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Man struck by TTC bus near Yonge and St. Clair

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jul 3rd, 2020

Toronto police are investigating after a man was struck by a TTC bus in Toronto’s Deer Park neighbourhood Thursday evening.

Police said they were called to the Yonge Street and Heath Street East area, just north of St. Clair Avenue, at around 6:37 p.m. for a report that a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle.

A TTC spokesperson said a pedestrian had come into contact with one of their shuttle buses.

EMS said they transported a 25-year-old man to the hospital in serious condition.

Police continue to investigate the incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

Why we need to market masks like condoms

THE BIG STORY | posted Friday, Jul 3rd, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, it’s clear from the politicization of masks in the United States, and the mandatory mask policies being enacted in Canada, that we’re not seeing enough voluntary compliance to impact the spread of COVID-19. So who’s to blame? And how do we get where we need to be to curb the virus?

Messaging on masks has been abysmal since the early stages of the pandemic, so you can’t simply blame people for not complying now. And the shaming and shunning of non-mask wearers isn’t what’s needed to convince everyone to buy in to something that represents a huge change in everyday behaviour. So what kind of messaging works? Well, we actually do have a pretty good idea.

GUEST: Dr. Julia Marcus, epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School; writer at The Atlantic

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Why we need to market masks like condoms

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jul 3rd, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, it’s clear from the politicization of masks in the United States, and the mandatory mask policies being enacted in Canada, that we’re not seeing enough voluntary compliance to impact the spread of COVID-19. So who’s to blame? And how do we get where we need to be to curb the virus?

Messaging on masks has been abysmal since the early stages of the pandemic, so you can’t simply blame people for not complying now. And the shaming and shunning of non-mask wearers isn’t what’s needed to convince everyone to buy in to something that represents a huge change in everyday behaviour. So what kind of messaging works? Well, we actually do have a pretty good idea.

GUEST: Dr. Julia Marcus, epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School; writer at The Atlantic

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Peel police arrest man on gun, drug charges, seize 1,000 bullets

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 3rd, 2020

BRAMPTON, Ont.– Peel Regional Police say a man faces 17 charges after investigators seized guns, bullet-proof vests, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and drugs from a Brampton, Ont., home on Canada Day.

Police say the weapons included a 9 mm carbine rifle and a shotgun.

The drugs included fentanyl, meth, cocaine, crack and other substances.

Police say the investigation began last month into suspected drug dealing in the region.

Jason Boodhoo, who is 41, faces possession for the purpose of trafficking, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of prohibited ammunition and other charges.

He has appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton.

“Possession of illegal firearms and drug trafficking is a dangerous combination and poses a significant risk to our communities,” Deputy Chief of Investigations Nick Milinovich said Thursday in a release.

“It cannot be tolerated.”

Provincial watchdog probes often don’t lead to charges against police

AMY SMART, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 3rd, 2020

An analysis of data from civilian police watchdogs in Canada shows that most of their investigations do not result in charges against officers.

Charges were laid or forwarded to Crown prosecutors for consideration in three to nine per cent of the cases opened by the provincial agencies, a review by The Canadian Press of their most recent annual reports largely covering 2018 and 2019 found.

Seven provinces have independent police oversight agencies that probe cases of death and serious injury that could be the result of police action or inaction, however, the data was incomplete for some units.

Erick Laming, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who studies police use of force and its impacts on Indigenous and Black communities, said the numbers can be interpreted in two ways.

They may be taken to mean that watchdogs cast wide nets in their investigations and officers in most cases were justified in their use of force. But they can also be seen as evidence that the agencies are toothless against a legal system that makes it difficult to prosecute officers, he said.

Under the Criminal Code, a police officer is justified in using force in a lawful arrest as long as the officer acts on “reasonable and probable grounds and uses only as much force as reasonably necessary in the circumstances.”

If they fear for their life or someone else’s and that fear is deemed reasonable, they are typically cleared, he said.

“They have a very long rope when you think about it,” Laming said.

Civilian oversight agencies are relatively new. Apart from 30-year-old Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which closed 416 cases and charged officers in 15 of them in 2018, most have been introduced in the past decade.

They’re a welcome addition to police oversight, given that the alternative sees police or watchdogs from outside jurisdictions conduct investigations, Laming said.

“When you have another police service going in to investigate that has no connection to that area, it’s problematic,” he said.

