The POLICING file – Farewell & Good Luck?

Police, policing, police culture, police budgets get lots of media coverage. Criticism of police, policing, police culture and police budgets get lots of attention. Support for police, policing, police culture and the police budget is front and centre, too.

One deficit is news of the outcomes of the many legal actions in Canada against police. Oddly, we almost never see a suit go to open court; settlements are the usual resolution, and non-disclosure clauses are standard. Most often, we do not even know settlements have been reached. Intentional suppression? And get this, these are our tax dollars at play, and we’re not entitled to an accounting.

There are occasional disclosures of the millions paid over periods of years by our governments to satisfy these suits. But, it takes the persistence of journalists and their employers to source this information, and a willingness to risk the displeasure of powerful offices.

What is most striking is how little impact these legal actions have. Yes, it seems Toronto police officers must now be taking public relations courses, but to what end? And yes, we believe there are people in public service dedicated to supporting best practices. Nonetheless, police culture must be entrenched in the status quo and beyond any easy redemption.

We contest turnoverarocktoday’s simplistic labeling as anti-police, but with so many voices in the arena already, we also believe our resources are better directed elsewhere. Our prison industry is so heavily shrouded against the public eye as to invite suspicion of wide-spread malpractice, for instance. More attention is warranted there.

John Sewell’s Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, journalist/activist Desmond Cole and his supporters in this city, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association cover policing extensively. The African Canadian Legal Clinic continues to operate in spite of funding setbacks, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission has just called a public interest inquiry into racial profiling by Toronto Police. There are many others.

We’ll leave this work to them, but will keep watch, update files, and post a ‘policing’ comment when compelled. As with anything, anywhere, and at any time, the biggest impediment to change is the missing voices of the masses.

Let’s move on.

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Police Games III – Marci Ien

Marci Ien is a multiple award winning Canadian broadcast journalist, currently cohosting CTV’s daytime panel talk show, The Social. The Globe and Mail published her op-ed piece, “Driving while black – in Canada”, on February 26.

In it, she wrote of her third stop in eight months by police while driving. She had dropped her daughter off at her sister’s house for a sleepover on a quiet Sunday evening in mid-February. The streets were unusually empty, but as she pulled into the driveway of her home of the last 13 years, a police cruiser came up behind her with its lights flashing.

She was ordered back into her car when she tried to speak to the officer, and was ordered to close the car door again when she stepped out as he approached. Apparently, she had rolled through a stop sign at her daughter’s school a half kilometre away. The officer asked if she lived in her home even after seeing the address on her driver’s licence and then took her i.d, license, registration, and ownership back to the cruiser for a few moments. He returned to say she was getting off with a warning. Throughout the exchange, she described his tone as alarming. She asked to be ticketed, told the officer of her past experiences with the police and how she did not feel respected, served for protected. “He looked at me, bid me good night and walked away,” she wrote.

We sent her a letter of encouragement:-

February 28, 2018

Marci Ien, The Social,
CTV,
P.O. Box 9, Station ‘O’,
Toronto, ON M4A 2M9

Re: “Driving while black – in Canada”
        Globe and Mail, Monday, February 26, 2018

Dear Ms Ien:

Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to put this on paper. It’s important for people who have a voice to remind us of conditions that regrettably still exist in this country.

You’re not the first person with a high public profile to experience overt racism from our police officers. You’re not the first person with a high public profile to go public with what happened to you, and how it made you feel. But, none of that has seemed to impact for positive change. And, we have a black chief of police. Or, is this because we have a black chief of police?

I do understand your anxiety at the time; still, a public servant trespassed on your property without cause. It’s important to remember two things, at least from the perspective of a white senior citizen like me. First, police college 101 teaches recruits to “get on top”, “stay on top”, be in control. Ergo, be firm in response. You’re really the person in charge. Second, when that police officer got out bed that morning and dressed, your tax dollars paid for his underwear.

Finally, what’s the worst that can happen? Toronto pays for a South Pacific cruise for you and your family.

Keep the conversation going.

