Posts Tagged ‘accountabilitiy’

With the emergence of smart phones and social media, most people now have the capacity to record and share any part of their daily lives with a larger and attentive audience. A ramification of this is the “new visibility” that the police are now subject to (Goldsmith, 2010), and the implications of accountability that stem from it. The body camera is a compelling and seemingly effective piece of technology that drastically changes how we view accountability measures, albeit still new and unproven to an extent.

AXON body camera. Photo source: http://www.michigantaser.com/LE/le_products.htm

One device, currently at the forefront of the race, is the TASER AXON camera system. Evidence.com lists five steps in using the system for agencies that are interested in adopting it – collect, transfer, manage, retrieve, and share. Officers are able to record interactions via the body camera, which can be clipped onto their uniform, in any file format, then transfer and manage the security-protected files, later retrieve them with ease, and grant access to select others off of the secure cloud storage-like network. The TASER AXON Body Camera has a retail value of $399, but there are cameras that go for less and those that go for more.

Several police agencies across the United States and Canada have taken to testing the waters of utilizing body cameras for policing purposes, perhaps as a reaction to occurrences of police brutality. A recent example would be the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the events following, including outcries for police accountability by citizens. The RCMP is one organization that has researched body worn video devices for a half-decade and pilot tested them in New Brunswick in late 2013, stating that they seek to “[enhance] transparency as well as police and public safety,” and that is exactly what is offered by the devices from an accountability perspective.

As cited in Goldsmith (2010, p. 922), Mann (2006) expresses that true transparency is achieved when an activity is recorded “by a participant in the activity,” rather than an outside observer with a smartphone camera, for instance. Body worn cameras also have other perceived advantages, in addition to heightened transparency. PERF, or The Police Executive Research Forum, is an organization based in Washington, DC that seeks to promote police professionalism. PERF has, through consultations with many police officials, explored the conveniences of body cameras as a catalyst for accountability in police agencies (Miller et all, 2014). They have gathered that relations between members of the public and the police are enhanced, as officers are able to better “resolve questions following an encounter” (p. 5). They also affirm that the cameras impede problems from developing early on, as professionalism is reinforced at both an individual level, through officer performance evaluation by video review, and at a larger level, with easier pinpointing of “structural problems within the department” (p. 6). With the identification of these problems, they are able to revisit and change protocols, for example (p. 8). Jennings et. all suggest that officers in general are supportive of the movement for body cameras, and feel that the cameras alone can improve citizen and officer behavior, as well as the behavior of their fellow officers (2014).


In departing from a descriptive tone, I would like to address the controversy surrounding body cameras from my own perspective. First, as it is a relatively new phenomenon, there might be technological issues with the devices themselves at the outset (will the point of view be narrow enough for significant interactions to occur out of visibility?), but these will be sorted out with the implementation and further expansion of body cameras as a standard, and by way of competing brands, as the video may indicate.

I’d also like to address the idea that body cameras will interfere with the ability of officers to use discretion in daily policing activities. This might be applicable, for instance, where an officer could let an individual off with a warning for a trivial offense. I do not think discretion would be a power that would be severely limited as a consequence of body cameras, as the recordings would not be meticulously reviewed. This would just not be cost-efficient. Rather, the footage would be utilized for either evidential or developmental, training purposes, as Goldsmith implies (2010, p. 926). Hypothetically though, if the footage was to be watched on a day-to-day basis, and the officer was compelled to enforce the law completely thoroughly regardless of how unnecessarily harsh it would be, this would still not in any conceivable way removed discretion from the picture altogether. Rather, this where it would become apparent what laws should be re-written, reformed, or rescinded. It would put pressure on those in charge to “trigger political and administrative responses” (Goldsmith, 2010, p. 927).

Lastly, as with any other occupation in the public sphere in today’s world, I do not think police officers should not expect absolute privacy. They especially should not cite this as a reason against body cameras, as they have specific duties, such as upholding the law despite whatever circumstances arise, that the average citizen does not. That being said, as Jennings (2014) proposes, police officers, in general, favor of the use of body cameras.

When it comes to the issue of body cameras, it’s either competent but facultative officers, or competent officers bound by the restrictions that come with undisturbed accountability. Personally, I’d take the latter.

