75% of city residents agree Toronto police should wear body cameras: poll
CBC news poll finds concerns about police racism, how force deals with mentally ill
With Toronto police in the midst of a pilot project that has some officers equipped with body-worn cameras, three-quarters of the city's residents believe all officers should be wearing the devices, a CBC News poll suggests.
Eighty one per cent of survey respondents said they strongly or somewhat agree that the prevalence of cameras will lead to more police officers being accountable for their actions.
Just seven per cent of Torontonians polled strongly or somewhat disagreed with equipping all police with body-worn cameras. And just five per cent disagreed that having more cameras will lead to more police accountability.
Currently, around 100 officers in some parts of the city are wearing body-worn cameras as part of a $500,000 pilot project. The Toronto Police Service Board will decide whether or not to extend the program in June.
Equipping officers who may come in contact with people in crisis with body-worn cameras was one of the key recommendations of Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci's 2014 report that called for a "zero death" police culture. The report, focusing on police use of force, was spurred by the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by Const. James Forcillo aboard a Toronto streetcar in 2013.
Yatim's death prompted calls for police to review how they handle confrontations involving people with a history of mental illness. The shooting was captured by cellphone cameras and distributed widely online within minutes.
Of those polled, 64 per cent said they strongly or somewhat disagreed that Forcillo was justified in shooting Yatim. Just 17 per cent of those polled strongly or somewhat agreed that Forcillo was justified in shooting the teen, who had terrified streetcar passengers and was holding a small knife.
Forcillo is currently suspended with pay. Fourteen Toronto police officers are among the some 50 officers across Ontario currently suspended with pay, CBC News reported last week.
Ontario is only province in Canada where the law stipulates that suspended police officers must remain on the payroll unless they are sentenced to serve time behind bars. The provincial government is considering changing that law.
Seventy two per cent of those polled say officers who get suspended from duty should be suspended without pay.
More than half believe racism an issue for police
The poll, which was conducted after the Forcillo's attempted murder conviction in Yatim's death and four officers being charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, also suggests Torontonians are concerned about how police deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Just over half of those surveyed (52 per cent) said they agreed with the statement that they would be treated fairly in an encounter with Toronto police.
But 56 per cent of people said they strongly or somewhat disagreed with the statement "I trust the Toronto police to deal with someone who is in a state of mental health crisis."
And 53 per per cent disagreed with the statement that police do "everything they can to de-escalate encounters with people who are mentally ill."
Further, 53 per cent of Torontonians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that racism is a "serious problem" within the Toronto Police Service. Just 19 per cent strongly or somewhat disagreed with the same statement.
1 in 3 concerned about gun crime
The state of gun crime in the city has come under scrutiny after a spate of shootings in January. There were 10 homicides in the first month of this year, eight of them gun-related. Last January, there were four homicides, two of which were gun-related, police statistics show.
In this respect, 32 per cent of respondents said they agreed police were doing enough to stop gun crime in Toronto, while 35 per cent disagreed. Thirty four per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
CBC News conducted the online survey by questioning panelists from the Angus Reid Forum between Jan. 29-31. There were 517 respondents, all of whom are over the age of 18. The results have been statistically weighted according to age and gender Census data to ensure a sample representative of the adult population of Toronto on these measures. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Earlier, CBC News reported on the survey's findings that many Torontonians feel police officers are above the law and aren't held accountable for wrongdoing. Many still trust police, but that confidence has been shaken by the Yatim case and the recent criminal charges brought against four officers.