Archive for the ‘Police Investigating Police’ Category

In the wake of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which was tasked with evaluating and formulating recommendations surrounding the police protection of vulnerable women in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (formerly GVRD), a dialogue pertaining to the development of a regional police force resurfaced. The discussion surrounding the creation of a regional police force for the Greater Vancouver region and Capital region has been ongoing for almost three decades as debate continues over the extent to which police collaboration would improve with the amalgamation of existing municipal forces. Eleven municipal police agencies presently operate in British Columbia in addition to the numerous RCMP detachments contracted to provide policing services in the province. While it is recognised that informal cooperation between these agencies currently exists, it was Commissioner Oppal’s recommendation that a Greater Vancouver regional force be implemented to enhance coordination of investigative bodies.

Resistance over the formation of a regional force appears in part to stem from concern over how such an agency would be kept accountable. In establishing an accountability framework to oversee a regional police body in British Columbia it may be beneficial to turn to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario which has been in operation for over twenty years and is revered by many as an archetype in police oversight. However, the SIU continues to have a number of downfalls which can also be beneficial to take into consideration when constructing a new oversight body.

The Police Act (1996) in British Columbia would require amendment to reflect the presence of a new oversight body responsible for a regional force, or a reworking of the powers of existing provincial oversight agencies – such as the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC). Legislation is necessary to ensure the cooperation of police agencies with external review bodies during the course of investigations into allegations of police misconduct. Similar provisions are apparent in the Ontario Police Services Act (1990); however, there appears to be a lack of sanctioning when officers being investigated do not fully cooperate – an aspect of the SIU’s accountability mechanism which is wanting. In light of this difficulty faced by the SIU, prescribed legal sanctioning ought to be developed and included in BC’s legislation.

Ideally these two agencies would be integrated into a single independent civilian oversight board tasked with handling complains against police made directly from the public as well as investigating all incidents involving police which result in serious injury, death, or contain allegations of sexual assault. (For a talk outlining the present and future goals of the IIO see this video) It is important to have civilian oversight which is completely divorced from policing agencies as allowing police to investigate themselves gives the public the impression that internal reviews are not impartial or fair. Not only do the investigations into alleged misconduct need to be free from partisan bias, they must also be transparent, appearing to the public to be free of bias. The public must be able to discern that the investigative process is structured to protect against review findings which are favourable to the police department involved. If the public questions the arm-length of investigations the validity of reviews will be undermined as will be the legitimacy of the police in general.

With the consolidation of the province’s existing oversight agencies into a single review board a widening of powers should also occur. Presently neither the OPCC nor the IIO possess any definitive power in sanctioning those found guilty of wrongdoing. Recommendations may be made for organisational disciplinary action, policy reform, and even to Crown counsel in terms of criminal charges, yet there is no requirement that any of these recommendations be adhered to. In an attempt to allow for means of true and effective accountability the organisation should be a criminal law enforcement agency which has the ability to lay criminal charges against officers who are found to have engaged in misconduct.

While oversight bodies are an important aspect in an effective accountability mechanism, it is imperative to recognise that they operate largely on a reactive basis. Therefore, it is integral when considering the efficacy of a review body to consider the pro-active measures of accountability in place. The development of an early intervention system, similar to that which is seen under the Australian Federal Police Act, may be a beneficial practice. Such strategy highlights trends and patterns of individuals and work areas which are vulnerable to conduct and corruption issues. The policing organisation as a whole, as well as each work area, is responsible for assessing risks of deviance related to policing in general as well as those risks which are specific to certain policing tasks. This allows for multi-level responsibility and accountability as well as the development of risk-management strategies which are tailored to each area’s specific set of risks. To read more on these procedural controls and risk management practices in Australia see this book.

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On September 4th, 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina, four New Orleans police officers, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, opened fire on six unarmed residents, two of whom died. Afterwards, these officers as well as their at the time Sargent, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting, attempted to cover up the shootings.  The cover up included conspiring to plant a firearm, fabricating witnesses and lying on police incident reports. The cover up lead to the arrest of Lance Madison on attempted murder charges. The officers falsely claimed that Madison opened fire on them which is what led to them opening fire on those six residents. Madison spent three weeks in prison before a judge released him.

Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon were convicted of federal firearms charges, which has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 35 years. Kaufman was convicted of assisting in the cover up of the shooting. Faulcon who was convicted of charges in both fatal shootings, was sentenced to 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius, were sentenced to 40 years. Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman was sentenced to 6 years. All five were convicted of participating in a cover up.

In order to understand these officers’ corruption, it is useful to refer to Punch’s (2009) three typologies of police corruption, a typology of types of officers, a typology of practices, and a typology of levels of police deviance.

These officers would be classified as meat eaters, according to Punch’s (2009) typology of types of officers. Meat eaters are officers who actively and knowingly participate in illegal activity. In this case, all officers actively and knowingly committed illegal actions, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime.

