Monday, March 7, 2011

Toronto & Peel Police Boards Misusing Victims/Proceeds of Crime Funds?




You know, I've never really understood these "Proceeds of Crime" and Victims funds, as though they have been designated for the "victims" of these crimes, it's not like this money is ever returned directly to the actual victims (without the victims having to jump through serious hoops to get it, and how often does that ever happen?). No, this money simply goes into a fund that does go towards some assistance programs for the victims (which many hardly ever use), and the rest is used at the discretion of the Police Board.

Now, when you give a Police Board access to funds that they only need to justify the usage of within their own board, then you are bound to find severe misuse.

Well, today the Toronto Star released a story that described the misuse of these "proceeds of crime" victims funds, where the Peel Police Board was purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of tickets to various Swanky Mayoral Galas, not only implicating the Peel Police in almost corrupt victims funds misuse, but also the Mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion (who is no stranger to allegations of corruption), and also the former Mayor of Brampton, Susan Fennell, both who have sat on these Police Boards while these spending travesties occurred.

The Peel Police Board is not alone in this corrupt spending of crime victims' funds, as the Toronto Police Board has been guilty of exactly the same. Back in December, the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington reported that the Toronto Police Board approved spending victims of crime funds on $600,000 for a Police Christmas Party, $9,000 on a cricket pitch upgrade, $21,000 for fitness equipment and other disgraceful usages.

Obviously there is a serious problem here that desperately needs to be addressed.

Firstly, here's the story from the Toronto Star about the Peel Police Board's corrupt misuse of "proceeds of crime" victims' funds:

Cash for crime victims spent on mayors' galas
The Peel Police Services Board has bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of tickets to private mayoral galas in Brampton and Mississauga, using “proceeds of crime” that in Ontario typically go to victim and crime prevention programs.

The tickets were purchased over the years while mayors Susan Fennell of Brampton and Hazel McCallion of Mississauga sat on the board, with the approval of Peel Region chair Emil Kolb, who also heads the police board.

Minutes show, for example, that the board approved buying a $4,000 table at Fennell’s gala on Feb. 20 last year, on Fennell’s invitation. A month before the gala took place, then-board member Jim Murray put forward a motion to buy a second table. It was approved.

A big player in Mississauga’s real estate market and close friend of McCallion, Murray is one of the organizers of her annual arts gala. In 2008, Fennell moved that the police board buy a $6,000 table for McCallion’s gala that November.

Murray rejected any suggestion that there was a quid pro quo between them, yelling “that’s just insulting.”

Similar purchases were approved every year going back to 2006 for Fennell’s gala and at least 2000 for McCallion’s gala. McCallion and Murray no longer sit on the police board, and Fennell did not respond to a request for comment.

Kolb, who has chaired the police board since 1996, acknowledged that the board routinely approves such purchases, but points out that it’s not tax-generated dollars being spent.

“It’s funds that come from crime funds. Not one red cent is taxpayer dollars.”

Under Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act, money and property forfeited because of criminal activity is to be deposited into a special account that may be disbursed as direct compensation to the victims — which can include municipalities and public bodies — and grants to programs that assist victims and help prevent victimization, including those run by law enforcement agencies.

Kolb said the money spent on tickets by the Peel police board has come out of its “Special Fund,” which he said is used to support things such as long service awards and children’s organizations. Asked how the mayors’ galas fit into those categories, he said there’s a specific policy about charities.

“I thought these were charities.”

Neither gala is, in fact, a registered charity, nor are the mayors’ fundraising golf tournaments, to which the police board has also routinely purchased foursome tickets at a cost of about $1,000 to $2,000 per tournament.

Murray, however, believes they are charitable causes. “The money goes back to the community,” he said, adding: “I have never, ever at a gala sat at the police board table.”

Controversy has recently surrounded both of the mayors’ annual galas, which are billed as private fundraisers. Fennell’s gala committee refused to disclose its finances until recently, and even then, after Fennell resigned as its chair, released only brief statements for two of the past five years.

Financial statements for McCallion’s gala, billed as an arts fundraiser, reveal that 80 per cent of the ticket price went to cover costs for the swanky events. Only a third of the remaining 20 per cent of receipts went directly to arts groups. There is also the possibility that the city improperly issued charitable receipts for donations that did not go directly to the city.

For those of you who are interested, the Ontario Civil Remedies Act can be found here: Ontario Civil Remedies Act, 2001.

Can you believe the arrogance and sense of entitlement that that scumbag Emil Kolb displayed in his response to the Star's questions in regards to this misspending of crime victims' funds?  “It’s funds that come from crime funds. Not one red cent is taxpayer dollars.”  As if that makes it right...  Acting like the money rightfully belongs to him or something, and not to the actual victims of the crimes...   This guy should be tossed in prison.

Next, here's the story from the Toronto Sun about the Toronto Police Board's corrupt misuse of "proceeds of crime" victims' funds:
Police board's silence shocking
If [Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok] Mukherjee would have called me back, I would have asked does he think taking the [Toronto Police] chief [Bill Blair] to his home country of India earlier this year clouds, or compromises, his judgement.

If such a trip seems a little to cosy, look at the TPSB website and you’ll see money for a Senior Officers’ Christmas dinner and dance at the Toronto Hilton coming from a $600,000 “special” fund derived from the sale of unclaimed property and unclaimed cash. Tickets for each board member were purchased at $62.50 for this soiree — complete with cocktails — from the proceeds of the fund.

Shouldn’t they pay for their own Christmas party tickets? Was Mr. Nobody invited?

From this same strange fund, you’ll also see $9,000 for a police cricket pitch upgrade, $21,000 for fitness equipment and $25,000 for a person to look into the G20 disgrace but so far there has been no sign of any report from it.

Why does this board have access to this money and the ability to allot it to such things? Should such a fund not be used solely for crime victims’ programs?

If he ever calls back, I’ll ask: “Are you the police’s oversight board oversight or a phony, fat-cat political puppet show enjoying Christmas drinks on us with the chief and his inner circle?”

I might also have asked Mukherjee if their India trip came out of this fund and also what going there had to do with Toronto policing?
If our Police Boards are allowed to corruptly misuse monies that have been taken from victims of crime or put aside for the assistance of victims of crimes, and spend that money on lavish parties and on recreational perks, then how can any other City Department be blamed for doing the same? The only difference is that with the other city departments, the money has come directly from the taxpayers, whereas this money that the Police Boards have been misusing comes from the funds for the poor victims of crimes. These people have already been hurt and punished unwarrantly by criminals, and then to add icing to the cake, the Police come in afterward and take their cut as well?

This is simply not right. How can the Police expect to have any respect from the civilian population when this is what they do to the victims of crime, the very people they are suppose to protect?

Having the Police control the usage of the proceeds of crimes monies is a direct conflict of interest, and truly, it should not be used for anything other than to compensate the victims or to assist the victims.

If the Police have needs for anything, regardless of whether it is related to victims or not, it should come out of their operating budget.  Victims of crime funds should be for the victims, and that's it.  Both the Toronto Police Board and the Peel Police Board should be ashamed of themselves.

--jackandcokewithalime


(Image:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/twon/1526777999/sizes/l/ by ~Twon~ on flickr
)

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