Toronto Police just won an award they probably won't be bragging about
A new award bestowed on the Toronto Police Service (TPS) likely hasn't been met with the warmest reception from cops.
Toronto's police force has won the unfortunate distinction of winning (if you can call it a win) The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) 2022 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy, in the law enforcement category.
The CAJ states that TPS was awarded the "honour" for "its repeated efforts to block journalists from accessing information needed to hold taxpayer-funded agencies accountable."
🤫🤫 The Code of Silence Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Government Secrecy are back! 📢📢— Canadian Association of Journalists (@caj) May 17, 2023
The first winner in this year's cohort is @TorontoPolice in the law enforcement category. #cdnfoi
Find out why 👇👇https://t.co/xwqptOFaOr pic.twitter.com/zPP7zTI9V1
CAJ president, Brent Jolly, explains the basis for the award with some harsh words for Toronto cops, stating that "Over the past year, the TPS has repeatedly engaged reporters in many contemptible 'cat-and-mouse'-style games that are unbefitting of a modern government agency striving for transparency."
"When brought together, the repeated efforts by the TPS to obfuscate and impede the free flow of information is an indictment on their commitment to the public's right to know," added Jolly.
The CAJ alleges several specific examples of the TPS blocking the efforts of journalists, citing one "particularly egregious" case noted by this year's Code of Silence Awards jury, where the TPS reportedly refused to provide a journalist with 911 emergency call wait time data in a machine-readable electronic format.
The CAJ accuses TPS of using delaying tactics and taking two years to respond to the data request made via the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
When TPS finally provided the requested data, it was delivered in an over 1,500-page PDF with no search function, which sounds like a case pulled straight from the r/MaliciousCompliance subreddit.
Only after an appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, where TPS was ordered to comply in a May 2022 interim decision, was the journalist provided with a searchable dataset.
Jolly claims this is nothing new for journalists reporting on Canadian police forces, saying, "This kind of roadblock is all too common."
"At best, it points to public agencies needing to up their record-keeping game rather than playing 'hard to get' with journalists. At worst, it raises the fundamental question: what is there to hide?"
The awards are handed out each year with the aim to shine a spotlight on government or publicly-funded agencies that the CAJ accuses of withholding information that the public has a right to access.
blogTO has reached out to TPS for comment on the award, and will update if a statement is provided.
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