LEAP (Law Enforcement Accountability Project) and EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) to bring about change. He faced resistance to these initiatives and there is likely a change-resistant faction happy to see him gone.So in addition to Project Accountability, here are some additional ideas that could form part of the blueprint for greater accountability and transparency:* Commit to the human rights audit by the Ontario Human Rights Commission of practices and procedures initiated by former chief Smith, and implement the commission recommendations.* Investigate the feasibility of a policy requiring all officers on duty and in the field (including officers employed by private organizations like bars) to wear a camera installed on their uniform. Technology now serves as the greatest engine of accountability as we saw with both the David Van Buskirk and Brad Snyder cases. The camera will protect officers from unwarranted accusations as well as to capture misconduct. It will also protect officers from abuse and violence as individuals will know that they are being videotaped. The head of the Ottawa Police Association has recently recommended that Ottawa implement a similar measure.* Request that a Crown attor-ney be assigned to vet all cases involving police-initiated charges such as assault police, resist arrest, cause disturbance arising out of interactions with accused. The chief should be notified of any case where the Crown believes that the officer has used these kinds of offences to shield their misconduct and the charges should be withdrawn.* Require the Crown Attorney's Office to notify the chief of any case where there is a judicial determination that an officer has engaged in misconduct or has provided false evidence. The chief should be required to notify the Police Services Board of all such communications from the Crown and how the matter has been dealt with. The Toronto Police Services Board is considering a similar policy.And finally, the Windsor Police Services Board should consider[...]

New Leadership, New Initiatives for Windsor Police


On December 23, 2011, Windsor Police Chief Gary Smith announced his retirement from the force.  His decision to retire came amid numerous allegations of brutality and misconduct by Windsor police officers, public outcry over accountability for the actions of police officers, and heavy criticism of Smith for his handling of recent allegations of police misconduct. As of the date of Smith’s retirement, the Windsor Police Service was facing $72-million in lawsuits, with thirty cases alleging police brutality. Since 2006, mainly through out of court settlements, Windsor Police has paid over $820,000 of taxpayers’ money to victims for malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, and assault lawsuits.  Public discontent with the actions of many officers and the Service’s handling of allegations of police misconduct has been palpable.  Several high profile cases, including a $14.2-million lawsuit against the Windsor Police Service by Dr. Tyceer Abouhassan, have led to a shaken public confidence in the city’s police.  Dr. Abouhassan alleges he suffered a beating at the hands of Det. David Van Buskirk, and was subsequently charged with assault in what his lawyer has called a cover-up by police to protect an officer.  Det. Kent McMillan is charged with discreditable conduct for failing to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the incident involving Dr. Abouhassan and is also charged with deceit for filing a false report in the case.  Regarding the public’s outrage at the Windsor Police Service’s recent alleged action, lawyer Andrew McKay, who currently represents Det. Van Buskirk, contends that police are merely visible targets for these allegations and that misconduct is found in every field of work.  This view that Windsor Police are merely more exposed in the public eye than others is not widely shared. Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has joined public discontent, and has stated that the frequency in which Windsor Police vehicles are involved in crashes has caught his attention.  In an interview with the Windsor Star, Windsor Law Professor David Tanovich stated that even judges are increasingly speaking out against police officers.              Since Smith’s resignation, acting police Chief Al Frederick appears to be taking steps toward the right direction. Since his role as acting Chief, he has been outspoken over the need for change within the Windsor Police Service.  In a news conference, he bluntly stated that in terms of transparency and accountability for Windsor Police, the “status quo is not the path forward for the Windsor Police Service”.  He went on to say the Windsor Police Service will no longer “thumb its nose” at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), amid recent accusations by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin that the Windsor Police Service has both delayed and failed to report numerous incidents involving police misconduct.  Frederick has additionally responded to four SIU letter’s originally ignored by former Chief Gary Smith, but stated that Windsor Police Service’s failure to report certain incidents were a result of a difference in the Police Service’s definition of “serious injury” from the SIU. Frederick has furthermore introduced Project Accountability, a 27-measure initiative including enhanced police training, new rules regarding conflict of interests, organizational and external policy reviews conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and a more liberal definition of the term “serious harm”.  The initiative also includes plans to move the professional standards branch out of Windsor Police Headquarters.  In an interview, Frederick stated that moving the branch, which is in charge of investigating pu[...]

Eviction aggression in the United States potential forewarning for Canadian Movements


In recent weeks it seems that members of the “Occupy” movement have overstayed their welcomes and evictions have begun to be carried out. November 15 saw police officers evicting the resisting protestors situated in Zuccotti Park in New York City. There were some reports of arrests numbering approximately 70 and others of officers tear gassing, handcuffing, and dragging people by their hair from the site. Opinions are split about the appropriateness of these actions, the scope of the right to peaceful protest, and whether or not the occupiers should have been forced out to begin with.

