Presentation to CAPS

by

This is a transcript of the prepared portion of the presentation that I made to the CAPS Committee earlier this evening at City Hall:

Good evening, Councillors.

I come before you this evening in order to voice certain concerns that I have as a lifelong member of this community.

For far too long, I think, our elected representatives have succumbed to the well-financed lobby groups which have vociferously advocated holding the line on tax increases. Of course, this has never translated into any shortage of funding for particular pet projects, and many of those who have cried loudest for 0% increases have also championed new edifices of bricks & mortar, road extensions, ring roads, etc.

The things that have suffered most, are those things which we depend most upon the municipality to provide. Essential services like public housing, public transit, and emergency services.

It is on that last point that I wish to address you this evening. Specifically, the need for significantly increased funding of London Police Services.

It is not the first time that I have addressed the issue. Last year, Board of Control unexpectedly invited “ordinary” citizens to become part of the budget process and so I made a hurried and brief written submission. Since then I have written to various individual members of City Council. To date, I’ve not received a single response from any one of you.

I attempted to make a presentation to the London Police Services Board about my concerns and about the results of several surveys which I conducted, but was informed by that body that it was unwilling to deal with issues at my level. I consider that to be deplorable.

For several years I have communicated my concerns and several complaints to the Chief of Police. I have expressed my opinion on various radio talk shows and in press releases.

Much of the material is available for viewing on my Internet site. The URL is http://members.rogers.com/grefow/policing and I invite you to review it as part of your budget deliberations.

Incidentally, in addition to the individual copies of this presentation with which you have been provided, a copy of the presentation is also available on my web site.

Part of my concern is about the lack of deterrent in our community. The visible failure to enforce certain laws leads to an escalation of illegal behavior on the part of many citizens. Never before have I witnessed so many people and vehicles crossing intersections against red lights, railroad crossings with signals flashing, etc. I have posed the question before and I believe that it is even more relevant now than it was then – how much longer before our community begins to experience the horrendous problem with which Toronto seems plagued, and pedestrian deaths becomes commonplace? One of the most basic responsibilites of any elected person is the safety & protection of citizens.

Part of my concern is what I view as the discriminatory manner in which London Police Services enforces the Safe Streets Act against the most disenfranchised members of our community. Based upon my personal observations, I believe that there is a conscious effort to act against squeegee kids, street musicians, panhandlers and the like. At the same time, officers seem to be blind to other forms of illegal behaviour such as crossing against red lights, bicycling and rollerblading on sidewalks, illegal vehicle turns, etc.

The Police Chief claims discretionary power on the part of his officers. I say that such discriminatory enforcement of the law does bring disrepute upon our legal/justice system. If London Police Services is incapable of enforcing these lower-priority laws, then perhaps it is time that their enforcement be given over to municipal enforcement officers at substantially reduced cost.

In recent weeks London Police Services has announced community consultation meetings and a limited survey. But these consultations are mandated, and not necessarily because the police have any respect for the views of individual citizens or any willingness to enter into an honest dialogue.

In fact, my personal experience would indicate just the opposite. While the Police Chief now publicly admits that there is a severe shortage of officers, for a long time the written responses that I received steered clear of admitting the existence of any problem whatsoever, with carefully chosen language.

I have personally conducted surveys of illegal behaviours at the Dundas & Richmond Streets intersection, and specifically requested of the Police Chief that I be provided with data about the charges laid for those behaviours at that specific intersection. The reason, of course, is that it would have allowed me to compare that data with my own observations. Instead, the Chief provided me with city-wide data, and informed me that he would not release the more specific data which I had requested.

I became aware of the existence of a Citizen Advisory Committee with which the Police Chief apparently consults from time to time, but he has refused to release information about it which he characterizes as “personal” but which I believe should be accessible to every citizen.

Police response times for many occurrences in this community are simply ridiculous, and in many instances, there is simply no response at all. That was my personal experience recently when I called the police with respect to an incident which did happened in Councillor Winninger’s ward. You should be seriously concerned about the subsequent failure of the police to respond, and their failure to properly accept accountability for that fact.

On February 15, while walking my 4 year old grandson home from morning kindergarten, a compact truck suddenly backed out an inclined driveway with no prior warning save for a sound like a spring uncoiling. The vehicle was unoccupied and the ignition was not turned on at the time. Had it not been for my attentiveness and quick action, my grandson would surely have been struck by the vehicle.

I first attempted to address the situation by notifying the home’s occupants that the vehicle had rolled out onto the roadway. I then telephoned the London Police non-emergency number (661-5670) from my daughter’s home and left a message at approximately 12:10 p.m. The vehicle in question continued to obstruct the roadway until shortly before 1:00 p.m., when it was removed by persons unknown.

When there had been no response from the police after several hours, I visited the police station along with my daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandson. I described the situation to an officer on duty. With uncharacteristic honesty about their personnel problems, the officer disclosed that, because of a shortage of officers, the machine was unattended and that the messages would probably not be listened to before the weekend when things are typically “less busy.”

Finally, after more than a week had passed without any kind of a response, I filed a written complaint with the Police Chief on February 25, 2002 and asked for an investigation.

Time does not permit me to explain all that subsequently transpired, but suffice it to say for now that my subsequent complaint against London Police Services was dismissed by the Chief and by the Board.

I believe that there is a serious lack of accounability, that children are at risk, and I will be contacting Councillor Winninger shortly as well as Councillor Baechler who is my own ward councillor, in order to pursue this further.

Again, much of the material is available for viewing on my web site, and that which is not there now soon will be.

With that, I end my formal presentation, and I invite your questions.

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