Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The man still has a Job?

Keep-the-chief forces rallied at City Hall to bring back ousted top cop Julian Fantino Wednesday (July 21). Although the sentiments expressed in honour of the soon-to-be-departed Julie were sweet, a little perspective is in order. A closer look at Fantino's five years reveals a nightmarish record.

Running roughshod over race relations

• Fantino set the tone for bad relations with the black community shortly after he became chief, when he called criticism of the force "useless rhetoric" – at a conference on alternatives to lethal use of force, no less.

• Fantino sent all the wrong signals when he moved the force's highest-ranking black officer, Keith Forde, out of public complaints, a section he was assigned to clean up, and into community policing, a low priority for the chief.

• At the height of the uproar over the shooting of several young black men, Fantino repeatedly blamed "certain elements" in the black community, not his own force, for failing to rein in the violence.
• Oh yeah, and the racial profiling thing.

War on protestors

Under Fantino, the cavalry, aka the force's mounted unit, went from spot duty in parks to regular fixture at protests and on city streets.

• So deep runs Fantino's detestation for the anti-Iraq-war crowd that he tried to strong-arm the police services board into requiring groups to seek permission from police for rallies – and had the audacity to offer, in one report, that "a problem is now arising where portions of the public believe that Dundas Square is a public space.
• Also anxious early in his tenure to make his mark by cracking down on raves, he went so far as to try to pass off weapons seized in nightclubs as having been seized at raves.

The shameful opportunist

• In perhaps the lowest of a series of low moves, the chief used the murder of Holly Jones to bolster his calls for closed-circuit cameras on street corners and to fuel a crime-wave panic to influence budget deliberations with city council.

Two-faced on community relations

• For all his overtures to the gay community, it was under his watch that coppers from downtown's 51 Division were permitted to run wild at lesbian hangout the Pussy Palace with questionable liquor licence charges. A court found the coppers violated privacy rights when they barged in on naked patrons. The chief was conspicuously silent when Councillor Kyle Rae was successfully sued for libel for calling the aforementioned cops "cowboys."

Police accountability gap

• Despite his talk about honesty and integrity, Fantino expressed "disappointment" when manslaughter charges were laid against four police officers in the beating death of mental health patient Otto Vass.

• A veil of secrecy has shrouded internal police discipline process under Fantino, as evidenced by Councillor Bas Balkissoon's very public resignation from the police services board when public complaints about police conduct that he brought personally to the force were dismissed or not handled at all.

A law unto himself

• Fantino's disdain for civilian oversight is well documented. While at the helm, he tried to slip changes through the police services board that would have seen him unilaterally decide when and under what circumstances the police watchdog special investigation unit (SIU) is called in to probe incidents involving police. Now, that would have kept coppers on the straight and narrow.

Misplaced priorities

• Community policing? It's under Fantino's watch that most community police liaison committees were axed. It's no coincidence either that his appointment, courtesy of Tory friends at Queen's Park, coincided with tougher laws against panhandlers and squeegee kids.

• In concrete terms, Fantino axed foot patrols in troubled areas like Regent Park from 25 officers to 10 – even while residents were pleading for a more pronounced police presence.

• The chief has eagerly pursued child-porn charges, but gave the runaround to a working group of women concerned about the operations of the force's sexual assault unit, despite 57 recommendations in a city auditor's report.

Two-tier policing

• Were Fantino to continue at the helm, the force might soon be taking direction from the corporations with the fattest wallets. He floated a plan for a "charitable foundation" made up of corporations to bankroll his sought-after helicopter and other pet projects.

Thin-skinned and vindictive

• The chief called for an advertiser boycott of NOW for running a photo of his Woodbridge home and asking, Should the chief of police be required to live in the city he polices?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fantino saving the World!


