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Critics: Toronto strip searches arbitrary

Aug. 19, 2011 at 3:59 PM   |   Comments

TORONTO, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Critics say Toronto police conduct too many strip searches, often without just cause.

Such searches were conducted on 31,072 people in 2010 -- or in 44 percent of arrests, the Toronto Police Association says, CBC News reported.

"I think the numbers are speaking for themselves. They're too high," said Heather Pringle, Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers' Association. "My biggest concern is that it's happening as a matter of policy and it's wrong."

But Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, defends the number of searches as necessary to ensure the safety of those in custody and officers.

"We're not going to shirk our responsibility," McCormack said.

The 31,072 searches in 2010 turned up an "item" in a third, or 9,448 searches, but figures did not indicate what the items were, CBC News said.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled strip searches are demeaning and degrading and should be conducted only with grounds that the search is necessary to find weapons or prevent loss of evidence related to a valid arrest.

"Reasonable grounds doesn't mean you have to have a 100 percent certainty, but it seems in the majority of cases nothing is found," said University of Toronto law Professor Kent Roach, one of the lawyers who argued the Supreme Court case.

Roach said most of those strip-searched lack the resources to sue police.

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