Doctoral student in Criminology at the University of Toronto focusing on police use of force and accountability.
Erick is a doctoral student in Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. His research is focused around the police use of force, accountability, and police-community relations. Erick's background is Algonquin First Nation and his research looks at Aboriginal-Canadians' experiences with the police. He is also interested in how new technology impacts law enforcement decision-making such as body-worn cameras and Tasers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you know about First Nations policing in Ontario? Probably very little. First Nations policing has been seriously neglected for years despite several government-led initiatives aimed at providing the support necessary for these services to deliver quality and effective policing to the communities they serve.
Among the larger police services, only Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal have tested or are currently studying body-worn camera (BWC) technology. The only police service in the country to standardize BWCs for its officers is the Amherstburg Police Service -- a small agency in southwestern Ontario.
In Ontario, municipal police services are governed by Police Services Boards (PSBs). These Boards retain a great deal of control over local matters related to policing. They generally consist of three or five members for smaller jurisdictions, and seven members for large municipalities. It is time to abolish the current structure of PSBs and implement stronger forms of governance that serve the public interest and are accountable to the community, while ensuring the necessary checks and balances for the operation of police services.
If the study was properly designed and executed, the data would have been more compelling and conclusive than what the report indicates. Because the TPS failed in this respect, we know more about what the public and the police think the cameras may do rather than what the cameras have actually done. The $500,000 funding provided by the provincial government does not appear to have generated a strong return on its investment given the meagre results.
The Toronto Police Service must develop a strong policy around Taser use that goes far beyond the requirements outlined in the Ontario guidelines. The policy must also ensure meaningful accountability and strict disciplinary measures for when officers use Tasers carelessly and without sufficient justification.
Advocates for body-worn cameras believe that the technology is going to solve the problems related to policing. The expectations are so high for body cameras that they will potentially create a greater divide between the police and the public when the cameras fail to deliver on those expectations. The incident in Chicago is not the first where a body camera failed to record a fatal encounter between the police and a civilian, and it certainly won't be the last.
One the most important concerns of police violence, and one that several fail to even recognize, is how much we do not know about the police use of lethal force. There is no national or centralized database for use of force statistics in Canada. A further problem is the fact that agencies do not normally release official statistics on use of force, and the way in which use of force data are collected varies greatly between jurisdictions. Although lethal force by police is much less common in Canada as compared to the U.S., we are not immune to police violence.