A typology of practices contains eight categories, a few of which are applicable to this case. Specifically, this case is relatable to the following categories the fix, direct criminal activities, and flaking and padding. The fix refers to “undermining criminal investigations or proceedings, loss of evidence, fixing parking tickets” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers attempt to undermine the criminal investigation of the shooting by attempting to cover it up. Direct criminal activities, refers to “committing a crime in clear violation of criminal norms” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers violate the law in numerous ways, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime. Lastly, flaking and padding refers to “planting or adding to evidence to ‘set someone up’” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, the officers attempt to justify their opening fire on six residents by falsely claiming that Lance Madison shot at them first.

Punch’s (2009) typology of levels of police deviance includes three levels, externally driven, within the police domain and system failure: labeling and wider impact of corruption. There is evidence of police deviance within the police domain, specifically process corruption. The officers plant evidence and make false statements. If one reads further into the case, the prosecution of the case, there is evidence of system failure, specifically police and criminal justice failure. During the case’s prosecution, prosecutors are criticized by the judge in seeking a lighter sentence for the highest ranking officer at the shooting scene and unsure of the credibility of officers who plead guilty and testified against other officers.

References

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/04/04/katrina-police-killings.html

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

Globally, spanning countless jurisdictions, there has been public outcry concerning whether or not it is responsible to allow the continuation of police investigations into internal affairs. Police deviance and issues arising related to accountability of officers today, are relevant to society in general. It is the duty of the police to serve and protect the communities in which they are employed in, and therefore, it is of utmost importance that the police instill a sense of confidence within the citizens that they are trained and contracted to defend. Due to increasing exposure of police deviance, it is critical that society be aware of the ever-present issue concerning police accountability. Although police forces maintain an assurance of transparency when carrying out internal investigations, the method of ‘police investigating police’ remains controversial, as it is unclear as to whether solidarity and loyalty ultimately determine the fate of such inquiries. Citizens are often left wondering if the blue wall of silence is responsible for purposeful ignorance when the police conduct investigations of other forces. This lack of confidence leaves many members of society disillusioned regarding the police’s competence to investigate deviance within the organization. Police investigating police leads to issues concerning the authenticity and seriousness of such examinations, and therefore relates to many other broader themes involving deviance and accountability. The RCMP and other police forces pride themselves on being privileged with membership to an exclusive organization that holds the authority to withhold certain secrecies from the general public. However, due to this solidarity, the resultant silence creates a universal unease among citizens. Many commonly feel that should law enforcement be required to examine deviance among one another, the consequent investigation would not be performed under the same scrutiny used in investigations of non-law enforcement.

According to Section 37 of the RCMP Act, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police operate in accordance to six core values: “integrity, honesty, professionalism, compassion, respect and accountability” (Section 37 RCMP Act) and although ethics and good moral standards are classified as highly regarded, it is definitely apparent that in many circumstances these values are thrown out the window. In such cases, and especially in cases involving death or assaults and injury, an outside police force is called upon to investigate the events that took place. Herein arises the conflict of interest. It would be unrealistic to assume that members of the same association could be expected to carry out a completely unbiased examination of other members, when the very organization they both belong to prides itself on stressing loyalty among colleagues. In order to protect one another, police investigating police rarely expose the real details of an incident to the public (Haubin). The initial problem encountered with police investigating police tends to be presented as civilians’ perceptions that police conducting the investigations will lend more sympathy to the police officer(s) in question than to the citizen raising a complaint. It is expected that police will let the improper actions of other officers slide, due to their pledge of loyalty to one another, and in turn, virtually disregard legitimate concerns of civilians. This series of beliefs and perceptions, holds especially true for marginalized citizens, who “do not have confidence [in]…nor [accessibility]…to an oversight body” (Hryniewicz, 79) and feel that the system ‘lacks credibility’. Many victims of police deviance or improper conduct feel that they may be subjected to retaliation should they report an event. This complete disbelief in the competence of officers’ abilities to investigate one another requires that civilian lead response teams are employed for police investigation, in order to restore confidence in police and generate a stronger sense of democracy and societal unity. Although members of society such as Aboriginal Peoples, the impoverished and minorities often feel as if they are swept aside in political process, engaging all citizens in a public mechanism to aid in investigation of social issues promotes equality of all and “a desire for common security and protection” (Hryniewicz, 80).

Furthermore, lack of objectivity continues to be a factor in concern toward police investigating police. The RCMP and police forces function as organizations that promote brotherhood and loyalty. Citizens express significant concern on a regular basis regarding the objectivity officers act with when investigating other members. During the Braidwood Inquiry into the Robert Dziekanski death at YVR, even certain members of the RCMP recognized that in such convoluted cases, internal investigation becomes a conflict of interest for both the police and the public. As Supt. Rideout stated, “[The police] were asked to do a very difficult job…we shouldn’t be doing this…time for an SIU (Special Investigations Unit) in this province.” Following this statement and the Braidwood Inquiry, the proposal for a civilian based investigative body included a mandate that stated the “serious injury or death of an individual involving an RCMP employee or when it appears that an employee of the RCMP may have contravened a provision of the Criminal Code or other statute and the matter is of a serious or sensitive nature” prompts the requisition for an external investigation (Braidwood Inquiry, Part 10). The measures proposed in the Braidwood Inquiry serve as an example of methods to improve and eliminate the issue of lack of impartiality in investigations.

