Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell


Testing Officers Promoted To 'High Risk' Units Vital: Judge

Anti-Corruption Report Also Calls For Stiffer Recruit Screen

Toronto police should face mandatory drug tests before they are promoted or 
transferred to "sensitive or high risk" units such as the drug squad, says 
a hard-hitting report made public yesterday.

The report, by retired Ontario Justice George Ferguson, also calls for 
tighter screening of new hires and a beefed-up Internal Affairs section.

Ferguson's report, commissioned by Chief Julian Fantino two years ago in 
the wake of allegations against members of the drug squad, warns that the 
recommendations are vital to restoring public confidence.

Fantino will report back to the police services board at its March 25 
meeting on how Ferguson's recommendations are being put into practice.

"I assure you doing nothing is not an option," Fantino told reporters. "So 
whatever we move forward on will be a quantum leap to where we've been."

But the prospect of becoming the first police force to institute mandatory 
drug testing drew immediate fire from police union president Rick McIntosh, 
who called the idea of drug testing "absolutely a non-starter."

Fantino commissioned Ferguson's report in 2001 following allegations of 
corruption against drug squad members. Last month, six former drug squad 
officers were charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to obstruct 
justice to perjury, extortion and assault.

Much of Ferguson's report was delivered a year ago, but was made public 
only yesterday.

"My report ... does not pull any punches. It is not intended to gather 
dust," Ferguson said yesterday at a police board meeting. "I stress that my 
recommendations are aimed at areas where I have found the service's 
practices and procedures to be inadequate. These areas must be dealt with 
now, in an effective manner."

He said each of the 32 recommendations in his two-volume report is, "in my 
view, essential for the service to maintain and strengthen its proper 
status and public support" and "will be immediately effective in preventing 
future criminal acts, serious police misconduct and corruption by members 
of the service."

Ferguson called for a drug-testing program as a "prerequisite for promotion 
or transfer to sensitive or high-risk areas," such as drug squads, major 
crime units and the emergency task force. He wrote that such testing is not 
only appropriate but "essential in the interests of public and officer safety."

Toronto police would be the first service in Canada to adopt such a 
program, although many in the United States, such as the New York City 
Police Department, have some form of random drug testing.

Among Ferguson's other recommendations:

The service should employ two full-time psychologists to test potential 
recruits and members seeking promotion or transfer to sensitive or 
high-risk areas.

Background for new recruits should go "beyond simple computer checks and 
include extensive personal interviews of family, neighbours, associates, 
previous employers, teachers, etc."

Recruitment efforts should target post-secondary students.

The employment unit, which oversees hiring, should be overhauled to create 
a "truly professional, properly focused and target recruitment program."

He also recommended the service strengthen the Internal Affairs units, 
including moving the entire operation, except one representative, away from 
the 40 College St. police headquarters.

The report also deals with methods for managing confidential informants and 
deciding the point at which a police misconduct probe should be disclosed 
to prosecutors.Ferguson wrote that he agreed with "many of the senior 
officers I interviewed ... that the single most significant factor causing 
problems for the service is lack of supervision." He blamed that on the 
promotion of too many individuals who are "untested, untrained."

"In this regard, the service has failed to ensure that those with the 
highest leadership qualities have been placed in supervisory positions." 
All too often, the failure of police departments "to prevent or detect 
serious misconduct or corruption can be traced to incompetent management," 
he wrote.

Fantino, who was at yesterday's meeting at city hall, praised Ferguson's 
"practical" and "progressive" recommendations and said he has already 
struck an implementation committee and retained Ferguson to act as a 

In a written brief submitted to the board, Fantino said "many aspects of 
these recommendations have already been implemented and others are in the 
process of being implemented."

Outside the meeting room, Fantino refused to elaborate on what steps have 
been taken.

Fantino said it would be "premature" to take a position on some of the more 
contentious recommendations, such as drug testing. He cited the 
"interpretations of people's rights and entitlements" as potential 
stumbling blocks.

"It's not an easy thing to do, and we have to obviously look at everyone's 
rights and entitlements and make sure whatever we do is balanced out and 
moving towards doing the right thing for the right reason," he said.

McIntosh, head of the Toronto Police Association, expressed outrage at the 
prospect of drug tests.

"No one else in this country has to submit themselves to drug testing. Just 
because you put a uniform on does not mean you check your rights at the 
door," he told reporters.

Calgary-based Dr. David Playfair, who is familiar with drug-testing 
procedures, told the Star yesterday that to his knowledge the only drug 
screening done by Canadian employers is in the pre-employment stage, in 
fields "where there is a risk to public safety," such as in the trucking 
industry. "Once they get the job they don't get tested," he said.

Federal and provincial human rights commissions have previously ruled that 
mandatory drug testing amounts to discrimination against people with 
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman