Now, here’s a twist….

…..first the ‘set-up’

The Toronto Star, Friday, September 11, 2015
Marco Chown Oved, staff reporter
“Judge rules police planted heroin in order to frame driver”

It’s the afternoon of January 13, 2014 in Toronto. Nguyen Son Tran is in his car, stopped at a red light. He has a criminal record, pleading guilty a year earlier to heroin possession, although he claimed at the time it belonged to someone else. As he sat waiting for the light to change, Tran noticed Toronto Police Detective Constable Benjamin Elliot in plain clothes pull up beside him in an unmarked car. It was Elliot who had arrested him the year before.

The light changes, and after driving through the intersection, Tran is pulled over by Constable Jeffrey Tout in a police cruiser, later testifying Tran ran a red light. Tout is on his cell phone as he approaches Tran’s car, and is overheard to say, “exactly him” as he comes within earshot. Tran steps out of his car. Elliot arrives on the scene in less than two minutes. Sergeant Michael Taylor and Detective Constable Fraser Douglas also show up. Elliot searches Tran’s car and shortly produces a bag of heroin, saying, “I found it.”

This is a part of the written findings of Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan when he tossed the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the drug charges against Tran in September of 2015. According to the police, they noticed a pile of loose heroin powder on Tran’s dashboard, which led to the search of the car. Eleven more grams of the drug was found wrapped in plastic and stowed behind the steering column.

But, police couldn’t explain how loose heroin got onto the dashboard; there was nothing to indicate how it got there. And why wouldn’t Tran have simply brushed it away when he was stopped. The judge’s conclusion? The heroin was planted.

According to Justice Morgan, the four officers all presented differing versions of what happened on that 2014 afternoon ….except they all did agree to the loose heroin on the dashboard. He ruled they “obviously colluded” in their testimony, describing their actions and false testimony in court “egregiously wrongful conduct.” He cited a number of points where he found police testimony to be patently untrue.

What consequences the officers would face, if any, did not come up at the time, although Toronto Police Service’s able spokesperson, Mark Pugash, did say judge’s comments are taken very seriously.

What’s going on here? Next week, we’ll skip forward two years and pick up the ‘play.’

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That’s a wrap!

….on policing……for now.

Long, long ago, in a land far, far away……., well actually, it was the United States of America in the late 1980s……….
……the U.S. print and broadcast media highlighted stories of judges dismissing what were often serious criminal charges against defendants who were more often than not guilty of the crimes for which they were accused. The police and/or prosecutors and/or defense lawyers and/or lower court rulings were cited in these orders to dismiss. Media was sometimes objective in its reporting, sometimes critical.

There came a moment when an eminent retired jurist, whose name wasn’t recorded at the time, made news with a relevant comment. If all involved in the prosecution of the law and administration of justice did their jobs properly, he said, miscarriages would not arise. That signaled a shift away from a focus on criminals who escaped punishment to a closer look at civil servants who avoided accountability in a less than transparent process.

The camera’s had a major impact on justice in the last many years. Video technology has fed social media across North America with a proliferation of images of police officers behaving badly. To be sure, we also see film of cops dutifully doing a difficult job, pictures of officers going beyond routine, angels in uniform. But, pictures have too often put a stark reality right under our noses. Law enforcement is not what it’s made out to be by ‘spin doctors’, bureaucrats, politicians, and sometimes the courts. And, there continues to be a conundrum we see in all this film…..and it’s not pretty.

We all want to be at our best when someone’s watching, or if we think we’re under scrutiny. If we mess up, even in a small way, our mental reflexes kick us in the right direction. We look for redemption, and barring a mental or emotional imbalance, the reflex is inborn. We’ll look to cover our trail too when there’s no alternative….the panic that comes with ‘fight or flight.’

Pictures of our police officers going where they cannot go, and doing what they cannot do, aren’t an invention of the camera. The camera captures what has always been, but the increasing number of cameras everywhere results in a moderating of past practices, the impact of ‘someone is watching’. That we continue to see what we see, despite video, is alarming.

