police officers

Aboriginal Women Targeted By Police Officers

abVal d’Or is known for its longstanding history with aboriginal communities including the Algonquin and Cree tribes but not without conflict. Aboriginals have protested against how the police force treats their women for years and are now finally being heard.

Countless aboriginal women have stated that Sûreté du Québec officers have assaulted or punished women for being intoxicated by driving them out of town and abandoning them in the cold.  Police brutality towards aboriginal women was no surprise to many Quebecers but the presence of sexual abuse was shocking.

Many aboriginal women have stated that police officers would occasionally request the women to perform oral sex. Refusing to follow through would often result in agonizing repercussions. According to the women, the authorities were well aware of these complaints before they went public but chose to ignore them. Will this time be different?

Quebec’s public security minister stated that eight Sûreté du Québec officers were suspended due to 14 complaints of abuse of power and assault in a news conference. The officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty based on substantial evidence to support the claims made by the aboriginal women. Since the initial story was released additional aboriginal women have shared their own parallel accounts of sexual violence inflicted by the police force.

Retired judge Lawrence Poitras supports the concern expressed by aboriginal women when he stated “officers accused of abuse often retaliate with criminal charges against the accusers in order to cover their tracks.” – CBC article http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/val-dor-cameras-1.3290119

The Montreal police force is now responsible for overseeing the investigation. The aim is to prevent the SQ from overseeing the investigation and protecting its officers. Furthermore, Pierre Veilleux, the president of the Quebec provincial police union (APPQ), shared with CBC that the force is aiming to place cameras in cruisers beginning December to assess the severity of the situation.

Politicians are raising concerns about how prevalent this abuse of power might be in other parts of Quebec with aboriginal communities. Many politicians have also suggested the need for a provincial investigation to ensure that the protection of vulnerable members of the community.  Advocates have stated that a victim’s background including drug addictions and prostitution do not justify the abuse of power displayed by the officers.

Abuse of power results in a lack of trust in authorities and often results in rebellion; for example, many individuals are protesting against the abuse of power in the streets of Quebec. Furthermore, some aboriginals chose not to attend work as a form of protest.

If these allegations are proven true then one must question where aboriginals are to turn to seek justice if the authority that is supposed to provide them protection is exploiting them? Consequently, many officers are perturbed by the abuse of power and even angered by the lack of respect these officers displayed for their positions of power.

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Police Can’t Return Stolen iMac

With technology advancements occurring every day, it is no shock that the legal realm is having difficulty keeping up. There are many instances where the legal system is just not able to help a victim of technology related crimes; such is the case for Mohamed Tahar.

Mohamed Tahar resides in Montreal and lives in an apartment building with his family. Due to a small fire, all residents of the apartment were asked to evacuate the premises. Tahar was put into a hotel with his family. Upon returning home, Tahar found that his apartment had been broken in to. The burglar had taken his wife’s gold jewelry and his Mac computer along with numerous computer accessories.

Naturally, being the technological wizard he is, Tahar decided to track down his Mac via remote computer tracking tools specifically through iCloud’s Find My Mac tool. He then chose to remotely lock his computer and ask the thief to return his belongings. However, his attempt was futile.

Tahar then chose to approach the police with this his concerns in hopes that they could return his computer and other belongings to him after he had pinpointed the apartment building where his belongings were. Tahar faced a predicament when the officers advised him that their hands were tied.

You might wondering, how can someone do all the work involved in tracking a burglar and then be told that they are out of luck?

Canadian LawEvery_Canadian_Needs_A_Copy

Although Tahar was able to pinpoint the apartment building in which the burglar had supposedly stored his stolen items, iCloud did not specify the apartment number the burglar resided in or an IP address.

Why couldn’t the police officers just go into every apartment and search for the items? Simple, because it would violate an individual’s Charter rights to be protected against illegal search.

Why didn’t the police just get a warrant to search the apartments? In order to get a warrant, the police would require a judge’s approval for a warrant to inspect every apartment in the building. A judge would not grant a warrant that would result in countless innocent individuals having their homes searched. Also, the judge would need proof that the burglar resides in the specified apartment building.