Due to such inquiries and the pressing issue of the practice of internal investigation, some changes have been implemented in the various accountability systems in order to correct and restore the confidence of the public. Civilian lead response teams do operate out of several provinces currently in Canada, and function to provide an unbiased examination into events relevant to police deviance, misconduct and crime. Serious Incident Response Teams (SIRT teams) currently operate out of Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario. In addition, according to the recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry, BC Legislature created an “Independent Investigation Office”, whose goal is reflective of the ambition of the SIRT teams. Such bodies recognize that “Cops protect Cops…[and that] it is a problem of human nature, identity, and social conditioning” (Pivot). The shared motivation of these various Special Investigations Units is to encourage “civilian oversight as a public good” (Hryniewicz, 79), an oversight mechanism that functions to not only protect society, but actively involve citizens in processes of investigation. The Final Public Report for Police Investigating Police from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP defines the current police oversight and review models within Canada, and further breaks down the methods by which police investigate police. The CPC Final Report breaks down the models into dependent, interdependent and independent and further discusses the specifics of each, in order to categorize and explain the differences between police investigating police and the civilian oversight bodies.

Although improvements have been made such as the creation of civilian lead investigation bodies and the SIRT teams, the system still has ample room for further upgrading. The inquiries and recommendations are valuable to perfecting the system, although as stated earlier, the police organization is fraught with officers whose natures passively accept that deviance and improper behavior occurs, and is basically required in order to successfully complete job tasks, and therefore, unless issues of deviance are brought into the open, they will continue to occur in the background, unchecked by anyone and shielded from the public by colleagues. The promising prospect of increasing exposure of unacceptable behavior will continue to allow for further citizen review. With further progress and civilian participation, Canada can work towards engaging in practices beneficial to both police and society.

Due to the integral role policing plays in democratic societies nationwide, it is crucial that citizens critically examine practices employed by law enforcement. As stated above, the function of law enforcement is to benefit general society, and with that comes the requirement for assurance of accountability and transparency. In order to maintain communities that function democratically, it is imperative that all citizens are involved in or able to participate in influencing policy and supervision. If police policy (and incidents) go unchecked and unmonitored by regular citizens, law enforcement power far exceeds a safe and responsible level. Democratic practice requires the participation of citizens and extends to all aspects of society and government, policing included. Should police be privileged with being removed from the standard democratic supervision of citizens, gateways will open and flood with vast opportunities for corrupt and deviant actions to be performed and go unnoticed. Absolute power proves to have dangerous consequences, and without some oversight from community members, formerly democratic societies are liable to slowly evaporate and in turn be replaced with police states.

Central to the necessity of creating accountable law enforcement, it is greatly significant that the members of the oversight bodies whom police officers are accountable to, similarly, act responsible to democratic process. Members within the oversight bodies such as the SIRT teams, SIUs, or the newly created IIOs must be screened by some method to ensure that they themselves are free of biases and hidden, personal agendas. It would be extremely counter-productive and cost the oversight bodies their reputation of legitimacy if members within were found to be making their recommendations on the basis of strong preconceptions and working towards veiled goals of their own. Preconceived bias brings up the issue of former law enforcement participating within said ‘civilian’ oversight bodies and whether or not this is appropriate given the original purpose of these organizations. It is difficult to fully determine whether or not former officers would be capable of performing investigations on current law enforcement without acting with some partiality; the critique being that loyalty to ‘the brotherhood’ does not simply end upon an officer’s resignation or retirement. Once oversight bodies are formed with members who seem to possess all necessary attributes, the voluntary participation of other citizens who desire to be involved in the process of investigation of law enforcement, should to an extent, be permitted. Perhaps, in order to maintain the definition of a democratic state, members of society who may not have been educated or with enough background experience to sit on the oversight board itself, could be involved in a voting process based on several options recommended by the SIRT teams or SIUs. Regardless of whether or not the use of a voting system be used in some cases, the formation of civilian lead oversight bodies encourages citizens to report and respond to issues concerning police deviance; corruption; and brutality, as members of society will be more comfortable and apt to approach other members of society regarding their concerns.

Currently, although the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP operates in a ‘similar’ function to that of the SIRT teams and SIUs, there is concern for how seriously the organization takes complaints made by the average citizen. Despite the CPC’s claim that “anyone who has a concern about the on-duty conduct of an RCMP member” ’s ability to make a complaint, it is troubling to further examine the literature that outlines the discretion at which the Commission can either pursue or sweep under the rug, issues brought to their attention. According to the CPC, issues that do not fall under the jurisdiction of concerns intended to be subject to their investigation, as deemed by Parliament, the following are not the CPC’s responsibility and will be redirected back to the RCMP for examination: “administration of the affairs of the force” such as: “delays in processing of fingerprints, …criminal record checks,…[and] processing of a pardon”. Additionally, in order to commence the process of a formal complaint, the CPC writes up said concern, and sends it to the RCMP for investigation, who then also have the discretion of deciding whether or not any issues brought to their attention require further investigation. Based on the following criteria, if a complaint falls under one or more of the subsequent categories, the RCMP reserves the right to refuse investigation:

  1. If the complaint is considered trivial, frivolous, or vexatious;
  2. If it can better be dealt with under another Act of Parliament; or
  3. If the RCMP deems that an investigation is not necessary under the circumstances. (CPC, 2011)

Essentially, despite the CPC’s role as an oversight body of the RCMP, members of the RCMP are pivotal in determining the ultimate outcome of a complaint lodged. This begs the question: how is this process even remotely legitimate in its attempts to maintain police accountability to a separate organization?