The more troubling news however, has come in recent days with information about violent evictions and large-scale pepper spraying incidents. For example, on November 18th police were called to the University of California’s Davis campus, making arrests and using pepper spray in the process. The spray however, was not used to control unruly participants, but was sprayed directly in the faces of 10 to 15 participants that were sitting submissively in a row on the ground. One woman was subsequently taken to the hospital to be treated for chemical burns as a result. Videos that captured the events outraged and antagonized protestors amongst the movements. One such video can be found at the following link.

This begs the question - what will happen in Canada? Occupy movements here have already experienced evictions as well. If protestors are legally evicted and refuse to leave, should police officers be allowed to take similar action to that which was taken in California?  Will protestors and police officers alike be particularly on edge because of the memories of G20? Do protestors have the right to be on the defensive and should police officers proceed with added caution?

Posted by Melissa Crowley (Windsor Law II)

Google Denies Request to Take Down Police-Brutality Video


Google has recently revealed that it has refused the request of a U.S. law enforcement agency to remove a YouTube video that contains acts of police brutality.  Although Google did not disclose information about the enforcement agency’s request to remove this video, it recently revealed in its Transparency Report how similar requests have been increasing in recent months.  Google’s most recent TransparencyReport cited the following with respect to a petitioned video:We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.In the report, Google stated that the request to remove content was one of thousands made by governments around the world, including requests from the Government of Canada.  Google stated that there have been 16 requests by the Government of Canada for the removal of content from Google services in the past year, 44% of which Google either removed fully or partially.  It additionally reported that amid increased government requests to remove content, Google continues to follow its company policy of hosting content, including videos containing police brutality, unless presented with judicial rulings for the removal of specific content.Google’s decision not to remove content containing police brutality may be particularly relevant today, as the recent Occupy protests across North America have produced a growing number of online videos of police violence toward protestors.  A video surfaced recently that showed former Marine Scott Olsen being carried away from an OccupyOakland protest after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister, which left him in critical condition.  Footage of this incident posted on YouTube has in part led to rallying of the Occupy Wall Street for greater police accountability in dealing with the protestors. As the Occupy movement spreads across Canada, Google’s decision to host videos of police interactions with protestors may prove instrumental in promoting police accountability and transparency during these growing protests.  It will be interesting to see whether Google will maintain their policy of hosting sensitive content as government requests for their removal continue to increase.  It will also be interesting to see whether the Canadian parliament and/or judiciary addresses this issue in the future, and whether law will be enacted to facilitate the removal of content including police brutality.                   Posted by Ben Dillon (Windsor Law  I)[...]

Case Highlights the Need to Break the “Code of Silence” Amongst Police Officers


Justice Nancy Backhouse, of the Ontario Superior Court, recently had strong words about the unconstitutional search and inaccurate testimony of police constable Ido Sukman during an application to exclude physical evidence of drug possession in R v Le, 2011 ONSC 6276.  Notably, Justice Backhouse accepted the contradicting evidence of Sukman’s partner, P.C. Yang, in finding a deliberate breach of the accused’s Charter rights “that cannot be tolerated because the police conduct brings the administration of justice into disrepute”.After evaluating the contradictory evidence of P.C. Sukman and P.C. Yang, Justice Backhouse critically commented that “P.C. Sukman’s evidence does not make any sense. I had grave concerns about his evidence as he testified.  His version of the facts strikes me as highly improbable and inconsistent with the usual practice.” Unfortunately, the position taken by the Crown in this case was that the version of events given by P.C. Yang should be found unreliable and rejected.  Justice Backhouse disagreed, instead finding that P.C. Yang’s evidence provided confirmation on key factual points in the case: the reason the accused was stopped was not because of his tail lights, but because P.C. Sukman believed that the owner of the vehicle was probably engaged in illicit drug activity, that P.C. Yang was able to see that there was nothing on the passenger seat of the accused’s vehicle, and that P.C. Sukman searched the accused’s vehicle before any drugs or drug paraphernalia were found.There are two major issues of concern in the circumstances of this case: the illegal searches of Le’s vehicle and person, and the untruthful evidence given by a police officer.  The illegal search is an issue individual to this case, for which the remedy was the judicial exclusion of the evidence.  However, the inaccurate testimony engenders different accountability issues, and while a court can offer strong words, and charges may follow in rare cases, the underlying systemic problems have not been addressed.When a search has been found to be unlawful, the court has both a test to measure the conduct, and a remedy to ensure that the unlawful search does not taint the trial. This case, however, reveals symptoms of a larger and more systemic problem.  By accepting the contradictory evidence of P.C. Yang and so strongly pointing out the improbabilities of P.C. Sukman’s evidence, Justice Backhouse essentially held P.C. Sukman’s evidence to be false.  This is the aspect of the case that has sparked media response.  Toronto newspapers noted the case under headings such as “Judge Finds Cop Falsified Evidence” ( and commentary websites bore headlines such as “Canada Judge Tosses Case, Rules Police Made Facts Up” (  The problem of false evidence and the need for police officers to report on each other in such situations raises concerns with police culture and accountability.The testimony given by P.C. Yang played an essential part in bringing the inaccurate testimony of P.C. Sukman to light.  The willingness and ability to report and contradict dishonest behavior by other officers is an important function of accountability, yet it is not behavior that has typically been associated with police culture.  This begs the question: in cases where the accused’s rights have been breached and inaccurate facts have been used to support the evidence, can the justice system and the public trust that officers will report on or give testimony contradictory to that of another officer? Reports on police culture[...]

