Who was the man killed by police?

The Toronto Star has an article about the mystery of the homeless man killed by police in Weston last year. It was the second time he had been shot by police in Weston, both times after threatening them with a butcher knife.

The police have little idea who he was.

 

No one knew John Doe.

Not his real name, not his birthday, not where he came from. More than a year after Doe ambushed Toronto police officers with a kitchen knife in a dusty rail corridor in North York, leading one of them to fatally shoot him, all investigators can say is that he was a sex offender with a violent past.

Developers, start your engines.

Toronto’s new(ish) Police Chief Mark Saunders came to Weston / Mount Dennis on Tuesday with Mayor Tory to gauge community response to the re-alignment of police division boundaries along with the possible closure of 12 Division’s headquarters scheduled for 2018. (according to CP24)

In fact, according to the Interim Report approved at July’s Police Board meeting, 12 Division (along with several others) will disappear as it becomes amalgamated. How that process will work is rather vague.

The boundaries of 12 Division.
The current boundaries of Toronto Police’s 12 Division.

Here’s a look (below) at the affected Toronto police divisions according to CP24.

A look at the future of Toronto's police divisions.
Original map adapted by Roy Murray.

Saunders was no doubt hired with the understanding that the billion dollar police budget had to be trimmed, but like his predecessors has dragged his heels. John Tory, mayor of one of the lowest taxed cities in the country is currently asking for a 2.6% across the board budget cut to every city department so he can bring in ‘an at or below inflation’ tax increase.

It’s well known that when City budget cuts come, they disproportionally affect the poor along with areas where large numbers of poor people live. User fees go up, services get slashed and the TTC is ordered to cut back on crowded suburban routes. Mayor Tory is simply another slash and burn, subway loving member of Ford nation albeit with a better grip on P.R. (Ignore the bazillion acre park across the rail lands; it’s a distraction). The Mayor and his rich friends don’t like paying property taxes on their mansions and so the poor must bear the burden.

A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.
A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.

What’s a police chief to do? Learn from the fine example set by politicians and look for savings from people who don’t make as much of a fuss. The police station currently occupied by 12 Division is on a large piece of real estate with excellent highway connections. Wouldn’t it be a great place for a high rise apartment building or two? It even has enough room for parking. Dress the sale up as a ‘modernization of police services’ and police ‘becoming more accessible’ and you have the makings of a fine sales job.

Developers must be salivating at prospect of owning the site. Toronto City Council would smooth all hurdles out of the way and the sale of police assets would trim the Chief’s bloated budget for now while being framed as greater contact with the community. Win Win Win!

Some key words come in the Chief’s Interim Report executive summary.

In the months leading up to our final report, we will continue to look for responsible measures that can yield additional reductions, savings, and real estate returns.

and more tellingly, The full interim report says this:

Through the redesign of boundaries and facilities, we have identified up to $72 million in real estate that could be returned to the City of Toronto.

As we conduct the next phase of our work we will look for other similar opportunities.

A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise and it even has parking. Photo from Google Earth.
A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise, great road connections and it even has ample parking. Photo from Google Earth.

Given past knowledge of previous public asset sales, developers are no doubt lining up with proposals and part of the deal will have to include a crumb or two for the community.

Make no mistake, without a strong community response, 12 Division Headquarters will be sold.

It may already be too late.

Will this be a bad thing? Who knows. Tim Hortons across the street from the station will certainly suffer.

If the goal truly is to provide more contact with the community, then it may not be the end of the world although we don’t know how that will be achieved. Several storefront locations (if implemented) might be a better alternative than a large fortress of a building, but local residents will have to fight long and hard for these and we don’t even know what exactly is planned since the report is merely ‘interim’. There’s certainly no shortage of empty storefronts in Weston / Mount Dennis. A police presence might revitalize our communities. (Where will all those cruisers go?)

It might be a good idea for Chief Saunders and the Mayor to clarify how the consolidation process will take place and what steps will be taken to ensure that community assets are not being turned over to the private sector simply to protect property owners from a long needed tax increase.

People also need to feel confident that this is not a back of the napkin job like the Mayor’s fatuous SmartTrack plans and that we aren’t blundering into a chaotic future.

Leonard Fullerton; a wasted life.

In the Toronto Star today is an excellent article about the life and death of local resident Leonard Fullerton; shot dead (an unsolved crime) in October at the age of 26. His life was an unfortunate series of mis-steps from which he was unable to recover. The article raises some interesting questions about the role of schools and police in dealing with behaviour, petty crime and the uneven treatment of young black men. No doubt this young man’s parents weren’t perfect – whose are? No doubt he was into petty crime and made mistakes. How many adults can look back and say that their youth was blemish free? The point is that a young white man from Rosedale or Forest Hill would have probably been given a second chance by the school system and the police. Without such support, and with a criminal record, young black men like Leonard Fullerton have no means of supporting themselves and thus can see little alternative to a life of petty (or worse) crime.

