Saturday, December 14, 2013

Police Torturers And Their Enablers

It is heartening to know that the Hamilton police are discharging their duties responsibly, as attested to by a video that went viral this week. However, to believe that all is well in policeland would be but a comforting illusion.

Yesterday, Kev reported on the 'excesses' of some Toronto police whose actions, described by the Court of Appeals' judge as 'torture under the Criminal Code', led to the staying of a conviction against the victim. Incidentally, two of the officers involved in the abuse, Jamie Clark and Donald Belange, received promotions, no doubt rewards for their 'exemplary' work.

Where does responsibility for the rot reside? As in all institutions, it must be placed on the shoulders of the leadership, in this case the office of Chief Bill Blair, who frequently seems more adept as a politicians than he does as Toronto's top cop. And the Toronto Police Services Board, led by Alok Mukherjee, has to be seen as one of the chiefs chief enablers.

A report by former Special Investigations Unit director Ian Scott suggests that Blair virtually ignored over 100 letters Scott sent to him alleging that officers repeatedly violated their legal duty to co-operate with the provincial watchdog. Blair's spokesperson and pet poodle, Mark Pugash, disputes this, asserting: “All of the points he raised were dealt with..."

Where the truth resides is something the public is not allowed to know. As reported in today's Star, the Toronto Police Services Board refuses to make this information public:

Chair Alok Mukherjee said Thursday the board has “considered” publishing the reports, but has not because certain information must be kept confidential under the Police Services Act, such as the names of officers involved in disciplinary matters or classified police procedures.

This stands in contrast with several other police services boards in the province, which release the chief’s reports at public board meetings, with confidential details removed.

Ottawa, for example, publishes its reports online, leaving out only the names of the officers involved. [I]n Durham, reports are only kept secret if their disclosure would threaten public safety or personal privacy.

Meanwhile, the good people of Toronto are expected to remain content with this from Chief Blair:

“In every single case without exception, I have reported to the oversight authority that the statute says I’m supposed to, which is the police services board.”

But the chief said he doesn’t think those reports should be made public.

“That is at the discretion of the board, and there are aspects of those reports which quite frankly deal with issues of personnel, which are not appropriate to be made public.”

We live in a troubling time when, on many levels, the Canadian public is being treated with an indifference that borders on absolute disdain, even contempt. However, despite the best efforts of the Harper cabal to establish a Canada that is more secretive and repressive society, a process that seems to be infecting all levels of governance, we still enjoy basic freedoms as a putative democracy; full disclosure of police misconduct is required and demanded unless the police motto "to protect and serve' is to be seen as little more than a cruel irony.

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