What’s the issue there? Assuming the iMac and jewelry are found in one of the apartments, it does not establish proof that the individual in possession of the iMac is in fact the burglar as it possible that the possessor merely unknowingly bought the iMac from the burglar.

Where does this leave Tahar?

Tahar is hoping to obtain his belongings at some point. His wife’s jewelry has significant sentimental value and he wishes for it to be returned. He continues to check pawn shops, hoping that he might come across it.

Although the legal realm is having trouble staying up with technological advancements, citizens should continue to bring their findings and information regarding legal issues to the police. Information helps the authorities assess how to proceed and build a case.

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Points of discussion:

1. If you lived in the apartment would you be willing to have the police search your home?

2. Were you surprised by any of the information shared?

Carding- Necessary Or Racist?

What is carding?

Carding is also often referred to as street checks. The process involves officers randomly stopping individuals who are not suspected of a crime, asking for their ID and adding the individuals’ names along with their personal information to a police databank.

Critics argue that this practice is an example of systemic racism. Critics go on to argue that the practice violates the privacy of innocent individuals and can result in future legal issues such as police using the information to target individuals and police checks.  Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory is against the process and promised to address the issue at the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs conference in Mississauga this Thursday.

Individual Case

George “Knia” Singh has taken issue with this practice and chosen to pursue legal action. He identifies himself as an African Canadian born in Toronto.  Singh through his lawyer has filed an application for judicial review of carding as he argues it violates his Charter rights.  Judicial review allows the courts to assess if a law is adhering or violating higher level laws/authority (i.e.  Charter rights) and alter the law if need be.

Singh has been stopped multiple times due to carding practices and would like the process to stop. He argues that the process is racist and he would like future generations to not have to worry about such matters.  Recent research has found that brown and black males are more likely to be carded than any other groups. Some argue that this has resulted in black youths distrusting police.

Supporters

Chief Saunders has argued that the practice is necessary and effective. He openly supports the practice which has resulted in significant backlash among Torontonians.  He argues that it can enhance national safety when done right. It is also lawful when done right. He went on to argue that stops are “intelligence based”  and help explore criminal behaviour within the community.

What are some possible outcomes from Thursday’s meeting?

Some possible changes to the existing practice may include: limiting how long police can keep personal information; police may have to give a “receipt” to individuals when carding them that specify the information that was collected; police officers may be required to inform individuals that the interaction is voluntary and they can refuse to provide officers with information when being carded.  Another possible approach may be to outline particular situations in which carding can be carried out.  Currently, the Toronto police carding policy merely states officers require a “valid public safety purpose” to card individuals.
Taking it to the next level

NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh wants to take the matter even further; he wants this practice to stop all across the province.  He shares his story of being targeted as a turban wearing and full bearded Sikh man in Windsor as a student and again years later while riding his bike in Toronto. Unfortunately, this practice continues even after he was elected.  Mr. Singh wants minorities to know that they belong in Canada and are accepted.

Points of discussion:

1. What is your stance on carding? Do you think it is effective or racist?

2. Should the practice of carding be revoked?

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Swatting

If you’re not familiar with swatting, it entails calling the police and pretending that there is an emergency (ie. a shooter endangering the lives of others). The police arrive on scene with masks, armed with rifles, and ready to address the threat head on. Recently, there have been two incidents of “swatting”, one within a home and another at a Brampton school. The impact of these calls is significant.

In the first incident, police officers barged into the residence of a family where a wife, husband and children were sleeping. The police came prepared with all their equipment based on a call claiming that a schizophrenic man had shot and killed the caller’s wife and was now hunting down his son.  There was significant damage to the home as officers had to break down the door to get in and potentially save the victims. The family was petrified and was left with a hefty bill for house repairs. The police department will not provide compensation for the damage since they were merely acting in accordance to protocol.  However, if the perpetrator(s) are caught, then they will be required to pay for the damages.