Local activists are delighted that a group of city councillors moved quickly to kill a controversial proposal by Police Chief Julian Fantino that some felt would seriously curtail the actions of protesters on Toronto streets. On April 28, a standing-room-only crowd looked on as council's planning and transportation committee unceremoniously quashed the chief's bylaw plan without even debating its merits. The committee, at the urging of Councillor Kyle Rae (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), voted to "receive" the proposal, which is City Hall-speak for tossing a document into the abyss.
"I'm very happy," said Rich Wyman, a member of the Coalition to Stop the War, after the vote. "This is a victory for us. What the chief's proposals actually are is an encroachment of democratic rights, in essence saying you have to have permission to protest."
"This is a very responsible decision," said Bill Freeman, a writer who is active with Community AIR (Airport Impact Review) and the Writer's Union of Canada, who attended the meeting. "This whole proposal smacks of a level of control that this city -- that no city in Canada -- should give to the police."
Fantino, with the support of the Toronto Police Services Board, had asked council to consider enacting a bylaw that would have required anyone planning a protest to apply first to the Toronto Police Service for a permit. The proposal also asked that demonstrators post a bond to cover potential damage to public property, and that anyone who had previously been arrested at a demonstration be barred from organizing or participating in a protest for a period of two years. It was a plan that did receive support in some quarters, because of reports of vandalism and violence at certain local protests.
Norm Gardner, chair of the services board, expressed disappointment at the committee's hasty handling of the request. "I think they should have discussed it, anyway," he says. "To totally dismiss it was, I think, really inappropriate."
Gardner says some sort of bylaw governing protests is needed to avoid cost overruns caused by overtime pay and to keep ambulance routes clear. He hopes council will resurrect the issue, but concedes that it is unlikely to do so.
Fantino has also asked the federal justice minister, Martin Cauchon, to amend the Criminal Code to allow for harsher punishments for protesters. While that matter doesn't appear to have been decisively closed, Cauchon did indicate in a letter to the police services board that he is wary of unduly restricting the rights of protesters.
"I'm delighted that [the bylaw proposal] seems to be over for now," says Josh Matlow of Earthroots, "but I wouldn't be surprised if it was repackaged and tried to be sold again."
May 1, 2003

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another nail in the coffin!

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino testified against two of his top officers at a disciplinary inquiry on Friday, saying their allegations against him are "hysterical nonsense."
The hearing against Supt. Ken MacDonald and Insp. Allison Jevons is being held at OPP headquarters in Orillia. MacDonald used to head the unit that probes internal corruption and Jevons was a senior investigator in the unit. Both now face charges of neglect of duty and deceit.
They claim they are victims of a witch hunt inside the OPP being orchestrated by Fantino and the head of the OPP union, the Ontario Provincial Police Association.
MacDonald and Jevons were ordered to look into why OPP supervisors in eastern Ontario looked the other way when a local officer allegedly took a baseball bat to his wife's car.
When MacDonald and Jevons concluded there was misconduct, the police union filed a complaint claiming major problems with the whole investigation.
Fantino, who was fresh to the job as commissioner, ordered a review of the findings.
He later agreed with the union and charged the two senior officers with neglect of duty and deceit for their handling of the investigation.
MacDonald and Jevons, however, are fighting back and in the process have made their own allegations.
Part of the evidence is an e-mail in which the union said it wanted to "Take down MacDonald."
MacDonald and Jevons also claim Fantino bowed to union pressure.
Days before charging MacDonald, Fantino asked another senior officer, "Are you going to execute the disloyal one, or am I?"
Fantino learned the senior officer made notes of the comments. The defence claims that when Fantino learned those notes were about to become evidence, the officer was told he was being transferred to North Bay.
Lawyers for the two accused say that amounts to witness tampering.
During Friday's hearing, Fantino called the allegations "hysterical nonsense."
The OPP commissioner denied he was bowing to pressure from the OPP union.
Fantino also denied any personal vendetta against MacDonald and Jevons.
Why then, Fantino was asked, did he ask senior commanders, "Are you going to execute the disloyal one, or am I?"
Fantino explained: "I tend to use police-appropriate language. I often use the word 'execute' [meaning] forceful.... It just brings humour to the situation."
Fantino was then asked why he transferred one of the commanders to North Bay almost immediately after learning the officer made notes about the comments about executing disloyal officers.
At that point, Fantino became angry, calling the notes "cheat notes."
"People who know me wouldn't hold onto those notes," he said.
Fantino denied it was a reprisal and said the transfer was part of a regular OPP restructuring.
MacDonald and Jevons have filed a motion claiming they are victims of abuse of process and are asking the charges be thrown out.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fireman Busted under HTA 172

