From Dufferin Grove park newsletters 17-Aug-2011 
posted September 26, 2004
Dear Councillor Giambrone,
Since this year is the tenth anniversary of the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park community campfire permit, I'm wondering whether you might arrange for Fourteen Division to be informed about these campfires.
The best thing would be if you could call the superintendent himself, and let him know that there is a pretty nice neighbourhood here and that we've had these campfires a lot. It seems that Fourteen Division may be unaware of this, even after ten years. Here's what makes me think this:
On Saturday evening, September 25, at 10 p.m. two officers from Fourteen Division found several families at the park fire circle having a park campfire. They wrote them a ticket for $55 and summoned a fire truck to put the fire out. I'm sure the superintendent and you as our City Councillor would both agree that the police have better things to do than catch families having marshmallow roasts, and that those big firetrucks have better things to do than throw cold water on family campfires in the middle of the park. Beyond that, now we have to charge the next 11 campfire groups $5 extra to cover the $55 ticket. (We don't want the families who got the ticket to be unfairly penalized.)
If you could tell the superintendent that the groups who come to do campfires are aboriginal groups (like the ones that had the pow wow yesterday), church groups (like the African church youth group last Friday night), boy scouts and girl guides, birthday parties, school groups, family reunions, storytellers, and on and on, maybe the superintendent would find that interesting.
Our hope is that, if you could give this description to the superintendent, he could then acquaint his officers a little bit with the community they're working in. I'm sure it must be quite disorienting for them if their homes are outside of Toronto, to see that we do campfires here. Hopefully they will soon see that this is nothing they need to stamp out.
posted October 5, 2004
By the time the October newsletter went to print, Councillor Giambrone - sadly - had not found the time to make the personal call we asked for. This is disappointing. But perhaps he will follow up at some point.
From a city staff person who does not want to be named: posted October 2, 2004
I find it remarkable that Jutta isn't demanding that the Councillor have the ticket cancelled if indeed the existing fire permit is valid. Why would future groups be funding this error ?
From Jutta: posted October 2, 2004
As for why I didn't ask to get the ticket cancelled, the fact is, our experience with Fourteen Division has not given us much hope that a reasonable request would succeed. Police frequently drive through the park well above the 5 m.p.h. park speed limit, police frequently conduct illegal searches of male teenagers especially if they're black, police are often hard to get hold of if there is a threat by a park user without a weapon (even with a pit bull threat we've had an hour or more delays). We have had to work out most of our problems without their co-operation, so picking up the phone and asking them to cancel a ticket does not come readily to mind.
I have heard that almost 70 per cent of the Toronto Police Service officers do not live in Toronto (i.e. they live in Brampton, Peel, etc.). I don't know if I heard right, but it seems that many of the police officers we see are pretty unfamiliar with the neighbourhood outside of the obvious troublemakers, and so a campfire in the city would seem strange to them.
However we have a new city councillor and Fourteen Division has a new superintendent (the fourth since I've been involved with the park). So if Councillor Giambrone can convey to Supt.Dicks the general sense that he ought to help his officers become more familiar with the community they work in, that would be worth every penny of the collective payment of a $55 ticket -- to my mind. And it would be a great accomplishment in our tenth year of campfires/ cooking fires/ baking fires at the park.
From David Yee: posted October 2, 2004
I just want to make a comment about the ancedotal statement that 70 percent of Toronto police officers don't even live in Toronto. I bet that is true. Chief Fantino lives in Woodbridge (maybe he can become their new chief there!)
You can't force people to work where they live but the least, the City of Toronto should consider an oath and residency requirement clause in their contracts. How else are the denizens ever going to get their needs met without some sensitivity and representation to their local concerns especially when the people who make the decisions and/ or are supposed to enforce the local laws don't even live in the same area code. That is probably the complaint of city staff, be it police officers or park staff who don't take the time to get to know their communities or at least get out of their trucks and cars and make the time to get to know their community. Does anyone have any thoughts about this ... residency requirements for at least top civil servants and city workers?
From John Sewell: posted October 2, 2004
The rule in Toronto used to be that police were required to live in Toronto so that they were easily available to be called out in case of crisis. I'm not sure when this requirement was dropped - probably sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s when the suburban boom started.
I understand today that more than 90 per cent of officers live outside of Toronto (there is no hard data that the police have ever released), so they only come in to the city to police it. This can't be a healthy situation - if they don't think the place is good enough to live in, how can they police it in a sympathetic manner?
From Erella Ganon: posted October 2, 2004
I really think the police should live in the neighbourhood where they work. I saw a cop giving a jaywalking ticket to a woman. Surely there could be better uses for the police time. Really, what harm was she doing? He seemed like he just wanted to amuse himself in this way.
A family having a park campfire? Getting the firemen to come to put out the "blaze"?
I really do think the police should endeavour to be a part of the community rather than the confrontational stance they seem to have adopted in general.
I hate it when I see a police car driving though the parks. They would likely do better to build bridges to look at the people they are talking to at eye level rather from the driver's seat.
These days, the only times we ever see a cop standing up is when they are giving out parking tickets.
I like thinking that the police are a welcome part of the community. Wouldn't that be a nice change?
From David Anderson: posted October 4, 2004
I just wanted to say that I stopped by the corn roast over by the wading pool last week (Wednesday night I believe) that was sponsored by Councillor Giambrone. He wasn't there when I was there but his assistant Kevin was. The fire was managed by folks from the parks department (with a steel fence ringing the fire), corn was being served, and the usual DGP good humour and conversation was flowing. Two firemen in full regalia showed up and, in a manner that seemed a tad aggressive to me, asked Kevin if there was a permit for the fire. Yes, he replied, but he did not have it with him. They asserted that the permit should have been displayed. Of course the issue was resolved in a friendly manner, but it seemed rather curious to me that they would have shown up in the first place, and having shown up to a scene that was clearly well supervised, that they were not a little curious themselves as to what led them to this point.
One of the great things about the neighbourhood is the sense of care that people show. New people to the community are always surprised and pleased when I tell that that campfire permits are available from F of DGP. So I too hope that the local officials will become aware of this long-standing practice.
And I look forward to enthusiastic neighbourhood participation when everyone will have a chance to burn the names of their private and collective fears in the bonfire during the upcoming 5th annual Night of Dread.
David Anderson Clay and Paper Theatre
posted June 1, 2004
May, 2004: We sent the newsletter with the story of "Mary, Joe and the baby" to the office of the Hon. Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario. He sent back an invitation for input on how to improve the police complaints system (To email@example.com
An invitation from Michael Bryant, Attorney General:
April 7, 2004
Ms.Jane Price, President, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
I am writing today to inform you that I have been asked by Premier Dalton MGuinty to review the province's system of public complaints about police conduct, one of the most important aspects of civilian oversight of police.
As you know, the McGuinty government is working to deliver real, positive change in the priority areas that matter most to Ontarians. That's why we're working with people across the province to build strong, safe communities that work. Our communities rely on excellent police work. And our police depend on the confidence and cooperation of the public. So a strong civilian oversight system that is fair and equitable to both the public and trhe police is enormously important to our government and the people we serve. While I have the utmost faith in the integrity and professionalism of our province's police services, complaints against individual officers do arise. How those complaints are considered and resolved is critical to sustaining or strengthening the bond between police and citizens -- and public safety is only as strong as that bond.
We plan on engaging people in a review of civilian oversight during the late spring or early summer. Once we have received the public's and stakeholders' advice, the government will take the necessary steps to meet its commitment to implement a stronger police complaints system.
I am interested in knowing which groups and individuals you think we should consult with. Please share this letter with anyone you believe would be interested. If you have ideas on issues you believe need to be canvassed, I would also be interested in hearing them at this time.
Please feel free to submit your response to me by email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Bryant Attorney General
cc.The Honourable Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services.