A second incident occurred on Monday, May 25, 2015 when someone called 911 and informed the police of an armed individual strolling Brampton streets looking to harm someone. The officers addressed the situation at the school and were forced to put an additional four schools on lock down to ensure everyone was safe. Parents, teachers, principals, authorities and students were all impacted by this one prank.

You may be surprised to learn that “swatting” isn’t a new phenomenon; in fact, it has been around for over a decade. Why haven’t we heard of it before? The authorities have attempted to keep this behaviour hidden from the public to avoid copycat behaviour. Authorities are continuing to remain tight lipped to avoid copycats. In the past, the perpetrators have often been teenage boys and were held responsible for their behaviour.

Earlier this month, a 17 year old boy from British Columbia pleaded guilty to 29 counts including: extortion, public mischief, false police reports and criminal harassment in respect to swatting matter. This youth had gone as far bragging about his prank on Twitter and challenging the RCMP to charge through his home door.  In 2014, a 16 year old boy from Ottawa was arrested and charged with 60 counts of instigating a dozen swattings across North America. The ultimate reward for these boys was gloating rights on social media – I’m not sure they still think it was worth it. One may argue that the punishment is too harsh for these boys.

One may even say “boys will be boys” however, this act goes far beyond just immature behavior. Victims of swatting have experienced heart attacks, polices officers have met with accidents on their way to these hoax emergencies, damages have been incurred by home owners, significant amounts of money is lost addressing these pranks and multiple people are impacted. These pranks have serious impact on others which is why there are criminal implications for their actions.

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Smile. You’re on camera! Body-worn Cameras

On May 15, 2015 there was a new addition to some Toronto Police Services uniforms, a body-worn camera. This pilot project will include100 officers and be implemented over the course of a year. These cameras are to be activated when an officer is responding to a call or investigating a person while on duty.  There will be four particular groups wearing these cameras including: the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy Rapid Response Teams, 43 Division Community Response Unit, 55 Division Primary Response Unit and the Traffic Services Motor Squad.

What do you need to know?

Police officers wearing body cameras are to inform the public of the camera “as soon as reasonably possible”. Officers will use their cameras during calls for services, investigative detention, apprehension under the Mental Health Act, active criminals, public disorder problems, crimes in progress, arrests and interactions with individuals in crisis. What about your home?

These officers have been trained in respect to privacy and human rights concerns. Accordingly, officers wearing body cameras are to ask for consent to turn on the camera when in a home or business setting.  However, officers do not require your consent in your home or business if they are carrying out a search warrant or under pressing circumstances. On the other hand, officers do not need your consent to use the body-worn camera in public settings such as parks, the streets and malls.

The body-worn cameras are meant to be treated as an aid to officers.  Since cameras are limited in their ability, for instance their ability to pick up on smell or to monitor the body language of the officer wearing the camera, officers must continue to use their memo books and are required to speak into the camera and describe what they are doing as the camera may not record all of their actions.  Officers will continue to utilize their skill sets, abilities and legal knowledge in cases to assess how to proceed with a legal matter.

Debate

The main concern for both citizens and officers is privacy. Citizens are concerned about privacy violations in delicate situations where they do not want to be recorded such as young offender matters and conversations with victims of domestic abuse. Citizens have also expressed concerns about access to the videos when they’re involved in the matter.

Moreover, citizens express concern about officers controlling when the cameras can be turned off. Some citizens have argued that the cameras should remain on at all times. However, this is a violation of the officers’ privacy rights as cameras would then record the officer’s conversations with colleagues and even washroom breaks.  Although the cameras aim to provide transparency, it is crucial to ensure that neither party’s privacy rights are violated.

Finally, since this is a pilot project there isn’t much regulation to assist police service and law enforcement groups to help ensure everyone’s privacy rights are upheld.  As this program moves forward there will be new legislation based on the circumstances, challenges and developments that come along with its existence.  The goal is to provide transparency to citizens and law enforcement in situations which can become complicated and questionable without suitable evidence.  Many police officers have suggested that this is the future of police work.

