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Mr.B.Bisson Mediator Information and Privacy Commissioner Province of Ontario
October 1 2008
Here (attached) are the letters you asked for. CELOS has been trying for some years to do a survey of all police stops at Dufferin Grove Park over a sample period of time (January 2002 to October 2005) to test the commonly-expressed opinion by Fourteen Division police officers that Dufferin Grove is a dangerous park.
On November 30 2007 I sent in my police-FOI request for the obviously missing records from our previous (2005) request. (Obvious because the numbers in the sequence were blank.) I also gave three specific examples of missing records, and asked:
These missing reports make us concerned, that other reports might be missing as well. Can you give us a sense of how complete occurrence reports are supposed to be?
You will note that I did not ask to find out more details about those specific records. I mentioned the examples to illustrate why we wanted to be sure that our statistical inventory was complete, that no records had been omitted without telling us.
I got a letter back on Dec.19 2007, saying that the police would need an additional 90 days because of the large number of documents, and that their FOI office would give me a response on April 9 2008.
On April 1 Terry Cartwright from police-FOI called me to ask if I could tell her more about the 3 examples in my original request letter -- did I know the names of the officers involved or the people who were detained? I said no.
Then I got a letter dated April 2 2008, granting me access to the records missing from the number sequence as soon as I sent a cheque for $40.20 for photocopying. I sent that cheque on April 4. My question, in blue above, was not addressed in the April 2 letter.
A few days later I got an additional letter date April 9 from FOI coordinator K.Watts, explaining why they could not answer specific questions about the three examples I gave. I'm not sure if K.Watts addressed my actual question: Can you give us a sense of how complete occurrence reports are supposed to be?
...unless it was by telling me that based on subsection 53 (1) they did not have to give us any information pertaining to young offenders.
CELOS researchers went through the material when it arrived and after analysis we realized -- on the basis of events we knew about from being at the park, and reports by other park users -- that there were more records missing, although the number sequence appeared to be complete. This once again concerned us and so we wrote to K.Watts again.
This follow-up letter was dated June 2 2008. For the same reason that the police had required an extra 90 days -- i.e. a large number of records, and much other work to do in the day-to-day -- it had taken us almost 60 days to go through the records and realize there was a bigger problem, and write back, this time giving only two examples of why we were concerned about the completeness of the records. In that follow-up letter I once again tried to make it clear that I was giving examples to illustrate the reason for our concern, and that we were not trying for specific information but rather for the complete supply of records, to let us do our statistical analysis of police stops at Dufferin Grove Park. That's why my letter asked: Could you let us know whether we should have been asking for a different form in addition to the occurrence reports and arrest reports, to gain a more complete picture of police activity in the park?
On July 24 2008, I got a response from A.Forbes (A/Coordinator, FOI), saying again that young offenders were excluded (which in fact they were probably not, since we got all those records). A.Forbes also wrote that an incident occurring elsewhere would be catalogued elsewhere, and that we would have to know more details describing a record in order to find the record.
The letter did not respond to my question about whether we should have asked for a different form to make sure the records were complete.
A.Forbes quoted the opinion of the Williams report and IPC orders that under the FOI Act a government institution does not have to "provide an answer to a specific question." So here is my question for you: Does that mean the police don't even have to indicate that some of the reports we requested are just missing? And does it also mean that the institution doesn't have to help the requester find the right name/identifier for the records she seeks?
We'll await your answer.
While I was going through our website I noticed this little research paper done by a young public policy student after the "reasonable search" decision that went against us in 2005. As you see, we've been interested in the IPC's approach to this tricky question for some time. CELOS Appeal
Please feel free to share this e-mail with whomever you like. My attempts to address your questions from today are not meant to be private, and will be posted on our website.