Toronto Star article: How a young Toronto black man got tagged as trouble

 

Police make major arrest in Weston murders

Police made a spectacular arrest today of Mark Garfield Moore. The charges against this man read like a crime wave rather than one individual’s shocking deeds. He is accused of four murders around the city, including those of Courthney Facey and Mike James, who were murdered outside 1798 Weston Road last September 29. In addition there are many firearms-related charges.

All of the alleged offences took place in the relatively short timeframe between June and November of 2010. A number of related arrests have been made in what appears to be a major victory for the task force (Project Summit) specifically set up by Toronto Police to solve these cases. According to police, more arrests are forthcoming.

Det. Sgt Hank Idsinga told the CBC

Facey and James were gunned down for “no rhyme or reason,”

“Mr. Moore, allegedly, for unknown reasons, pulled up to them in his vehicle and shot and killed them.”

Facey, James and Spence had never had any contact with police and were not involved in any criminal activity.

The accused has another connection to Weston: his brother, Andre Moore, was suspected of shooting a police officer, Anthony Macias, outside the same apartment buildings at 1798 Weston Rd in 2001, according to the Globe and Mail. Andre Moore was shot dead three years ago. Macias, the police officer, was seriously injured.

Mark Moore was shot in the face in 2001 and this can be seen in his aspiring rapper video where he tellingly shows off large amounts of cash and ‘bling’. Moore was not from Weston; he committed most of his crimes in Scarborough, and he was born and raised there.

Weston Losing Its Split Personality

As a result of Toronto Police Service boundary changes, from Monday, September 26 Weston will no longer be split into two police divisions. 12 Division’s new northern boundary will now be Highway 401. This makes a lot of sense as Weston will no longer straddle two jurisdictions. This should lead to better coordination of effort north and south of the old boundary on Lawrence Avenue West. 12 Division’s southern boundary also moves north and will now be along St Clair rather than the CP line. Read the press release here.

 

TAVIS – Another Viewpoint.

A disturbing incident came to my attention yesterday.

A friend of mine, let’s call him Bruce, is a keen wildlife photographer. Bruce was in Lions Park by the Humber footbridge last Thursday, intent on photographing an elusive heron. Four young men walked by and two of the men got chatting to Bruce and eventually asked him if he would take their photograph and email it to them. As the two and Bruce gathered around the camera to see the image, there was a sudden skidding sound as six police officers on bikes (from the TAVIS program) swooped down and surrounded them. They asked ‘What’s going on?’ and searched one of the young men and his backpack, finding a tiny quantity of marijuana. He was arrested and placed in handcuffs. Meanwhile, the other young man became indignant at this breach of Charter rights and voluntarily stripped to his underwear in frustration and to demonstrate that he had nothing to hide.

The attention then turned to Bruce who was asked by one of the officers ‘What exactly are you photographing?’ Bruce felt intimidated by the officer, the question, and indeed the whole incident – and feared for his own personal safety if he said anything or intervened to protest the treatment of the young man. He had the impression that this was a way of filling an arrest quota. As if the six officers weren’t enough to keep order, a seventh arrived, also on a bike. Bruce beat a hasty retreat.

Apparently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is now treated as a serious crime and no longer regarded as a minor violation. No doubt this will be thrown out of court in two or three years when the judge finally hears of this breach of the young man’s right not to be subjected to arbitrary search and seizure. In the meantime, this charge will hang over the young man’s head.

The headline to this story could have been ‘Armed Gang Intimidates Park Visitors’. Although slightly misleading, it is the absolute truth from the viewpoint of the people involved. Readers might understand the story better with the additional information that the only white people in this incident were on bikes.

What to make of this? Is such behaviour acceptable on the part of police officers? Is this racial profiling? Do we know the whole story? – probably not but the optics are not good. Would young white men have been subjected to this treatment? I doubt it very much.

The TAVIS program, in addition to reducing major crime and increasing safety is designed to enhance public trust and confidence and build relationships. It is hard to see what the harassment of these young men has accomplished other than inducing fear and mistrust.

When I was growing up, a long time ago, police officers walked the beat on their own and built relationships with business owners and people they met along the way every day – not just during a barbecue and photo op. Not being in groups, individual officers could spread far and wide, covering a large area in each shift. Their presence was enough to detect and deter much criminal activity and to be a set  of eyes and ears on the street. Nowadays, such policing is considered old-fashioned and perhaps requires a modicum of courage from the participants that today’s police academy graduates are no longer willing or able to provide. Evidently it’s OK to ask firefighters to put their lives on the line but police officers need to be in a posse in order to feel safe.

As Weston Web has pointed out, crime in Weston is no higher in here than elsewhere in Toronto. We live in a safe community where rates of crime continue to drop. To receive an influx of police officers during the summer was a fabulous opportunity to build bridges and humanize the face of policing. Tragically, incidents like this one destroy any good will that might have been created.

 

TAVIS Barbecue Tonight, June 16, 2011.

There will be a barbecue tonight from 5 – 7 pm hosted by 12 Division TAVIS initiative officers and Councillor Frances Nunziata. This is to let the community know that an additional 32 police officers have been made available during the summer for street patrol in the Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue area. Check out the PDF version of the poster here.