RCMP ACCOUNTABILITY AND COMPLAINT MECHANISMS

Posted: December 5, 2011 by sandhu17 in RCMP Accountability and Oversight
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In the past few years there have been a number of cases involving the RCMP that have caused a bit of an uproar in the public. These cases have mainly involved RCMP officers assaulting or wrongfully arresting citizens. Some examples of these cases are the Camilla McGuire case, in which an RCMP officer struck the victim 53 years old in the face. Another case occurred in Alberta in which an RCMP officer assaulted a male (Eric Oullette) while in custody. Technology has made sure that some of these acts have been captured on camera and used as evidence to hold the RCMP accountable. So what is RCMP accountability? RCMP accountability can best be defined as the responsibility that the RCMP has in regards to their duty to protect. RCMP officers have the duty to ensure the safety of the citizens of Canada. RCMP officers are supposed to uphold numerous laws such as arrests, discrimination and many more. However when an officer does something wrong then whom do we hold accountable? Obviously the officer(s) who commits the act is one of the parties who should be responsible, but we can also include the RCMP as a whole as having some responsibility.). If an officer does something he or she is not supposed to while on duty, citizens can report this act using a complaint mechanism. Complaint mechanisms allow a person to bring to light any unethical or unprofessional act committed by members of the RCMP. There are also a number of measures taken to ensure that the RCMP can be held accountable as an organization, these can be found on the following link Organizational accountability.The following link provides a more detailed look into the topics of accountability and complaints mechanisms RCMP Accountability and Complaints mechanisms

The issue of RCMP accountability and complaints mechanisms is of major concern to the public because the RCMP are in charge of the safety of the citizens in their respective society, and if those who are sworn to protect us abuse their powers then the concept of public safety goes out the window.  When there are situations in which the RCMP act in a manner that goes against their job description then that act is considered to be a form of police deviance, and the officer(s) who commit(s) that act must be held accountable. For example this video shows us an incident that can be considered deviant. According to Maurice Punch (2009, p 91) accountability is essential to policing because it make police work legitimate which in turn is absolutely necessary in a democratic society. However many people believe that the amount of accountability placed on RCMP officers is not enough. For example Dennis O’Connor suggests that the accountability mechanisms are having difficulty keeping up with the transformation of the policing organization into a high police organization, “ existing accountability and review mechanisms for the RCMP’s national security activities are not adequate in large part because of the evolution and increased importance of that national security role.” (Dennis O’Connor). This is just one reason that RCMP accountability is being scrutinized by the public. Here are two articles that illustrate some of this issue RCMP accountability a longstanding issue and Shoddy policing and accountability show RCMP in B.C have learned very little. Another major aspect of accountability is the complaints mechanisms, which allow the public to hold certain officers accountable.

Complaint mechanisms are what the public uses to launch complaints against officers who have violated any of the rights or freedoms that belong to a citizen or citizens. These complaint mechanisms are important in regards to police deviance because they give an outlet to the public to launch their complaints, and thus make sure that the complaints are heard. One example of a complaint mechanism available to the public is the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. The form of accountability has changed in the last several years, going from a form of internal accountability, which belonged to the police, to an external form of accountability, which is now in the hands of the general public (Punch: 204). However; these complaint mechanisms are not perfect, there is still room for improvement. One way to improve these complaint mechanisms is to increase the public awareness of mechanisms. By improving complaint mechanisms we may see the faith in the agency begin to slowly be restored.

Over the past few years there have been a number of incidents that have added fuel to the fire of police corruption and deviance. Some of these examples are better known than others. Perrott and Kelloway (2010 p. 123) mention some of these cases in their article, which include the “pension scandal” in which an officer was concerned about the mismanagement of the police force pension. The commissioner dismissed this claim, which resulted in a field day for the media, eventually evidence suggested there had been mismanagement of funds and this resulted in criticism of the senior members of the RCMP. As a result a Task force was created to strengthen RCMP accountability, it was referred to as the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. Another case mentioned by Perrott and Kelloway occurred on October 14, 2007, which involved 4 police officers using what most people would consider an unreasonable amount of force to take down a disgruntled man by the name or Robert Dziekanski who had just arrived in Canada. The officer’s tasered Dziekanski a minimum of 4 times, who eventually died as a result. This incident brought the RCMP under heavy fire internationally. Another case not mentioned in the article is the McGuire case. These incidents are only some of the contributing factors in the public’s distrust of law enforcement agencies.

