Archive for January, 2015

For the purpose of this assignment, I chose to cover the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO). The IIO is an independent organization that was created strictly to conduct investigations into either deaths that are police related or serious harm. It is concerned with only deaths or serious harm that has occurred in the province of British Columbia. It conducts these investigations to conclude whether or not the officer has committed an offence. It deals strictly with deaths or serious harm and does not consider the more minor police accountability issues. This also brings into question what serious harm is even considered. According to the IIO, “incidents of serious harm include injury that may result in death, may cause serious disfigurement or may cause substantial loss or impairment of mobility of the body as a whole or of the function of any limb or organ” (Independent Investigations Office, 2014.)

This organization was created in 2012 in the month of September on the 10th day. It currently has about 56 employees. Half of these are corporate and support staff and the other half are the investigative personnel. They do hire past police officers but only if they have not served as a police officer in BC in the last five years. The long run goal of the IIO is to hire investigators that have never served as police officers. Presently, about 50 % of the staff are past police officers. However, the ones that are not past police officers have a fair deal of experience with investigative agencies. Its main office is in Surrey, B.C., but they will travel anywhere in B.C. for an investigation. The organization has four investigative teams and one specialized team. Each of these has its own director. It also has different departments such as legal services and corporate services. The investigative personnel are responsible for the general investigation operations whereas the specialized team is responsible for the forensic identification and collision analysis. The IIO investigators do not actually conduct the forensic work themselves. Instead, they just monitor the work that the police forensic teams are doing in order to verify that it is being done properly and according to the best practices (IIO, 2014). Below is a chart taken from the IIO’s website on the structure of their organization.

Photo retrieved from: http://iiobc.ca/agency/

It is up to the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) of the IIO to review the whole case when the IIO is done investigating to determine whether the officer has committed an offence or not. If he feels that an officer has in fact committed an offence, he then forwards the report to Crown counsel. If, for some reason he does not forward the report to Crown counsel, he is required, by section 38.121 of the Police Act which states in part 2 (d) that “a summary of the results of an investigation, if the matter has not been reported to Crown counsel”(Police Act, 1996, s 38) must be reported to the public explaining the reasoning behind the decision.

Once the matter is received and reviewed by the Crown counsel, it is up to them to determine whether or not the officer will be charged. The CCD does not determine or recommend what charges need to be laid or anything of that matter. The Crown counsel does this and in doing so, they will consider a two-part test:

  1. “there must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency; and
  2. a prosecution must be required in the public interest” (IIO, 2014).

The IIO is notified when death or serious harm incidents have occurred. It is their duty to automatically investigate these cases and no discretion can be applied on whether to investigate or not. They must show up to the crime scene and notify the police officers that they are the IIO and will be conducting an investigation on this case. Since the IIO is a fairly new organization, its relationship with the police agencies is probably still questionable. Personally, if I were a police officer and I saw the IIO attend a scene where serious harm had been caused, I would be afraid even if all steps were properly taken and all protocol was followed appropriately. In my opinion, to certain police officers, the agency could be a little intimidating. On the other hand, the public reputation of the IIO in my opinion is probably pretty good. I feel that since the IIO is automatically supposed to investigate the more serious issues, it increases public confidence in both the police and the over all system. They see it as a more justified approach.

The reason that the IIO initially was put into place is because of recommendations that arose out of public inquiries. It was meant to increase public confidence in the overall accountability of police. I do not think the model is in need of major reform, however, I would like to see it one day be entirely staffed by employees who were not past police officers. I feel this would help increase public confidence even more because it would be seen as more independent and unbiased. As far as whether the IIO is meeting its objectives or not, attached below is a chart taken from the IIO’s website illustrating the percentage of tasks completed as of January 16, 2015. Many of these cases are 100 % or close to 100% completed and many are making progress. However, these completions do not mean that an officer has been charged, it just shows the completion of an investigation. Overall, I feel that the model is one to be emulated because there is mandatory protocol they follow for all deaths and serious harm and each one is investigated and this is a new way of doing things in B.C.

