Cops should be where they’re needed.

The Toronto Police report optimistically named, ‘The Way Forward‘ is running into flak from police union head Mike McCormack.  One of the suggestions in the report is to deploy officers in low crime areas to parts of the city where criminal behaviour is more prevalent. McCormack claims that after spending time to get to know a community, cops moved to other areas will be strangers. This apparently will negate all the good feelings engendered by community barbecues and the like.

Contrary to his new found love of community policing, McCormack was a fan of ‘carding‘. The practice of profiling, questioning and documenting people based on factors arbitrarily determined by an officer. Incredibly, while carding was abolished this year, data gathered in the past (some of it obtained illegally) has been retained. Carding did little to prevent crime but did much to alienate visible minorities. When I was young, many years ago I was profiled because of my youth, especially when driving. I can only imagine what it’s like to be young and black where profiling is practised.

Here in Weston it would be nice to see a few extra cops occasionally. Despite our fearsome reputation, we’re not a hotbed of crime. Although dealing drugs at 2 a.m. anywhere in the city is going to be bad for your health, the downtown waterfront is a far more dangerous place than Jane and Lawrence in the wee small hours.

The old saying goes that you can catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. Back in the 20th Century, police would be visible in neighbourhoods. They talked to people and patrolled where they were needed.

It’s just as well McCormack doesn’t have anything to do with fire services. The same way that it’s a good idea to put fire fighters where the fires are, let’s put cops where they’re needed, not where they’re comfortable.

New police action plan released

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (From cbc.ca)

The Way Forward was a catchy title used to describe best practices in Canadian palliative care, fostering success and innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and as of today, the name of a report from Toronto Police. The report was seen to be a necessary response to a crisis of confidence in the force, the growing cost of policing and the need to adopt more modern policing methods.

It’s interesting that the public has known about the problems with Toronto Police for years. They  have known about the lack of involvement in communities, an overly belligerent response to situations requiring intelligence and finesse and a large body of evidence that police treat certain visible minorities differently. The cost of policing was also an issue that had risen relentlessly in the past few years. When Rob Ford ordered a pay freeze, then Chief Bill Blair just ignored him. Mayor Tory was able to appoint his own candidate as Chief and Mark Saunders has delivered the required report.

In addition to knowing about the problems, the public has known for a long time what the solutions were. Namely that police officers should become more visible, get out of the cruisers, crack down on gangs and gun crime, walk the beat and treat all people with respect. To some extent, there seems to be a willingness in the report to do this.

While the police should have a base in the community, large fortress police stations could be replaced by several storefronts. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change other than closing some stations.

The lucrative after-hours job of paid duty now sees 80% of cops on the Sunshine List. These jobs, such as supervising road works, could be done for a lot less by others. The report tackles this to some extent.

Police forces are notoriously difficult to turn around. Part of the problem is that the qualification to apply for the job is a mere Grade 12 diploma – a requirement unlikely to attract deep thinkers. Another is the overwhelmingly male (>80%) and white (>75%) component to the force. Yet another is the complete lack of psychological profiling for suitability. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change.

Training needs to be beefed up with the emphasis on the safety of the job – very few police officers are killed or injured compared to construction workers for example. In spite of this many officers react in situations where they show fear rather than courage and the consequences can be deadly for the public. There are several mentions of increased training in the report.

Will the new report turn things around? It’s nice to see that there is a set of specific recommendations that are time and performance based so that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that although the recommendations have timelines, many are vague and require more discussion and study. Look for little or no change on these.

Here are the recommendations in the report:

Recommendations 1-8 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 9-13 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 14-16 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 17-21 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 23-25 (Click to enlarge).

Let’s hope that real change is coming.

Read the official report summary here and the full report here.

 

Fantasy, meet reality

After Adam and I wrote articles about having to be careful when interpreting data, this Toronto Police graph came to my attention. It’s part of their ‘Way Forward’ initiative, already covered, that seeks input from Toronto residents about the future of policing.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.22.43 PM
Click to enlarge.

The chart is breathtaking in its deceptiveness and misrepresents the true levels of crime in these cities. The authors seem to want people to interpret the graph to the effect that New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have lower crime levels than Toronto. The fine print at the bottom basically informs readers that the statistics are meaningless but who cares, the bars have probably done their job.

For those interested, and again, murder being the best indicator of violent crime levels since there’s no ambiguity about a murder – they are almost always reported, here are the same cities’ murder rates in 2013, the middle year used in the police chart, so we can compare apples to apples.

20160818043023Let’s resolve that ‘The Way Forward’ should not be to mislead, or indeed to believe that Torontonians are stupid.