Perrott and Kelloway also conducted a study of workplace violence, which included the RCMP and municipal police forces. The study used a questionnaire to collect the data. The questionnaires were distributed in small groups and were mailed out. They also used anonymity in regards to the identity of the officer answering the questionnaire. The results of this survey showed that the RCMP showed lower levels of perceived control and workplace autonomy compared to municipal police. It also should that female officers showed they received more support from the courts compared to their male counterparts. In regards to psychological strain, the study revealed that RCMP officers feel more psychological strain compared to municipal officers (129). Lastly in the category of psychosomatic symptoms the study shows RCMP officers “reported more physically based symptoms” compared to municipal officers. This study is important because it may help us better understand the reasoning behind police deviance. Any one or all of the numerous findings listed in the study could factor into this, whether it be lack of support from courts and superiors, lower levels of commitment in male officers, and feeling of lack of control in the work environment.

In a report written by Peter Van Loan (Minister of Public Safety) on the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP , Van Loans report ( 2008 – 2009 p.12) suggests that there has been a 34.5% increase in the amount of reports that are received and handled by CPC (Commission for Public Complaints) in the past few years. Van Loan states that all complaints launched against the RCMP made by the public are handled by the CPC. The report also indicates that the CPC has also improved not only the effectiveness of complaints and review units, but also the efficiency they work in. Van Loan argues that in order to have an effective complaint mechanism the public needs to be made more aware of these mechanisms and the CPC. Although there has been a slight improvement in the complaints mechanisms there is still lots of room for improvement, the public needs to be more aware of these mechanisms in order for them to be effective. The 34.5% increase in reports received and handled by the CPC, and the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP are steps in the right direction in restoring the publics faith in the RCMP.

In addition there has also been new key issues as ongoing debates as to whether the CPC should be a reactive or proactive. In my opinion the CPC should be proactive because it may result in keeping officer in check about abusing their powers by being able to look into incidents whenever there is some suspicion in regards to the RCMP, where the reactive approach only allows the CPC to respond to incidents after the incident has already occurred. Another question that is being discussed is whether or not the CPC should have full access to the RCMP records or would it be limited? In my opinion the information should be available for the most part, with certain high profile cases being only accessible through permission from higher-ranking authority (government).

The concept of RCMP accountability and complaints mechanisms is a significant issue not only for criminologists, but for members of the general public as well. In order to assure that our rights and freedoms don’t get violated by RCMP and police officers the public needs to be assured that the members of these agencies have limits placed on their powers and if these powers are abused, they can be held accountable. Complaints mechanisms are also an important part of police accountability because they are what makes the process of holding officers accountable actually work. Yet, too many citizens are unaware as to how to use them or of the fact that they even exist, therefore there needs to be an increase in the public awareness of complaint mechanisms.

By increasing public awareness of complaints mechanisms we as a society will feel a lot safer and perhaps be able to trust the police because we will be able to report any unethical behaviour. As discussed above, a proactive CPC may also help reduce the amount of RCMP deviance because of the constant threat of the CPC investigating members of the RCMP who are believed to be engaging in forms of misconduct. Not only with this benefit the citizen, but the RCMP may also find that with the trust that they may gain from the public (due to the higher accountability), they may be able to improve the communication with the public and be able to get help when dealing with issues such as gangs and drug trafficking. The more cooperative the members of the public are with the RCMP, the easier the officers jobs will become, and perhaps the officers will become less cynical towards the public. The following link goes on to further discuss how to help the RCMP in criminal matters http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fsis-ssji/improve-ameliorer-inv-enq-eng.htm.

The government has also taken steps to increase the effectiveness of complaints mechanisms against the RCMP. For example a new bill was introduced by Public Safety Minister Toews titled Bill C-38 or “An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”. Bill C-38 can be seen as a result of two key models that have been discussed since the years 2006 and 2007. These two key models are the Connor Commission and the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. The latter which is was implemented by by Minister of Public Safety, who announced the creation of five-member Task Force to provide advice on strengthening the accountability and governance of the RCMP. The Main objectives of the task force were to provide recommendations addressing issues identified in the independent investigator’s report and also look at RCMP management structure, accountability and oversight, as well as clarifying workplace disclosure and disciplinary policies.

Even if some sort of cooperative relationship is formed between the RCMP and the general public, one must ask how long can this relationship last? If there continues to be the occasional case of police deviance, will this relationship be able to withstand the repercussions or will it completely crumble and send things back to square one. If the latter happens, one can assume that there will be a need to readdress the current complaints mechanisms. Perhaps one of the main issues that the complaints mechanisms will be put up against is the need to continuously change and adapt to the changes in society. Like any other product or law, complaint mechanisms must be kept up to date and modified in an effort to improve them and allow them to be effectively used by the members of a society.

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