Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair Out of Control?

Police State or Civilian Oversight?

Today's meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board seems to be a particular lightning rod of how the police under Chief Bill Blair seem to be thinking they are a power unto themselves and don't have to take the Toronto Police Services Board seriously. I find it encouraging and actually surprising that the Board is asking questuions that should be asked, given that it has the same chair and a few of the same members that ignored anything that would challenge police decisions in the past.

For instance: The meeting is being televised, not a normal occurrence.

Also, the twitter world is active with tweets like this reporting on the meeting:

* Once again, you can watch the Police Board argue over sound cannons live:  Jonathan Goldsbie The Police Board is discussing the acquisition of sound cannons and CCTV cameras left over from the G20.
 * Cohen summarizes the Chief's report before the Board as, "Oh, by the way, I've bought these." goldsbie Jonathan Goldsbie

* Board member Judi Cohen says she is "shocked" that the Chief has unilaterally decided to purchase these items without consulting the Board. Jonathan Goldsbie

* Thompson: "I am not, at this point, willing to simply say with the respect to the LRAD device that I am" willing to validate its purchase. Jonathan Goldsbie* Mukherjee says that the introduction of tasers and CCTV cameras are precedents the Board can look at with regard to LRAD. Jonathan Goldsbie * Motion to ask for Chief to bring back to Board a draft policy on use of LRADs. Jonathan Goldsbie

* So, as tends to happen, the Board put some very tepid brakes on the introduction of a new tool/weapon but approved them in principle. Jonathan Goldsbie

* By which he means, the Board can't touch operational matters, but it can kind of gently poke at things by approving operational frameworks. Jonathan Goldsbie  

* Nunziata's lack of institutional memory is actually leading her to ask decent questions of the Chief. (broken clock, twice a day, etc.) Jonathan Goldsbie

* Cohen: "It was very, very clear that LRADs, et., would not be purchased at any point in time." She says the Chief & Chair made secret deals. Jonathan Goldsbie


            Here is a Weblink to the Police Services Board.
Chair = Alok Mukherjee (since 2004, term end 2013 unless reappointed again)
Vice Chair = Michael Thompson (2010-2012)
Judi Cohen, Member (2005 to June 2011), appointed by Province
Councillor Frances Nunziata, Member (2010-2012)
Councillor Chin Lee, Member (2010-2012)
Dhun Noria. Member (2010-2013), appointed by Province

I still wonder why the civilian oversight board still meets at Toronto Police HQ on College rather than at City Hall. Optics at very least are bad.

* Update: Police Board 'Shocked' Force Will Keep Sound Cannons
A police officer stands behind the Public Order Unit with a LRAD-X 100 Acoustic Communication Device (sound cannon) during a demonstration of G20 security and crowd control measures in June.