September 15, 2017

Mark Saunders, Chief of Police,
Toronto Police Service,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

Re: A bad apple

Dear Chief Saunders:

You command about 5,000 men and women on the TPS force, and most perform according to mandated standards.

The Toronto Star, your favourite newspaper, recently published a column by one of its journalists addressing the use of ‘bad apple’ as it applies to some police officers reportedly not living up to their code of conduct. He pointed out that the term is only part of a whole, being “A bad apple spoils the lot.”

The camera, a boon to social media, is not always a friend to the police, citing, Officers Amanpreet Gill, Adam Lourenco, Sharnic Pais, Dusan Dan Provica, and Corey Sinclair as examples. Media attention has targeted Brian Davy, Joseph Dropuljic, Benjamin Elliot, John and Michael Theriault, and Bradley Trenouth, among others, using various sources without video backup.

Then there are the reports of civilians such as James Bishop, where there is some film, or Tyrone Phillips, Josh Odorico, and the family of Kevin Simmonds, to name a few, who complain about their police contacts, and just so as with Waseem Khan’s experience.

One source notes a staple of Sunday morning sermons in 19th century America was: “As one bad apple spoils the others, so you must show no quarter to sin or sinners.” You and your management team would be well-served to protect the integrity of the force and its members by expelling the “sinners.”

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Remember the August incident on video in a Utah hospital when a nurse calmly explained to a police detective why she couldn’t draw blood from a unconscious patient without consent or a warrant? She was aggressively arrested and briefly detained. “This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme. And nobody stood in his way,” is how nurse Alex Wubbels described her ordeal.

September 12, 2017

Chief Mike Brown,
Salt Lake City Police Department,
P.O. Box 145497,
Salt Lake City, Utah,
84114

Re: “Utah police apologize after arresting nurse in blood-draw dispute”
        Sally Ho & Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press

Dear Chief Brown:

When detective Jeff Payne arrested nurse Alex Wubbels for doing her job properly on July 26th, he forgot one important principle.

Every morning, your detective gets out of bed and dresses for the day. Ms. Wubbels’ tax dollars pays for the underwear he’s wearing.

Detective Payne must remember who really is in charge.

Yours truly

Charles H. Klassen

We leave the policing file here for the moment, and move on………

POLICING….still more….

“It is difficult to imagine how public confidence can be maintained in the rule of law when police officers present false evidence against accused persons. Our justice system cannot function unless courts can rely on the willingness of witnesses to……tell the truth.”

So wrote Judge Katherine Corrick in her August 8th decision when staying charges against one defendant, and finding his two co-accused not guilty of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime.

She found Toronto police Constable Bradley Trenouth“deliberately misleading” in testimony to “strengthen the case” against an accused, and “falsely attributed” a large piece of crack cocaine to one Jason Jaggernauth. He and two others, Jordan Davis and Jimal Nembrand-Walker, were discovered in a Scarborough apartment in 2014 with multiple types of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Drugs were found on two of the accused but not on Jaggernauth.

“The false attribution of evidence to an accused’s possession, and false testimony by a police officer constitute precisely the type of state misconduct that undermines the integrity of the judicial process,” Corrick wrote.

While the judge is described in the August 12 Toronto Star as ‘scathing’ in her decision, a Toronto police spokesperson “can’t say whether (Trenouith) will face any discipline.”

“I CAN’T PICTURE THIS HAPPENING TO A GROUP OF WHITE KIDS”, captioned a photo of Dafonte Miller’s family on the front page of the July 19th Toronto Star.

Star staff reporter Peter Goffin began, “An off-duty cop outside his jurisdiction. A young Black man allegedly beaten with a metal pipe. A family making accusations of racial profiling and a mishandled police investigation.”

In the early hours of December 28, 2016, 19-year-old Dafonte Miller was walking on a Whitby, Ontario sidewalk near his home with a group of friends…also black….on their way to another friend’s home. The group passed a house where off-duty Toronto police Constable Michael Theriault was in the garage with his younger brother. They’re both only a few years older than Miller, and the house is owned by their father, John Theriault, a detective with more than 30 years of service with Toronto Police, currently working in the professional standards unit.