OPP NEWS RELEASE************************POITRAS TOWNSHIP, ON – (October 17) - An officer from the Highway Safety Division, North Bay, seized a fire truck yesterday afternoon on Highway 63 as a result of the Street Racing Legislation.On October 16th, 2008, at approximately 6:30 pm, the officer was travelling on Highway 63 when he observed a vehicle overtake another vehicle near the crest of a hill. The vehicle was travelling in excess of 70 km/h of the posted speed limit. The driver, a fireman, was operating a Fire Department Emergency/Rescue Response vehicle, GMC Yukon. He was not responding to an emergency call at the time. As a result of his actions, John P. DANDY, 31 years old of Kipawa, Quebec, was charged under the Street Racing Legislation, s.172 and with Drive left of center – approaching crest of grade, s. 149 of the Highway Traffic Act. His driver's licence was seized and suspended for seven days as well as the Fire Department Emergency/Rescue Response vehicle was towed and also seized for seven days.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A look into the Future?

McGuinty Should be concerned
and the Province of Ontario should
be elated!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

HTA 172 an Ilegal act itself?

The law is unconstitutional for several reasons. Section 172(5) requires an officer to have reasonable and probable grounds. This proves a hearing is required before punishment can be imposed. Reasonable and probable grounds bear a standard of proof and onus of proof. Thus, when an accused is charged, it is neither proven nor presumed that the accused has committed an offence, but there are reasonable grounds for believing that this has occurred. The laying of charges in the legal process does not involve a determination of guilt, thus, the presumption of innocence under s. 11(d) as a principle of fundamental justice under s. 7 of the Charter still applies and sanctions cannot be imposed until a determination of guilt has been entered. The burden is on the government and the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt. The governments burden can only be discharged by a trier of fact in a court proceeding. But no proceeding is provided violating ss. 7 and 11(d) of the charter. The principles of fundamental justice under s. 7 incorporate due process and natural justice. S. 172 violate both of them as no hearing is provided. As no hearing is provided s. 172 also violates s. 11(d), the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law. The charter is part of the constitution and the constitution is the supreme law of Canada. Section 172 is not justified or saved by s. 1 of the Charter.Moreover, s. 128(14)(d) directly conflicts with s. 172. Section 128 provides for a fine of $9.75 per kms over the speed limit when the driver is doing more than 50 kms over the speed limit. There is no licence suspension, vehicle impoundment, prison term etc. Section 172 provides for a minimum $2000 fine, maximum $10,000 fine, seven day licence suspension, up to two year suspension upon conviction, seven day vehicle impoundment, and six month prison term. It is a universal principle that when two provisions conflict the one that is most favourable to the accused must be adopted.Most critically, offences in Canada were classified 30 years ago. Offences are either mens rea, absolute or strict liability offences. R. v. City of Sault Ste. Marie, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 1299S. 172 is an absolute liability offence. Twenty-three years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that absolute liability offences that contain terms of imprisonment are unconstitutional as they violate s. 7 of the charter. The term of imprisonment does not have to be mandatory, it may be optional, as s. 172 provides. B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 486Thus, in accordance with s. 52 of the Constitution Act 1982 s. 172 is of no force and effect. In other words, it's not a valid law. Critically, the Province might wish to claim it was unaware of B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 486 until now but that is simple untrue. The Attorney General of Ontario intervened in R. v. Kanda, 2008 ONCA 22 and is well aware of the offence classifications and that a term of imprisonment is not permissible when attached to an absolute offence, which s. 172 is. More than 8,000 people to date have be charged under s. 172 and up to 8,000 vehicles impounded, thus up to 24,000 criminal offences of thefts, mischeif and fraud have been committed by agents of the Province. More importantly, the Attorney General argued in the case that the triggering words “no person shall,” evince a clear intention to create an absolute liability offence. The court determined otherwise stating it is a strict liability offence. The court also cited the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act case. Therefore, the Attorney General has been aware since January, 2008 that s. 172 is unconstitutional and of no force or effect yet the Province continues to illegally charge citizens and impound vehicles. In order to be reasonable, seizures and impoundments must be authorized by law. Here, impoundment is not reasonable or authorized by a valid law. The reason for this requirement is clear: under both the Charter and the common law, agents of the state can only enter onto or confiscate someone’s property when the law specifically permits them to do so. Otherwise, they are constrained by the same rules regarding theft as everyone else. R. v. Caslake, [1998] 1 S.C.R. 51Therefore, the police are not operating under any valid law when they impound a vehicle and are not are not operating in the execution of any valid power or duty. What they are doing is stealing cars under s. 322 of the Criminal Code, committing mischief under s. 430, and fraud under s. 380. A person is having their vehicle stolen and the police are allowing a third party to place a lien on your property. You cannot get your stolen property back unless you pay money, which is fraud. If you are subject to an impoundment you are empowered under s. 494 of the