Windsor Mayor Concerned About Police Brutality Lawsuit and Claims of a Cover-Up


This week the Windsor Star reported that Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has publicly expressed his concerns about the integrity and accountability of the Windsor Police Force in response to allegations that officers attempted to cover up the brutal assault of local doctor Tyceer Abouhassan. When asked about the allegations contained in a $14.2 million lawsuit filed in the Superior Court on September 29, Mayor Francis replied, “I am not happy” and “I would share the fact that I do have concerns”. Abouhassan claims that on April 22, 2010, he was minding his own business while jogging from the train station to the Jackson Park Medical Centre in Windsor when he was approached by a man that later turned out to be Det. David Van Buskirk. The officer was not dressed in uniform and at no time identified himself as a police officer. After accusing Abouhassan of harassing a young girl in the park, Van Buskirk apparently proceeded to break Abouhassan’s nose, detach his retina and give the doctor a concussion. The Statement of Claim states that when Abouhassan regained consciousness, he overheard Van Buskirk reporting that an officer had been assaulted and requesting a prisoner transport vehicle and ambulance. Van Buskirk then searched Abouhassan’s back-pack and continued to detain the doctor before an ambulance arrived to transport him to the emergency room at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital. The lawsuit asserts that after Van Buskirk realized his mistake about the culprit’s identity, he knowingly provided a false occurrence report to justify the illegal assault, detention and search of Dr. Abouhassan and that other officers backed up Van Buskirk’s claim that Abouhassan attacked him first. However, video surveillance and eye-witness accounts corroborated Abouhassan’s description. Additionally, two Windsor Police Officers, Det. Sgt. Patrick Keane and Det. Sgt. Paul Bridgeman, contacted Abouhassan’s criminal lawyer on separate occasions in an attempt to broker a deal to withdraw the assault charge against Abouhassan if he did not file a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) or pursue criminal charges against Van Buskirk. After Abouhassan refused the two offers to broker a deal, an Information was sworn against him by Det. Kent McMillan. The Statement of Claim reports that Abouhassan subsequently filed complaints with the OIPRD alleging misconduct on the part of Van Buskirk, Bridgeman and Keane, and that ultimately the OIPRD made findings against Van Buskirk for discreditable conduct, excessive use of force and unlawful arrest and deceit under the Police Services Act. McMillan was found to have committed discreditable conduct and deceit, and Bridgeman discreditable conduct and neglect of duty.  Mayor Francis, who heads the Police Services Board, indicated “many people are forming their opinions and are concerned” about what occurred. However, the Mayor could not comment more than that until the matter makes its way through the courts. Van Buskirk was charged criminally with assault causing bodily harm and public mischief.  Meanwhile, the charges against Abouhassan were stayed by the Crown on June 15, 2010. Police Chief Gary Smith, who is also named in the lawsuit, said on Thursday that the Force “has been as open and honest as possible” since the allegations arose. While he too is concerned about the Force’s reputation in light of these events, the Chief urged the public not to lose confidence in or pass judgment on the rest of the police service “based on the actions of some”. Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law III) [...]

Police Too Quick To Taser?


On April 7, 2011, an eleven year-old boy was tasered by Prince George (BC) RCMP following his suspected involvement in the stabbing of a 37 year-old man at a group home. Immediately following the incident, little was known or released about what prompted the police to taser the boy. Six months later, it was discovered that the boy in fact suffered from a heart condition, bipolar disorder and hearing impairment. During the incident, the RCMP was negotiating with the boy to come out. The boy appeared in a second-story window with what appeared to be a knife. He ran the object along his sweatshirt, arms and hands. The RCMP then witnessed the boy make cross-like gestures, which stood as a last straw for the RCMP before they decided to taser him when he came out. The boy negotiated for some clothes and when he came out, he was tasered. It was later seen that the boy did not have a knife in his hands, but rather, a pen.  At first glance, it seems that the RCMP were out-negotiated by an 11 year-old boy who faced mental health problems. Rather than calmly or alternatively trying to negotiate with the boy, or perhaps find out more about his situation, the RCMP resorted quickly to using a taser. It is understandable that the RCMP were trying to protect the boy from himself and from themselves. However, by using a taser so quickly, they failed to consider the potentially fatal side effects, in particular on the boy’s heart condition. The RCMP also failed to verify whether the boy in fact was holding a weapon at all before deciding to taser him.  It begs the question of whether this 11 year-old boy really posed a threat to the RCMP at all.Given the boy’s mental health condition, of notable interest would be to look into whether the RCMP has been provided with adequate training in handling situations of this nature. It is possible that the RCMP misinterpreted the boy’s signals or the boy was unable to comprehend the RCMP officers’ demands. Would this then be sufficient grounds for the RCMP officers to resort to tasering the 11 year-old boy? It is tough to see in any situation involving an 11 year-old why the RCMP would resort to tasering. It is even more compelling in this situation where the boy faced several mental health disorders.An investigation was launched into the conduct of the Prince George RCMP officers involved. In charge of the investigation was the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD), headed by Chief Constable Peter Lepine, a former RCMP officer. Of particular concern here is who is acting as a check on the power of the RCMP? From what it seems, the WVPD is not an entirely independent unit, and thus cannot really provide an “objective” inquiry into the RCMP. The issue of tasering is already contentious – can the RCMP be held truly accountable for their actions if investigated by the WVPD? In the end, it was declared by the WVPD that the conduct of the Prince George RCMP did not violate the Criminal Code. However, few details of how this decision was made were given. Consequently, how can we as the public be satisfied with the results of this investigation? Although the initial story caused mass public discourse and debate, the results of the inquiry into the RCMP has seemed to go undetected. The detailed considerations that went into the WVPD investigation were not made transparent to the public. The length of time between when the incident occurred, and when more details were provided (6 months later) seems entirely unreasonable and did not allow for the public to remain informed.    It is also important to note that separate investigations by independent groups were also launched, including that of the Commission for Public Co[...]