The two men approached the group, one identifying himself as a police officer, and asked where the friends lived and what they were doing in the neighbourhood. They kept walking. The Theriault brothers gave chase, later claiming a car in their driveway had been broken into (later debunked), caught up with Miller and punched, kicked, and struck him in the face repeatedly with a metal pipe.

Miller tried to call 911, but Theriault grabbed the phone, and identified himself as a police officer making an arrest. A number of Durham police showed up and charged Miller with possession of a weapon (Theriault claimed it was Miller attacking him with the pipe), two counts of assault with a weapon, theft under $5000, and possession of marijuana. All charges were later dropped.

Miller was hospitalized with a broken nose, broken orbital bone, fractured wrist, and his left eye was so badly damaged, it had to be removed.

Neither Durham or Toronto police called the SIU, which they are legally bound to do under the circumstances. Dafonte Miller’s family hired attorney Julian Falconer and he notified the SIU in May. As a result, the Theriault brothers have been charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and public mischief.

In the months following, Star writers Jennifer Pagliard, David Rider, and Wendy Gillis have joined Peter Goffin in covering this ongoing saga of accusations of police cover-up by both Toronto and Durham forces, interference by the brothers’ father, Detective John Theriault, and further, that the brothers misled the police investigation.

Criticisms have come from many quarters. Durham police announced they will investigate themselves, but their report will not be made public. Toronto Chief Mark Saunders enlisted Waterloo police to look at his force’s actions here, and promised to make this report public. Still, we once again face this question of the police investigating police. Not right, not good for us, not good for policing. Look for the ‘spin’ on this to make Miller the villain.

There was a “We’re here for Dafonte” protest outside an Oshawa courthouse on Thursday, September 7, when the Theriault brothers made a brief appearance.

“For the second time in just over a month, the Toronto Police Service is under fire for failing to report a case of a seriously injured Black man to Ontario’s police watchdog.” This time it was Jacques Gallant writing in the Toronto Star, grabbing the paper’s front page on August 25.

A 23-year-old black man was getting into a cab in front of his apartment building in November of 2015 when Toronto police dragged him from the car, kneed him in the back, beat him, illegally searched and groped him, and dragged him toward a police cruiser. He lost consciousness at one point and suffered a concussion and mental trauma. Police claimed they were responding to reports of gunfire in the area. They didn’t find a gun.

Now 25 and wanting to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, he told reporters police refused his offer to follow him into his building to retrieve ID, and only when his mother came out with his identification did the police leave him alone.

He didn’t discuss this for months, but after reading reports of black men being beaten and killed by police, he went to the African Canadian Legal Clinic. They in turn reported this to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, who then notified the SIU, almost a year after the incident. Here again, by not bringing in the SIU, police did not do what they are required to do by law. As a result of a SIU investigation, Constable Joseph Dropuljic was charged with assault.

Adding insult to injury, police called him a “f—–g idiot” and told him to “shut the f—k up” when he asked why they were trying to arrest him. When Dropuljic couldn’t come up with a reason to further detain him, the man was told to “Get the f—k out of my car.”

Nice, eh?

POLICING….more….

….this shouldn’t be, but it is.

“DUI charge thrown out….”, began a Toronto Star headline over court reporter Alyshah Hasham’s byline on July 31 of this year.
“After ruling that a Toronto police officer assaulted a drunk driving suspect and told him to urinate in the back seat of a police cruiser, a judge threw out an impaired driving charge this month” (July).

Jong Won Jung failed a roadside breathalyzer test and was arrested at a RIDE stop late on February 28. Video from the police cruiser shows Jung telling Officer Amanpreet Gill that he really needed to go to the washroom as he was waiting to enter the police station. Gill told Jung to hold it ‘til after he was processed, and, according to Ontario Court Justice Joseph Bovard, “Gill went further and demonstrated a belligerent and demeaning attitude toward Mr. Jung. He told him to urinate in the police cruiser.”