But the agencies aren’t perfect, Laming said. They typically have a high threshold for defining “serious injury” so anything that doesn’t end in hospitalization is excluded from an investigation, he said.

The use of former police officers as investigators is also seen by some as a built-in bias, while Laming said they should strive to include more Indigenous, Black and other investigators of colour.

A Canadian Press review found that of the 167 members involved in these units, 111 are former police officers.

And only some of the agencies are empowered to lay charges themselves, while others can only share the results of their investigations with the Crown, Laming said.

Felix Cacchione, director of Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, said officers are expected to use a “continuum of force” when responding to a call.

“The first part of that continuum is trying to reason with the person, calm them down, diffuse the situation verbally and then it progresses from there,” he said.

Cacchione’s team recorded the highest rate of charges among the provincial units, with four charges laid in 44 cases opened in 2018-19. The charges represent nine per cent of all cases opened that year — although charges were laid in 22 per cent of the cases that resulted in investigations.

“If a peace officer or a person assisting a peace officer is in a situation that poses a threat of grievous bodily harm, then that peace officer or person assisting can use as much force as necessary to prevent the threat from being a reality,” he said.

If an officer enters an empty church and there’s a person 12 metres away “ranting and raving” with a knife, that’s not enough to justify the use of force, said Cacchione. If the person is two metres away with a butcher’s knife, that’s considered a real threat, he said.

Cacchione worked as a criminal defence lawyer for decades before taking the job at the civilian agency in 2018. He said he was shocked to learn police training involves aiming for the centre body mass of someone posing a threat.

“Whenever I would hear someone being shot six, seven, eight, nine times by a police officer, I would think, well what’s going on, this is excessive. Why didn’t they shoot the person in the knee or the arm?”

He said he learned officers are trained that way because they’re likely to miss an arm or a leg. Cacchione recalled watching an instructor with a timer order an officer to shoot the centre body mass three times, then the head twice on the count of three.

“That takes just 2.4 seconds,” he said.

Based on what he’s learned, Cacchione said he believes there should be a greater involvement of mental health workers where possible, although there’s not always time in dynamic situations.

Adam Palmer, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said there are many levels of oversight in Canada, ranging from police boards for municipal forces to complaint commissioners and other bodies.

He would welcome the introduction of civilian oversight bodies for incidents of death or serious harm in jurisdictions that don’t have them yet, he said.

“I’m definitely in favour of it,” said Palmer, who is also chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department.

Data from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. shows Palmer’s police department was investigated 30 times last year, a large number relative to other forces in B.C. The next highest source of complaints was the RCMP’s Surrey and Prince George detachments, with six investigations each.

Although Vancouver with a population of 630,000 is marginally larger than Surrey at 520,000, Palmer attributed the high number of incidents to Vancouver’s role as a hub city that is a destination for people from across the region, rather than training or officer conduct.

In the vast majority of cases, officers were not charged and Palmer said that shows they operated legally.

Nobody wants to see anyone injured during an interaction with police, but it’s unrealistic to expect that’s entirely avoidable, he said.

“Sometimes to get in there and save somebody’s life or assist someone in need you will need to use physical force,” he said. “Not every case will be de-escalated.”

Harsha Walia, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, said oversight of the police wouldn’t need to be reviewed if there was a broader shift to reduce the scope and scale of the departments, including the removal of mental-health calls from their mandate.

“It’s clear we need other solutions,” she added.

When officers are involved in a violent incident, they should be held to a higher standard than other citizens, said Walia.

“There have to be different standards in place based on the power dynamic,” she said.

Toronto police investigate 2 separate Canada Day shootings

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jul 2nd, 2020

Toronto police are investigating two separate Canada Day shootings.

Police said they were called at around 6:54 p.m. for a report of a shooting near Keele Street and Dovehouse Avenue, which is in the Sheppard Avenue West and Sentinel Road area.

A man told police he had been driving in the area and had been shot. Police said the man’s injuries were not life-threatening but was taken to the hospital.

A suspect was seen fleeing the area, police added.  No descriptions have been released by the police.

Vehicle found with bullet holes in Etobicoke parking lot

Earlier in the day in Etobicoke, police said they were called at around 6:38 p.m. to the area of The East Mall and Robinglade Drive for a report of gunfire.

Officers said they found a car with bullet holes in a parking lot in the area.

There were no reports of injuries, police said.