References

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s new visibility. British journal of criminology.
How it Works. (2015). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from https://www.evidence.com/articles /how-it-works
Jennings, W. G., Fridell, L. A., & Lynch, M. D. (2014). Cops and cameras: Officer perceptions of the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement. Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(6), 549-556.
Miller, Lindsay, Jessica Toliver, and Police Executive Research Forum. (2014). Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
RCMP to pilot body worn video in New Brunswick. (2013, November 14). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/news-nouvelles/2013/11-14-bwv-cvc-eng.htm
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Police body cameras have numerous methods for operation – everything from the style of camera to the storage options. For example, TASER offers cameras that can be attached to a shirt, to belts, or to shirt pockets as well as a glasses style option, and an attachable camera for a conducted electrical weapon. Go Pros have also been used as a form recording option however they have storage limitations. For example, the Go Pros require the officer to have ample storage in the form of an SD Card to store the video, which is later, transferred to a central database, which must then be organized, demanding additional resources and funding. Companies like TASER have an option for video footage to be automatically uploaded onto www.evidence.com, which charges a nominal fee for unlimited storage.

Currently they are on for the entire duration of the officer’s shift. There are many police departments that are utilizing body-mounted cameras, with many planning on adopting in the near future. Calgary Police have been one of the newest Canadian departments to implement the use of cameras on the majority of its 800 members.

Body cameras are intended to make the police more accountable for their actions to the public; however this has also turned out as a benefit for the police as cameras help to ensure that the public is also held liable for false claims. Police, however, aren’t the only ones adopting cameras, many corrections departments in the United States are equipping their officers with cameras inside of living units.

Currently, the individual field officer has control over the recording process, being able to start and stop a recording (either at the beginning and end of the shift, or at the start and end of a call). The officer also has control over the SD card (depending on the model of camera worn) where the officer can claim that the SD card somehow went missing. Implementing a body camera system for an entire force costs an immense amount of money. The upfront cost includes the cost of each camera (app. $400 each) plus training for all officers and additional training for a resources officer that would manage the massive amount of data. The costs for a storage infrastructure with backup (RAID format) would be mind blowing. The department would need hundreds, if not thousands of terabytes to store footage for any reasonable amount of time. On top of the up front costs, there are ongoing costs for maintaining the infrastructure, having an officer(s) to continually organize through the data.

There are many companies that produce body mounted cameras. Large companies like TASER have been very successful in marketing their product, to smaller companies like WOLFCOM are producing this technology.

Body mounted cameras came about because of the increasing reports of police abusing their power – ranging from being unprofessional to brutality. One of the most effective catalysts in the push for more accountability and ultimately body-mounted cameras was the death of Robert Dziekański at YVR, where he was tased excessively and died as a result. There was public outcry in determining responsibility for the death. There have been many other situations in pushing for body cameras, all of which are very significant.

There are many groups, and movements calling for more officers wearing cameras, but the most notable of which being U.S. President Obama. Obama wants to equip 50,000 officers with cameras in three years, with a total cost of $263 million. http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

“The White house has spent three months reviewing law enforcement practices” (Gayomali, 2014) and put together a package for many departments. This is the first time that the federal government has decided to fund county and state agencies for cameras. Surprisingly, not many Police Chiefs or Sheriffs are opposed to the concept of body cameras. Most of the skepticism comes from frontline officers who may not be able to conduct their daily duties the way that they did previously. Some officers may have been behaving in a manner that would not reflect well on a department in order do their job, and they will have to change their behavior because there will be recordings of their behavior. As Goldsmith said, the video alone is not enough to create change, but is only a catalyst for it. When something negative happens, the officers and organization are put into the spotlight and are then forced to make a change because of the proof available to everyone.

Personally, I am for body cameras; as it will for the large part, make the public accountable to the police and the police accountable to the public.