Criminal Code to arrest the police office on the spot the second he acts to impound your vehicle. Section 19 of the Criminal Code articulates that Ignorance of the law is no excuse and the police cannot blame the government for any wrong doing an officer commits. A police officers duty and powers are articulated under s. 42 of the Police Service Act. Section 42(3) of the Police Service Act states;Powers and duties of common law constable(3) A police officer has the powers and duties ascribed to a constable at common law.At common law, these duties include “the preservation of the peace, the prevention of crime, and the protection of life and property.” Dedman v. The Queen, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 2.The common law is no more immune from Charter scrutiny than is statute law, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, see RWDSU v. Dolphin Delivery Ltd., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 573; B.C.G.E.U. v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 214; R. v. Swain, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 933; R. v. Daviault, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 63, and R. v. Stone, [1999] 2 S.C.R. 290.Common law is made up of decisions of the court. The police officer are required to be aware of all decisons, as they are governed by them. Thus, as the court determined 23 years ago that absolute liability offences that contain terms of imprisonment are unconstitutional, the police officer who steals a car commits 3 criminal offence per incident. You can also sue the officer for breach of duty of care for are damages you incur. Hill v. Hamilton Wentworth Regional Police Services Board, 2007 SCC 41 Moreover, Section 50(1) of the Police Service Act expressly states; Liability for torts50(1) The board or the Crown in right of Ontario, as the case may be, is liable in respect of torts committed by members of the police force in the course of their employment.The failure of a public officer to perform a statutory duty also constitutes misfeasance in a public office. Police Services Act s. 41(1) imposes on all Chiefs and Commissioners a freestanding statutory obligation to ensure that the members of the force carry out their duties in accordance with the provisions of the Police Services Act and the needs of the community. This includes an obligation to ensure that members of the police force do not injure members of the public through misconduct in the exercise of police functions.The public complaints process allows the public to complain in respect of the conduct of a police officer. What an accused seeks, though, is not the opportunity to file a complaint that might result in the imposition of disciplinary sanctions, but, rather, compensation for the damage they have suffered as a consequence of the Chief and/or Commissioners inadequate supervision and misfeasance in office. The public complaint process is no alternative to liability in negligence. A plaintiff cannot sue government for a policy decision; however, enforcement of that policy is an operational decision which gives rise to a duty of care. Odhauji Estate v. Yoodhouse 120031 3 S.C.R ,263.Section 1 of the Police Service Act articulates the principles Police are to respect and follow. The drivers whose vehicles are stolen by the police are victims of crime. They are being dumped at the side of the road when their vehicle is stolen and they are being smeared in the media when the police release their names and/or allow video of their car or the person themselves to be aired. Section 1 states;Declaration of principles1. Police services shall be provided throughout Ontario in accordance with the following principles:1. The need to ensure the safety and security of all persons and property in Ontario.2. The importance of safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code....4. The importance of respect for victims of crime and understanding of their needs.The Police core services are articulated under s. 4 and indicate they are to prevent crime, not commit it, and they are to assist victims of crime, yet in stead, they dump them off at the side of the road after stealing their vehicles. Core police services4(2) Adequate and effective police services must include, at a minimum, all of the following police services:1. Crime prevention.2. Law enforcement.3. Assistance to victims of crime.4. Public order maintenance.5. Emergency response. The Province and the police operate under colour of law, but the law is not colour blind and no one is exempt from the law. R. v. Mann, [2004] 3 S.C.R.59, 2004 SCC 52. One of the most fundamental responsibilities of a government is to ensure the security of its citizens. In a constitutional democracy, governments must act accountably and in conformity with the Constitution and the rights and liberties it guarantees. It is one of the proud accomplishments of the common law that everybody is subject to the ordinary law of the land regardless of public prominence or governmental status. As was explained in Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217, at p. 240, the rule of law is one of the “fundamental and organizing principles of the Constitution”, and at p. 258, it was further emphasized that a crucial element of the rule of law is that “[t]here is ... one law for all.” Thus, a provincial Premier is held to have no immunity against a claim in damages when he caused injury to a private citizen.The following sections of the Highway Traffic Act are also unconstitutional.Section 107(1), (2), (3), (4), (11) and (13). Section 107(15) states;…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 112 (3).…“or to imprisonment for a term of not more than three months, or to both”Section 171(4).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 172.1(3).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 175(17).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 177(4).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 190(8).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”Section 200(2).…”or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Say it aint so!