Charles H. Klassen

cc Mark Saunders, Chief of Police, Toronto Police Service

The police were quick to react to the article, rejecting her claims of racism. Two senior officers tweeted a justification for the stop, and, along with the chief, claimed the videotape of the incident did not provide the officer with enough light to distinguish the race of the driver. The head of the police union tweeted a reference to a 2005 interview in which Ms Ien showed a cavalier attitude toward the rules of the road.

One important and overriding question which Ms Ien asks is why she wasn’t stopped when the traffic violation occurred, rather than in her driveway a half kilometre later. The question is ignored, but we can be sure the officer in the cruiser was running her plate and knew who she was and where she lived by the time he pulled into her driveway. Why then his questioning?

Take note too that police have been dismissive of video footage in the past as irrelevant, incomplete and distorting the facts when it shows them in a bad light.

Toronto Police communications’ director Mark Pugash concluded his comments on this by saying, “Ms. Ien has made some very serious allegations and we would encourage her to file a complaint.”

We suggested that she had:-

March 12, 2018

Mark Pugash, Director, Corporate Communications,
Toronto Police Service,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

Re: Marci Ien

Dear Director Pugash:

I’m sorry, but the TPS and the police association counter punches to Marci Ien’s op-ed, “Driving while black – in Canada” come across as floundering knee-jerk reactions to one of this country’s not-so-dark secrets.

As an example, what video footage does or does not show discounts how ambient light varies on vehicles moving through it, and what a naked eye might distinguish. What is most telling about this one February evening though is Ms Ien’s comment, “The stop signal at my daughter’s school is half a kilometre away; why wasn’t I pulled over there? Why did he follow me home? Why, after seeing the address on my driver’s licence did he still ask if I live at my home?”

As for Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack’s response, he’s worth every penny he earns. Like you, he often works diligently to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

File a complaint, you suggested to Ms. Ien. Why, she did, and to the most relevant of bodies….the court of public opinion.

Regretfully, Director Pugash, no sale.

Charles H. Klassen

cc Marci Ien, The Social
Mark Saunders, Chief, Toronto Police Service
Mario Di Tommaso, Staff Superintendent, TPS
Shawna Coxon, Deputy Chief, TPS
Michael McCormick, President, Toronto Police Association

Police Games II – Sammy Yatim

“Forcillo’s team cites ‘fresh evidence’ in appeal.” Toronto Star, Feb. 18. Of course!

Constable James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder after shooting 18 year-old Sammy Yatim eight times on a Toronto streetcar on the evening of July 27, 2013. A ninth shot missed. This police killing wouldn’t have gone beyond a Special Investigations Unit examination and follow-up exoneration if it wasn’t for video taken by a passer-by.

See “A badge but no gun?” from May 22nd of 2016. Forcillo was not the first police officer on the scene. He wasn’t the third or the fourth. But, he began firing at this mentally distressed teenager carrying a small knife (one source reported it had a 3-inch blade) within seconds of arriving on the scene. Yatim was on the streetcar….the police were many feet away, and only Forcillo had his gun out at that point, and only Forcillo discharged his weapon.

The first three shots were fatal. Yatim fell to the streetcar floor. Forcillo then fired six more times six seconds later for “good measure”, as we put it 2016. One missed. A jury ruled the first three shots were justified (I kid you not!), but the others were overkill and thus the attempted murder conviction. Weird. Compounding the indignity, a dying Yatim was tasered by a second officer after he was down.

Forcillo had been on bail pending an appeal, but breached his conditions last year and is now in prison, awaiting the outcome of that appeal. A few weeks after bail was revoked, he was charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice.

So, what is this ‘fresh evidence’? Forcillo’s lawyers argue that research not heard at trial establishes that the officer was likely experiencing “perceptual distortions” when he fired the second volley, thinking Yatim was getting up after a shot through the heart moments earlier.

Even if one accepts that the first three shots were justified….after all, Sammy Yatim was as much a threat to an armed and armored Forcillo as is a cream pie thrown at a charging bull….his lawyers are still pushing the credibility envelope. But then, they’ll do this for as long as there’s a chance to justify this killing. After all, they have our money to work with.