Our letter to Michael Bryant in Response
Friends of Dufferin Grove Park c/o 242 Havelock St. Toronto, Ontario M6H 3B9
The Honourable Michael Bryant Attorney General Minister Responsible for Native Affairs Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal 720 Bay Street 11th floor Toronto, Ontario M5G 2K1
Dear Mr. Bryant,
Thank you for your invitation to offer our suggestions about key issues we feel need to be addressed in your upcoming review of how public complaints against the police are handled. Over the past several years many people in our neighbourhood have been deeply troubled by some things the police have done and failed to do in Dufferin Grove Park and the surrounding neighbourhood. We have included four experiences (as examples) in the appendix to this letter. We are very troubled by the lack of responsiveness our community has met with in the face of our complaints. As a separate appendix, we have listed a number of key questions and issues which have arisen out of our experiences. We hope that these may be helpful to consider as you plan your review.
In light of our experiences, many of us who live in the neighbourhood and use Dufferin Grove Park are troubled by the fact that, in instances where we have come forward and made statements in good faith to police and police supervisors, our word has been given no credence. Even more disturbing is the existing situation in our area that any citizen, including those of some standing in the neighbourhood, who stop to observe police behaviour, feel vulnerable to a charge of obstructing a police officer. The situation is so acute that at this point, we are seeking support and advice from a criminal lawyer.
We agree with you that a responsive, thoughtful response to people's complaints to certain actions or inaction by the police is a fundamental and essential cornerstone of the public's responsibility and ability to ensure that police use the significant power granted to them in a constructive way. To us, a constructive way is one which responds to the priorities and actual difficulties that people want to see addressed in their own neighborhood. Surely, we would observe that this is what the Metro Police Force's own motto of "to serve and protect…. Serving people in their communities" was intended to mean.
Our community wants to make it clear that the right kind of service from public servants is good communication and sensible actions, not silence or dismissal.
Should you wish to read about any of these incidents in more detail, you might wish to look at our website at www.dufferinpark.ca , click on "police/safety." If you would like to discuss any of these matters further, please feel free to call me at 416-532-5170.
Belinda Cole Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
This is Appendix 1 to the response letter we wrote to the Attorney General in response to his request for input into the matter of handling complaints about the police.
Appendix 1: some examples
Eleven people from various streets in the neighbourhood faxed a joint letter to Superintendent Paul Gottschalk of Fourteen Division, about the September 3 group attack on a young man who was beaten unconscious at our park. The police response to this attack was minimal; in fact, for the first week after the attack, they said they had no record of the occurrence. The following week it was presented as an unimportant incident. The community letter emphasized that the community does not regard any group attack as a minor incident. They asked Supt. Gottschalk to clarify the police position on group violence in our park. Two weeks later, the first person on the list of signatures received a reply from Staff Inspector K.L. Forde of "Complaints Review" who said that the chief of Police does not have to "deal with any complaint made by any member of the public if he… decides that the complainant was not directly affected by the policy, service or conduct that is the subject of the complaint." No reference was made to the multiple signatures in the community letter. The matter was treated as though this was an isolated complaint by one citizen which did not merit a response. Subsequently the group was denied permission to make a deputation to the Police Services Board about this matter.
A park user commented on a puzzling gun search by police of the regular basketball players, who are mostly young black men. The police were asked whether there was a particular reason to worry about criminal activities in the park at that time. The answer was very reassuring on that count: there had been no alarming park-related reports. This raised the question of why police came several times and searched the basketball players. During one search, police told the youth that they were responding to community complaints about them being in the park too much. In response, our group wrote to Sup't Paul Gottschalk of Fourteen Division, asking him or a representative to come and speak about such searches. He replied in a very brief letter: "I have reviewed the circumstances referred to in your letter. I am satisfied that the actions taken by 14 Division officers were appropriate and lawful." The request for a meeting was declined.