Betsy Powell, Peter Small, Toronto StarAugust 2, 2008

Cases show double standard, critics sayA Toronto judge acquits two men of firearms charges, finding that police testimony was “unreliable, likely false.” In another courtroom, a judge convicts a prominent community activist of perjury, ruling that she deliberately misled the court.
These two recent court cases highlight the rarely prosecuted offence of perjury. For some in the legal community, they also raise questions about double standards, how often police lie on the stand and how infrequently they face charges.
This past week, supporters of activist Valarie Steele, found by a judge to have lied to get her son released from custody, wondered aloud if she should have been charged at all.
Also this week, the province’s Special Investigations Unit announced it is probing the case of Shayne Fisher, 24. Fisher and another man were acquitted after Superior Court Justice Brian Trafford ruled in June that the men were “physically abused” by Toronto police drug squad officers during a raid.
“Important parts of the evidence tendered against the defendants, at the preliminary hearing and at trial, have been found by the court to be unreliable, likely false,” Trafford wrote.
Defence lawyers point to other examples of judges acquitting people because of unreliable testimony from police. It even has a name: testilying.
A case often cited is that of Kevin Khan, acquitted on drug charges by Justice Anne Molloy in 2004. She found two Toronto police officers, including Det. Glenn Asselin, used racial profiling when they stopped Khan and later “fabricated” evidence.
“I quite simply do not believe the evidence of the officers,” she wrote in her judgment.
Asselin was investigated internally and cleared. He remains with the force as a detective.
Then there’s the high profile case of the three officers who testified at the 2005 assault trial of Toronto police officer Roy Preston.
Ontario Court Justice Peter Wilkie convicted Preston after finding him to be “neither credible nor reliable.”
Wilkie also found the evidence of the three officers who testified on Preston’s behalf to be “vague,” “contradictory” and “fundamentally unreliable.”
Preston went to jail after losing his appeal. He is suspended without pay and faces disciplinary charges and could be fired.The three officers were investigated and cleared by their superiors.
In the Steele case, police wiretaps caught the activist saying her son, a witness in the Jane Creba murder case, wasn’t adhering to his bail conditions on unrelated charges. In court, she had indicated the opposite and was subsequently convicted of perjury.
Supporters argued she was being punished for her son’s unwillingness to co-operate.
Academics throughout North America have found the police culture encourages lying.
“When officer self interest, and/or the bond of the `thin blue line is challenged,’ as in a disciplinary proceeding, overt lying is widely recognized as a common occurrence,” Dianne Martin, the late Osgoode Hall law professor, wrote in a 2001 paper.
Defence Lawyer Edward Sapiano says police knowingly commit perjury because of what he calls “noble-cause perjury.”
“Police knowingly give false testimony to facilitate the prosecution and to ensure the conviction of persons the police ‘know’ are guilty. Because police so easily get away with noble-cause perjury … police quite reasonably believe they are being encouraged to lie by the administration of justice itself.”
