police

Durham Police Body Camera Pilot Project Ends

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


Durham Regional Police Services (“DRPS”) have been involved in a one-year pilot project called the “Body-Worn Camera Project”.  Eighty front-line police officers have been wearing the devices while on duty for the past year.  The pilot project is now being evaluated and it will be determined by the end of the year whether the body-worn cameras (“BWC”) will continue to be used on a daily basis.

BODY-WORN CAMERA PROJECT

The Body-Worn Camera Project was launched on June 22, 2018 at a cost of $1.2 million.  The price tag included the need for training, IT support, video management, evaluation and storage costs. 

The cellphone-sized devices are attached to the officers while on-duty and record specific police interactions with the public, not an entire shift.  It is at the officer’s discretion when to activate the cameras and when to turn them off.

Sergeant Jason Bagg believes that BWCs can enhance training, investigations and prosecution outcomes.  He is hopeful that BWCs will result in more guilty pleas and higher conviction rates in domestic violence cases.  He states:

Body-worn cameras have been used around the world to collect evidence for prosecutions, they’ve been used to improve community trust, police transparency, policy legitimacy and procedural justice.

However, despite the benefits of BWCs, this method has been met with criticism.  There are critics that are concerned about privacy and the fear that the video may become public.  There is also a concern that the processing of the video to be used in court may create delays, which may lead to charges being dropped.

BWC STUDY

Lakehead University researchers have been studying the effects of body-worn cameras (“BWC”) by police officers and their interaction with the public.  From November 20, 2018 to December 8, 2018, researchers joined the Festive R.I.D.E. program (designed to reduce impaired driving by setting up checkpoints to randomly stop motorists) with Durham Regional Police Service. 

During this study, officers wore cameras for eight shifts and did not wear them for seven shifts.  All officers involved in the study began their interaction with the public with an introduction, followed by advising the motorists that they were wearing a BWC and would be recording the interaction during the R.I.D.E. stop.

Surveys were given to 3,636 motorists following their R.I.D.E. check, which included questions about the R.I.D.E. experience and their general opinions regarding the police.  A total of 287 surveys were analyzed and results showed that those who interacted with an officer wearing a BWC felt more positive about all outcomes measured in the survey.  The study found that those who interacted with officers wearing a BWC had more positive perceptions of:

  • Officer politeness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer fairness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer performance in general;
  • Confidence in police in general;
  • Police fairness;
  • Support for police use of BWCs.

The researchers concluded that the officers wearing BWCs and advising the public led to positive public perception of officers and the police in general, in addition to positive support for BWCs by the public.  Drivers, in general, found the officers wearing BWCs to be more polite and trustworthy.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

DRPS officers turned off their BWCs on June 22, 2019, at the end of the pilot project.  Officers have recorded more than 26,000 videos, and it is estimated that 30% of the recordings have been or will be used as evidence in court for criminal and provincial offence trials.

The technology is now being evaluated as part of an ongoing cost-benefit analysis.  The cameras have been found to increase the workload for officers who use them, and there are extra costs associated with data processing and storage. 

Seven months into the project, DRPS found that there was no significant increase in officer overtime, reduced call responses or affected traffic enforcement.  DRPS did find that officers using BWCs were spending approximately 10% more time on scene (approximately 5 to 12 more minutes).  Sgt. Bagg also confirmed that there had been an increase in workload as a result of managing cases with camera evidence at the half-way mark of the project, however, it was unclear what the impact was. 

A final report on the pilot project is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

We will continue to report any developments or results of an evaluation of the BWC pilot project on 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.

Conviction Upheld for Toronto Cop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the 2016 conviction of attempted murder and six-year jail sentence of Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo (“Forcillo”).

We have previously blogged about the trial court decision where a jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim (“Yatim”).

WHAT HAPPENED?