Police Autism Database a Step in the Right Direction


The Windsor police have partnered with Autism Services Inc. to create an online registry that will help give quick access to detailed information about how to deal with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during emergencies. It is modeled after the registry that was created in Ottawa in 2010 and is to be updated annually in order to keep the information current.People living with an ASD develop differently from others in the areas of motor, language, cognitive and social skills. Each person with an ASD is unique and will have different abilities but often there are problems communicating and ritualistic actions involved with an ASD. This means that police officers may encounter someone displaying erratic, repetitive behaviour that seemingly refuses to listen or communicate with them. This has caused huge problems in how these officers choose to handle the situation, especially if they do not recognize these as signs of autism. With the creation of the registry, residents that live within the Windsor policing jurisdiction can fill out forms that can be used to inform police how their child communicates, what their particular triggers are, and how best to approach them in order to get them to co-operate.                                                                                                          This is particularly important for use with the number of children with ASD that wander off and need police assistance but it is also important given situations that have been seen in the media lately. In August of this year, Toronto police became involved with a situation with a 9-year old boy with ASD in a daycare centre because he had become uncontrollable in a classroom. After ordering the boy to lie down on the ground, which he complied with, they handcuffed him until he calmed down. Many saw this as a highly inappropriate response. Given the fact that children with autism remember patterns so precisely, a damaging interaction with police like this can traumatize them and affect any interactions with police officers in the future. It is uncertain whether a registry would have helped in the situation. Likely, even more in depth training is required for police officers in dealing with people with ASD and other similar disorders.In light of these events, should every police service be required to have an Autism Registry? Is this enough or should there be more detailed mandatory training involved?Posted by Melissa Crowley (Windsor Law II)[...]

Windsor Police Service Strip Search Practice “Troubles” Court


Ten years ago the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the drug conviction of Ian Golden and set out constitutional limits and guidelines on the ability of the police to strip search suspects. Last week, Justice Renee Pomerance, of the Windsor Superior Court of Justice, heard “disturbing” evidence that Windsor Police are strip searching approximately 50 percent of those arrested on drug charges. However, no records are kept of the number of searches where no evidence is found and so it is hard to know the actual number and who is most likely to be searched and under what circumstances. This troubled Justice Pomerance as well as the fact that there is no prior authorization from a senior officer practice.  In R. v. Golden, the Court confirmed that reasonable and probable grounds to arrest do not ipso facto confer automatic authority for the police to carry out a strip search. Further,                         99        In light of the serious infringement of privacy and personal dignity that is an inevitable consequence of a strip search, such searches are only constitutionally valid at common law where they are conducted as an incident to a lawful arrest for the purpose of discovering weapons in the detainee’s possession or evidence related to the reason for the arrest.  […] [P]olice must establish reasonable and probable grounds justifying the strip search in addition to reasonable and probable grounds justifying the arrest.  Where these preconditions to conducting a strip search incident to arrest are met, it is also necessary that the strip search be conducted in a manner that does not infringe s. 8 of the Charter. 114      Where the circumstances of a search require the seizure of material located in or near a body cavity, the individual being searched should be given the opportunity to remove the material himself or the advice and assistance of a trained medical professional should be sought to ensure that the material can be safely removed. In this case, the plastic wrap was located between the appellant’s buttocks. The police had no way of knowing whether it was physically lodged inside him in such a way that it could not be safely retrieved without medical intervention. Nevertheless, the arresting officers undertook to remove the package themselves, through physical coercion and forceful probing and tugging at the package, and by instructing the appellant to “let it out” and to “relax”. The risk this presented to the appellant’s health was made more acute by the fact that after the appellant accidentally defecated […] 116      We particularly disagree with the suggestion that an arrested person’s non-cooperation and resistance necessarily entitles police to engage in behaviour that disregards or compromises his or her physical and psychological integrity and safety.  If the general approach articulated in this case is not followed, such that the search is unreasonable, there is no requirement that anyone cooperate with the violation of his or her Charter rights.  Any application of force or violence must be both necessary and proportional in the specific circumstances.  In this case, the appellant’s refusal to relinquish the evidence does not justify or mitigate the fact that he was strip searched in a public place, and in a manner that showed considerable disregard for his dignity and his physical integrity, despite the absence of reasonable and probable g[...]

