Toronto Police have requested at least one and up to ten full-body scanners to replace strip searches. According to the public tender documents, Toronto Police Service “is committed to increasing the level of dignity and respect provided during our search process”.
A six-month pilot project using a full-body scanner to scan a subject’s body to reveal concealed weapons or drugs ended last April at one of the busiest divisions of the Toronto Police Service. This pilot project allowed for the training of officers, outlining procedures and consulting with officers and members of the community.
The scanners cost at least $250,000 per unit, require approximately $20,000 in maintenance, and there are additional costs associated with training and possible facility renovations as well.
REPORT REGARDING INVASIVE STRIP SEARCHES
A report published earlier this year prepared by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director found that police in Ontario conduct too many unwarranted strip searches.
The report also determined that police procedures for conducting strip searches were inconsistent across Ontario. Toronto police officers were found to use strip searches more often than other forces in Ontario. The report disclosed that strip searches were conducted by Toronto police at a rate of 40 times higher than in similar jurisdictions, such as Ottawa or Hamilton. Toronto police conduct strip searches in just under 40% of arrests compared to other large police forces (who use strip searches under 1% of the time).
The report indicates that some individuals that are subjected to strip searches may suffer psychological harm.
Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated:
The Toronto Police Service continue having this obsession with searching where the sun don’t shine – without legal authority.
Mr. Bryant believes that the full-body scanner technology is invasive “instead of being told to disrobe, you’re just being disrobed electronically.”
THE PILOT PROJECT
A recent report filed prior to a Toronto Police board meeting confirms that the full-body scanners that were tested at a downtown police division were a success for both the police and individuals being scanned.
During the project, 594 strip searches were approved with 311 of the individuals opting to have their search conducted by a full-body scan. According to the report, 296 of the 311 individuals had been previously strip searched and 95% of them preferred the full-body scan.
According to the report, 80% of Toronto police officers had a positive judgment of the full-body scanner.
The scanners being tested were similar to the technology used at airports and correctional facilities. The body scan can find items on or inside a person. They are able to detect metal, plastic and other items both outside of or hidden inside of the body. During the project, the body scanners detected a knife, crack pipe, safety pins and heroin wrapped in toilet paper inside someone’s buttocks.
Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray stated:
The Toronto Police Service believes there is technology available that allows us to modernize our current search processes, increase public trust and accountability, and reduce the intrusiveness of such searches. These are reasons alone to consider such a project. … Each circumstance is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and officers must make a determination, based on reasonable grounds, to conduct any level of search. If a Level 3 search (strip search) is determined to be appropriate, the Full Body Scanner will be used.
During the project, those individuals that were deemed to require a full-body scan could refuse, but were then subjected to a physical strip search.
Due to radiation, pregnant women were excluded from being scanned. Youth were also excluded from being scanned as a “faint outline of genitalia can be seen” in the saved images.
Officers conducting and viewing the scans are the same gender as the individuals being scanned. Those that identify as transgender could either choose a full-body scan or a strip search and could request that the scan or search be conducted by a male, female or both officers.
During the pilot project, the data from the full-body scan was stored for 90 days if nothing was found during the scan. However, if an item was located during the scan and criminal charges were made, the images would be retained as evidence for court.
The project will continue at Toronto’s 14 division for another three years as it has received funding from the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s Community Safety and Policing Grant.
Toronto Police have no immediate plans to implement the scanners in other police divisions, but it is recommended that the technology be installed “at each central lock-up facility within the service”.
We will continue to report on any developments regarding full-body scanners in Ontario in this blog.
In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.