On July 27, 2013, police were called to the scene with reports about a disturbance aboard the 505 Dundas streetcar.  At trial, the jury heard evidence that Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before boarding the westbound streetcar at Yonge Street. He then proceeded to expose himself to women on the streetcar and withdrew a switchblade. The streetcar stopped near Grace Street and all passengers exited the doors.

Forcillo and his partner were the first officers to arrive and found Yatim alone on the streetcar. Forcillo fired nine shots from the street at Yatim after repeatedly requesting that the youth drop a small knife that he was holding as he stood aboard an empty streetcar. Forcillo fired two separate rounds of shots. Yatim was critically injured by the first round of shots, which caused him to fall on the floor of the streecar.

At trial, Forcillo faced two charges: second-degree murder for the first round of gunfire and attempted murder for the second round. The jury found Forcillo was justified in firing the first three shots at Yatim, and therefore not guilty of second-degree murder. However, the jury concluded that Forcillo was not justified in firing the second round of shots, and therefore convicted him of attempted murder.

THE SENTENCE AT TRIAL

Justice Edward Then sentenced Forcillo to six years in jail after the jury convicted him of attempted murder.

At the sentencing hearing, Forcillo’s lawyers argued that a minimum sentence should apply to a police officer on duty.

Justice Then stated that the second round of gunfire was “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and contrary to Forcillo’s police training. He went on to explain that the sentence must match the crime. Furthermore, he expressed his belief that police officers should be held to a higher standard than members of the public and that Forcillo should have used de-escalation techniques to convince Yatim to release his weapon.

Forcillo had been granted bail pending the appeal decision, but he has been behind bars since late last year as a result of breaching his bail conditions. He has been charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice and is currently suspended without pay from the Toronto police.

THE APPEAL

In October, 2017, Forcillo launched an appeal. Forcillo requested that the Court of Appeal substitute a not guilty verdict or order a new trial. On appeal, Forcillo’s lawyers raised several questions about the trial and the sentence, including:

  • Whether the conviction for attempted murder can stand?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in excluding evidence regarding Mr. Yatim’s state of mind?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in sentencing Forcillo beyond the five-year mandatory minimum sentence?

This week, the Court of Appeal dismissed Forcillo’s appeal of both his conviction and sentence. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the six-year prison sentence was “fit” considering the surrounding circumstances of the crime, including Forcillo’s failure to express remorse.

The Court of Appeal found that the jury’s verdict was reasonable as there were obvious differences between the circumstances when Forcillo fired the first set of shots and when he discharged the second set of gunfire (given that Yatim was hit and laying on his back during the second round of gunfire).

The Court of Appeal stated:

[Forcillo] knew from his training that Mr. Yatim did not pose an imminent threat to anyone merely by re-arming himself with a knife. He knew that he was not entitled to kill Mr. Yatim in these circumstances, yet he proceeded to fire six additional rounds fixed with that lethal intent.

Forcillo has the option of appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In order to do so, Forcillo would have to demonstrate that there is an issue of national importance. Forcillo’s lawyers are currently considering whether to appeal. We will keep you updated as this matter continues to develop.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Breathalyzer Test Ruled Inadmissible

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Every year, thousands of people are charged with impaired driving in Ontario and many of those people are convicted based on breathalyzer readings taken at the scene of the accident. However, a recent decision by Justice Elinore Ready in Brampton, has called the integrity of breathalyzer use in Ontario into question, casting doubt on guilty verdicts in numerous other impaired driving and drive over 80 cases. The Brampton court acquitted a driver who failed a roadside breath test after hearing evidence from a former government scientist who said that breathalyzer tests are unreliable and the process used in Ontario is flawed.

The expert witness, Ben Joseph, formerly worked for the Centre for Forensic Sciences, which oversees the breath-test program in Ontario. Mr. Joseph spent three days testifying in court, giving evidence that the readings obtained by the Intoxilyzer 8000C – the only breathalyzer device in use in Ontario – were not reliable. Mr. Joseph testified that after studying the device’s maintenance and calibration records, he discovered numerous inaccurate results and other failures. Additionally, Mr. Joseph testified that since all of the Intoxilyzer 8000C models used in Ontario lack an established error rate, there is no way to be statistically confident about any given breath-test reading.

