HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Radical Change Urged For Way Officers Police Themselves
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2004
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A11
Copyright: 2004, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Katherine Harding, With reports from Colin Freeze and Kirk Makin
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A hard-hitting report commissioned by Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino 
has urged officers to radically reform the way they police themselves, 
including using mandatory drug testing and overhauling their recruiting and 
promotion practices.

"My report doesn't pull any punches," the author, retired judge George 
Ferguson, said yesterday after it was made public. (The police have had the 
document for months.) "It's not intended to gather dust," he said.

The plan, which has already been largely denounced by the force's union, 
outlines 33 recommendations on how the police service can detect and 
prevent misconduct and corruption and was commissioned two years ago, 
following serious allegations against members of the drug squad. Last 
month, criminal charges were laid against six former drug squad officers.

The Ferguson report includes wide-ranging recommendations, including moving 
the force's internal affairs department out of police headquarters so that 
it has more independence to investigate officers and also putting potential 
police recruits through more aggressive and thorough background checks.

Rick McIntosh, president of the Toronto Police Association, complained that 
many of the recommendations would put his more than 7,000 members under a 
level of scrutiny that is "unreasonable."

"I think a lot of these recommendations go to the assumption that police 
officers are breaking the law, and we have concerns with that. . . . You 
are killing a flea with a sledge hammer, the way I see it. We have more 
accountability than any other group of workers in society."

Mr. McIntosh is especially troubled with the recommendation that mandatory 
drugs tests should be in place for officers being promoted to "sensitive or 
high-risk" areas, such as drug squads and major-crime units. "We would be 
the only group of employees in the country that would have to put up with 
this. Obviously, our members are going to have some concern about that."

Chief Fantino wouldn't comment when asked about which recommendations from 
the report he favoured or disliked. But he said the drug testing 
recommendation wouldn't be "an easy issue. . . .We'll have to look at 
everybody's rights and entitlements."

The chief also wouldn't tell reporters specifically which recommendations 
have already been implemented. "Can't you take 'I don't know' as an 
answer?" he snapped. "We aren't here to be cross-examined." He called the 
plan "a work in progress" and has been asked by the Toronto Police Services 
Board to report on its progress at next month's meeting.

Members of the police services board praised Judge Ferguson for his effort. 
"I think your approach is exceedingly doable," Councillor Pam McConnell 
told him. She also commended the police service for allowing such an 
in-depth "self-examination" exercise.

The report is at times scathing about how current systems may invite 
potential corruption. Judge Ferguson's remarks include:

"The [Toronto Police] Service has acquired the reputation of being the 
'training ground' for other police services throughout Canada. The number 
of officers resigning to serve with other police services is unacceptably 

"Negative press appears to have caused a change in the perception of 
'Toronto's Finest.' This is particularly important with respect to 
attracting results from minority communities."

The promotion system is based on an "old military tradition" that has 
promoted capable officers, but ones who "have had little or no training in 
effective supervision and management . . ."

Lax background and financial checks are "particularly troubling, since it 
is well known that personal debt and so-called high-living are major 
contributors to police dishonesty."

The report stems from assorted scandals that arose from a years-long 
internal probe involving the Toronto Police Service. In the late 1990s, 
drug suspects complained to their lawyers that they were being beaten up or 
robbed by police officers. These complaints, which have never been proven, 
became the subject of a lengthy investigation.

Chief Fantino has long said that while a few bad apples may exist, no one 
should believe that the 7,000-member force is rife with corruption. Still, 
the lengthy affair has been an embarrassing and expensive saga, one that 
has created rifts within the force.

Defence lawyer Edward Sapiano, whose has represented some of the former 
drug suspects with gripes against the police, said the Ferguson report's 
recommendations are "spectacular" but he's worried that most won't ever be 
implemented by police.

"I have considerable concern because implementing them is conditional on 
the good faith and co-operation of the police brass and individual 
officers. The biggest hurdle to overcome is a police culture that resists 
any scrutiny of police behaviour. Any great idea is useless unless it is 
actually implemented."
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