Photo retrieved from: http://iiobc.ca/cases/

Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia. (2014). The Independent Investigations Office of BC is a civilian-led investigatory body. Retrieved from http://iiobc.ca/

The Police Act, (R.S.B.C., 1996) Retrieved from http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96367_01

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The Special Investigations Unit, also known as SIU, has been at the head of civilian oversight for police agencies in Ontario since 1990. The SIU’s mission is to raise public confidence in the police by ensuring that police cases involving misconduct are thoroughly reviewed (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/unit.php). Incidents across Ontario are investigated by the SIU and their “…jurisdiction is over all municipal, regional and provincial police officers.” The unit’s jurisdiction in Ontario oversees 57 police services with approximately 28 000 officers (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/what_we_do.php).

The mandate of the unit to investigate police is focused on incidents which involve serious injuries or offences such as sex assault and cases involving police where a death has occurred (The SIU: What we do, 2010). The Unit is an agency of the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario and maintains a close relationship with the government of Ontario. However, the investigations and the decisions of the unit are made are independent of the government to ensure impartiality (The SIU: The Unit, 2010)

The structure of the SIU consists of 85 staff members who are managed by a director (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/org_chart.php). The primary roles of the investigators at SIU are to conduct investigations in an administrative role (The SIU: Organizational Chart, 2010). Much of the investigative experience comes from jobs, such as “national security and intelligence, immigration, the legal profession, workplace health and safety, and professional regulation” (The SIU: Organization Chart, 2010).

“The mandate of the SIU is to maintain confidence in Ontario’s police services …” by ensuring that civilian oversight of police incidents involving serious injury or death are investigated fully to ensure public confidence in the police (The SIU: What We Do, 2010). Circumstances where these situations occur, they are required to be reported to the SIU by the police agency or the individual involved. The main objective of the investigations done by the SIU is to establish if there is evidence that the police have committed a crime (The SIU: What We Do, 2010).

The SIU has the legal authority to investigate the actions of police officers and determine if their actions are criminal in nature (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/index.php). The SIU’s has the power to investigate police under section 113(5) of the Police Services Act which states that “The Director may…cause investigations to be conducted into the circumstances of serious injuries and deaths that may have resulted from criminal offences committed by police officers” (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/investigate_what.php). The focus of the investigations involve “…those [injuries] that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature…” (The SIU; What We Can Investigate, 2010). These may include injuries such as broken bones, burns, losing a limb, suffering from vision or hearing impairment or also includes a complaint of sexual assault (The SIU: What We Can Investigate, 2010).

“The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault” (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/news_template.php?print=y&nrid=2102). The organization is an oversight body to ensure the police are held accountable, while maintaining their distance from the police agencies they are investigating. It is good for the public but one may assume that police agencies may feel that their investigations are being interfered with when these people come and take over a crime scene. However, this agency is required to maintain public confidence in the police.

The SIU has been around since 1990 and one can assume that the public reputation is quite high. This is due to the fact that it is an independent civilian agency that oversees police actions to ensure there has not been any misconduct or crime. Over the years the public’s concern has grown about the “integrity of the process in which police officers investigated other police officers” which led to the development of the SIU; therefore, instilling a sense of confidence in the public that police will be overseen (http://www.siu.on.ca/en/faq.php?print=y).

The SIU does need a few changes in order to progress to the next level to ensure quality of investigations (Scott, 2013). A necessary thing that should be required is that every officer should be wearing a camera to record interactions with the citizens. Such video technology is already being used in cellblocks and vehicles, and it would be beneficial for the public and the police if the officers wore cameras on their person; this would ensure that there are no misconceptions about an event that results in injury or death involving a police officer (Scott, 2013). A major event where video technology helped out was during the Toronto G20 Riot where Adam Nobody was violently arrested (Scott, 2013). Another recommendation, as reported by Scott (2013), is that police officers must be less reliant on lawyers, and should be able to submit raw notes of the event in question when the SIU is investigating (Scott, 2013, Independent police notes). Scott (2013) argues that when police are overly reliant on lawyers when submitting their notes, it may cause doubt in the investigation and family members may feel that the notes may not be accurate (Scott, 2013). Notes are critical when trying to understand what occurred during the incident and when they are written independently they more accurate and reliable (Scott, 2013). The SIU being part of the ministry of Attorney General does not make it independent of the government (Scott, 2013). On that account, the agency should become independent from the influence of police and community groups, and should make the SIU director accountable to the legislature (Scott, 2013). The SIU deserves this independence being that it has been a trust worthy and proven agency for several years (Scott, 2013). If these changes discussed were actually applied, the SIU would be a fully independent agency, with the changes necessary to ensure complete impartiality when conducting investigations. Therefore, it will increase the public’s confidence in police accountability and the whole concept of policing (Scott, 2013).

