Monday, 19 May 2014

Unfairly  destroying   reputations                     


A person’s reputation is vital to being successful in life. A bad reputation can destroy one’s career permanently. This is what is happening in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia in Canada to a great many people living there.


To be a teacher, a day care worker, to work in a retirement home, to be a nurse or a doctor, to be a coach in a sports team, to be a volunteer in most charitable organizations, or to work in a social agency or in a children’s camp and other institutions or organizations in Ontario, you must first provide your employer a police document stating whether or not you have a criminal record and if so, what crime or crimes you were convicted of.


Obviously, organizations and institutions don’t want former child molesters or rapists on staff nor do they want persons convicted of violent crimes working with them.


But suppose you are the head of a residential school and an applicant for the job of being a teacher in your school was charged with the crime of rape but because the victim refused to testify against him and as a result, the charge against him was dismissed, would you be willing to hire him? Obviously not. But suppose the applicant was found not guilty because the judge concluded that the complainant was lying about being raped and the charge was dismissed, then would you hire him? Why not? After all, it was established in a court of law that he was not guilty of such a crime. In fact, he was a victim of his accuser.    


Both decisions in cases like the ones I described are easy to make but suppose the applicant attempted suicide ten years earlier, would you hire him? That decision would require serious thought forehand before you made the decision. For example, if he provides a psychiatrist’s report that is current stating that he doesn’t suffer from any mental illness including depression, you might hire him. But then, you might wonder if the applicant fooled his psychiatrist and the man still has thoughts of committing suicide. You would be forced to ask yourself if it would be too risky to hire him since it is known that on occasions, some people who committed suicide took others with them. If your decision was not to hire him for that reason, you would be grateful to the police for putting that information about his attempted suicide in the police report.

Now suppose that in the police report it is stated that he was rounded up with others in a book store that was selling legitimate magazines and the reason for the raid was that the storekeeper was also selling magazines depicting children being sexually molested. And suppose the court concluded that the applicant for the job was innocent since he didn’t know about the illegal magazine being sold to certain customers, would you hire him? Why not if he was innocent?    

 However, some might say, where there is smoke, there is fire and not hire him.

One such man in Ontario who worked in a comic store was rounded up, charged and tried but the judge dismissed the charge against him as there was no evidence that he had committed any crime whatsoever. This happened 20 years ago. Did this information in the police report do him any harm? Yes it did. He had spent thousands of dollars training as a nurse and after being on the Dean’s Honour List, the charge he had faced 20 years earlier and was dismissed against him showed up on the mandatory police check, and for this reason alone, he was forced out of the program.

In another case, a man was hanging out in front of a restaurant in a low income neighbourhood with some friends. Unbeknown to him at that time, there was a known drug dealer in their presence and the police got the names of everyone in that group. He was never arrested or charged of any crime but the police report stated that he was in the presence of a drug dealer on that particular day.  That report destroyed his chances of being hired by Air Canada since they decided not to hire him.

Another man parked his motorcycle unknowingly next to a convicted drug dealer`s bike. The man wasn`t charged with any crime. In fact, he wasn`t even questioned by the police. They knew his name however after doing a licence check on his bike. In the police report, it stated that his bike was parked next to a convicted drug dealer. As a direct result of that report, the airport refused to hire him as a security officer.

A woman in British Columbia had some problems with her sister and mother in 1005 and there were four 911 calls made but she wasn`t charged with anything. Five years later, she volunteered for a job as a dog walker and the police report made reference to four 911 calls being made by her sister and mother. Not only did she not get the job, when she tried to enter the United States, she was refused entry four times because of that police report included her health records.

A 25-year-old woman was studying nursing at a university in Ontario and was on the Dean’s List.  An annual police check was done and showed that in 2009, two incidents in her past showed violent and aggressive behavior. She and her mother denied that and said that after having too much to drink, she on two occasions said that she wanted to die. She was going through a tough time then following the end of a relationship. That police report promptly ended her career. The irony is that if she had lived in a difference city, there would have been no mention about that 2009 incident in the police report because not all police forces include mental health incidents in their police reports.

The irony is that if a person has been found not guilty of a crime, they can ask that the police record be destroyed. Many years ago, I was arrested and charged with attacking a retired boxer with a weapon. The alleged weapon was an 18-inch flashlight. At my trial, the man admitted that he only saw my first approaching his face before he dropped to the floor. His wife said she saw him dragging me back to their apartment after I had served her with a court document. She and her adult daughter testified that they never saw a flashlight in my hand when I KO’d the ex-boxer. The judge said that I hadn’t committed any crime and that I was legitimately defending myself and dismissed the charge. I contacted the police and asked them to destroy any documents they had relating to that charge. They wrote back saying that everything including my finger prints were destroyed. I don’t know if they were destroyed but when I had police checks each year when I was a licenced private investigator, there was nothing in them relating to that event in my life.