Crown Withdraws Charges After Court Raises Concerns About Racial Profiling


Two victims of what one judge described as racial profiling are relieved that the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s Office exercised its discretion in withdrawing all charges during a preliminary hearing on June 23.Jordan Noel, 22, and Loik St-Louis, 24, were stopped on Rideau and Waller streets in August 2010 while driving Noel’s mother’s Cadillac. According to St-Louis, the officer in charge, Constable Robin Ferrie, never advised the pair why they were being stopped or detained. Provincial Court Judge Dianne Nicholas heard from Cst. Ferrie that the Cadillac was part of a random spot check under the Highway Traffic Act, but, when pressed by Justice Nicholas why he called for backup, Ferrie noted that the men were in a high drug area and alerted the officer’s suspicion because they did not make eye contact with him as Ferrie drove by. Yet later in cross-examination Ferrie conceded that his investigation notes made no mention that not looking at him is what raised the officer’s suspicion. Instead, the notes indicated that “suspicious males in a vehicle in a high drug area” and “two young males driving a Cadillac” were the reason for the stop. Ferrie went on to testify that Noel nervously explained the vehicle belonged to his mother and, according to Ferrie, too promptly handed over his license and registration, casting further suspicion in the officer’s mind that the vehicle might be stolen. However, Justice Nicholas was quick to question that line of reasoning asking, “how many white women do you stop in the market just because they’re driving a car? How many in the last month?” Ferrie was unable to provide the court with any estimate or example.   Moreover, “Because two black guys in a car don’t look at you, you’re calling for backup? […]You’re going to check whether he has permission from his mother to drive a car and two other police cars show up, like come on?”, asked Justice Nicholas.  Ferrie noted that it turned out Noel’s mother had not known her son had taken the vehicle. While the two continued to be detained and Ferrie conversed with Noel’s mother using the number Noel provided the officer, the two backup officers arrived on scene.  One discovered five grams of crack cocaine, thirteen grams of marijuana, a drug scale and approximately $1,685 in cash during a search of the vehicle. All items were seized and taken into property. The two were arrested, taken into police custody and formally charged. The cash would later go missing in the police evidence room, though Noel and St-Louis were repaid earlier this week. In the landmark decision in R. v. Brown, Morden J.A., for the Ontario Court of Appeal, critically observed at paras. 8 and 44 that: The attitude underlying racial profiling is one that may be consciously or unconsciously held. That is the police officer need not be an overt racist. His or her conduct may be based on subconscious racial stereotyping. […] A racial profiling claim could rarely be proven by direct evidence. […] Accordingly, racial profiling […] must be done by inference drawn from circumstantial evidence.The court went on to accept that a finding of racial profiling is capable of being supported where the evidence shows that the circumstances relating to a detention correspond to the phenomenon of racial profiling and provide a basis for the court to infer that the police officer is lying about why she or he singled out the accused person for attention. With the charges facing Noel and St-Louis, although Justice Nicholas heard no direct evidence of racism on the part of Constable Ferrie, she[...]

Toronto Police Service Releases G20 Policing Review


On the first anniversary of the Toronto G-20 Summit, the Toronto Police Service released a 70-page “after-action” report into the policing of that weekend. The report boasts of many successes, including ensuring the safety of the G20 summit delegates and security of the summit sites at all times, but also recognizes that lessons were learned about improving officer training to more efficiently respond to “widespread criminality and mass public disorder”.Chief Blair also points out that the Toronto Police Service was given only “six months to plan for the largest security event in Canadian history”, and “there were no critical injuries or deaths during the G20 Summit”. Although the report later reveals that of the 1118 people arrested, at least “five suffered injuries that they required to go to the hospital”.The report provides an operational chronology into the related events, activities and peaceful and violent demonstrations in Toronto during June 18 – June 27 that the public may not be aware of and which explains some of the many individual arrests the police made. However, on the highly publicized mass “kettle” or sweeping arrests that have been the subject of much media attention, legal actions and Charter challenges, Chief Blair highlights the need to improve training and communication during operations so that officers can “more effectively respond to criminal activity and public disorder” at the investigative, arrest and processing stages. This likely comes in response to the fact that some prisoners went hours without food and water, and faced delays of up to 36 hours before being taken before a Justice of the Peace and speaking with a lawyer, which the report described as a “breakdown in communication”.  The Toronto Star reported last Friday on the story of one man that was allegedly arrested in relation to the G20 and strip-searched.Some, including well-known criminal and constitutional lawyer Clayton Ruby, have been quick to dispel time and training as justification for being unprepared and overburdened. “They spent a billion dollars, it is not possible for them to be overwhelmed […] my daughter could do better.”The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), a national organization constituted to promote respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties, describes the G20 as the dawning of a new era of policing techniques being foisted on the legal system and a “test of our accountability mechanisms, whether they work appropriately and whether they are sufficient. And they are not.” The CCLA argues that given the volume of identifiable police officers and forces involved in the G20, a single body is necessary to review their conduct and impose sanctions where appropriate. Chief Blair’s report indicates that “108 officers have received disciplinary action for removal of identification” and “1 officer was charged under the Criminal Code for Assault with a Weapon”. Yet, the report does not disclose the nature of the disciplinary action and internal investigations the Toronto Police Service’s Professional Standards Unit is managing or supporting.While the report does include ten laudable recommendations for improving the Toronto Police Service’s ability to police future large-scale events, the report does not address or answer many outstanding questions that linger after the G20. Improving communication within the Force and to the public, police training and policy will certainly help, but more will be required to ensure events do not repeat themselves and[...]