Furthermore, with the development of additional SIRT teams and SIUs, increases in funding must be implemented in order to ensure the most thorough of investigations as possible. Limited funding of such programs severely inhibits the extent to which investigators are capable of examining serious incidents, and in turn, the most accurate result of the investigation may not in due course, be reached. Investigations are often lengthy and costly, therefore, restricted resources and funding significantly impact the correctness of the outcomes attained. Another crucial aspect of accurate investigations involves the issue of doctoring police notes before they reach the hands of the civilian investigators, and thanks to the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeals, officers are no longer permitted to have lawyers “shape and refine the finished product” of notes before they reach both the courts and the public (Tyler). Prohibiting the manipulation of these notes leads to better assurance and confidence by citizens that the notes more accurately portray the events leading up to the investigation, which better guarantees opportunity for a realistic assessment of each situation.

As law enforcement oversight bodies develop and evolve, the above aspects must be taken into account. The vitality of these organizations is dependent upon members who must be both unbiased in their decision-making and passionate about seeking the truth in order to better society’s welfare. In addition to the above recommendations, members of the oversight bodies must be representative of the nation or state, which they are serving; members must be of varying age groups, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and sexes to embody the diverse perspectives of the Canadian population and societies. Furthermore, members must be educated to some extent to prevent ignorant decision or recommendation making. By increasing transparency and extending the openness of investigation process to all members of society, democratic process is honored and citizens become more confident in the accountability of the police.

References:

Braidwood, Thomas. “Braidwood Inquiry.” Braidwood Inquiry 20 May 2010. Web. 27 October 2011.

CBC News. “New Civilian Agency to Probe Police Incidents in BC.” CBC News 17 May 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. “Police Investigating Police – Final Public Report.” Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. Government of Canada., Aug. 2009. Web. 27 October 2011.

Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. “”Frequently Asked Questions.” Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. Government of Canada., Aug. 2010. Web. 1 December 2011.

Doug. “Reading Into the New Independent Investigations Office (IIO).” Pivot Legal 18 May 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Government of Alberta. “Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).” Government of Alberta. 2011. Web. 1 December 2011.

Government of Nova Scotia. “Serious Incident Response Team.” Government of Nova Scotia 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Government of Ontario. “Special Investigations Unit.” Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 25 July 2011. Web. 1 December 2011.

Haubin. “It’s Wrong to Have Police Investigate Police Shootings.” The Montreal Gazette 26 July 2007. Web. 28 September 2011.

Hryniewicz, Danielle. “Civilian Oversight as Public Good: Democratic Policing, Civilian Oversight and the Social.”Contemporary Justice Review March 2011, Vol. 14 Issue 1. Web. 27 October 2011.

Punch, Maurice. “Police Corruption – Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Public Policing.” Portland: Willan Publishing, 2009.

Strudwick, Katie. “Is Independence the Only Answer to Complainants’ Satisfaction of the Police Complaints Process? A Perspective from the United Kingdom.” Practice and Research March 2003, Vol. 4 Issue 1. Web. 27 October 2011.

Tyler, Tracey. “Lawyers Can’t Vet Officer’s Notes in SIU Cases, Court Rules.” Toronto Star. 15 Nov 2011. Web. 1 December 2011.

In recent years, many media reports and public movements have criticized the practice of police organizations investigating their own colleagues in cases of alleged misconducts or corruption. Police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen in Canada and across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy and legit.

A number of high-priority cases and media reports, throughout 2004 to 2007, caught the attention of Commission for Public Complaints against RCMP organization and they believed these cases indicate the police investigating police approach is ineffective and subject to bias. The notion of police force seriously investigating their own colleagues is often a deception because, in reality no police officer would want to investigate and challenge their fellow colleague’s decision of breaching the; thus lies the problem.

Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk. Once public loses confidence in the police force, the public will no longer depend on police force anymore and soon take matters into their own hands. To them, they may think that since the police forces aren’t accountable to their own actions, why should they? As a result, many vigilantes may form and commit crimes. This topic is significant because it involves the police organization, the victims and public.

After spending significant amount of time in researching for a resolution, it is agreed by the public that police investigating police obviously don’t work well. Moreover, it has come to the attention that a separate investigative unit or a civilian oversight, with no relation to the police organization itself, be created to conduct investigations of alleged police officers involved in misconduct or corruption.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability.

Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow. As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

To start off, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially unreliable and unsympathetic, one whom cannot be trusted with police information (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence, under the police subculture, is the code where each police officer shall rat out the secrets regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, as mentioned in the beginning as a resolution, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable. From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption.

The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Another concept to this oversight notion also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

After acknowledging the idea of the oversight model, one should consider the differences between the model and the police investigating police approach, in terms of process and conclusions. From here I draw your attention to an article posted on 1st of October 2010, from the website, “thepolicefile.ca” about a case involving an innocent man, brutally beaten by two civilian clothed officers.