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References

 The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2014). SIU Concludes Peterborough Vehicle Injuries Investigation: Case number: 14-PVI-106. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/news_template.php?print=y&nrid=2102

Scott, I. (2013, October 10). Ways to improve Ontario’s SIU. The Star, retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/10/10/ways_to_improve_ontarios_siu.html

Paikin, S. (2013, September 25). SIU Director Ian Scott on Police Oversight in a Smartphone Era [Youtube Video: Figure 1]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvfto07nYA0

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2010). The Unit. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/unit.php

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2010). What We Do. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/what_we_do.php

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2010). The Organization Chart. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/org_chart.php

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2010). Homepage. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/index.php

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. (2010). What We Can Investigate. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/investigate_what.php

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/faq.php?print=y

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC), formerly known as the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, was enabled through The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (1988) and revised based on new legislation known as, Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act in 2014. The Commission is an independent agency created to consider and review public complaints against members of the RCMP in regards to misconduct and harm. The commission seeks to investigate public complaints in an unbiased manner in order to find appropriate solutions fairly. However, mainly the CRCC deals with public complaints where complainants are unsatisfied with the RCMP’s informal complaint investigation and seek a review. The CRCC receives complaints, holds thorough investigations where appropriate and necessary according to the RCMP act, holds hearings, makes necessary recommendations, reports findings, and initiates policy changes.

According to, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is established, consisting of a Chairperson and not more than four other members, one of whom may be a Vice-chairperson, appointed by the Governor in Council. The organization falls under the Ministry of Public Safety Canada and all interim and final reports from the chair of the commission are sent to the Minister of Public Safety upon completion. The Chair of the CRCC has duties and powers designated through The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act; these powers include having authority over the commission for procedural fairness and duties being handled appropriately. The Chair is also involved in the complaint review process for police accountability and essentially can initiate a complaint against a member of the RCMP, as well as help a public complaint through the complaint and review process. The organization structure consists of the following: The head of the commission, the Chair, members of the commission, the vice- chair, the executive director, the director of communications and corporate services, senior director of operations, director of reviews, director of national intake, Sr. policy advisor, and Sr. research advisor, as well as legal counsel if needed (CRCC, 2014).

The Commission strives its success on three components, their vision, mission and mandate. Their vision for success is to achieve excellence in policing through accountability. Their mission is to provide civilian oversight of RCMP members’ conduct in performing their policing duties so as to hold the RCMP accountable to the public. Their mandate includes: (1) To receive complaints from the public about the conduct of RCMP member, (2) To conduct reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints, (2) To hold hearings and carry out investigations, and (4) To report findings and make recommendations (CRCC, 2014).

The Commission is granted legal authorities in relation to complaints through the RCMP Act. Under section, 45.65 paragraphs 1 a-d, the commission’s powers and duties include: (1) summon and enforce attendance of witnesses before the Commission and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce any documents and things that the Commission considers relevant for the full investigation; hearing and consideration of the complaint; (2) administer oaths;

(3) Receive and accept any evidence and other information, whether on oath by affidavit or otherwise, that the Commission sees fit, whether or not that evidence or information is or would be admissible in a court of law; and (4) make any examination of records and any inquiries that the Commission considers necessary.