Points of discussion:
1. Do you believe using body-worn cameras will be helpful in providing transparency in the court of law?
2. Do you think this body-work cameras are the future of police work?

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Move Cyclist, Get Out of The Way!

With summer around the corner, many of us are preparing to bring out our bikes and enjoy the weather.  Although riding our bikes can be an escape from reality, we can’t escape our legal responsibilities both as cyclists and car drivers.

Car drivers are often irritated and frustrated with having to share the road with cyclists and vice versa.  However, many individuals are not aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. Here is a quick overview of some legal tips for cyclists and motor vehicle drivers.

Do cyclists have to present their driver’s license if stopped by a police officer?  Cyclists do not have to show their driver’s license if they are stopped by a police officer. However,  a police officer may ask for your address and name, this information must be provided in accordance to 218 of the Highway Traffic Act in order to avoid a fine in the amount of $85.00

If a cyclist doesn’t wear a helmet and gets hit by a car, can they still pursue legal action? Yes. Even though the cyclist was not wearing a helmet, there are still grounds for a lawsuit in respect to accident benefits.  However, the case is likely to take into account the severity of the injury based on the fact that there was no helmet. For instance, if there is a leg injury with no relevance to wearing a helmet then the court is not likely to take into account the absence of a helmet when deciding compensation.

Is it illegal for cyclists to ride through crosswalks/intersections? Yes. Cyclists are required to walk their bike through the crosswalk. A violation of this law can result in an $85 fine under section 140(6) and 144(29) of the Highway Traffic Act.

Are drinking and driving laws the same for cyclists as they are for car drivers? No. Although cyclists will not be criminally charged for riding a bike, cyclists maybe subjected to different charges including being intoxicated in public and careless driving.

Is side by side cycling illegal? The Ontario Traffic Act does not prohibit side by side cycling however cyclists should avoid cycling side by side when it impedes faster vehicles from passing.

Do cyclists have to obey all traffic signs (ie. stop signs and red lights)? Yes. Cyclists are required to signal before turning, stop at stop signs, walk across crosswalks, yield/stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.  These are just some of the requirements.

If I have a collision with a car, does the driver have to pay for damages to my bike?
Yes. A cyclist can ask for damages occurred in a collision with a car.

Remember the Ontario Highway Traffic Act states cyclists have equal rights on the road so you are entitled to your rights. Make sure you are informed.

If you think you have a legal case, a paralegal can assist you with your matter.

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Police Officers Team Up With Mental Health Workers

Hamilton Police services have taken initiative to address 9-1-1 calls involving mental health cases. Individuals suffering from mental health issues and distress are now handled in a unique way by the Hamilton Police Department to ensure patients receive the assistance they require. Mental health professionals accompany police officers in matters that are suspected to be mental health cases.

The mental health professionals and police officers work together to accommodate mental health patients. The patients choose who they prefer speaking to, the mental health worker or an officer.  The choice if often based on level of comfort which allows the patient to be more at ease.

So how effective has this duo been?

This initiative has proved to be effective as less mental health patients are seeing the inside of prison cell, taken into custody and being processed through the criminal justice system.   Police officers have admitted that without the accompaniment of a medical care professional they were far more likely to take a mental health patient into custody.  Police officers also admit that the number of mental health patients taken into custody has decreased to less than half the number it was prior to presence and assistance of mental health professionals.

Furthermore, officers admitted that this process has not only been effective for patients but also for the officers.  Officers suggested that taking a suspected mental health patient into custody under the Mental Health Act often resulted in up to ten hours of waiting in the emergency room for an assessment.  Alternatively, the accompaniment of a mental health professional allows officers to skip the wait as the professional can assess if the individual needs medical attention and admit them into an appropriate hospital for medical assistance.

Many people feel this project is long overdue and applaud the idea of social services working alongside police officers to create a more effective justice system.

What do you think of the new program?

Don’t forget to “like”, comment and share the post with your friends, social workers, mental health professionals and police officers.

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