On January of 2010, two civilian clothed officers responded to what appears to be domestic violence case. The officers arrived to the door of Yao Wei Wu and brutally beat him, causing serious injuries. It then appears a day later, that they arrived at the wrong door. The Vancouver police chief, Jim Chu, apologized to Mr. Wu. As a result, a complaint was filed by Mr. Wu. According to the article, the police were told to complete the investigation by July, but then were given numerous extensions from July to September to late October. As Mr. Wu’s lawyer stated, the only reason why this investigation is considerably prolonged is because the two accused were police officers. If the two parties were both civilian, the investigation would be completed within days.

This is a perfect example that defines why police investigating police approach is not going to be effective and accountable. According to lawyer Cameron Ward, the police are known for their tremendous delays of investigations of alleged police members, “inordinate delay is one of the hallmarks of police investigations of police…” (Sewell, 2010). In addition, this also correlates to how the public feels toward the quality of police work in Vancouver. Towards the end of the article, Cameron also noted that an independent body would have been effective in completing the investigation with results.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

A recent article posted on, 7th of November of 2011, on the website called, thestar.com, describes Shirley Heafey working for the Calgary Police Commission and her assessment of this oversight body in Calgary that displays “progressive, transparent and accountable” (Steward, 2011) investigative practices, compared to the RCMP.

In the beginning when Heafey heard she was going to Calgary to handle the complaints from the public about the police, she expected the worst. The Calgary Police Commission is a group of civilians, appointed by the city council, to overlook the guidelines and operations of police members. Although the police investigates their own police misconduct investigations, Heafey’s job description consist of auditing police investigations of complaints (including excessive force) and can intervene at any point necessary. She “also attends monthly meetings, which consists of police superintendents who review complaints that have been investigated and makes recommendations to police chief about further action required” (Steward, 2011).

The article explains how Shirley was fairly impressed with the way things were run once she got there: superintendents would get back to her missed call and she had invites to their meeting and training sessions. Heafey continues on describing how in Calgary, she would have total access to files and databases. With the RCMP, she had to fight for the files that she needed to see. In Calgary, the police training in dealing with people with mental illness or some sort of health-care assistance is drastically contrasting to RCMP’s training, “According to Heafey, the RCMP’s training is ‘inadequate’ for the work they are expected to do” (Steward, 2011). Shirley also mentions the kind of openness found in Calgary, cannot be found inside RCMP; more importantly, RCMP’s culture is only to do what is necessary to protect their image.

The article also mentions that in Calgary, the public are inclined to speak up if they feel the public service is not up to par, they do not “put up with crap” (Steward, 2011) This kind of attitude is very contradicting from British Columbia, especially in city of Vancouver. In Vancouver, whenever the public has a complaint they are afraid of speaking up to the police service. They believe even if they take the initiative to present the troubling matter to the police, no progress will be made and they are only left with disappointment, just like how Mr. Wu was left disappointed for lengthened period. Thus, nowadays the public either complains quietly to each other or they take matters into their own hands, rather than going to the police. As a result, this illustrates the confidence the public has with their police services.

The reason behind bringing this article up is because it depicts how an oversight, that is independent to the police force, is a key concept that is proven to negate the traits of dishonesty and unaccountability of police investigating police practices. When this oversight becomes effective, it will definitely boost the confidence the public has with the police and more importantly, the image of the police force. I, including Heafey, would definitely recommend and support British Columbia to commence this idea of a civilian oversight body.

After explaining how effective this oversight body can be, in terms of the public’s side, it can also be beneficial from the police’s perspective. Presently, I am certain that the impression the public has of the police services, such as RCMP, is not where it should be. To be honest, the public of Vancouver is not satisfied with the quality of their work. With the whole concept of secrecy and solidarity, it does not help improve the image of the police force nor improve the quality of their work. Thus, with this oversight overseeing and supervising the investigations it will yield accountability, trust, and more importantly reliable results. Consequently, with good results and accountability, the public can regain their confidence with the police and rely on them once again.

Now after discussing the oversight body is a key concept, it is certainly difficult to immediately change and adapt. Therefore, I believe there should be a few steps to adjust the police service’s approach to this civilian oversight notion.

First of all, there will be no secrecy in the police force. Although civilians may not have access to the whole database, the civilian oversight bodies should definitely have all access to the database of the RCMP during investigations. The police force must surrender all files related to the investigations. In addition, every civilian should have the right to know the progress of their complaints, whether it is on its way, being reviewed, or rejected by the oversight department. If rejected, the civilian must be provided with a legitimate explanation, signed and approved by the head of the oversight department.

The police subculture is one of the essential elements that hold the police investigating police approach unaccountable. Therefore, I suggest modifying the police subculture by breaking the blue wall of silence. As explained above, the blue wall of silence is an unofficial code of conduct where police officers shall not blow the whistle on misconduct conducted by their fellow members. I understand that blue wall of silence is part of “doing policing,” however it must be broken to eliminate the secrecy idea. Perhaps, by breaking the blue wall of silence, we should encourage more whistle blowing from fellow members of the force and guarantee full protection and immunity.

References:

Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.

