October 2017

MLS’s response to taxi driver’s
complaint offers little comfort

Last moth I wrote about a guy who complained about an unfortunate encounter he had with a Licensing Enforcement Officer at the Toronto Bus Station. The cab driver alleged the officer purposely damaged a trouble light on his taxi and then ticketed him for having a broken light.

What gave his complaint some credibility, at least to me, was the fact he had a video of the incident, taken from the front seat of his cab. I suggested he follow up his complaint with Municipal Licensing and Standards and/or police.

He did follow up with MLS and he tells me he had two meetings with an official, West District Manager Rose Burrows, showed her first still photos of the incident and then later the full video.

In a follow up letter dated September 20th, the official states the incident had been “fully investigated. We have found that there was no evidence of damage to the taxi cab during the inspection undertaken by the Municipal Standards officer.”

The MLS authority states MLS Enforcement officers are authorized to conduct these inspections for safety of both the driver and the public.

She then says, “We continually strive for improved interactions with our clients and the public. As such we thank you for your feedback regarding your first taxi inspection.”

Here’s a major problem for the cab driver. While the video shows much of the actions of the inspector, it does not show everything and it definitely does not show a “smoking gun” type action such as the inspector purposely damaging the light. It certainly raises suspicions, but not the actual deed.

One fact of note, at least to me, is the MLS inspector was dressed in plain clothes, not in uniform. I did not know these officers operated in plain clothes at all.

Also from the video evidence you cannot tell if the officer properly identified himself or stopped the taxi while it was moving or approached the taxi while it was stopped. (MLEOs, as far as I know, do not have the authority to stop a moving vehicle.)

So, as far as MLS is concerned, the matter is at rest unless new evidence shows up.

This doesn’t mean the matter is over, however.

The driver, who has some pretty harsh words to say about the system, does not appear to be satisfied.

He, as they say, is “considering his options.”

First, he is thinking about putting in a police report. That would do at least two things: his complaint would be on a permanent police record and police could subpoena, or other ways obtain, security footage from whatever cameras are installed in and around the bus station, in the hopes of getting a more complete view of the incident and hopefully corroborate his version of events.

He has already consulted a paralegal, but simply does not have the money to proceed using that option.

The driver is considering also approaching the Provincial or City Ombudsman with his complaint. He has not started this process yet.

At my suggestion he may also approach his City councillor for whatever help can be provided from that source.

Finally, he can always dispute the ticket in court; bringing whatever evidence he now has or can possibly obtain in the future, to defend himself.

Considering the last sentence in the City’s letter to him about his “first” taxi inspection he now seriously wonders if he hasn’t made a target of himself, vulnerable to harassment by MLEOs and possibly even police.

I get this fear regularly from taxi drivers who have had run-ins with MLEOS. The fear is rampant. I can’t comment these days on how justified it is. A couple of years ago I would have said definitely the fear was justified. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’ll leave to your imagination his comments about the integrity of the system. Let’s just say he has little faith in being believed or getting redress, including cancelation of the disputed ticket.

I’ve asked him to continue to keep me in the loop, including letting me know when his court date is so I can be there to report on events.

So far, what the cab driver in this case has been able to present rises above a simple unverified allegation, but while it raises suspicions, I’m afraid in my non-legal opinion it falls short of solid proof. It might be enough to create “reasonable doubt.” That will be up to a Judge (or Justice of the Peace).

Naturally I am very interested in any similar incidents you may experience.

But to get anywhere I suggest you document these encounters in every way you can, including video and audio recordings, and finding witnesses, if any, who can testify on your behalf.

I said last month and mean it: in my experience the vast majority of city employees do the very best they can under sometimes (ahem) trying circumstances. For decades I’ve also said that taxi drivers do the same. The best we can all hope for is to have tough, fair, honest cops. Cab drivers are not always in the right. Nor are they always wrong. What everyone needs is solid evidence admissible in a courtroom.

So I am extremely grateful to this cab driver for doing what he has done to date. I hope you learn from it too. You can fight city hall, but it’s frequently a long and sometimes very frustrating process.

He says he will keep me in the loop and I sincerely hope he will do just that.

Last word: kids are back in school and are frequently unpredictable when walking on sidewalks. Please take extra care driving.


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