The judge agreed with Mr. Joseph, finding that a device that is not properly maintained could not provide complete results, and without an error rate, the device’s results are not reliable.  As a result, the charges against the defendant, Gurdev Singh, whose breath-test reading registered well over the legal limit, were dismissed.

This decision is important news for criminal defence lawyers in Ontario, as it will likely affect thousands of impaired driving cases across the province, and likely affect police practices. The Crown has filed an appeal of the decision.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In trials involving eyewitness testimony, the frailty of memory often becomes a key part of the defence strategy, . Eyewitness accounts can make a deep impression on a jury, especially when the witness is expresses a high level of certainty. However, although a confident eyewitness can make or break a trial, experience shows that mistaken identifications have and do occur and courts have long recognized this.

Many people believe that human memory works like a video recording of our experience, but according to experts, memories are actually quite fragile and susceptible to contamination. As the recent trial of Jian Ghomeshi shows, memories can change over time and be impacted by stress and trauma. The science behind why people remember certain details and not others, and why our memories and the way we recount them can change over time have been closely studied and arise frequently in court.

Several studies have been conducted on human memory and on the propensity for eyewitnesses to remember events and details that did not occur. It is not uncommon for victims to genuinely and confidently identify their attackers only to be proven wrong by DNA evidence years later, as was the case in the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.

 But this does not mean that eyewitness identification is always unreliable. Sometimes eyewitness identification can be used to exonerate a person who is wrongfully accused of a crime. However, courts are now aware of the ability of third parties to introduce false memories to witnesses. There is only one chance to test the memory of an eyewitness as their memories can become contaminated. That is why it is so important that the testing conditions are adequate. Proper interview techniques and procedures by police and prosecutors are essential to ensure the reliability of identification evidence.

If you would like to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Why Posting Crimes on Social Media Is A Bad Idea

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Social media, for better or worse, is here to stay. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter – there is a brave new world of connecting and sharing information with your friends, family and all of cyberspace. Police across the world are on social media too, and they are beginning to discover a new ways to use social media to catch law-breakers and to aid in investigations. A 2014 International Association of Chiefs of Police survey found that among the 600 law enforcement agencies questioned, about 95 percent use social media; 82.3 percent said that social media is foremost an investigatory tool; and 78.8 percent reported that social media helped solve crime in their jurisdictions.

In Pennsylvania, for example, a local newspaper started posting mug shots of people wanted by police officials on Pinterest, the popular photo-sharing site. As a result, the community experienced a 57% increase in arrests. Apparently, some people even called to say they had seen their own mug shot online and asked how to turn themselves in to authorities.

Closer to home, in Windsor, ON, police have been sharing videos on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to help solve petty crimes or to locate missing children. Police have always reached out to the public to help solve a large proportion of their crimes, and social media is a logical extension of what they have always done.

But for all the different ways that police are finding to use social media, some people are just making it far too easy for them. Things that happen in cyberspace have real life consequences – and oversharing can sometimes land you in jail.  Earlier this week, a woman in Florida was arrested and charged after she posted a video of herself saying she was driving drunk on the live streaming app Periscope. Two people apparently called 911 to report the video to police. Police officers then watched the video and were able to determine the woman’s location and pull her over.

Today, technology drives the way that people live their lives and the reach that social media provides is absolutely unprecedented. It’s therefore more important than ever to be careful of what you say and do online, keeping in mind that almost nothing is truly private. Once something is out there in cyberspace, it’s out there forever.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Carding, Street Checks and “Community Engagement”: Know Your Rights

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

What is Carding?