An assistant Crown attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, didn’t disagree.
“You would expect … police witnesses to have a stronger regard for the oath but people lie in court all the time, police officers included.”
“There is an attitude that the legal system is just a bunch of bulls— invented by lawyers and … the oath doesn’t really bind anyone’s conscience, in some quarters. I’m not saying every cop is like that but I’ve certainly had the impression over the years that there are many that do feel that way.”
Gary Clewley, a defence lawyer who often represents police officers charged with crimes, says it’s “ridiculous” to suggest that judges and Crowns tolerate police perjury because officers perceive it to be a legitimate means to an end.
And just because a judge finds an officer “likely” gave false testimony, doesn’t mean he or she lied.
“There’s a world of difference between saying `I’m not satisfied sufficiently to deprive somebody of their liberty based on the evidence’ and the officers are outright liars.”Sapiano says it’s rare police are charged either internally or criminally, “even when sufficient evidence exists, and apparently only … when a defence lawyer catches them lying and it makes the front page of the newspapers.”
Christopher Downer, a former Toronto detective who used to investigate allegations of misconduct against court officers, remembers a case where two police “buddies” of a court officer charged with assault lied on the stand. “I sent a package off to internal affairs: nothing was ever done.
“No one’s aggressively going after anyone and at the end of the day nothing happens.”
“That’s not the case at all,” responds George Cowley, director of legal services for the Toronto Police Service. He points to the case of Amar Katoch, a veteran Toronto officer charged with assault, perjury and attempt to obstruct justice by his employer after a videotape of an anti-poverty protest in 2003 showed him punching a protester.
“There’s no apathy at all. We’re very concerned about comments made by judges,” Cowley said.
Katoch was acquitted by a jury last fall. The Crown is appealing.
In the Khan case, Molloy’s comments about Asselin were “troubling,” Cowley says. “We thoroughly looked into the entire matter and it was determined that there was no evidence to support either criminal or Police Services Act charges.”
While the Ministry of the Attorney General failed to respond to questions about the number of perjury charges laid against police, two Ontario police officers facing perjury charges will be in court this fall.
This month, OPP Det. Sgt. John Cavanaugh goes on trial in Toronto. In September, a preliminary hearing is scheduled in the case of Peel Region Const. Sean Osborne.
Despite these cases, the reason so few perjury charges are laid is because “it’s only in the most clearest of cases when the evidence is there” that it’s worth pursuing, says Avtar Bhangal, the lawyer who represented Sunny Bains, who Osborne is alleged to have assaulted.
“There are lots of cases where people are found to fudge the truth – it’s a different standard to actually prove that they intentionally did perjure themselves.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flash, and give warning for Radar!