There’s an eerie similarity here to the police shooting of Michael Eligon on February 3 in 2012, when the 29 year-old black father walked out of Toronto East General Hospital, where he was undergoing a 72-hour mental health assessment, wearing only a hospital gown and socks. He stole two pair of scissors from a local store and was wandering a neighbourhood street. Surrounded by police, one drew his revolver and fired three times. Two shots missed. The third killed the man. A resident’s video recorded the sounds of the gunfire, but not the scene. The police were cleared by the Special Investigations Unit.

What’s the biggest difference between Yatim and Eligon? A camera!

Police Games I – Dafonte Miller

Did the police try to cover-up malfeasance and maleficence?

Go back to “POLICING….still more….” from September 17 of last fall, and the second section lead, “I CAN’T PICTURE THIS HAPPENING TO A GROUP OF WHITE KIDS”. 19-year-old Dafonte Miller was hospitalized with a broken nose, broken orbital bone, fractured wrist, and a badly damaged left eye that had to be removed, following a beating by an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother, and which included 10 strikes with a metal pipe.

It was the early hours of December 28, 2016 on a street in Whitby, Ontario, and, oh yes, Dalfonte and the friends with him are black. This incident wasn’t reported to the Special Investigations Unit as is required, and the SIU didn’t begin to investigate until Miller’s lawyer Julian Falconer contacted them months later.

Justification? For either the beating, or the failure to report? There doesn’t seem to be, but be certain that Durham, Toronto and Waterloo police are working to make a supporting case on one hand, and to shift focus onto Dalfonte Miller on the other. (Toronto Police Service brought in the Waterloo police to look into this, and say its report will be made public.)

Toronto constable Michael Theriault and his younger brother, Christian, were each charged in 2017 with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon…..and public mischief, for misleading police investigators. Their father, John Theriault, is also a Toronto police officer who was with the force’s professional standards unit at the time, and is accused by Falconer of attempting to conceal his sons’ alleged crimes. According to Toronto Mayor John Tory in a Toronto Star February 21 story, the senior Theriault is no longer in that position.

A preliminary hearing began on Tuesday, February 20 in an Oshawa courtroom. The court was scheduled to hear evidence through that week, and it’s all covered by a court-ordered publication ban. It’s scheduled to continue in May.

Michael Theriault with his lawyer made a first appearance before the Toronto police misconduct tribunal on Tuesday, February 27. The constable is charged under Ontario’s Police Services Act with misconduct “in that you did act in a disorderly manner….likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto Police Service.” Further, after the alleged assault on Miller causing “serious injury”, Theriault provided the Durham police on the scene with “an account of the confrontation…..which was not accurate.”

After this initial appearance, the police tribunal proceedings have been put off until the criminal charges are resolved.

The wheels turn…….

“One step at a time……”, the October 1st posting in the fall, was the last update on the status of this action against Correctional Service Canada. The wheels turn, yes, but they very turn slowly.

Since then, Kalman Samuels, QC & Associates, the Montreal firm representing Brennan Guigue, has been in touch with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada several times. The OPC was the point contact with Correctional Service of Canada for the video and printed material CSC had committed to release to his lawyers.

The inquiries were fruitless, and Kalman Samuels finally abandoned this tact. In the middle of last month, it sent off a request directly to CSC, and also filed a motion asking the court to require the agency to come up with the goods. This got the attention of the government lawyer representing the country’s ‘prison industry.’

The agency turned over 4 dvd’s within ten days, and an inspection verified they contained a complete video record of the assault on the afternoon and evening of July 22 in 2014. A conversation around the redacted printed material is pending and the law firm is intentionally very specific on what it expects to receive.

In the meantime, the Kalman Samuels attorney who is doing the legwork on the file is looking for a recognized expert on the use of pepper spray, one who is relatively close by, and not inclined to expect an outrageous retainer. Access to information requests for a copy of Brennan Guigue’s medical files is underway. Otherwise, lawyers for both sides are in the process of arranging the necessary interviews to move this action forward.