Sewell, J. (2010, October 1). Police investigating police in Vancouver. Retrieved from http://www.thepolicefile.ca/?paged=2

Steward, G. (2011, November 7). Steward: The very model of a modern police force. Thestar.com. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1082953–steward-the-very-model-of-a-modern-police-force#article

Due to increasing exposure of police deviance, it is critical that society be aware of the ever-present issue concerning police accountability. Although police forces maintain an assurance of transparency when carrying out internal investigations, the method of ‘police investigating police’ remains controversial, as it is unclear as to whether solidarity and loyalty ultimately determine the fate of such inquiries. Citizens are often left wondering if the blue wall of silence is responsible for purposeful ignorance when the police conduct investigations of other forces. This lack of confidence leaves many members of society disillusioned regarding the police’s competence to investigate deviance within the organization. Police investigating police leads to issues concerning the authenticity and seriousness of such examinations, and therefore relates to many other broader themes involving deviance and accountability.

The RCMP and other police forces pride themselves on being privileged with membership to an exclusive organization that holds the authority to withhold certain secrecies from the general public. However, due to this solidarity, the resultant silence creates a universal unease among citizens. Many commonly feel that should law enforcement be required to examine deviance among one another, the consequent investigation would not be performed under the same scrutiny used in investigations of non-law enforcement. Such methods would be employed in order to prevent tarnishing the reputation of police. This ‘blissful ignorance’ accounts for the blue wall of silence, and serves to protect the reputation of deviant officers as opposed to serving to protect society. In a democratic country such as Canada, it is pertinent that an unbiased civilian body be designated to participate in evaluating police in situations involving police deviance, as this practice leads to better confidence in law enforcement and an overall sense of wellbeing concerning “protection from undemocratic events” (Hryniewicz, 82).

The initial problem encountered with police investigating police tends to be presented as civilians’ perceptions that police conducting the investigations will lend more sympathy to the police officer(s) in question than to the citizen raising a complaint. It is expected that police will let the improper actions of other officers slide, due to their pledge of loyalty to one another, and in turn, virtually disregard legitimate concerns of civilians. This series of beliefs and perceptions, holds especially true for marginalized citizens, who “do not have confidence [in]…nor [accessibility]…to an oversight body” (Hryniewicz, 79) and feel that the system ‘lacks credibility’. Many victims of police deviance or improper conduct feel that they may be subjected to retaliation should they report an event. This complete disbelief in the competence of officers’ abilities to investigate one another requires that civilian lead response teams are employed for police investigation, in order to restore confidence in police and generate a stronger sense of democracy and societal unity. Although members of society such as Aboriginal Peoples, the impoverished and minorities often feel as if they are swept aside in political process, engaging all citizens in a public mechanism to aid in investigation of social issues promotes equality of all and “a desire for common security and protection” (Hryniewicz, 80).

Furthermore, lack of objectivity continues to be a factor in concern toward police investigating police. The RCMP and police forces function as organizations that promote brotherhood and loyalty. Citizens express significant concern on a regular basis regarding the objectivity officers act with when investigating other members. During the Braidwood Inquiry into the Robert Dziekanski death at YVR, even certain members of the RCMP recognized that in such convoluted cases, internal investigation becomes a conflict of interest for both the police and the public. As Supt. Rideout stated, “[The police] were asked to do a very difficult job…we shouldn’t be doing this…time for an SIU (Special Investigations Unit) in this province.” Following this statement and the Braidwood Inquiry, the proposal for a civilian based investigative body included a mandate that stated the “serious injury or death of an individual involving an RCMP employee or when it appears that an employee of the RCMP may have contravened a provision of the Criminal Code or other statute and the matter is of a serious or sensitive nature” prompts the requisition for an external investigation (Braidwood Inquiry, Part 10). The measures proposed in the Braidwood Inquiry serve as an example of methods to improve and eliminate the issue of lack of impartiality in investigations.

Due to such inquiries and the pressing issue of the practice of internal investigation, some changes have been implemented in the various accountability systems in order to correct and restore the confidence of the public. Civilian lead response teams do operate out of several provinces currently in Canada, and function to provide an unbiased examination into events relevant to police deviance, misconduct and crime. Serious Incident Response Teams (SIRT teams) currently operate out of Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario. In addition, according to the recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry, BC Legislature created an “Independent Investigation Office”, whose goal is reflective of the ambition of the SIRT teams. Such bodies recognize that “Cops protect Cops…[and that] it is a problem of human nature, identity, and social conditioning” (Pivot). The shared motivation of these various Special Investigations Units is to encourage “civilian oversight as a public good” (Hryniewicz, 79), an oversight mechanism that functions to not only protect society, but actively involve citizens in processes of investigation. The Final Public Report for Police Investigating Police from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP defines the current police oversight and review models within Canada, and further breaks down the methods by which police investigate police. The CPC Final Report breaks down the models into dependent, interdependent and independent and further discusses the specifics of each, in order to categorize and explain the differences between police investigating police and the civilian oversight bodies.

Although improvements have been made such as the  creation of civilian lead investigation bodies and the SIRT teams, the system still has ample room for further upgrading. The inquiries and recommendations are valuable to perfecting the system, although as stated earlier, the police organization is fraught with officers whose natures passively accept that deviance and improper behavior occurs, and is basically required in order to successfully complete job tasks, and therefore, unless issues of deviance are brought into the open, they will continue to occur in the background, unchecked by anyone and shielded from the public by colleagues. The promising prospect of increasing exposure of unacceptable behavior will continue to allow for further citizen review. However, the citizens appointed to such investigative bodies must be truly unbiased and not secretly harbor personal agendas in order for the oversight mechanisms to function properly. In conclusion, with further progress and civilian participation, Canada will work towards engaging in practices beneficial to both police and society.