Testilying to secure a conviction


Recent cases involving fabricated evidence and ethical violations by police officers is giving cause to wonder, once again, if officers are going too far to get convictions. Last week Brampton Superior Court Judge Douglas Gray threw out the case of a man accused of 17 charges related to the prostitution of a 17-year-old girl. In R. v. Salmon, Justice Gray wrote that several Peel Region police officers fabricated evidence in an attempt to ensure a conviction against the accused. It was suggested that the officers conferred with one another to make it appear as though the fake ID the girl used to work in sex clubs was found in the accused’s wallet. Other evidence produced at trial showed that the ID was actually turned over to the police at the station by the girl when she first arrived to make a complaint. If the ID had been found in the accused’s wallet it would have shown that he had a measure of control over the girl, which is essential for a conviction on several of the charges he faced. Judge Gray singled out two of the officers pointing out that they had opportunity and motive for the falsification. Both had seen the accused charged with these offences before, only to have the counts stayed or dismissed. And both had ample opportunity to view and correct the incorrect evidence list but failed to do so. While the Crown suggested that this was simply an error by an inexperienced officer who was overwhelmed, the Judge disagreed, concluding that this was deliberate and there was no available remedy short of a stay of proceedings that would be appropriate. When is it all right for a police officer to incorrectly file evidence? Do we not expect officers who have completed training and begun work to be fully prepared regardless of how long they have been active? The ‘inexperienced’ officer involved has been with the force for about 6 years, not exactly a veteran but certainly experienced enough to know that evidence must be logged accurately as to where and how it was recovered. In suggesting inexperience as a reason for this behaviour the Crown is failing to recognize the severity of the conduct and brushing it off as an excusable mistake.     Two unrelated but similarly concerning ethical scenarios also involve officers from Peel Region. In one, a superior officer was charged with perjury, three counts of obstructing justice and three counts of breach of trust, in relation to the trial of a fellow officer on drug charges late last year. In the other case, an officer was charged in connection with a fraud investigation after allegedly staging car collisions in furtherance of insurance claims for damage.      While it is commendable that these officers are being identified and charged to the full extent of the law it is difficult to understand how the justice system is supposed to function when our most trusted members of society fail to work within the system and follow the law. We all want to see truly guilty people convicted but the rules of evidence are there to protect the innocent, and it can be hard to remember the old adage that it is better to let 12 guilty individuals go free than to let one innocent person suffer. 1. Do police officers receive enough training in evidence rules? 2. Is there a better way to monitor and train police ethics? 3. Are cases like this a result of a lack of faith in the adversarial process? 4. Is there a systemic problem of testilying by police officers?   Posted by Pamela Santora (Windsor Law II) [...]

Not just a ‘wake-up’ call for Quebec


The recent report on Racial Profiling and Systemic Discrimination of Racialized Youth by Quebec’s Commission des Droits de la Personne et des Droits de la Jeunesse (Commission for Human Rights and the Rights of Youth) has received substantial praise from experts, authorities and community members since its release on March 25, 2011. This report is the product of months of public hearings, at which seventy-five individuals, including researchers, community members, and representatives from various organizations and institutions, gave testimony, presented research, and offered analysis on racial profiling in Quebec’s public services. The Commission’s purported aim in this fact-finding mission was to ‘find solutions, not assign guilt’ in regards to racial profiling in Quebec’s Public Security Sector, Education Sector, and Youth Protection System.In relation to the Public Security Sector, the Commission specifically recognized that “numerous studies have demonstrated that security forces, and notably the police, tend to scrutinize and suspect racialized minorities more often, without factual or valid grounds, and punish them disproportionately in the application of laws and by-laws”[Report, p.10]. With this in mind, the Commission explored an impressively broad range of topics relating to racial profiling in the context of policing and public safety. Firstly, the Commission examined “targeted scrutiny of racialized minorities”, including: racial profiling in the context of the fight against criminality and street gangs, the fight against incivility and the discretionary application of municipal by-laws, under-protection of racialized persons by the police, recognition and prohibition of racial profiling in laws and policies, data collection, supervision of police actions, and partnerships and accountability; secondly, the Commission investigated “recourse available for citizens”, including: the Police Ethics Commissioner’s system, Criminal Investigations of police incidents involving severe injuries or death. Evidently, there is a great deal to be garnered from the Commission’s findings and 93 recommendations, which include ‘sweeping changes’ to the Quebec Charter of Rights, the Police Act, the police code of ethics and calls for more sensitivity training and an increase in the hiring of minorities.Overall, this report is certainly deserving of all the accolades it has received and the Commission should be commended for this groundbreaking endeavour. Whether the recommendations come to fruition, and lead to improved policy, procedures, and legislation is, however, an entirely different question. It is not clear whether this report, like most policy reports, will be a catalyst for significant reform and ultimately alter the behaviour of individuals. However, there is no question that the very existence of this report is a step in the right direction, as is the Commission’s realization that individuals who have experienced racial profiling want “an increase in society’s awareness of what they experience, along with an acknowledgement of the need for change and the implementation of concrete actions”[Report, p.3]. It is imperative to recognize, however, that the Commission’s findings apply not only in Quebec; all of Canada stands to benefit from this report and all Canadians should take heed of the recommendations. Specifically, all Canadians should take note of the Commission’s finding that there is a significant dearth of data on racial profiling, particularly in the Publ[...]

