Policing: To serve or protect?
Relations between the public and the police are strained today: from charges of police violence, abuse and racial bias to calls for transparency and greater police accountability. At the same time, we expect the cops to take on new missions: counter-terrorism, cybercrime, and policing a changing society. In this two-part series, IDEAS, CBC Radio One in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, considers what it means to police and be policed in these complex and anxious times. Part 2 airs Thursday, June 22.
The panel was recorded in front of an audience at the Munk School of Global Affairs on May 15, 2017. Listen to the Question and Answer session which followed the discussion.
"I think that every time there are significant challenges around any topic, including policing, there are always the seeds of opportunity to work together to find solutions that are innovative and new and groundbreaking. And so the conversation can't happen in a box. It's part of a much larger sociological conversation about what's happening here in Canada." -- Inspector Shawna Coxon
"I'm worried that the ghosts of American policing and crime and violence are haunting the Canadian conversation about policing. And they cloud everything, from the questions we ask in public opinion polls to the kinds of reforms that are proposed in policing. And I think we need some fresh conversation." -- Todd Foglesong
"Given my career, I've had the opportunity to make certain observations which ground certain truths for me. And part of those truths are there is a deep imbalance in the system that negatively affects particularly my community, but not just that. But in fact, it inflames all of Canadian society to such a degree that we don't really have the kind of relationship that I think Canadians deserve and that our children or our grandchildren deserve." -- Donald E. Worme
Moderator Ron Levi:
"So here we are, in May 2017, watching the U.S.; looking at ourselves, at their cops, at our cops at the cops and us. At best, relations are strained. At worst, they're loaded with mistrust. So, to the panel, given everything we're seeing, how on earth can we trust the police?" -- Ron Levi
Further reading, suggestions from program participants:
From Inspector Shawna Coxon:
- The Way Forward. An new action plan, defined by the Toronto Police Service, as the path forward to excellence for the Service.
From Todd Fogelsong:
On the Specter of Change in Policing in the United States:
- Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing, Didier Fassin (London, 2013).
- Down, Out and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row, Forrest Stuart (Chicago, 2016).
On the meaning of "trust" or "confidence" and other attitudes and perceptions of policing:
Most research on public attitudes about policing in North America asks about people's "confidence" in the police, especially their ability to do certain things, such as "control crime." Most surveys of opinions about the police ask residents whether they "believe" the police treat all people fairly or equally; only a few ask direct questions about "trust." For examples of research that investigates trust specifically, try:
- Just Authority? Trust in the Police in England and Wales, Jonathan Jackson et. al., (London 2012).
Here's a link to a poll on levels of "trust" in police among residents in Toronto in the wake of the conviction of a police officer for killing a citizen on a street car.
On the "demand" for assistance from police and other agencies in Toronto:
What we know about public "demand" for assistance from the police usually comes from reports on the number of "calls for service" on either 911 or 311 or other urgent lines of communication between residents and city officials. Unfortunately, rarely do government agencies publish their analyses of these calls – whether repeat callers come from certain neighbourhoods, what kinds of problems are chronic and recur, and whether the problems are solved by the dispatching of police or other city services. For examples of how these figures of "demand" are reported, see:
The Toronto Police Scorecard & The Toronto Police 2014-2016 Business Plan.
On the Evolving Justifications for "Carding" and "Street Checks" in Toronto and New York City:
The debate about the "effectiveness" of carding in Toronto, as with "stop question and frisk" in the U.S., focuses mainly on two things: 1) the immediate aftermath of a resident's involuntary encounter with police -- such as the rates of a search being conducted, the "yield" from such searchers, and rates of arrest that follow a stop; and 2) the incidence of reported crime in areas in which stops take place. There is some research on the "effects" of such policing on disadvantaged communities, such as whether residents avoid contact with government or develop alternative strategies for safety. But there is little discussion and scant research on the impact of this particular law enforcement practice on long-term patterns of crime and violence and the illicit circulation of weapons and other goods.
- A recent study by two Toronto criminologists raises broader questions about the "impact" of carding.
- Here is an article on the fault-lines in the debate on "stop, question and frisk" in the United States
- Here is a study of the impact of "stop, question, and frisk" on youth in areas of New York City that receive the greatest amount of law enforcement.
On "predictive policing" as practiced in Chicago and the "selective subjects" list:
There is controversy over both the practice and effects of a particular brand of "predictive policing" in Chicago that forecasts the likely victims of future violent crime and is designed to put them out of harm's way. Here are links to a study and story that find the practice ineffective and harmful.
- Journal of Experimental Criminology, 12/3 (September, 2016)
- Chicago's predictive policing tool just failed a major test
On the Incidence of Police Force, Lethal and non-Lethal:
The incidence of fatal encounters between law enforcement officers and residents in the US is many times higher than in Canada. In Ontario, which has a population of just over 13 million residents, there were 9 police shootings in 2015, six of which were fatal, according to the annual report of the Special Investigations Unit. In the city of Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, the police reported 48 police shootings in 2015. There is no official record of the total number of police shootings and fatalities in the US, although many scholars are trying to fill this hole and many reliable estimates exceed 1,000 incidents each year. There is also no national register of the number of incidents in which residents were subject to and/or injured by the use of non-lethal force, including tasers, batons, flashlights, or other implements. Only a few local police forces in the US report the incidence of officer-recorded use of force.
From Ron Levi:
- Bernstein, D. and Isackson, N., 2014. The truth about Chicago's crime rates. Chicago Magazine, April, 7.
- Denyer Willis, G., 2014.The gun library: An Ethic of Crime in São Paulo. Boston Review.
- Desmond, M., A.V. Papachristos, and D.S. Kirk. 2016. Police violence and citizen crime reporting in the black community. American Sociological Review 81: 857-876.
- President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. 2015. Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
From Donald Worme Q.C., I.P.C.
- Truth and Reconciliation of Canada -- Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Paperback edition), James Lorimer & Company Ltd., July 23, 2015.
- The UN Declaration sets out the rights of Aboriginal people, as well as provides a background to the UN Declaration, including its purpose and how to interpret the rights.
- A report on the residential schools system and the 94 broad recommendations (Calls to Action) to begin reconciliation.
**This episode was produced by Sara Wolch.