References:

Braidwood, Thomas. “Braidwood Inquiry.” Braidwood Inquiry 20 May 2010. Web. 27 October 2011.

CBC News. “New Civilian Agency to Probe Police Incidents in BC.” CBC News 17 May 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. “Police Investigating Police – Final Public Report.” Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. Government of Canada., Aug. 2009. Web. 27 October 2011.

Doug. “Reading Into the New Independent Investigations Office (IIO).” Pivot Legal 18 May 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Government of Nova Scotia. “Serious Incident Response Team.” Government of Nova Scotia 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 27 October 2011.

Hryniewicz, Danielle. “Civilian Oversight as Public Good: Democratic Policing, Civilian Oversight and the Social.” Contemporary Justice Review March 2011, Vol. 14 Issue 1. Web. 27 October 2011.

Punch, Maurice. “Police Corruption – Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Public Policing.” Portland: Willan Publishing, 2009.

Strudwick, Katie. “Is Independence the Only Answer to Complainants’ Satisfaction of the Police Complaints Process? A Perspective from the United Kingdom.” Practice and Research March 2003, Vol. 4 Issue 1. Web. 27 October 2011.

There are several variables that influence how the police – and specifically the RCMP – view complaints.  The major contributors are the dichotomy followed by police culture, the origins of the RCMP, their reputation and how the police deal with ‘rats’ internally.  The changes in a post-9/11 environment indicate a high-policing atmosphere.  In a perfect imagining the oversight and the compliant mechanisms are meant to be staffed by external police bodies.  Staffed by civilians who make recommendations to better policing practices and accountability for the agency.  But due to constraints of power and the fact that many such bodies are staffed by retired police officers this ideal is slow to realize.

There is distinct dichotomy between the public and the police.  The Us vs. Them argument has been used to explain the isolation and the divide felt between the public and the police.  The argument states that those outside of your social group are unable to relate to what your social group faces and/or experiences.  Some factors that may help with this are irregular hours, sometimes impossible demands, high stress and extremely dangerous situation.  This is reflective of Barker and Carter’s definition of police corruption, which is the “latent result of society’s attempt to execute unenforceable ‘victimless’ crime laws”  (46).  This has helped the police to foster negative mind set towards the oversight commissions and are intentionally subverted by the police; through intimidation, non-compliance, bias and questioning their message.  When a complaint is issued, the investigation that follows puts undue pressure towards the complainant by placing them on trial and “reprehensible tactics to discourage citizens from filing complaints against.” [Barker and Carter 378].  The complaints form of the RCMP is more interested in the complainant then the event.  This is reflective of the dichotomy argument.  Non-compliance is shown as an unwillingness to comply with summons from these committees and by not heeding or implementing their recommendations.  One consequence of the committees is their lack of power [Goldsmith and Lewis], although a few can make recommendations but the police agencies do not have to heed their advice.  Bias was evident in how the police did not give these committees credence because they were not on ‘the job’.  Also they have been frequently criticized for disregarding the interests of the complaints.  The police often question the message of the committees.  They claim that the community want someone to blame, scape-goats and fulfills the communities need for vengeance.  It is important to mention the Nolan principals which emphasizes trustworthiness and accountability but this example is applied across the pond in the UK [Punch 2009].

Critics have many theories as to the cause of police deviance.  One cause may be because of police [sub]culture, especially when use in concert with the dichotomy.  Police [sub]culture is known to be stable over geography and time.  Meaning that it is found elsewhere in the world at varying periods in time.  As a result of the dichotomy the police fully socialize only within their group.  Leaving them unable to socialize with those outside their group or even to be able to empathize with them.  As a result, when socializing with outsiders causes suspicion, by the nature of the this provides positive feedback on said suspicions.  This also feeds into the blue wall of silence that further helps to isolate peace officers from society, in that when they feel that society or others from outside their societal group have have unfairly judged them they effectively close ranks.  Presenting an unformed front both externally and internally.  Other peace officers sympathize and empathize with those involved.  Through this isolation many officers begin to feel and treat the non-police identity [encapsulating those who are not part of the police force].  This is shown in how they refer to using a highly masculine and sometimes racist vernacular that permeate and is pertuated by the police culture.  The police canteen culture also feeds into this.  John Van Maanen describes how those who do not yield the instructions from the police are viewed with hostility and labeled as an Asshole.

It appears that the commissions, inquires and other complaint mechanisms are like the police, reactive to crime.  As Punch states, the deviance is built into the system.  Even with complete clean out of deviant characters the deviance will still be learned by other recruit.  This means that there is some mechanism within the organization of policing that allows for this to grow.  The oversight and inquires are rendered null by their lack of power and by the police under the blue wall of silence protecting their officers from prosecutions.  This may be to protect their reputation or public image.  But as Barker and Carter quote from the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice: these oversight committees are symptomatic of a larger problem of the lack of public confidence.  Punch states that police are presented “with an inherent dilemma in relation to performing their task and enforcing the law in a context of rules, resources and laws that restrict them in some way” [2].

