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Controversial Police Look At Inclusive Guidelines

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by spnadmin, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

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    Police Look at Inclusive Guidelines

    Police look at inclusive guidelines

    The Toronto Police Services Board is considering a "reasonable accommodation" policy that raises the issue of how much flexibility should be expected of officers in order to remain inclusive.

    Board chair Alok Mukherjee says the proposed police policy would determine how to accommodate employees and the public in an array of scenarios. Should someone, for example, be allowed to bring a Sikh ceremonial dagger into a courtroom? How should religious dietary restrictions be handled for someone in custody? Can a witness demand to be interviewed by a different officer?

    "Of course it is tricky because you cannot have very precise answers to every situation," Mr. Mukherjee said in an interview. "What you do in policy is to say 'reasonable accommodation short of undue hardships,' and then in procedures try to figure out what that could mean for us."
    In a report before the Toronto Police Services Board tomorrow, Mr. Mukherjee says it is time to formalize procedures that protect human rights and ensure reasonable accommodation within and by the force.

    "We believe that there must be an absolute intolerance of any systemic policies, practices or procedures as well as of any individual expressions or actions that have an adverse impact on any member of our society because of race, ethnicity, culture, language, nationality or religion," Mr. Mukherjee wrote.

    "We face human rights issues on a daily basis," he said. "Somebody who, let us say, is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and is being interviewed by police, but says, 'You can't put me in a windowless room and as a woman I react badly to being interviewed by some very big man in a small room.' Does she have a right or does she not have a right? If you do not think about that, your investigation may not be able to be successfully carried out."

    Mr. Mukherjee is asking Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair to draft procedures that spell out how to deal with requests for accommodation. "It is not a question of bending the rules," Mr. Mukherjee said. "It is a question of ensuring that the rules do not create a barrier."

    This is an extension of a mountain of work that has been going on at Toronto police stretching back to 2007, when it signed on to a three year project aimed at incorporating human rights and anti-racism perspectives in all policing activities. By law, police must adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

    Willem de Lint, a criminology professor at the University of Windsor, said the central question with respect to internal accommodation is how much does it affect the capacity of police to do their job.

    "There would be push back in terms of how much it would compromise officer and citizen safety," said Prof. de Lint, who has researched how policing is changing in Canada.

    But Adam Vaughan, a city councillor who sits on the Police Services Board, said the fact that it is "reasonable" prevents it from watering down policing standards. He said it would be impossible to create procedures that cover the gamut of issues faced by a society as diverse as Toronto's.

    "We've answered a lot of those questions in terms of reasonable accommodation just by having a police force that every day more and more reflects the city," he said.

    Mr. Mukherjee said police across the country have grappled with issues of reasonable accommodation, pointing to a case in Calgary in which a man was told he couldn't testify in court unless he left his kirpan, the Sikh ceremonial dagger, with security officials.

    "My hope is that with the procedures the Chief will lay out, officers who run into similar situations again will have some good guidance," said Mr. Mukherjee.

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