Bibliography

Gayomali, C. (2014, Dec 01). FastCompany. Retrieved Feb 10, 2015, from PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS TO PUT BODY CAMERAS ON 50,000 POLICE OFFICERS : http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

Jayme Doll, M. S. (2014, Nov 05). Do Calgary police face recognition software, body-worn cameras violate your privacy? Retrieved Feb 09, 2015, from Global News: http://globalnews.ca/news/1655076/calgary-police-use-of-new-technologies-being-probed/

I had always shied away from criticising the police because I erroneously believed that anyone who criticizes the police is against policing. Anytime someone showed me advance of wide- spread corruption, I ‘closed my eyes.’ I honestly believed that anytime a police officer is caught for his/her deviant behaviour only that particular police officer is at fault; not the entire police subculture. Even though I am not ready to completely shun the “rotten apples” theory, I have started to ‘open my eyes.’ I have found an umpteen amount of evidence that shows police subculture ‘breeds’ corruption. We, as a society, need to start asking ourselves tough questions about the ‘dark’ side of policing. Policing is a great profession; we must find ways to improve it.

On October 13, 2007, at 3:15pm Robert Dzienkanski arrived at Vancouver International Airport (YVR); his flight had been delayed by two hours. He had made plans to meet with his mother at the baggage claim. Sadly, that plan never came to fruition. Since Dzienkanski spoke no English, he needed help in filling out an umpteen amount of forms. After he had completed the formalities, his whereabouts remained unclear, however.  He was seen around the baggage carrousels at several points acting irrationally. Due to the language barrier Dziekanski was forced to wait in the immigration area for seven hours. When he decided to leave, he was re-directed to secondary immigration because his visa had not been approved. After spending some time in the secondary immigration area, he became visibly agitated and distraught. The staff was unable to calm him down due to the language barrier; the RCMP was called to the scene soon after. Four RCMP officers arrived shortly thereafter and took charge of the scene. The police officers tried to communicate with Dzienkanski in a foreign language, he could not understand.  The officers had only been on scene for 25 seconds, when, the supervisor, Corporal Benjamin Robinson ordered the use of the Taser. The RCMP alleged that the Taser was deployed because Dzienkanski tried to attack one of the officers with a stapler; Dzienkanski was Tasered five times, and fell to the ground. Shortly thereafter, he began to convulse on the ground. At no time did the officers render first-aid or call Emergency Health Services (EHS). Finally, when EHS arrived on scene 15 minutes later, Dzienkanski was pronounced dead on arrival. The RCMP claimed proper protocol had been followed, however. A video shot by one of the witnesses poked holes into the RCMP’s theory; much to the RCMPs disapproval. This video was only released after a court order. It was this video that captivated the entire nation against the use of police brutality.

After his death, the RCMP was adamant that their officers had followed protocol. It was only after the video of the incident was released the public saw what had really happened; unknowingly, this video ‘opened the door’ to a host of RCMP’s problem. This video was the main catalyst behind the Braidwood Inquiry; this public inquiry was set-up to investigate what happened that unfaithful day.

To this day some people argue that the police should be able to ‘bend’ or manipulate the law because they have “hard” job. The premise of this statement is fundamentally wrong in our society; no-one is above the law. Even though Dzienkanski’s death was clearly a criminal act perpetuated by the police officers, none of them were charged; even after intense public uproar, nothing happened. This lead to a fundamental debate in our society: should the police investigate themselves? Some emphatically support this notion because they feel police are ‘upholders’ of the law and will be objective to their findings. However, I feel this is ideology is flawed for three reasons: there is often a conflict with the official paradigm and operational paradigm, “blue wall” of silence inhabits objectivity, and often times it is a systemic institutional failure.

“[O]fficial paradigm is shaped to bolster institutional values, whereas the operational code espouses how things ‘really get done” (Maurice Punch 2009: 3). This situation is a classic example of this conflict. Immediately after the incident the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Team (IHIT) deliberately released information that would have shown their officers in a favourable light (Braidwood 2010: 41). When the officers were asked by the Braidwood Inquiry to give their version of events, the four RCMP officers stated that “they felt threatened.” The officers also claimed that Dzienkanski became “aggressive and moved towards [them].” However, after looking at the video anyone can tell that this was a lie. As a result, the officers were eventually charged with perjury. This lie was in direct violation of their institutional core values. Most RCMP officers still believe that the officers involved in Dziekanski’s death did the right thing under the circumstances because Dziekanski did not follow the officer’s orders. In my opinion, it is well-known that police officers are usually taught by the ‘book’ in the police academy, and when the recruit comes in contact with a field trainer, he is taught to ‘throw-out’ whatever he learned in the academy. When an officer is on the job, he is usually taught be his peers that if anyone challenges his authority he better put the ‘perp’ in his place; this is more commonly known as “contempt of cop” . As much as police officers would like to think “contempt of cop” is a crime, the reality is that it is not; the courts have been firmly against this notion, as well. For example, a recent court decision by an Ontario Court found that “it is not against the law to be rude to an officer”. The disparities between the official paradigm and operational paradigms need to be looked at, if we, as a society, are to move forward in the 21st century.

