In the early 1980's, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) initiated the hiring of civilian personnel to fill the position of Court Officer. Court Officers are primarily responsible for the safety and security of the public within Toronto's busy court locations, as well as the transportation, security, and safety of over 400 prisoners attending court each day. Prior to 1980 this function was performed by uniformed Police Officers under the supervision of a Police Sergeant at each court location. In 1980 the first class of twenty civilian employees was appointed by the Police Services Board to replace the uniformed Police Officers at the court locations. These Court Officers were sworn in as Special Constables, pursuant to the provisions of the Police Services Act, which conferred onto them the powers of Police Officers for the performance of their duties.
As the city’s policing needs expanded, so did the continued civilianization of Court Services. In 1984 the first civilian supervisors were trained to replace the Police Sergeants. These supervisors reported to a Detective Sergeant who was responsible for managing all the TPS personnel assigned to a particular court location.
In the mid 1980’s, the Summons Bureau became a part of Court Services and the Civilian Summons Servers and support staff took on an expanded role under the newly created Document Services Section. The title Summons Server was changed to Document Server to reflect the expanded responsibilities. Document Servers are responsible for serving summonses, subpoenas and other court documents on individuals required to attend Toronto courts.
Court Services later took on the responsibility of overseeing the Matrons, now referred to as Custodial Officers, which is a small but dedicated group of employees tasked with managing female prisoners at a central location.
By 1990 Court Officers had taken over the responsibility of transporting prisoners in specialized wagons between the court locations, divisions and correctional facilities; a task previously performed only by uniformed Police Officers. This centralized service became known as the Prisoner Transportation Section. By 1995 Court Services promoted its first civilian to the position of Location Administrator, replacing the Detective Sergeants who were formerly in charge of the court locations. Today all sections within Court Services are managed by civilian Location Administrators. These Location Administrators report to one of two Staff Inspectors, who in turn report to the Superintendent of Court Services.
The role of the Special Constable within Court Services has developed significantly beyond its original mandate. As new laws were introduced by Parliament, and the City’s law enforcement needs became increasingly complex, Court Services evolved to assist the TPS in meeting those demands.
Court Services now employs over 745 of the Service’s 2500 civilian employees. It comprises several subunits including Prisoner Transportation, Document Services, the Training Section, and the Computer Assisted Scheduling of Courts (CASC). The role of the Special Constables within these subunits includes the service of legal documents; the execution of warrants; the collection DNA samples from convicted offenders; assisting the TPS Public Order Unit in maintaining order during public demonstrations; and being involved in all aspects of the Court Officer hiring and training process. In addition, members of Court Service are often utilized by the TPS for other specialized community outreach initiatives, such as the TPS United Way fund raising initiative; and the Toronto Drug Treatment Court.
The growth in size of the Court Services Unit necessitated the creation of several specialized functions. A centralized Risk Management Section was created, tasked with the responsibility of investigating any complaints and disciplinary issues involving Court Services personnel. It is staffed by a team of detectives, under the supervision of a Detective Sergeant. The position of Crown Police Liaison Officer was also created allowing for a Detective Sergeant at each criminal court location who is dedicated to assisting the Crown’s Office with the processing of court cases.
As the City’s demand for additional court rooms increases, so does the responsibility of Court Services. There are currently 16 court locations across Toronto, with a total of 274 court rooms. In 2013 approximately 72,024 in-custody accused appeared in these court rooms. Also in that year, the Prisoner Transportation Section transported approximately 137,683 prisoners between police divisions and to and from detention centers. This required a professional staff of clerks, Police Officers and Special Constables, all working collaboratively in an impressive demonstration of excellence through people and partnerships.