The Toronto Police is exploring methods of less intrusive ways to search persons in custody. They are set to implement a pilot project that will test the capabilities of full body scanner technology in lieu of conducting physical searches.
A Level 3, or strip search, involves removal of some or all of a person’s clothing, including undergarments, and a visual inspection of the prisoner’s body by two police officers of the same gender for the purposes of locating weapons, evidence, contraband or means of escape.
The Service conducts nearly 20,000 Level 3 searches annually.
In relation to physical strip searches, Deputy Chief Peter Yuen says, “that even when the grounds exist to conduct a strip search, it’s quite intrusive.” He said the new approach helps ensure a person’s privacy and dignity, where possible, while still ensuring officers and prisoners are protected.
The full body scanner is a new approach to conducting a search that allows officers to detect contraband or weapons without having to remove all of a persons clothing.
Training started this week, the pilot will be launched at 14 Division, where two different models will be tested.
Deputy Chief Yuen said the scanners are similar to technology being used by the Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services in provincial jails and correctional facilities.
“It will take just 20 seconds to complete a scan to detect if any objects are secreted in the body,” Yuen said. “As the largest police service in Canada, we want to minimize the risk for the accused party and our officers.” Deputy Yuen went on to say that “if they reach the Level 3 criteria search, they will have a choice of being physically searched or going through the scanner.”
Yuen said implementing the scanners is in keeping with the Service’s modernization plan.
“This is the right way of doing business,” he added. “We want to be transparent, professional, customer-focussed and accountable when dealing with our community. I do believe this is a win-win for everyone involved.”
The scanner is installed in the area of the booking at 14 Division.
“This is one of our busiest divisions,” said Yuen. “They have a large number of arrested parties going through there, so the performance of the machines will really get tested. Recommendations will be made for the Chief and Command to look at before a decision is made if machines should be in all of our booking halls across the city.”
The pilot will last six months. This will result in recommendations being made to the Chief and Command Team.
The Ontario Privacy Commissioner and Ministry of the Attorney General were consulted in relation to this project.