Regardless of medical records and pepper spray experts, there is one overriding point to keep in mind. This country, this Canada, paid out tens of millions of dollars to Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Amalki, Benamar Benatta, OmarKhadr, and may pay further millions to Djamel Ameziane, Abousfian Abdelrazik and others, because this country, this Canada, was complicit in the torture and abuse of these men while they were imprisoned in other countries, including the United States.

Brennan Guigue was tortured and abused by Canada’s own federal civil servants. How much is that worth?

‘Prison industry’ talking points

….a few words for CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA

“If you believe that all persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights, then that belief must also apply to those who are less fortunate, less privileged and even so to those deprived of their liberty.”

That is Ivan Zinger speaking to the Toronto Star’s Donovan Vincent for his feature article in the paper’s Sunday, February 4th edition, profiling Canada’s new Correctional Investigator.

Zinger has targeted Canada’s federal prison industry for the “self-serving and unreflective” way it scrutinizes inmate deaths, to the “unnecessarily stark and foreboding environment for human habitation” in most segregation and isolation units in federal penitentiaries, to a call for an external assessment of CSC food services. Food is “foundational to health and safety in a prison setting,” he says, as inmate grievances mount after the previous federal government cut $6.4 million in food costs. CSC has said it will do an internal audit. Zinger wants the tattoo program brought back, prison farms reopened, and argues that visitors to penitentiaries “aren’t always treated with courtesy and respect,” amid delays in having visits approved.

Baz Dreisinger, an American who runs programs in U.S. prisons, travelled the world visiting penal institutions in a number of selected countries. Her 2016 book, “Incarceration Nation” is the result of her work and research.

An Australian inmate’s comments stand out. “….intellectually knowing the circumstances of your oppression and being powerless to do anything about it – that’s torture.” Or, “education makes one unfit to be a slave.”

One of the highlights the author underscored in concluding her experiences is: –
“The United States spends $54 billion a year on the prison industry. The burden of proof to support the status quo falls on those who are in favour of it. Because if any other system had a 60 percent failure rate – that’s the U.S. recidivism rate, and in much of the world the numbers don’t look much better – we’d dismantle that system right away and go right back to the drawing board.”

Robert Clark began working with Correctional Service of Canada in 1980, first as a volunteer while a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, and then progressed through the ranks to hold several management positions in the agency. He retired when the Harper government’s tough-on-crime agenda conflicted with what his experience taught him were prison best practices.

He’s written “Down Inside – thirty years in Canada’s prison service”, published last year. One paragraph from the last chapter, “Conclusion: A Culture of Collective Indifference” is relevant to the plight of our penal institutions.

“I have no idea what lies in store for Correctional Service of Canada. Although I would like to believe that significant positive changes are possible. I have my doubts. The culture of this organization is so deeply entrenched and so pervasive that I remain skeptical of its capacity for genuine introspection. The people I know who still work in the system tell me it’s worse now than it was when I was around. The increasing reliance on closed-circuit security cameras and electronically operated doors has further eroded the human contact that is essential to humane treatment and ultimately the chances of rehabilitation.”

And finally, turnoverarocktoday has a message for Correctional Service of Canada, and each, every, and all its employees…..from Commissioner Don Head down the line to the newest entry-level recruit.

Ladies and gentlemen, your one overriding and singular priority is to put yourself out of a job! Yes, this is a fantasy beyond the realm of possibility, an unattainable state of perfection in this world, and within the social order we know. Nonetheless, perfection is that goal on the horizon to which you set your course, as it is for us all. Otherwise, you’re just surrendering to the status quo…..and how’s that working for you?

Soleiman Faqiri – another comeback

On December 4, the day after we posted “A comeback – No-Fault Murder?”, a letter arrived over MCSCS Minister Marie-France Lalonde’s signature responding to ours of November 6, published here on November 12 in “No-Fault Murder?”