The public has often debated whether the “blue wall” of silence inhibits objectivity? In my opinion, the “blue wall” does hamper objectivity; in fact, this holds police agencies together (Punch 2009: 37). Entire police culture is based on this notion. Any officer that breaks this rule is dealt with severely. For example, when a NYPD officer, Serpico, spoke out against the wide spread corruption within his organization, he was vilified by his colleagues. Even when officers are take part in criminal activities, no-one says anything. For example, the four officers caught on tape Tasering Dzienkanski for no reason were never charged. Not a single officer came forward to testify against the officers involved; these officers Tasered another human being with 50,000 volts of electricity and were never charged. The RCMP was keen to argue that Tasers do not kill. However, the Braidwood Inquiry found that Tasers do kill people; the courts concurred. The company that manufactures these Tasers, Taser International, stated that Tasers are safer than high school sports. The only reason these officers were caught because we live in new era of ‘visible policing.’ “Video capture of images for mass dissemination, repeat viewing and popular debate enables mass mobilization of affect and discussion…” (Andrew Smith Goldsmith 2010: 925).

Some people erroneously believe that it is always a few ‘rouge’ officers that are to blame; just like me. After doing some extensive research, I have found that this statement holds no merit. History has repeatedly shown that the entire institution is usually to blame. For example, when Ian Tomlinson was killed in the 2009 G20 riots in the UK, the police stated that Tomlinson was to blame for his own death. The police had stated that he died due to a sudden heart attack, however. After several post-mortems, the police’s theory on how he died was shown to misleading. The report concluded that Ian Tomlinson died because of “blunt force trauma.” There was public outcry once a video of the incident had been released. Evidence has shown that once a police officer becomes part of a police organization, his views start to transform into the institutions ‘views;’ no-one comes into policing with a deviant mind, it is over time that his views start to shift. For example, a newly sworn police officer will do everything by the ‘book’ at the start of his career. However, as his/her career progresses temptation and peer pressure will usually lead him/her towards deviancy. This is more commonly known as “inclusion.” Once an officer goes down this road the pathway towards a deviant career becomes easier and easier (slippery slope). Therefore, it is ‘ill-advised’ to blame individuals for their deviant behaviours; it is the entire system that is corrupt.

The Dzienkanski incident was a PR ‘nightmare’ for the RCMP; they failed miserably in trying to fix their ‘broken’ system. The RCMP even took the Braidwood Inquiry to court saying that had to right in “issuing findings of misconduct” because the provincial inquiry was outside its jurisdiction. However, the court ruled against the RCMPs favour. Under the RCMP Act a provincial government does not have any powers when it comes to holding the RCMP accountable; any disciplinary actions against the RCMP must come from Ottawa. Even though a new twenty year agreement has been signed with the B.C. government, this was one of the main reasons why province wanted the RCMP out.

The Dziekanski incident was just the ‘tip of the Iceberg’ for the RCMPs problems. Just recently, an undercover RCMP officer in Kelowna was caught on video kicking a suspect in the face while he was in the process of surrendering. Also, a female RCMP member stated that she had been sexually harrassed by her superiors. With a new RCMP Commissioner getting sworn-in on the basis of “accountability,” the force needs to ‘look’ seriously at the issues at hand. The RCMP has tried a civilian as its commissioner. I think it is time for the RCMP to try a civilian investigatory body other than the . This is the only way the RCMP will gain back the public trust which they have lost over last ten years.

REFERENCES:

Punch,  M. (2009). Police corruption. Portland, Oregan: Willan Publishing.

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s new visibility. British Journal of Criminology, 50, 914-934.

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