Ontario Police Reform Recommendations

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Politicians are asking for specific recommendations to change Bill 175 that will improve policing in the province of Ontario.  After careful considerations of all of the issues I have with Bill 175 (in addition to all of the facts exposed in my book "Systemic Misfeasance in Ontario Policing and the Coordinated Suppression of Whistleblowers"), I came to the following conclusion:

If all people involved in policing were equally accountable to the public and internal police business was transparent to the public, misfeasance could not flourish, police would not be politically influenced, and abusers would be eliminated.  To achieve this, we need one central policing oversight agency, and only they can lay a criminal or misconduct charge against a person in policing.

Person in policing; police officer, First Nation officer, auxiliary members, special constable, police chief, OPP commissioner, special constable employer, police services boards, OPP detachment boards, First Nation OPP boards, (in case I missed anyone; all those involved in providing police services).

In my opinion, true accountability and transparency will rebuild trust in police and contribute to policing by consent; as it has always been intended.

For decades, debate has centred around the ability of a police officer to investigate another police officer.  Recent feedback from the public has been that the number of current and former police officers working in an oversight agency must be limited (or eliminated) to reduce influence and bias.  Yet, police services are still permitted to investigate, suspend and charge officers at their leisure and the only oversight mechanism is civil litigation.  Several reports have been written about the inadequacies of a police service’s internal investigation process, (reference the Junger/Whitehead Inquiries, or more recently article on Montreal police).

Bill 175 does little to improve impartiality, accountability and transparency during investigations of persons in policing, this is because the Bill still allows for exemptions for police chiefs, only specific compliance inspections for board members and no oversight of the internal investigation process. Police chiefs could still authorize investigations and charges against officers for a variety of reasons which has resulted in millions of taxpayer dollars spent to persecute whistleblowers and repeatedly discipline officers who have fallen out of favour.

If Bill 175 is passed, taxpayers would carry the burden of financing multiple oversight agencies who are all working towards the same goals.  The Ombudsman's office would now have to deal with complaints of inconsistencies and inadequacies of the oversight agencies and the Human Rights Tribunal would have increased complaints of disability discrimination from officers, since the Bill also allows for the demotion and termination of officers who become disabled.

Under Bill 175 we will have:

1)    Special Investigations Unit (under certain circumstances when a member of the public is involved in the officer’s actions);
2)    Inspector General & Inspectors (under certain circumstances will “inspect” certain people’s compliance with the Act);
3)    Complaints Director & Agency (complaints from members of the public).

Altogether, the above agencies will be investigating persons in policing for violations of the Act, codes of conduct, provincial statutes and criminal code.

So, why do we need three different bodies?

It should not matter the origin of a complaint regarding police or the rank of the officer.  The conduct of any person in policing has to be investigated by the most skilled, objective, unbiased and independent agency with no political influence and no favouritism for police chiefs simply because of their rank.  

If we expect that anyone in an investigative oversight role has the highest integrity, investigative knowledge, objectivity and independence to properly conduct an investigation into any one of those situations, then why are we complicating the issue?  If we expect that our Special Investigations Unit will operate at the highest standard of excellence and charge officers when it is appropriate, why do we continue to allow police chiefs to authorize criminal investigations and charges of their officers in house with no legislated oversight and allow chiefs to investigate each other when there is a criminal allegation?

FACTS: In 2014, Justice Kim Carptenter-Gunn "emphatically" acquitted an officer after an internal criminal investigation and 8-day criminal trial at the officer's and the taxpayers' expense.  Also, in 2015, during a criminal trial of an officer resulting from charges his own service laid, Justice Glenn described the actions of internal affairs officers as "undermining the rights of the individual and in turn, eroding public confidence in the justice system and bringing the administration of justice into disrepute." 

If we simplified Bill 175 to have one Special Investigations Unit (SIU) that took all complaints, from all persons in Ontario, regarding the conduct of persons in policing, we will ensure consistency, accountability, transparency and fair treatment for all police officers of Ontario.  This agency has to have the power to inspect all records and compel the cooperation of anyone other than the subject officer to ensure compliance with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and true transparency and accountability for the public.  There can be no exemptions for anyone.

Police services would no longer need to staff an internal affairs branch.  Those investigators could return to investigating crime in their communities.  Police services would pay the Ministry an annual amount, proportionate to their size, to fund the additional investigators and regional offices of the SIU.

When our systems have the appearance of bias, the public lose trust in police.  When our systems protect those in power and allow for internal corruption, the police lose trust in the system.

This recommendation will simplify legislation, ensure consistency and excellence, and improve public and police accountability and transparency.

 



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