“…..regarding the death of Mr. Soleiman Faqiri,,,, ,” she began, “….as you know, the police investigation has concluded. Questions about this decision and the police investigation should be directed to the Kawartha Lakes Police Service. Although the police investigation has concluded, the ministry’s internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Faqiri’s death remains active. As such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific details of the internal investigation, including staff discipline, while it is underway.

On November 3, 2017, Dr. Paul Dungey, Regional Supervising Coroner for East Region, Kingston Office, announced that an inquest will be held in the death of Mr. Faqiri. The inquest will examine the events surrounding his death. In addition, the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths. Details regarding the date and location will be provided at a later date when the information becomes available.”

Minister Lalonde ended by asking for our patience “while the ministry’s investigation and the inquest into the death of Mr. Faqiri continue.”

Do you know how often a provincial or federal minister overseeing a part of Canada’s prison industry has said much the same as Ms Lalonde? Do you know how many millions of dollars have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little has ever been done to implement inquest recommendations?

That’s worth repeating to the minister:

February 2, 2018

The Honourable Marie-France Lalonde,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Lalonde:

Your December 4, 2017 letter in response to mine of November 6th is appreciated, and I accept that its composition was the only pathway you had. However, you underpin the status quo.

You suggested I question the Kawartha Lakes Police Service about its investigation into Mr. Faqiri’s death. A police spokesperson contacted me after receiving a copy of my letter, referring me to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to pursue a complaint. That is a waste of good paper.

As for an inquest, do you know how often provincial and federal ministers overseeing Canada’s prison industry have claimed these will make a difference? Do you know how many millions have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little is done to implement inquest recommendations?

Minister, when did you last execute an unannounced and unheralded inspection of a penal institution, be it at 2pm on a Monday, 8pm on a Friday, or 3am on a Sunday? When did any of your senior staff, or any minister in your position or senior staff in this country do likewise? We need that, and we need progressive unambiguous legislation, coupled with at-arms-length authorities to prioritize compliance.

Without that, we are simply peeing into the wind.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

We copied Kathleen Wynne, Nasir Naqvi, and Renue Mandhane.

Meanwhile, Fatima Syed, a Toronto Star staff reporter, published “Family of man who died in jail looking for answers a year later”, on December 15 of last year. “Why is the government so afraid to tell us the truth?” asks Soleiman’s father, Ghulam.

The family is pro-actively insisting on accountability and transparency, asking the same questions over the last year. “Why was Soleiman killed while in government care? Why was he found with 50 injuries on his body? Why haven’t any of the guards been held accountable for the three-hour confrontation that was caught on a video they still haven’t seen?”

The government denied the family and their lawyers’ request for information about Soleiman’s final moments before he died. A month before, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service advised them by email that no criminal charges would be laid. “It is very difficult to not feel like the family is being stonewalled,” said one of their legal team.

The “Justice for Soli” campaign, a group of Ontario university students, along with the family, held a vigil on that day at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to mark the anniversary of Soleiman’s death. 50 people laid 50 white roses on his photo for the 50 bruises on his body. Earlier in the day, the family gathered at Soleiman’s grave in Ajax in remembrance. He would have turned 31 at the end of December.

And then, along came another Star Fatima Syed entry on Wednesday, February 7th, with a front-page headline, “Jail guard tag team involved in subduing mentally ill inmate,” and a deck, “Reports obtained by the Star detail what happened in the hours leading to Soleiman Faqiri’s death after a fight with correctional officers in 2016.”

The long and detailed account is based on documents the paper received through a freedom of information request, and is material from the police investigation of Soleiman’s death, and the files of the ministry, jail, and members of its staff.

Lawyers for the Faqiri family call what they’ve read ‘very troubling,’ but what is most telling for seasoned observers of the country’s penal systems is this extract from Ms Syed article: “Interviews (by the Kawartha Lakes police) of other inmates didn’t provide much information, said the report, as jail guards had closed the hatches to the doors of each inmate’s cell, thus preventing them from looking out into the common hallway or getting involved.”

We’ve passed a comment on to the Star’s reporter.

The Ontario government’s priority is to get past this, pursue a quiet and expedient resolution, and move on……’til next time.