There is an old saying that it takes two to tangle.  In these cases, it is the police and those organizations or other institutions that the reports go to. Why do the police feel that they are obligated to disclose crimes in which there have been no convictions?  Why do schools and other institutions feel that these persons are a risk to their schools or their proposed profession?

This reminds me of two stories, The Scarlet Letter and Les Miserables. Both are stories of two people being hounded all their lives for crimes committed years earlier.


 It is a cruel irony that if a man was convicted of rape and later given a pardon because he has led a honest life thereafter, the police check cannot show that he was convicted of rape but if he is standing next to a known drug dealer and is innocent of any crime, this information will be included in the police report he has to give to his potential employer.

In April 2014, British Columbia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham investigated the issue of non-conviction disclosures in which she stated that it was the most important report she has ever written. Her report calls on the authorities to strike a fairer balance between an individual’s right to privacy and an employer’s right to obtain relevant background information of a potential employee.  She said that this should be done in clear and enforceable legislation.

Many years ago, a man served two years in prison for rape and months after he was released, he applied for a job in a small factory were women worked. He was turned down because of his rape conviction.  He brought the matter to a court and the judge ruled that the employer had no justifiable reason to believe that the applicant for the job would rape any of his employees and the judge ordered that the employer should have hired him. The applicant was awarded substantial damages to be paid by the employer

It is just as damaging to an applicant to have in the police report something as innocuous as standing beside a known drug dealer and alternatively, being convicted of being a drug dealer. Unfortunately both the police and some of the potential employers and schools don’t recognize the distinction. They see the event in the person’s life as muck of two colours but muck just the same.  In my opinion, these kinds of people who refuse acceptance of innocent persons in their presence are no better than those innocent people they condemn.

As many as one in three persons in Canada have some kind of police record. If every one of them is refused employment or access to training because of their record, Canada is going to have far less employees and educated persons.

In the province of Ontario (which has a population of thirteen and a half million people living in it) the courts processed more than half a million charges annually. Keep in mind that some people have multiple charges laid against them which can explain the high numbers. Forty-three percent of those charges were stayed or withdrawn.

If the particulars of those stayed or withdrawn charges are placed in the police reports, a great many people seeking work or training are going to be denied the opportunity to better themselves as they move past those events that brought them into the court in the first place. This is the real crime that society must deal with. There isn’t even the presumption of innocence that by law, all citizens are entitled too unless they are convicted in a court of law. When the police place information about persons whose charges were dismissed, it is an outright repudiation of the innocence of those unfortunate persons who are victims of those outrageous entries.  What makes it worse is they are accused of wrongdoings of which they are innocent and despite their innocence, they cannot convince the police to remove those outrageous statements in the police report.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are deemed by the police to be guilty of crimes these Canadians never committed and as such, their futures are derailed and there is no hope of ever getting back on track again and continuing on their journeys to a better future.

It appears that there are no firm rules between all the police forces in Ontario and even in other provinces so in some communities, the police don’t haphazardly throw everything in the police reports and others throw everything into the reports when in fact, the information thrown into the reports is not pertinent to the ability of the applicant for the job to do the job without problems stemming from their past

Further, if you call 911 for any reason that information will be entered into the police report with some commentary by the police which is damaging to the person who made the call. This is just how absurd this police procedure can be.

Stephanie Heyens, a Toronto criminal lawyer planning to launch a case against the police in the Divisional Court to challenge the lack of a process of having innocuous records destroyed. I am not sure that they should be destroyed because they do present a pattern of behavior but they definitely shouldn’t be placed in police reports that are part of police checks

One person asked an interesting rhetorical question when he said, “I recently called the police because I was the victim of an assault. Does this mean that I [now] have a police record?”

There has to be tighter controls over police reports that are used in police checks and further, there should be some official body that can review those reports if the need arrives. If a police report lists events that are not pertinent to the job the person wishes to apply for or the career the person wishes to enter, those impertinent entries should be removed. There is definitely a need for appropriate legislation presented to the legislatures of those provinces that continue to hog tie innocent persons to prevent them from entering the job market or venture into careers of their choice because of frivolous innuendoes that crop up in these police reports.

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