Jung used a washroom eventually, and was later handcuffed to a bench in the station when he was assaulted by Gill for accidently hitting the officer with a phone receiver put to his ear to speak to his waiting girlfriend. Gill repeatedly shoved the handcuffed man, knocking his head against the wall behind the bench and then further hit his head six or seven times with the phone receiver. Constable Corey Sinclair, Gill’s rookie partner, denied witnessing an assault, and Jung didn’t complain further given a lack of response to his initial objections.

Judge Bovard ruled that 15-year police veteran Gill showed a “lack of honesty” about what happened that night, and that the testimony of both officers “lacked candour” when it came to what happened in the police cruiser…..until confronted with the in-car video. Gill and Sinclair were not forthright with the court, the judge found, and charges against Jung were dismissed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, the province’s highest court, ‘quashed’ multiple convictions against Perth County’s Frank Strauss in a 3-0 decision at the beginning of August. The court ruled that police had violated the rights of this Hells Angel member who’d been convicted of charges that resulted in an 11-year jail sentence.

Police found guns, drugs, cash and ammunition behind a fake wall in a barn leased to Strauss, according to a report by Sean Fine, a justice writer for the Toronto Star in an August 2nd story. The police had a warrant to search but had earlier in the investigation picked a lock and broken into the same barn…..without a warrant.

“The court said the justice system’s reputation needs to be protected from what it described as blatantly illegal police behaviour”, read the article.

“A senior investigating officer and his team made a conscious decision to ‘gamble’ with the law and the courts,” wrote Justice Mary Lou Benotto in her ruling.

The Star quoted University of Alberta law professor Steven Penney, a criminal law specialist, describing police behaviour as “pretty shocking misconduct, to deliberately and knowingly violate the Charter just because they felt it was in some general public interest.”

“Policing & ‘alternative facts’”, our February 5th posting, covered an event leading to Toronto Police Sergeant Eduardo Miranda facing a hearing for use of ‘excessive force’ when he appears to repeatedly taser and stomp on a man during an arrest. The event was captured on video by complainant Waseem Khan who was told over and over he couldn’t record, even though citizens have a right to do so if they are not obstructing.

A reading of the earlier posting details what led to the complaint. Ontario’s independent police review director, Gerry McNeilly, issued a report covered by the Toronto Star in its August 11 edition, where the OIPRD found that there was “evidence of misconduct” by officers on site.

He went on, “Clearly, in my view, this matter had to be investigated, not just based on the complaint filed, but also on the videos and so on. I see what’s on TV. I found that the actions of the officer reached a threshold for misconduct based on the excessive use of force and I determined that it was serious. That means that the matter must go to a tribunal hearing. The chief has no choice.”

Against police orders, Sgt. Miranda and five constables failed to activate in-car camera system microphones upon reaching the scene. The five constables not singled out in the report will be subject to less serious informal discipline for misconduct.

Waseem Khan has full standing at the September 26 hearing, and plans to attend. He believes the police are losing public trust, and this case will underscore that operating outside the law is not “okay.”

POLICING……Where were we?

……continuing from August 20.

This briefly touches on three items. And, it’s ‘local’ coverage. Magnify ten-fold for all of Canada.

Desmond Cole, a black 35 year-old Toronto journalist and activist, hosts a weekly radio program, and has written for numerous publications.

“The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times – all because I’m black”, Cole’s May, 2015 cover essay for Toronto Life, was one of the most discussed Canadian stories of 2015, and won three National Magazine Awards that year.

He became a Toronto Star columnist in September of 2015 to cover race issues, but resigned in May of 2017 after his editor told him he had violated the paper’s policy on journalism and activism by mounting a one-man protest at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting. The Star has a long practice of using and supporting writers who were also activists, so what made the difference here?

