Friday, January 4, 2013

Toronto Police: Again and Again and Again ....

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that standard, perhaps both the Toronto Police force and I are insane; I seem to periodically write essentially the same blog post about their misbehaviour, and they seem to keep practising a disturbing pattern of conduct that cries out for remediation.

The latest case of alleged police brutality was reported yesterday in The Toronto Star:

Ian Scott, director of the Special Investigations Unit, (the body that probes incidents of serious injury and death in which police officers are involved) said Wednesday he was unable to conduct an “adequate” probe into a brutality complaint made by Tyrone Phillips, who alleges police beat him up during his arrest outside a nightclub.

Toronto police, Scott said, have refused to provide the SIU with Phillips’ complaint, first filed to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a provincial agency that probes grievances against police, then forwarded on to police.

The story, laughable were it not for the seriousness of the incident, outlines what seems to be a bureaucratic and jurisdictional dispute between two provincial bodies that, upon closer examination, suggests once again that Chief Bill Blair is continuing a policy of opacity that shields his officers from any real accountability.

Hiding behind the strict letter of legislation, his spokesperson, Mark Pugash, offers fatuous reasons for not releasing the formal complaint filed by Phillips, who alleges he was beaten severely by police and placed under arrest for no apparent reason, sustaining a serious concussion in the process, one that medical records verify.

As reported in today's Star, while the victim has given permission for the release of his complaint to the SIU, all that police spokesman Mark Pugash seems interested in doing is disingenuously carp about the fact that SIU head Scott went to the media to complain about his force's intransigence:

Pugash asked Thursday why Scott “went through the exercise he did yesterday with the inflammatory and quite offensive news release.”

Meanwhile, the larger issue of police brutality seems to be getting lost in this jurisdictional 'pissing match.'

And according to The Star's Rosie DiManno, there is sufficient blame to go around:

Each party has wrapped itself in the piety of rules. Yet those purported rules, as interpreted, have resulted in nobody doing the morally correct thing.

Scott has a complaint and a complainant. The police information sworn out after Phillips’ arrest would include the badge number of the arresting officer. That’s an obvious starting point for the SIU investigation. The subject officer isn’t compelled to submit to an interview — another failing of the Police Act. But it doesn’t require an investigative reporter to chase down the basic facts of the incident: Witness officers, if there were any; booking officer, or anybody else who came in contact with the accused; hospital records, to which the patient is entitled.

Ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the men and women of the Toronto Police force rests with 'teflon' Chief Bill Blair, a man apparently more deft at maneuvering to protect his own career than he is at holding himself and his force to account. As DiManno pointedly asks,

What did Police Chief Bill Blair do with Phillips’ complaint? What was the outcome of the mandated police investigation before the grievance was sent on to the SIU? It should be noted that the Police Act does, in fact, allow the chief to divulge information contained in a complaint received, under various exceptions to the nondisclosure guidelines, which shouldn’t be there as masking layer anyway.

Both excellent questions, the answers to which, if past performance is any indication, will not be forthcoming.

No comments:

Post a Comment