Jan 26, 2008
I'm a huge supporter of the police, but you wonder who counsels them on public relations.
They wonder why the driving public often does not co-operate with them, when they pull stunts like they did March 24 last year.
Brad Diamond, producer of TSN's Motoring 2008 (full disclosure: I appear on this show) lives near Broadview and Danforth Aves. Every Saturday morning he goes out for his usual four-buck coffee.
On this day he was driving westbound on the Prince Edward Viaduct, which connects Danforth Avenue and Bloor Street across the Don Valley. He spotted a radar trap nailing eastbound drivers, and passed it at approximately 49.999 km/h. It's there all the time so it was no surprise to him.
Of course, like most concerned citizens, he has often wondered: if radar is supposed to be a traffic safety measure, why would they run it on a bright sunny Saturday morning, on a three-lanes-each-way bridge, with excellent visibility in all directions, without a single intersection, store, home, school or in fact much human activity at all?
Surely, there are more dangerous places they could be trying to slow people down?
Let alone more important public safety initiatives the police could be doing?
Can you say "fishing hole," boys and girls?
Okay, so speeding is speeding, and speeding is against the law everywhere. But seriously.
As any concerned citizen would do if he knew someone was possibly going to break a law – especially if he knew the cops were lying in wait at the potential scene of the crime – Diamond flicked his headlights at oncoming traffic.
As you would. And as you would, most of the oncoming traffic did slow down.
Now, still assuming, perhaps naively, that slowing traffic down to make the roads safer is the objective of radar (it never works, but that's a story for another day), you'd think the cops would be happy that Diamond was assisting in their cause.
You'd think they'd want everybody flashing their headlights, all the time. Who'd take a chance at speeding then?
But no, stationed at the west end of the bridge were a couple more cruisers, pulling people like Diamond over for warning people about the radar trap.
$110 and no points.
I checked the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). I could find no reference to radar speed traps at all, let alone anything about it being illegal to warn other drivers about them. After all, traffic reporters and some websites even announce their locations.
The ticket said the offence was "flashing head beams" in contravention of the HTA, section 169.
Never mind that I have been in the car game for more than 30 years and have never heard the term "head beams."
I checked section 169 and nowhere does it mention radar traps in there.
Sgt. Cam Woolley of the Ontario Provincial Police told me that this law was put in place a few years ago to prevent "civilian" vehicles from impersonating emergency vehicles, notably tow trucks trying to bully their way through traffic to be first on the scene of a wreck.
Nothing at all about radar.
What's more, Diamond's Chevy Tahoe was not producing "alternating"' flashes of light. "Alternating" means one, then the other (just like police cars and other emergency vehicles can do), not both on/both off.
Not only was there no harm, there was no foul.
In our legal system, the legislature passes the laws, the police enforce them. It is not up to the police to make up their own laws – that's what they call a police state.
If the legislature decided in its collective wisdom to make warning of radar speed traps illegal, how hard would it be to pass an unambiguous law to that effect?
I can even help: "It is unlawful to warn other drivers about upcoming radar speed traps; never mind that they don't improve traffic safety."
Okay, the legislature might choose different wording.
The fact is, the legislature has not chosen to pass a law like this, or anything remotely like it.
If Diamond had been standing on the sidewalk holding a neon sign reading, WARNING! RADAR AHEAD!', there would have been nothing the cops could have done.
Needless to say, he decided to fight the ticket.
He contacted the prosecutor, saying the law in question had nothing at all to do with what he allegedly had done, but she said they were going to proceed with the court case.
Okay then, Jan. 10 it would be.
I had a 30-page script ready to go as Diamond's representative. (My dad, who was a lawyer, would have been proud of me. I hope.)
At traffic court, you first present yourself to the prosecutor, who asks how you're going to plead. You'd think anyone who didn't just pay the ticket in the first place and who had shown up at 9 a.m. to fight it would plead not guilty, but some didn't.
You also may have the option of pleading guilty to a lesser charge, which the first case of the morning did.
We were about fourth on the docket.
The prosecutor called Diamond to the bench, asked his name, read the charge, and asked how he pleaded.
"Not guilty, your worship,"' he responded.
Then the prosecutor said, "The police officer has no evidence in this case, your worship."'
"Case dismissed,"' said the justice of the peace.
WHAT? The police officer has "no evidence"? If he had no evidence, why the heck did he lay the charge in the first place?
The fact is, he had no law upon which to base the charge, because Diamond had not done anything illegal.
They assume that you will assume you had in fact done something illegal, fork over your cash, and they smile all the way to the bank.
Now, dad always said that in court, you take a win any way you can. But we were disappointed not to take it to trial so as to set a precedent against this little Buford T. Justice scam by the Toronto Police.
Someone more paranoid than me might suspect they did not want it to go to trial for that very reason, so as not to put their scurrilous behaviour on the trailer for all time.
Now, maybe the "no evidence"' gambit is traffic court shorthand for "the cop didn't show up." But usually with fishing holes, they expect a certain number of people to fight the tickets and schedule the cop for court duty.
I guess we'll never know.
I don't blame the individual cop here, although some of them are clearly overzealous in their pursuit of tickets, quotas, or whatever other pressures they face from their superiors.
But I think it is disgusting that police management sends cops out there to lie in wait to ticket unsuspecting law-abiding citizens when they have to know that what they're ticketing them for is not against the law.
And if they didn't know that before, they sure do now.
Toronto Star