Both incidents are under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

Studies show no consistent evidence body cameras reduce police violence

KELLY GERALDINE MALONE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 2nd, 2020

A Calgary police officer loudly tells an Indigenous man to put his hands on the roof of his car and, within seconds, the situation escalates to yelling. Body-worn camera video from the officer’s chest then shows the man’s head pushed into his vehicle.

Herbert Daniels, 67, made a freedom of information request to get the video of his arrest, saying it demonstrates excessive force.

Using the arrest of Daniels as an example, many politicians have been calling for wider use of police body cameras in the wake of global protests calling to defund police, claiming the technology increases accountability.

There is, however, no consistent evidence that the cameras reduce police violence.

A study in the Criminology & Public Policy journal published last year looked at 70 other studies into body-worn cameras and found the technology had statistically insignificant impacts on police and citizen behaviour.

“(Cameras) will not be an easy panacea for improving police performance, accountability, and relationships with citizens,” the study said.

A trial published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2019 also found the cameras “did not meaningfully affect” police behaviour on outcomes that include complaints and use of force.

A six-month study by Western Australia Police Force in 2016 actually found a small increase in use-of-force incidents when officers wore the cameras.

Minneapolis police officers involved in the May arrest of George Floyd were wearing body cameras as one of them knelt on the Black man’s neck for several minutes and he died.

Data is still emerging in Canada about the efficacy of the cameras. Since 2010, many police forces have implemented pilot projects but most abandoned them later, saying they didn’t provide value for what they cost to both purchase the devices and store the data. Calgary is the only large police force to so far adopt the technology for front-line officers.

A final report into an Edmonton pilot project, which ran from 2011 to 2014, said the cameras had a potential for positive outcomes. But it found concerns about policy and no quantitative evidence that the cameras had an impact on complaints against officers.

“Body-worn cameras not only create concerns about the public’s privacy rights but can also affect how officers relate to people in the community, the community’s perception of the police, and expectations about how police agencies should share information,” the report said.

There have also been pilot projects in Toronto, Thunder Bay and Montreal. Montreal found the cameras had little impact on police interventions and there were significant logistical and financial challenges.

Some smaller forces have cameras for a few officers. Fredericton police have six and the force in Medicine Hat, Alta., has 10.

Recently, many communities have changed their positions on cameras. Toronto Mayor John Tory said he expects to have cameras on officers by the fall and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the technology will be adopted as soon as possible. The RCMP has also committed to outfitting some officers with cameras.

Nunavut is pushing forward with a pilot project for cameras after a bystander recorded footage of police using a car door to knock a man over during an arrest.

Erick Laming is a Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation PhD candidate in criminology at the University of Toronto. He also researches police use of force and oversight.

He said he’s concerned the technology is being rushed by politics and not empirical data.

“We have to look at how police respond to (situations),” he said. “It’s not really the body camera.”

Laming said there isn’t transparency about police force policies on cameras, such as ensuring public privacy, who gets access to the video or when officers are required to turn them on.

Sgt. Travis Baker leads the body camera project for the Calgary police, which has equipped about 1,150 officers with cameras.

City council originally approved $5 million to get the cameras and to fund an eight-year contract with Axon, an American company that supplies the gear and stores the data. All video is uploaded into a cloud-based storage system based in Ontario and only officers involved in an investigation get access to the video related to it, Baker said.

Before the cameras were rolled out, the Calgary force conducted a privacy impact assessment, Baker said. Broadly speaking, the policy says officers are required to record any interaction they have with the public.

An evaluation of the project is underway, with information about use-of-force and complaints to be released later this year. Baker, however, said all officers have embraced the technology.

He said the cameras hold police and the public accountable.

“We truly see it as a tool,” Baker said. “It gathers evidence at a level that is unprecedented. It keeps absolutely everybody engaged and honest in the interaction.”

Roll out of COVID-19 tracing app in Ontario delayed

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 2nd, 2020

A new mobile app meant to help with contact tracing of COVID-19 cases won’t roll out across Ontario today as planned.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health says the province is still working with the federal government and the app is expected to launch soon.

The province will be the first to use the COVID Alert app, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it should be ready for downloading in the rest of the country later this summer.

Premier Doug Ford says the app is meant to enhance the province’s contact tracing strategy.

He’s previously said it could play a key role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 as more businesses reopen their doors.

The app will be voluntary, and will notify users based on a number of criteria, including if they were within two metres of a person who tests positive for the virus and if that contact took place over an extended period of time.

The province didn’t give a new date for the app’s launch.

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