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Want to be a total asshole? Become a Toronto cop.

…or work for the OIPRD.

In the heart of Toronto, a harrowing story unraveled, casting a piercing light on the accountability of the Toronto Police Services (TPS) and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). In this deeply immersive account, I take you through a distressing incident that reveals not only the misconduct of one TPS officer but also the gaping flaws within the OIPRD, leaving me feeling marginalized, silenced, and determined to expose systemic issues.

Introduction: In the heart of Toronto, a city known for its diversity and vibrant communities, I found myself embroiled in an incident that exposed a deeply unsettling reality – the accountability crisis within the Toronto Police Services and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). This article is more than a personal account; it’s an unfiltered exploration of how these institutions, tasked with upholding the law and ensuring justice, have failed, leaving many victims in their wake.

The Preamble: Earlier this month, I became the victim in an incident involving a close friend. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the police’s response was, sadly, nothing out of the ordinary. What should have been treated as a mental health issue, given my friend’s condition, was instead subjected to the blunt instrument of criminalization, thanks to what appeared to be a reckless exercise of police discretion. It was a familiar narrative – one that we often hear but rarely delve into.

The First Call: A day later, the phone rang. An officer from the Toronto Police Services was on the line, Officer Hilton (#12243). She identified the incident as an “assault” and began outlining the steps I needed to follow for the police to proceed with pressing charges. She provided information on support services and updates on how my friend was being handled. But as the victim, my perspective was entirely different. I believed the incident should have been treated as a mental health crisis, not a criminal offense, given my friend’s struggle with BPD and other factors. What followed was an unsettling exchange. The officer seemed to dismiss my viewpoint, offering a condescending, patronizing tone and demonstrating a shocking lack of professionalism. I couldn’t fathom how a supposed source of support could conduct herself in such a manner.

Standing Up: In the face of her unprofessionalism, I mustered the courage to ask for an apology. Her response? A resounding refusal. Frustrated and indignant, I requested to speak with her supervisor, only to be met with further resistance. She directed me to the OIPRD, leaving me with her badge number and name, all before abruptly ending the call in an equally discourteous manner.

The Battle Begins: Fueled by anger and a determination to not endure such treatment, I turned to the OIPRD’s website to file a formal complaint. However, what I encountered next added an outrageous layer to this already disheartening situation. The complaint form came with a warning that perjury charges could be leveled if I were to provide false information. But here’s the kicker – the form demanded that I select one of only two options for a prefix before my name: MR. or MRS. For someone who identifies as non-binary, this was nothing short of a cruel paradox. It felt as if I had been boxed into a corner, compelled to commit perjury in order to seek justice.

Triple Injustice: Triply enraged, I filed the complaint, but I wasn’t content with merely submitting the form. I contacted the OIPRD, forcefully pointing out the discriminatory nature of their complaint form. I demanded a public apology, not just for myself but for the transgender and intersex communities who had been similarly affected. I insisted that they acknowledge the inherent problem and outline their steps to rectify the situation, ensuring it wouldn’t repeat.

The Letters: Just days later, I received not one but two letters from the OIPRD. The first letter, in a subtle but unmistakable tone, essentially said, “We do what we want.” It acknowledged the unprofessional demeanor of the police officer but contended that it didn’t warrant an investigation. To challenge this decision, it was implied, I’d have to go to court, with no actual information attached about the judicial review process.

The Second Letter: The second letter offered no apologies. It acknowledged the distress caused by the form’s lack of a non-binary prefix but brushed it off as unintentional. It claimed that the form had been rectified, even suggesting that it now allowed for “no prefix.” This was a false statement, and it effectively sidestepped the fundamental issue of discrimination against transgender and intersex individuals.

Community Consequences: The scars of their failings run deep within the community. The missing and missed report left our neighborhood reeling, revealing how they had Bruce MacArthur in custody multiple times before he was charged with a string of serial killings. Lives could have been saved if they had done their job, but the lack of acknowledgment and accountability perpetuates the cycle of negligence.

Conclusion: This narrative is a testament to the urgent need for change. Toronto Police Services and the OIPRD must be held accountable for their actions. My correspondence with David Miller, who agrees that the police are adept at evading responsibility, only strengthens my resolve. The time has come for action, as these two letters serve as undeniable evidence of their arrogance and disregard for the people they are supposed to protect and serve.

Letters from OIPRD and TPS:

Letter 1 from OIPRD:

“Dear Madison Charlton: Re: Public Complaint: Toronto Police Service OIPRD Complaint Number: E-20231002171S102488 The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) has reviewed your complaint and determined it to be a conduct complaint about Officer Hilton (#12243) of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) on October 2, 2023. In your complaint, you stated that Officer Hilton called you about an incident in which you were the victim of an assault. You alleged that Officer Hilton was rude, condescending, and did not answer your questions. You further stated that Officer Hilton refused to acknowledge or apologize for their rudeness. Section 60(4) of the Police Services Act (PSA) permits the Independent Police Review Director not to deal with a complaint if, in his opinion, having regard to all of the circumstances, dealing with the complaint is not in the public interest. The OIPRD expects police officers to conduct themselves in a professional manner when interacting with the public. We understand that you found Officer Hilton’s demeanour to be unprofessional during the phone call. Although it would have been ideal if the officer had adopted a more sympathetic and understanding tone, you did not describe any language on the part of the officer that could reasonably be considered profane, abusive, or insulting to the degree that it would rise to the level of misconduct under the PSA. Therefore, the Director has determined it would not be in the public interest to proceed with an investigation into your complaint. Please be advised that the Police Services Act, our governing legislation, does not provide for an appeal from the classification and screening of complaints conducted by the OIPRD. If you wish to challenge this decision, you may bring a judicial review application in the Divisional Court which is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. Information about the judicial review process is attached for your information.”

Letter 2 from OIPRD:

“Dear Madison Charlton l Thank you for your email. We acknowledge that not having the non-binary prefix “Mx” on the OIPRD’s previous complaint form caused you distress. This was unintentional and the current form now has been corrected. Steps have been taken to prevent future complainants from having to choose between a female prefix, male prefix, or no prefix. As a result, the current and updated complaint form does not ask the complainant to select a prefix. This matter has been resolved and we thank you for bringing this to our attention. Sincerely,
Alexandra Alvarado Senior Case Manager/ Registrar I OIPRD

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