LEAP wins 2011 Student Social Justice Project of the Year



First human rights finding of Aboriginal profiling


In a landmark decision, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has concluded that the police treatment of Garry McKay during a bike and id check constituted racial profiling. Some of the relevant excerpts of the tribunal's decision include:... [2] The complainant, Garry McKay (“McKay” or “the complainant”), self identifies as an Aboriginal man. He alleges that he was subjected to racially biased policing by the personal respondent, Christopher Fitkin (“Fitkin” or “personal respondent”), a police officer with the Toronto Police Service. The Complaint stems from an incident in the early morning hours of July 9, 2003, when police stopped and questioned McKay and a friend while the two men were walking in a laneway. During the encounter, Fitkin investigated McKay and McKay’s bike and, soon thereafter, arrested McKay for possession of stolen property (the bike). Eventually, McKay was released, however, McKay alleges that Fitkin threatened to re-arrest him if he did not produce a receipt for the bike. [3] The personal respondent submits that, given the time of the day and the laneway location, the police questioned McKay and his friend as a matter of routine patrol. McKay was initially arrested because a police records search indicated that a bike, bearing the same identification number as McKay’s, was stolen. Fitkin later released McKay because further searches revealed the bike was reported stolen in Winnipeg. ...Summary of Prima Facie Findings[160] In summary, the evidence indicates that Fitkin’s instant distrust of McKay exerted a powerful hold over how the encounter evolved, and led Fitkin to arrest McKay for the wrong bike. In particular, it appears that Fitkin’s heightened suspicions derailed consideration of the available information that substantiated McKay’s explanation and established that McKay’s bike was not the reported stolen bike. I find that Fitkin hastily arrested McKay based on erroneous and deficient information. I also find that McKay was required, despite being released, to submit proof of the bike receipt. I further find that the officers undertook unnecessary and multiple criminal records searches of McKay post release.[161] I conclude Fitkin’s investigation and the arrest were shaped by negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people being untrustworthy and involved in criminal activity. I reach this conclusion based on the specific and overall circumstances of the case against the backdrop of the social context evidence confirming the pervasive negative stereotypes about Aboriginal people lacking credibility and prone to criminality. See Williams. I am persuaded that, taken as a whole and/or at the individual stages of the encounter, there is a prima facie case that the interactions between Fitkin and McKay were permeated by racial bias and stereotyping, now necessitating an explanation from the respondent.[162] I accept that McKay’s perception that he was subjected to unfair treatment and was unduly scrutinized. I found McKay to be a respectful and sincere witness. He provided his testimony in a clear, honest manner, and he had a reasonably good memory of the alleged events, which, based on his evidence, clearly affected him. I accept that McKay felt especially vulnerable and targeted because of the arrest and his fear of re-arrest....CONCLUSION[201] To sum up, I reject the personal respondent’s explanations and conclude that Fitkin treated McKay in a racially biased manner because of the following factors:•[...]