            The Commission deals with complaints against RCMP members in regards to their police duties and performances while on duty. If a member of the public feels an on duty RCMP member’s conduct is of any harm or concern, they can lodge a complaint. A member of the public whether a Canadian citizen, or not, is eligible to lodge a complaint. The complainant does not have to be directly involved in the incident of complaint. The Commission however does not deal with complaints surrounding administrative matters.

            The relationship between the CRCC and the RCMP is essential to the commission’s process and inner workings; the process involves a member of the public lodging a complaint either to the RCMP first, or straight to the commission. If the complaint is lodged to the RCMP and the complainant is unsatisfied with the results of their complaint, the complainant can request a review to the commission. The commission will then request all the material from RCMP based on their investigation; a review will be done of the informal RCMP process of that complaint. If the CRCC is satisfied with the RCMP investigation, the chair will send the complete report to all parties involved as well as the Minister of Public Safety, thus ending the process. If the Chair is unsatisfied with the RCMP handling of the complaint the following actions can be taken: (1) Review the complaint without further investigation; (2) Ask the RCMP to investigate further; (3) Initiate his own investigation; or (4) Hold a public hearing. In the case of the latter, the chair will create an interim report and submit the findings and recommendations to the RCMP Commissioner and the Minister of Public Safety. The RCMP Commissioner will then give notice and reasons of action or inaction based on the findings and recommendations. An important note to mention is that these recommendations and findings are not legally binding, meaning it isn’t necessary for the RCMP Commissioner to comply and reasons must be stated. The chair will then receive this notice and compile a final report, which will be sent to the RCMP Commissioner, the Minister of Public Safety, the complainant, and all members involved; this will end the complaint process (CRCC, 2014).

            The CRCC was brought in to replace the previous organization known as the, Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, in order to enhance and improve transparency and accountability in regards to investigations of conduct within the RCMP organization. This enhancement is a welcome change in the eyes of the public and the powers designated to this accountability body are in part to increase public confidence within the organization itself as well as the RCMP. Since this accountability body is fairly new, public perception and reputation of the organization are yet to be fully determined.

            With the abovementioned being said, there are serious concerns that still plague the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP accountability body. Firstly, although powers of investigation are deepened, there doesn’t seem to be an issue of the accountability body’s effort to investigate complaints thoroughly. As seen in the Robert Dziekanski case, investigation regarding RCMP conduct was done adequately and recommendations and findings reflected the acceptance of grave misconduct and need for serious change. Policy changes were considered in regards to the use of tasers and police training. However, due to recommendations and findings not being legally binding, the public seems to lose confidence as they may feel a lack of justice served; Yes, the accountability aspect is in a sense achieved but there are no legal consequences resulting from the CRCC for RCMP members who are a part of incidents of serious bodily harm or death. Second, the enhancement of the CPC was an answer to the Arar Commission, which provided recommendations for a new accountability body that would improve the failures connected to the Arar incident, as well as other public inquiries, in terms of how several accountability agencies fail in collaboration and information sharing, which leads to grave misconduct, as well as tragedy. In the video provided, these issues are highlighted in greater detail, which ultimately reveal a greater need for reform.

http://craigscott.ndp.ca/craig-scott-speech-on-bill-c-42-rcmp-accountability

Canada. Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act. (2005). Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Retrieved from https://www.crcc-ccetp.gc.ca/en

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, (R.S.C., 1985, c. R-10) Retrieved from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/R-10/page-1.html

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, (S.C. 2013, c. 18) Retrieved from laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/annualstatues/2013_18/FullText.html

January 2015 marks the start of a new semester and a new cohort of students in my CRIM 2355 Police Deviance and Accountability course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. My students are also contributors to this blog, and we will soon see a host of new posts on topics related to police deviance and accountability.

This time around, I have asked the contributors to prepare posts that address several broad thematic areas. The first set of posts (which will go live in two weeks) will provide profiles and commentaries on police accountability bodies. The second set of posts will focus on the emerging phenomenon of police body cameras. The third set will explore representations police deviance and accountability in popular culture.

‘Welcome’! to the new contributors. I look forward to reading your posts.

– Mike