Carding (sometimes referred to as street checks or “community engagement”) is a controversial police practice of stopping people, apparently at random, to ask a series of intrusive questions and collect information. Carding often begins when a police officer approaches someone in a public place – on the street, in a park, outside a convenience store – and strikes up a conversation, asking an individual or group what they are doing. The officer then asks for identification, without placing the individual(s) under arrest.

According to investigative reports conducted by the Toronto Star , people stopped for carding between 2008 and 2013 were more likely to be African-Canadian than white, and the vast majority of encounters did not involve an arrest or charges. Despite charges not being laid, details about each individual were recorded and entered into a massive database. The Star reporters found that Toronto police filled out at least 2.1 million contact cards involving 1.2 million people between 2008 and 2013.

In 2014, rules about carding were briefly amended to require police to inform people of their rights and issue a receipt to the individual which would include the officer’s name and badge number. However, these rules were never fully implemented. In April of 2015, a new policy was announced requiring police officers to tell people why they are being stopped if they ask, and inform them that they are free to walk away. Police would also be required to give citizens business cards instead of receipts.

Although the police have claimed that the practice is legal, the legality of the practice is still unclear. Earlier this week, departing Ontario ombudsman Andre Martin stated in a report, “Stopping citizens without an objective an reasonable basis for believing that they may be implicated in a recent or ongoing criminal offence, or where there are reasonable and probably grounds to arrest them, is unconstitutional – it’s a form of arbitrary detention contrary to section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Those calling for an end to the practice see no distinction between carding and racial profiling.

Know Your Rights

Many people are not aware that Canadians are not required to carry identification except when driving. In addition, an individual has the right to walk away from the police if he or she is questioned and not offered a legitimate reason for the police interest. If an individual is being arrested, he or she also has the right to counsel. But many people who have been carded report being intimidated by the confrontation and feel pressured to speak to police.

Jurisdictions across Ontario have been considering whether to suspend the practice as they await provincial regulation. Hamilton and Peel Region announced this week that they would not be suspending carding. Meanwhile, Queen’s Park has been consulting with police, concerned community groups, civil libertarians, the Ontario Human Right Commission and the general public with the aim of introducing a reform of carding later this fall.

If you have any questions about carding or to find out more about your rights, contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/knowntopolice2013.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/01/06/toronto_police_chief_bill_blair_suspends_controversial_practice_of_carding.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/04/16/toronto-police-board-passes-revised-carding-policy.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/09/25/peel-chief-refuses-to-suspend-carding.html

 

 

The Current State of Canada’s Prostitution Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In December 2013, in the infamous Bedford case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the federal government time to draft new legislation. Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was born and came into effect late last year.

With the introduction of Bill C-36, the buying, but not the selling of sex was explicitly outlawed for the first time in Canada. The legislation also gave the police the power to prosecute people who advertise sex work and people who exploit or otherwise make money off sex workers.  Sex workers can still advertise their own sexual services, as the bill contains an exemption for sex workers themselves.

The government’s stated goal of the legislation was to reduce the demand for prostitution by “discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible”. The intent of the legislation is to make it more difficult for johns and pimps while protecting sex workers. Since the legislation has been enacted, the Toronto Police Service has begun a large-scale crackdown on human trafficking.

The legislation is not without controversy. Amnesty International has long been calling for the decriminalization of sex work involving consenting adults. The human rights group argues that criminalization of any sort makes it more likely that the rights of sex workers will be violated because the practices are pushed underground.

But other groups say that abolishing laws against prostitution lead to more violations of the rights of women and girls, and lead to human trafficking and child rape. Proponents of decriminalization argue that sex workers can be distinguished between women and children who are sold into sexual slavery and that there is a significant difference between coercive and consensual prostitution.

It is believed that Mali Jean, a Quebec man charged in Saskatchewan, was the first person to be charged under the new law on charges dated July 27, 2015.

 For more information and to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/barely-illegal-new-prostitution-laws-may-drive-sex-work-underground-but-can-it-stop-it

Man charged in Saskatoon under new federal prostitution laws