Penning an injustice for those who seek to hold police accountable


On September 27, 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in Penner v. Niagara (Police Services Board) that Wayne Penner’s civil claim for damages against two police officers was barred by the application of the issue estoppel branch of the res judicata doctrine as the issue had already been litigated in the context of a police disciplinary hearing.  This 2010 decision from the Court of Appeal seemingly brought an end to Wayne Penner’s attempt to hold two police officers accountable for their alleged misconduct that occurred in 2003 at the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catherines. The FactsOn January 28, 2003, Wayne Penner was sitting in the body of the courtroom where his wife was defending herself against a traffic charge that she faced pursuant to the Highway Traffic Act.  Officer Parker was on the stand being cross-examined by Mr. Penner’s wife.  During the course of the cross-examination, Mr. Penner was alleged to be making ‘chirping’ noises which weren’t loud enough to be caught on the court recording devices, but were nonetheless disturbing to the Prosecutor and Court Officer. Upon the completion of his evidence, Officer Parker sat in the vicinity of Wayne and Officer Koscinski, who was in Court on an unrelated matter. At that point, Officer Parker turned to Wayne and told him that he could or would be arrested.  Mr. Penner became upset and began complaining loudly that Officer Parker had threatened to arrest him (and this was caught on the court recording device).  The Prosecutor asked the presiding Justice of the Peace to consider removing Mr. Penner from the courtroom.  The Justice of the Peace never made this order.  Shortly thereafter, while Mr. Penner’s wife was being sworn in, the Court Officer ordered Mr. Penner out of the courtroom.  Officer Parker immediately rose and put his hands on Mr. Penner, directing him to get out.  Mr. Penner pulled away.  At this point Officer Parker, with the aid of Officer Koscinski, placed Mr. Penner under arrest.  They dragged Mr. Penner out of the courtroom and delivered empty hand and knee strikes to subdue him. Of note is that the presiding Justice of the Peace fled the Courtroom and asked the clerk of the court to call 9-1-1.  Mr. Penner was taken to the station where he was booked, strip-searched and charged with causing a disturbance, breach of probation, and resisting arrest.  Upon being taken to the hospital, Mr. Penner was observed to be unsteady on his feet.  He had a black eye, scrapes, sore ribs, a sore elbow, a bruised knee, and a sore wrist.  Mr. Penner’s wife took photographs of the injuries.  All charges against Mr. Penner were subsequently withdrawn by the Crown and Mr. Penner pursued a public complaint against the two officers pursuant to the former Part V of the Police Services Act.The Disciplinary Proceedings             Under the former Part V procedures which have since been altered by the establishment of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (“OIPRD”), the Chief of Police screened the complaint and determined that the matter warranted proceeding to a disciplinary hearing.  The hearing was presided over by a Hearing Officer who is appointed by the Chief and who in this case, as in most cases, was a retired Police Superintendant.  The police prosecutor appointed by the Chief in t[...]

Ottawa Police Officer charged with sexual assault of Stacy Bonds


Following a lengthy investigation, the SIU has decided to lay a charge of sexual assault against Sgt. Steve Desjourdy of the Ottawa Police Service for his conduct during a unconstitutional strip search of Stacy Bonds.

For a legal argument that the facts of the case meet the Supreme Court of Canada's legal test for the actus reus of sexual assault, see David M. Tanovich, "Bonds: Gendered and Racialized Violence, Strip Searches, Sexual Assault and Abuse of Prosecutorial Power" (2011), 79 Criminal Reports (6th) 132.

Recruiting Female Police Officers


A BBC article published last week reported that the number of female police officers in Scotland is at a record high. This news comes as a surprise considering that in 2004, Scotland was behind the rest of Britain, with only two women in senior chief officer ranks, and with no women above chief inspector level. Fast forward eight years to 2011. Within the country’s eight police forces, women now account for more than one in four (26.8%) of the entire police workforce, and two of the police forces currently have women at the helm.It seems that the police forces listened to the working groups such as the Women’s Development Forum in 2004, to find out how they could improve in terms of recruitment and retention. Female officers were demanding greater flexibility and a better work/life balance, and wanted their concerns about discrimination against part -time staff (mostly women) addressed.In Canada, the number of police officers has increased from approximately 56,000 in 2005 to over 69,000 in 2010. The percentage of female officers has also increased by 5.5% since 2000, to 19.2% of the police force in 2010 (Stats Can, 2010). Quebec and British Columbia lead the way with the highest percentage of female officers amongst the provinces, at 23% and 21% respectively (Stat Can, 2010). The percentage of women in senior ranks continued to increase in 2010, with females representing 8.7% of senior officers (up 3.2% since 2005) and 15.2% of non-commissioned officers (up 5.5% since 2005). The percentage of female constables has remained close to 21% since 2005 (Stat Can, 2010). Commonly identified advantages to having more female officers have been used to ‘convince’ police forces to hire more female officers. Some of the benefits include: bringing a different style of policing that uses less physical force; possessing better communication skills; facilitating better cooperation and trust with civilians; helping to change the male-dominated atmosphere and climate in law enforcement agencies; and helping to change policies and procedures that benefit both male and female officers.Similar to discussions about increasing the number of racialized and Aboriginal persons and persons with disabilities in the workplace, a balance must be struck between effective hiring and retention, and tokenization. Simply putting more (fill in the blank) into a workplace cannot fix the culture of the organization, or the public perception of that system or institution. There must be a concerted effort on behalf of the agency to put systems in place that will ensure retention and promotion is just as important as recruitment.In law enforcement, programs, policies and procedures that create more flexible work hours, more mentoring opportunities, stricter internal policies against gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and clear accountability mechanisms, will help to retain more women in the workforce. Ensuring that promotional opportunities are available just as readily to female constables as they are to male constables is also important. This allows female constables, and the public at large, to see that becoming a female in a higher rank within a law enforcement agency is possible and can be achieved.Racialized women face additional difficulties based on the intersection of sexism and racism in law enforcement – this is true for other intersectional identities such as ability, sexual [...]