As many park users have observed, Toronto Police officers periodically approach young men of colour at the park and ask to see their i.d. It's called "going fishing" - approaching people out of the blue in case they might be arrestable. Since this is illegal, our group's secretary, on one occasion when this occurred, questioned one of three officers, who had stopped a young black man and asked to see his i.d. The officer told he to "go hug a tree". She wrote a letter about this to the chief of police, and was then asked to come for a taped interview at the police station. The interview resulted in a bound report, with appendices. In defence of the apparently random police questioning of the man, the report cited: 1) statistical increase in car thefts in the police division; 2) the fact that car thieves tend to use cell phones and this young man had been talking on a cell phone; and, 3) that as they observed the man, he changed direction (actually walking back up the sidewalk towards the police). The report also suggested that anyone citizen who stops to observe police questioning could easily be charged with obstructing police, a charge carrying a possible jail sentence of two years less a day. In addition, the document reported as fact what the officers recalled about the event, which contradicted what our group's secretary had seen and reported, and in effect, suggested that she must be a liar or a meddlesome fool, or both.
From our November 2003 Dufferin Grove Park newsletter:
Mary (not her real name), a young woman of 17, her 4 month old baby, the baby's dad, Joe, and a lot of their friends, many of whom are from the Caribbean, come to the park often. One evening Mary was walking home from the park to nurse her baby, when two young police officers on bikes stopped her and asked for i.d. Jutta Mason, who was also working at the park that evening, noticed the police, and came over to see what was going on with Mary. One of the officers told Mary that there was a warrant out for her arrest. Mary said that couldn't be. Officer 5404 (she had no name, but a number) said Mary might be lying, and she handcuffed Mary's hands behind her back. Officer 5404 searched Mary's pockets and found a cell phone and two twenty-dollar bills, and asked her why she had so much money, and - when the cell phone rang - why the phone rang so much. Then officer 5404 summoned a cruiser and prepared to take Mary away. Mary was not permitted to call home to let Joe know she was arrested, but a friend who was watching this had called Joe.
Jutta asked the officer if Mary would be allowed to nurse the baby before she was taken away. The officer asked Jutta who she was, and when she said she worked in the park, Officer 5404 said Jutta should move along then, and go about her business. Jutta asked again if Mary could nurse the baby, but then Officer 5404 said she should be quiet or she would be arrested too - for obstructing the police.
The police car and Joe, carrying the baby, arrived at the park about the same time. The baby was crying and Jutta asked the officers again if Mary could just nurse the baby in the police car before she was taken away. The officer driving the car joined with Officer 5404 in warning Jutta again: if she didn't stop talking to them, she would be arrested and her bike would be confiscated. They said Mary could not nurse the baby, that Mary would be taken to Eleven Division, and Joe could take a cab and go to the station separately - that was none of their concern.
Mary asked Joe to hold up the baby so she could kiss it goodbye. But Officer 5404 jerked Mary away by the handcuffs, and put her in the cruiser.
Mary was there only a short time. As soon as she got there, the people at Eleven Division checked her name and realized this had all been a computer error - there was no arrest warrant. Apparently the computer was acting up - this was the fifth such error that evening. Mary was told she was free to go.
Jutta told this story to the Superintendent Kaproski, of Fourteen Division, Officer 5404's boss. He said he'd look into it and call back, but he never did.
This is Appendix 2 to the response letter we wrote to the Attorney General in response to his request for input into the matter of handling complaints about the police.
When and why was the complaints process established?
Was the process set up in response to any actual situation(s) or concern(s)?
What was the complaints process set up to achieve? In simple, practical terms, how was this goal to be achieved?
Was the complaints process set up to respond to particular types of complaints about the police?
Was the complaints process envisaged as a solely formal mechanism or was there an effort to allow for the possibility for people to explore informal ways of resolving their concerns about the police?
How much flexibility is there in the process for people, acting either on their own or with other people in their neighbourhood, to put forward ideas for resolving their concerns other than those set out in the process?
How has the complaints process worked/not worked?
What are the costs of the existing complaints process?
What is commonly understood/presumed to be the context in which the people responsible for responding to public complaints operate?
for example, we have made repeated attempts over the past 13 years to work co-operatively with the police who work in our neighbourhood and park; these efforts have been continually rebuffed. In our view, anyone who fields a complaint about the police has a much better chance of responding to the complaint thoughtfully and sensibly if he or she knows something of this history
What is the role of observers in the (formal or informal) complaints process, as it was initially conceived?
