Day of reckoning for Toronto Police Service
Criticism on G20 policing provides opportunity for change and growth
Toronto Police Service is getting a wake-up call, and a new report by former judge John Morden on police actions during the G20 is just the jumping-off point needed to kick-start change that must come from within.
A month ago, Gerry McNeilly, the man responsible in Ontario for investigating complaints against the police, issued his report on police actions during the G20 meetings in Toronto two years ago. The second report, commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board, at a cost of $1 million, is expected in early July.
McNeilly’s report is highly critical of what police did. He found that many officers refused to display their mandatory identification, and many claim they never saw any wrongdoing by fellow officers. Many officers made arrests that were not authorized by law, and thousands of civilians were searched illegally. Some officers used violence against civilians. McNeilly found that senior police managers were at fault in the misdirection they provided, and he said central control was “dysfunctional.”
He concluded that police arrested 1,400 people, which is more than the police thought, and they often didn’t write down why individuals had been arrested — one reason so many cases never proceeded to trial.
Morden’s report could be even more critical, with more detail of a police force that was not doing the job we expected it to do.
So what happens next? Will it be business as usual, or will the police service be reformed?
Two big changes seem necessary. First, it is important to get rid of, or at least minimize, the destructive police culture expressed as police solidarity, violence, little respect for civilians and little regard for the niceties of the law.
Many at the bottom end of society say they experience this from police on a daily basis: with the G20, many others met it for the first time.
This manner of behaving gets reinforced in every new recruit hired at the bottom who realizes the only way to get ahead is to please managers already deep into the culture. An unhappy young officer finds it’s easier to leave than to try to make change.
“Will it be business as usual, or will
the police service be reformed?”
The alternative to hiring new employees only at the bottom is for the police service to act like most other organizations by hiring individuals to perform specific roles and jobs (working with youth, analyzing crime data, investigations, domestics, etc.). Those individuals will bring to the police service their own set of beliefs picked up in other organizations, and that will change the culture.
We should try the same approach with police managers. Currently, those who become managers are already drenched in the dominant police culture. They move up the ranks because they fit in so well.
The police service should look to banks, manufacturers, retailers and social services to find good managers, then train them for the specific needs in policing.
In the Toronto Police Service, the chief financial officer is the only senior employee without police experience — he was hired because he knows how to manage the people keeping the finances. This needs to be done much more often.
Police should advertise inside and outside the force for mid-level and senior managers and include outsiders with management experience on interview panels. Only when good managers are in place can the talent and innovative capacity of rank-and-file officers be harnessed to ensure a better police service.
We also need a stronger Toronto Police Services Board to govern the police. The board should be at least twice as large as the current seven members to ensure a large diversity of interests and opinions, and they should be well trained to perform their role as governors.
These reports provide a terrific opportunity for needed change in our police service.
Will our political leaders seize the opportunity?
Post City Magazines’ columnist John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto and the author of a number of urban planning books, including The Shape of Suburbs.