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blair distancing himself?

Michele Henry Crime Reporter for The Toronto Star

A personality clash between Ontario's two top cops has nothing to do with the Toronto force's decision to pull 28 officers out of a province-wide unit aimed at combating organized crime, officials said yesterday.
Aides for both vehemently deny any head-butting and infighting between Toronto police Chief Bill Blair and OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino led to Blair's recent decision to pull his officers out of certain joint operations.
"I want to put to rest once and for all that there are no personality conflicts," OPP Insp. Dave Ross said. "It has nothing to do with what's transpired."
An internal memo circulated within the Toronto Police Service earlier this week said that starting Dec. 1, officers assigned to five provincial investigative units will report to their superiors in the Toronto force, rather than to the OPP.
The units involve more than dozen police forces across Ontario, include biker and weapons enforcement, illegal gambling, proceeds of crime and auto theft.
This restructuring, the memo says, comes on the heels of OPP proposals to create two joint-force units in Toronto in which local officers would answer to OPP bosses.
A "lack of control," the memo says, over the Toronto force's resources reduces its ability to respond to its own needs.
The memo said both police forces recognize the limitations of the current system, which has often proved ineffective at fighting organized crime.
"How do we get the best results with our resources that are limited?" deputy chief Tony Warr asked yesterday. "We focus them on Toronto priorities. By having our own group, we don't have to do anything that's not Toronto-centric."
That doesn't mean Toronto police are "getting out of the joint forces business," he said. He insisted not much will change beyond whom the officers report to, saying the Toronto force will evaluate when and how to get involved in joint investigations on a case-by-case basis.
Toronto Mayor David Miller praised Blair as an extraordinary chief and said he respects his judgment. Miller waved off any suggestion the move away from joint force operations will diminish the police effort against organized crime.
Since joint operations are provincially funded, Blair's move could prove costly for Toronto police.
Regardless of motive, the restructuring doesn't sit well with Ottawa Police Chief Vernon White, a spokesperson said. "He's pretty disappointed that borders are being created when police organizations should be working together," Const. Alain Boucher said.
"When one (police organization) pulls out, it pulls a string away from us and we have to work differently. When we all work together it becomes a strong unit."
The OPP's Ross said his force remains committed to working with Toronto police to combat organized crime. He said it was premature to speculate how the withdrawal will affect daily operations.
With files from John Spears