For example, we want police to respond immediately to our calls for help in the following cases: * any situation involving violence; * to pursue vandals; * to city by-laws which attempt to balance the interests of different people and groups who use the park (e.g. enforce noise by-laws, etc.)
posted June 1, 2004 from June 2004 Newsletter
In the middle of May, a park staff person saw that the police were questioning some young park users. The staff person went over to observe. One of the youth had been seen smoking a marijuana cigarette, and so he and his friends were i.d.'d and searched. Since there was no additional weed on any of them and none showed any charges on the police computer system, they were not arrested. (Possession of a small amount of marijuana does not currently result in a criminal conviction.)
However, the three police officers involved in questioning the youth were not happy that our staff person, and a few additional park users, stayed nearby to watch. They told the staff person to leave, and when he did not, one of the officers pushed him. The officer said that if the park staff did not go away, he would be charged with obstruction.
Since park staff generally make it their business to attend to any disturbance in the park, and since they also know a lot of the people who come here, ignoring visits from the police is not really an option. However, no one wants to be arrested for obstruction. What to do?
Once again, we found help among the hockey players. (Hockey players at the park seem to be an endless source of park friends.) Jane Price, president of the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, had heard that one of the regular Wednesday night ball-hockey players was a criminal lawyer named Peter Bawden, who has published and article on the use of "obstruction" charges. Jane called him up and he agreed to come to the park early before one of the ball hockey games, to meet with the park staff. He told the staff how to behave to make sure they were not obstructing police. He said, "make sure you don't stand behind an officer - understandably, that makes them nervous. Don't get any closer than two meters. [Our park staff person was clear on both of those counts.] Reassure the officer, repeatedly if necessary, that you will not get in their way. Explain that it's the practice of park staff to attend at any difficulty, and take along your clipboard. Don't say much at all unless you're asked, and then be very polite. [Our park staff aced that one as well.] It is the legal right of any citizen and certainly of park staff, to observe any actions of police. The charge of obstruction can only be laid if a person actually gets in the way of police to prevent them from carrying out their investigation, or if a person counsels a suspect to resist arrest. As long as you're only observing, you are breaking no law. "
This was nice to hear. And over the years we have found that the presence of an observer, when police come to the park, seems to help, in reducing (slightly) the random requests for I.D. which are frowned on in our democratic country, and putting a lid on the escalation of incidents. In the case of our park staff, watching also allows them to keep tabs on people who might be a genuine danger in our park. Direct observation of arrests is important because if there IS, later on, a conviction for a crime and the sentence includes court order banning the person from the park, park staff are never informed of such an order. (One of the many bits of slippage in the justice system.)
Peter Bawden also suggested it's always good to have a second person along when observing an incident (not more than that). That's because, when Jutta Mason made a complaint in May 2003 - she saw three bicycle police interrogating a black man near the rink house because he was talking on a cell phone a few days after some car thefts at the mall -- the police recall of the incident was very different than Jutta's recall. So if you are in the park and you see one of the staff, or a friend of the park, standing and watching such an incident, and you feel like coming over and watching too, that would be a help. When our staff person was pushed by the officer, there were several families watching with their children, and this resulted in some constructive conversation afterwards.
And if, despite all attempts to be respectful and careful, a staff person or a friend of the park is charged with obstruction for observing police incidents in the park, Peter Bawden says he'll defend them. For free. It seems that some lawyers get a little hot about citizens' rights in a democracy.
Parks and Recreation department policy on Staff/Police relations here (pdf) >>
posted March 4, 2004
A four part saga:
Dear Police Chief Fantino,
May 12, 2003
As I was leaving the Dufferin Grove Park clubhouse just after 10 p.m. on Sunday May 11, three police officers on bikes pulled up in front. One officer behaved in a way that was unacceptable and therefore I am writing to you.