Sperico came forward to address the issue of his compatriots in “grass-eating” and  “meat-eating”.  This type of terminology came up at the Knapp Commission.  Grass-eating refers to a sporadic deviance, that does not actively engage in deviant behavior.  These opportunities can be receiving free or oppertunties  discounted food stuffs based on their occupation of an officer.  Where as meat-eaters were constantly involved within the criminal elements.  The types of deviance elaborated on in this commission where, the padding of evidence to either convict a desired suspect and/or to increase their sentence.  Because he went outside his ‘brothers in blue’ he was viewed as a traitor, one that could expose the deviant structure and place them all in jail.  This was particularly worrisome because police officers do not survive long in jail.  This is because of retaliation for other inmates and dominance/territorial disputes.  Also like any social code, there are rules to follow.  He broke the rules, an example had to be made to be shown to others who wanted to tell.  Sperico was left with no back-up when raiding a drug-dealer which resulted in a gun-shot wound to the face.  This incident is relevant because without confidence in the police who will follow their orders?  Who will come to them with problems or sensitive information?  As explored in the paragraph before, reputation is everything.  Without it the police are powerless.  With no merit in their symbols of their authority [squad car, uniform, issued commands, etc.] no one would heed their commands.

There seems to be a troubling occurrence that has been since the 9/11 occurrences.  Information sharing, joint operations across the nation, the Anti-Terrorism Act and high policing are just a few significant occurrences.  Information sharing although not outright adverse, in some practices it becomes draconian.  Maher Arar, for example, spent almost a year being tortured in Syria because of information provided to the US from the RCMP.  This type of sharing is manipulation of the system.  Project A-O is where Canada kept a list of names of whom they viewed where a security risk.  Surveillance was intensified around them.  For joint operations, there is the G20 which was the largest collaboration of security personnel.  It is difficult to ensure accountability because of so many participants.  Was it the RCMP, who were managing the security, when the Ontario Provincial Police actually did the commission of the crime?  After the US enacted the Patriate Act post-9/11 Canada mirrored it with the Anti-Terrorism Act with made terrorism criminal and within the realm of the police.  This act was mainly to placate the US and grant the RCMP more security powers, which where lost when CSIS was created.  The US is a major trading partner of Canada [Diab 2008].  High-policing is a form of policing [though not necessarily conducted by the police] in which the agenda of the government is carried out and the letter of the law is blurred.  For instance, Security Certificate.  This certificate allows the government to detain a ‘suspect’ without arrest or trial and ultimately deport them.  If the ‘suspect’ held refugee status, they could be deported back to their fled country where their lives would cease [Larsen, October 27, 2011, personal communication].

Essentially the accountability structure did not expand as the police powers did.  And any outside views is seen with distain and hostility with movements made hid evidence and particpation of other agencies or people within their own forces.  The RCMP has essentially operated as it has been since 1919.  Recovering their security responsibilities through the Anti-Terrorism Act.

References

Barker, Thomas and David Carter. (1996).  Police Deviance (3rd Ed.).  Anderson Publishing Co.: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Diab, Robert. (2008).  Guantanamo North: Terrorism and the Administration of Justice in Canada.  Fernwood Publishing: Black Point, Nova Scotia.

Goldsmith, Andrew and Colleen Lewis (Eds.)  (2000).  Civilian Oversight of Policing: Governance, Demovracy and Human Rights.  Hart Publishing: Oxford and Portland, Oregon.

Kappeler, Victor, Sluder, Richard and Geoffrey Alpert.  (1998).  Forces of Deviance: Understanding the Dark Side of Policing  (2nd Ed.).  Waveland Press, Inc.: Long Grove, Illinois.

Maanen, John Van.  (1978).  The Asshole.  Retrieved from  http://jthomasniu.org/class/Stuff/PDF/vanmanah.pdf. (Oct. 29, 2011).

Murphy, C. and McKenna, P.  (2007).  Rethinking police goverance, culture and management.  Ottawa: Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, Public Safety Canada.

Payton, Laura and Alison Crawfor. (2011).  7 Issues facing the next RCMP Commissioner.  CBC news.  Retrevied from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/27/pol-list-rcmp-issues-comissioner.html. (Oct 27, 2011).

Perrott, Stephen and E. Kelloway. (2011). Scandals, sagging morale and role ambiguity in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: the end of a Canadian institution as we know it?.  Police Practice and Research, 12:2, 120-135.

Punch, Maurice. (2009).  Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing.  Willan Publishing: Portland, Oregon.

As mentioned from previous post, police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy. Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability. Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow.  As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

First of all, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially unreliable and unsympathetic, one whom cannot be trusted with police information (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence, under the police subculture, is the code where each police officer shall rat out the secrets regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable.  From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First of all, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption. The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Civilian oversight also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts. As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

With this much influence on public policing, the community holds a sense of security and by making a difference, the community has a sense of fulfillment. When community become involved with participating in such experience, it “enhances police credibility, accountability, and ultimately, public confidence in police services” (Hrynewicz 2011, p.78).

References:

Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.