On Thursday, April 20, Cole made a public deputation about the police practice of “carding” to the Toronto Police Services Board, and delivered an ultimatum. He insisted the board put stricter constraints on police access to the data collected through the “illicit” practice. According to the Star’s Wendy Gillis in the next day’s paper, Cole argued, “It was never your information to take in the first place. I plan to stand here in protest until you commit today, here and now, to restricting the police having our information going forward. You want to ruin another generation of children’s lives, and I’m not going to allow you to do it.” The meeting was adjourned, and then cancelled.

The Toronto Star has been a long-time critic of “carding”, covers the Toronto Police Service extensively, and is not highly regarded by police management and its officers. So, who went though the paper’s back door to get Cole removed from staff?

This city, this province, this country needs more like Desmond Cole.

Three days after that board meeting, the Star’s Jim Rankin and Wendy Gillis co-authored, “Ontario police share data from carding with Ottawa”. Ontario’s Provincial Counter-Terrorism Plan was sent to all Ontario police chiefs, the OPP commissioner, and police services boards in October of 2014. Two small Ontario police departments recently posted the latest version of the plan on-line which is where the Star found it, but it disappeared from the sites soon after.

“Front-line officers across Ontario have the unique opportunity to recognize, identify, collect and report on intelligence gathered through primary response duties, such as street checks (‘carding’), vehicle stops and criminal investigations,” the document states. Municipal police services “should ensure” that intelligence they gather “is shared regularly with key partners,” including the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-terrorism section, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the RCMP.

“Carding” is simply a form of intelligence-gathering without cause. It’s one thing for the police to pass on what they believe is relevant data from valid investigations, but to stop whomever they please, ask whatever questions they choose, expect truthful and reliable responses, and then use that information for supposedly genuine national security purposes is something else.

In spite of new regulations around the practice of “carding”, there is no substantive oversight on compliance. “The police are really free to do whatever the hell they want, and pass it on to whoever they want,” is how Law Union of Ontario lawyer Paul Copeland put it.

If you give up a little bit of liberty in the name of law and order, you’ll deserve both, and have neither.

“Pot arrest data reveals ‘startling’ racial divide” headed an early July Toronto Star exposé by Jim Rankin and Sandro Contenta, with Andrew Bailey analysing the data. “Police stats obtained by the Star show disparity when it comes to marijuana possession charges,” read the deck.

According to this, “Black people with no history of criminal convictions have been three times more likely to be arrested by Toronto police for possession of small amounts of marijuana than white people with similar backgrounds.”

This comprehensive study of statistics and related data beginning in 2002 indicates a pronounced tendency within the Toronto Police Service to disproportionately target poor and racialized communities. “They (the police) didn’t go into the parks of Forest Hill to shake down the rich white kids. They spent their time in the parks and community centres of the Jane and Finch corridor, and it was like shooting fish in a barrel.”, said Daniel Brown, a Toronto lawyer who regularly defends clients on marijuana charges.

Annamaria Enenajor, a criminal lawyer focusing on civil rights, describes policing bias near her office close to University of Toronto student housing. “I don’t see them doing raids on those frat houses,” she says. “It’s all drunken white boys over there. I walk by and I definitely smell weed.”

We emailed Jim Rankin at his Star office on July 10: “My adopted son, who is black, looked at this and said, ‘So this is news?’ Referring to all us white people, he added, ‘You’re just catching up on what we’ve known for years.’”

Jim Rankin came back an hour later, “Absolutely bang on!”

Again and again….and again…..

……..policing vs the rules

“A man left in pain and naked in a Brantford police holding cell for hours has filed a $2.5-million lawsuit against the Brantford Police Service Board, the chief of police and six police officers.”  Alyshah Hasham, Toronto Star, Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Philip Alafe, a 27 year-old Nigerian refugee claimant, in Canada since 2010, and living in Etobicoke, was arrested on an outstanding warrant late in the afternoon of July 3 in 2015 for driving offenses in Brantford. He was transported by the OPP to Brantford where he told the booking officer at the police station he had mental health issues – depression and anxiety – and suffered from sickle cell anemia. Without medication sickle cell anemia causes extreme pain. There was no indication he was suicidal, and the booking officer noted he was sober and passive.