A young black man was walking along the sidewalk beside the park and your officer stopped him and asked him for his name and address. The young man, understandably, did not wish to give it since he was simply walking along. The officer pressed him further, and even told him that if he had any problems with the questions he could contact a lawyer. At that point I stopped bagging the trash beside the clubhouse and stood nearer the scene. The officer asked me why I was standing there, and I told him I was watching because it appeared to me that he was just going fishing, and that I saw no reason why the young man was being questioned. Your officer told me to "go hug a tree." Funny.
I wanted to make sure I had heard right, and the officer repeated his instruction to me, more energetically. I told him that he had insulted me, and he told me, in return, that I had no idea how dangerous this area (i.e. my neighbourhood) is and that I should just let the police do their job. I said that stopping people for no reason is not their job. Another officer then told me that my neighbourhood (near Dufferin and Bloor, where house prices start at $300,000, where people have bidding wars to buy a house in the area) is one of the most dangerous parts of the city and police are just trying to make it safe.
At that point I became angry, and said that was nonsense. Meantime the young man left - as he evidently knew he had the right to do, the more so since a matronly white woman (me) was standing there watching. However, the officer and I continued to argue. The officer felt that I knew much less about the neighbourhood than the police and that he had more important things to do than listen to me; there had been car thefts at the mall and if they saw someone with a cell phone, they had the right and the duty to stop them in case they were planning a theft. (??!?)
So that, I guess, was the young black man's mistake - he had been walking along talking on his cell phone. At the same time, a white man was standing talking on the pay phone in front of the club house but he didn't look as suspicious, I guess, so he wasn't interrogated.
Well, sir, your officer has made me into a convert. I have not wanted to get on the "racial profiling" bandwagon. But this was one time too many that I have seen groups of your officers fishing at the park, overwhelmingly among the black youth. In your public statements, Chief Fantino, you have assured the citizens that you will control those officers who have a racial bias. But last night I saw no evidence of a new restraint: only one rude police officer questioning a black man walking, and ready to laugh at civil rights, with his two colleagues standing by, making no effort to stop the situation.
I will post this letter on our park web site (www.dufferinpark.ca) and on our bulletin boards. If you wish to respond, I would be pleased to post your response as well.
The letter resulted in a request for Jutta to come to Fourteen Division and be interviewed. This interview, which was taped, lasted over an hour and resulted in a formal police report complete with cover page, index and appendices.
Dear Police Chief Fantino,
August 8, 2003
Several months ago I wrote you a letter about an incident involving three police officers from Fourteen Division. This letter was interpreted as a complaint against P.C.Wayne Currie (6352) and I was asked to come to Fourteen Division, where two detectives (Det.Morgan Robinson as the lead) interviewed me. This interview was taped and excerpts from it and from statements by your officers were later sent to me as a report, complete with index and appendices (2003-EXT-0314.), and signed by Fourteen Division Supt. Glenn Paproski. At no time were the presidents of our group (Jane Price and I) able to speak with the officers directly, as we had requested.
As I told Det.Robinson on the phone, I disagree with certain central features of this report. However, I do NOT wish to carry the complaint up to the next complaint level. I feel that the first interview was not so useful that I can commit more time to your department's method of dealing with criticism.
However I would like to go on record that the investigation was not accurate and not helpful.
I am also enclosing a copy of the August Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter, which describes the investigation, as well as our long history of unsuccessfully seeking a workable relationship between our community group and Fourteen Division. Since your complaints-investigation staff do not make a good lawyer- judge- and jury combo, the chronicle of this sad situation has, as you see, returned to the court of public opinion.
However, if at any time your staff would like to have a real conversation about public order in our corner of public space - a conversation among equals, recognizing us as having the respect of our community, as well as elsewhere in Canada and beyond - we are ready and willing to talk in good faith.
cc. Supt.Glenn Paproski, Det.Morgan Robinson
Recently the new (since January) head of Fourteen Division, Superintendent Glenn Paproski, called after receiving a copy of our August newsletter from Chief Fantino's office. He said he liked the newsletter generally but was disturbed by its content relative to the police. He also said he wanted to come to the park, see it for himself, and talk about the whole matter. We look forward to his visit.
March 2004.... We're still waiting.