Security screenings at Toronto police headquarters violate rights, says complainant
Police headquarters not suited for public hearings because of 'hostile environment for civilians': complainant
Searching people who enter Toronto police headquarters to participate in disciplinary tribunals violates their constitutional rights, a complainant and his lawyer argue in calling for such hearings to be held elsewhere.
The assertion is in a motion filed this week with the police tribunal adjudicator in which complainant Waseem Khan calls for a change of venue in light of the recently implemented security measures.
"Police headquarters is not the appropriate place to have a public hearing and keep police accountable because of the hostile environment for civilians, particularly public complainants," Khan says in his filings.
Khan, 33, is one of two complainants in a misconduct case against Toronto police Sgt. Eduardo Miranda, who is accused of using excessive force in January by deploying his stun gun six times on a handcuffed man lying on the ground.
Video prompted police service to apologize
Khan was video recording the takedown when officers on scene ordered him to stop, threatened to seize his cellphone, and suggested he could get AIDS from the suspect. Broadcast of the video caused an uproar and prompted the police service to apologize.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the motion had just been received and it would be inappropriate to comment.
Disciplinary tribunals for Toronto officers have long been held at police headquarters, which until recently had no special security at the entrance. In June, however, Chief Mark Saunders implemented measures that require visitors to go through metal detectors and have their belongings searched.
The official police view is that the searches are not "involuntary" because the public has a choice about entering the
At Miranda's first appearance in late September, Khan's lawyer Selwyn Pieters was also searched, a process he said he found uncomfortable and demeaning. In a letter to the prosecutor in the case, Pieters said he had no quarrel with the increased security.
Motion requests hearing be moved to another building
"However, as it relates to an administrative tribunal hearing where my client is a public complainant with standing, he, his
lawyers, the media and any other observer must be able to attend with the minimal intrusiveness of their person and belongings."
In response to the letter, procedures were changed to allow lawyers with valid credentials to bypass the screening but Pieters says that's not enough. No other administrative tribunal in the province subjects participants to such security measures, he said.
The motion, expected to come before Insp. Richard Hegedus, the hearing officer presiding over Miranda's case, formally requests that the hearing be moved to another building — such as a hotel — to get away from the security measures.
"It would not result in unfairness or an undue hardship to the Toronto police service to move the tribunal," Pieters says in the motion.
Court filings unrelated to the current application make the case for the screening measures by including reference to security incidents at Toronto police buildings. In 2015, for example, a man attacked a female officer with a sledgehammer at a detachment, and, more recently, a knife-wielding man threatened to kill officers at headquarters.
Insp. Stephen Irwin, who is responsible for national security investigations in the Toronto area, calls the current screening protocol reasonable.
"Firearms, metal knives, explosive devices and other obvious weapons are less likely to make it into the interior of the
building, thus enhancing the safety of those legitimately working and visiting the premise," Irwin says in a court filing.