TORONTO – Police in eastern Ontario who posted signs outside homes that had been searched for illegal drugs violated privacy laws and have been ordered to stop, the province’s privacy commissioner has found.
The chief of the police service in Cornwall, Ont., said Tuesday he would comply with the order even though he disagreed with the decision.
“I, for one, am not going to expend any more energy defending what we believe to be a legitimate strategy to deal with drug issues in the city,” Chief Dan Parkinson said from Cornwall.
“If one had the wherewithal and the financial resources to take this thing to the Supreme Court of Canada, there may be a different outcome.”
The practice, in response to severe drug problems in the city, sparked an uproar and prompted an investigation by privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian in January when the first sign, emblazoned with the words “Drug Search Warrant,” sprouted outside a home.
The sign identified the address of a four-unit residence where police had executed a search warrant, resulting in charges against three people for drug-possession offences.
Civil liberties groups also complained, arguing the signs amounted to convicting suspects even before they had made their way before the courts.