Ontario Court Justice Kenneth Lenz stayed Mr. Alafe’s criminal charges in April of this year after ruling Brantford police, and Staff Sgt. Cheney Venn in particular, subjected Alafe to “cruel and unusual treatment”, and violated his rights under sections 7 and 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Judge Lenz described the treatment as “egregious” and “clearly degrading to human dignity” after viewing the video exhibits, and found that Staff Sgt. Venn repeatedly violated police policies on the handling of people in custody and people with mental health concerns. “They were just treating me worse than an animal,” is how Philip Alafe put it.

Simply put, Mr. Alafe spent the evening and much of the night at first being ignored when his medical needs where not met, doing what he could to protest and, as the judge put it, “was a pain in the neck” as his discomfort increased. But, the police officers on duty not only didn’t respond according to policy, they…..Staff Sgt. Venn notedly….became aggressive, belligerent, and bullying, eventually leaving Mr. Alafe naked in a cold cell. This only exacerbated his pain. It wasn’t until a shift change the next morning that matters were put right.

Interestingly, nowhere in the material does the issue of race arise. The statement of claim filed with the Superior Court in Toronto alleges the defendants “maliciously, intentionally, unlawfully and/or without justification subjected the plaintiff to an escalating course of punishment, deprivation of basic needs, physical assault, infliction of mental anguish and other infliction of harm.”

August 1, 2017

Geoffrey Nelson, Chief,
Brantford Police Department,
344 Elgin Street,
Brantford, ON N3S 7P6

Re: “They were just treating me worse than an animal”

Chief Nelson:

In the very early 60s, then a naïve country boy new to Toronto, I met with a local police commander, looking to improve relations between police and members of the community in which I lived.

That meeting did not go well. It seemed positive community relations were subordinate to intrusive control of civilians, even if it meant skirting rules, policy and the law.

Assuming Alyshah Hasham’s report in the July 22 Toronto Star is factual, your Staff Sergeant Cheney Venn’s treatment of Philip Alafe not only caused Ontario Court Justice Ken Lenz to stay charges against Mr. Alafe, but is another example of how little police culture has changed in the last half century.

Too bad. After all, when push comes to shove, it is the people who are really in charge.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Again and again….

……….policing vs the rules

The Toronto Star reported in the second week of July that a Belleville judge had ‘blasted’ the local OPP detachment for an ‘egregious’ strip search of a DUI suspect, and forthwith stayed the impaired driving charges.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 15 years ago that strip searching is “inherently humiliating and degrading”, and should only be done when there are reasonable grounds to do so. Yet, police across the province have continued to conduct what judges deem illegal searches. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) announced last July that it was undertaking a review of police search practices provincewide as a response.

“I’ve had enough. There is no regard being given to the rules”, OIPRD head Gerry McNeilly told the Star when contacted about this case. The lawyer for the accused in the Belleville court added, “The police can no longer take the position that they were unaware of what the law was. There’s no uncertainty now. It cannot be said that there’s any question with what the law is with respect to strip searches.”

Nonetheless, what is particularly challenging in this story is that one of the officers involved testified that she has not changed her practice, in spite of advice from her seniors.

We contributed our own perspective to the OPP.

August 1, 2017

Inspector Christina Reive, Detachment Commander,
Quinte West Detachment, OPP,
3 Dixon Drive, P.O. Box 1050,
Trention, ON K8V 6E6

Re:  Say it isn’t so!

Inspector Reive:

Assuming the Toronto Star’s Monday, July 20, front page headline is correct, and Jacques Gallant’s supporting report is factual, we have a problem, don’t we?

“Judge blasts OPP for ‘egregious’ strip search” not only charges two of your officers with breaking the law, but one of them, Amanda MacFadden, testified she won’t change her practice.

Now, tell us again, why we should give a damn about respecting our police services?

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen