Posts Tagged ‘RCMP’

For over 30 years the human rights watch group have been working  hard to protect human rights globally.  The Human Rights Watch according to the their website describe themselves as: “Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse.”  with focus on international cases, the humans right watch looks at individual countries and investigates any type of forms of abuse.  They are dedicated to helping the victims and they work to prevent  discrimination and bring offenders to justice.

The human rights watch looked into a case in British Columbia where a number of disappearances resulted in murders. The lack of due diligence from the police department is seen as a causal factor of not stopping the serial killer on time. Furthermore, the disappearances were of many indigenous individuals. the Aboriginal communities and the RCMP have had a rocky relationship since. There seems to be no trust and co-operation from either parties. WIth the aboriginal community feeling neglectaed, further proof is brought forth by women who were interviewed, stated that they were mistreated when under custody. “A number of women interviewed by Human Rights Watch researchers alleged that RCMP officers used excessive force in arresting them, mistreated them while they were in custody and, in some cases, physically or sexually assaulted them.” (Globe and Mail. 2013) Many of these women feared for there safety so there were no formal complaints made and no investigations were conducted. The RCMP have taken much scrutiny in this matter and continues to do so as this topic is a hot debate topic for human rights groups.

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Many of the comments made can be seen as ignorant and insensitive. People repeatedly speak of the aboriginal people as “Indians.” One person comments saying: “Heres a better question, tell us who doesnt have a dysfunctional relationship with the indians?”  Many don’t see these comments as abuse. If a aboriginal individual is reading these comments, they would be and i would expect them to be offended by the ignorance and the arrogance. Many of of the comments made suggest that the people reading the articles already have an idea of what the issue is. Understanding there is tension between the aboriginal community and the RCMP. Also in the comments, a number of sarcastic comments appear about how there have been a lot of investigations about the RCMP now, when it should have been done a long time ago.  This in turn shows the lack of compassion the community cares for the aboriginal people. Many of the comments actually suggest that the aboriginal community is to blame for the miss treatment. “Natives want to be perpetual victims. Period. They have no desire to do anything else other that whine and complain about how everyone doesn’t kiss their a$$es.” (The Globe and Mail, 2013). though others actually offer some solutions: “Maybe a simple solution is to hire more First Nations people as RCMP members.”  This is pure and utter ignorance and disregard for the community we all collectively live in.

My own comments would include a short small stab at all the ignorant people. i would acknowledge the fact that the RCMP is being investigated and that there will be answer as to what actually happened.There has been many investigations on the RCMP for abuse and mistreatment. The Human Rights Watch report shows that this relationship is and can be duplicated with any community. Though it is a different question whether there was a lack of due diligence because it coincides with the aboriginal community. I would suggest that the RCMP become better organized and they try to fix the dysfunctional relationships that are already in harms way. the only way we can have functioning collaborative community is, if we all create a sense of responsibility for each individual that belongs to any organizations. a community together is a strong community.

Resources:

#1.

Human Rights Watch. (2013). ABOUT US. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from:

http://www.hrw.org/about

#2.

The Globe and Mail. (2013). MISSING WOMEN Human rights group says RCMP, native relationship ‘dysfunctional’. . Retrieved March 5CM, 2013, from:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/human-rights-group-says-rcmp-native-relationship-dysfunctional/article8572404/

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The  Human Rights Watch is an organization that has been around since 1978. Essentially providing the protection of human rights globally. The Human Rights Watch “names and shames” abusive government through media and through direct exchanges with policymakers. Ultimately, it has broadened and strengthened human rights that neglect cases, such as the rights of women, children, refugees, and migrant workers.

Recently The Human Rights Watch has been looking into the police failure and the abuse of indigenous communities committed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I came across an article which addresses how the  RCMP  has abused and  sexually assaulted aboriginal women in British Columbia. The article  reveals how these criminal acts were not properly addressed and remained unsolved for 5 months.

For Instance, One women who was raped by 4 RCMP officers and reported that they threatened to take her up to the mountains  to kill her then make it look like an accident. She knows the names of the officers but wont pass them on. In most cases like this the victim gets counseling because they are emotionally unstable and need professional help. If the Human Rights Watch or RCMP provided that opportunity then the likelihood of her forwarding the names would have been a lot greater.  Furthermore, about a dozen girls cancelled their interviews with researchers because they were frightened and did not want anything to do with the police.

The RCMP claims that they want to get to the bottom of the abuse allegations against its officers. However they add  to this claim they add how the Human Rights Watch is not helping them investigate. It seems like they are looking for a scapegoat, to cover up the fact that they have not addressed the problems with these cases.

The article allows people to post comments. In regards to this situation it appears  that the public is not really surprised about how the police have not gotten anywhere with such allegations. Majority of  the comments reveal public opinion about how these allegations should have been handled. The public believes the police are not even putting an effort into getting to the bottom of this ordeal and acknowledge the fact that they are not dependable. For example one commenter wrote:  ‘This is to be investigated by the same people who abuse their own. To look forward to them investigating their own is to be less than intelligent’

Reading this article,  I was wondering; How come the Human Rights Watch is  focusing on the RCMP now when this abuse of power has been going on for quite a while judging by the number of cases. After reading the cases of abuse of indigenous women and girls, I am just completely disgusted and wonder;  Why these “bad apple” cops  have not been caught and held accountable for their crimes from the beginning of their career because this kind of behaviour is not accidental, if they victimize one innocent citizen, odds are they will do the same to another.
RCMP abused, sexually assaulted aboriginal women in B.C (2013) Retrieved from :
 http://www.theprovince.com/news/RCMP+abused+sexually+assaulted+aboriginal+women+Human+Rights+Watch/7958979/story.html#ixzz2MjgKMgLU

Human Rights Watch. (2013). ABOUT US. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from:
http://www.hrw.org/about

Oversight and complaints mechanisms are an integral part of any policing organization.  Oversight is defined as an independent committee tasked with overseeing certain aspects of police actives that are considered deviant in nature.  These committees typically lack power to enforce their recommendations.  Complaint mechanism include a electronic submitted form, but is not limited too.  This form seems to focus more on identifying the complainant rather then the perceived deviant act of the officer[s].  The Commission is the main avenue for complaints against the RCMP.  A main theme with oversights and complaints commission is that they are divided into two intersecting faction: the police and the public.  The police are hesitant and often resistance to change brought upon by the oversight because they believe that they do not have the understanding nor the training to analysis the situation in question.  Many feel that they are the subject of undue discrimination brought upon by a community out for blood.

Oversights where born of a need to control the ‘bad apples’ of the police force.  Believing to have providence over them, the public tried to enforce sanctions and other restrictions.  But the police do not give these ‘suggestions’ any credence [unless followed by unrelenting public opinion, even then the public is told they are implement but in reality they are not enforced].  Essentially these services are a forum where the public can voice their opinions, call for alarm and other perceived idiosyncrasies.  These forums are believed to be the emissary of change and a bridge between the public and the police.

There is a cyclical ‘so what?’ question that permeates the discussion of oversight and complaints mechanisms.  The committees hold no real power, so what?  So what if there is no feeling of progress? There is no real forum for the police to voice their concern, so what?  So what if both sides are lost in egos and bureaucratic red-tape, so what?

Without power to enforce their recommendations the oversight is effectively lip-service.  This relates to no feeling of progress, spreading into sideways mobility.  This refers to the continued opening of inquires or committees to look into the problem and their only address of the systems and not the cause of the deviance.  The police also negotiate the offense down to a policy violation rather than a criminal offense.  The police cannot voice their concerns to any outside identity or even their superiors without fear of reprisal and breaking the blue wall of silence.  In the police line of work who they can trust is very important.  Even when not involved in deviance, those who go against the code [of conduct] whether block out in a handbook or verbally inscribed into new recruits, are viewed with suspicion and disdain.  Mainly untreatable.  This problem causes ripples within the unit and then the ranks and then the organization. At any point they can be on the receiving end of taunts, pranks and unaided calls for help.  Serpico, a prime example, went to the newspapers to report on his fellow brothers in blue for their involvement in deviant activities.  Their response?  To ignore his cries for back-up when raiding a drug house, he was shot in the face.  And because each side is trying to limit the power each has over the other, there is feelings of isolation and inadequacy.  This may lead in to blame-dodging in order to cover for this.

While on paper the oversight committees are worthwhile, they lack an important factor.  Power.  Power to implement change and power for the police to stem the tide of public blame.  As mentioned countless times they cannot implement any recommendations made by said committees.  The police feel that the public cannot properly understand what the job entails and thus are under-qualified to preside over their affairs.  This, in-part, is correct.  The general public has no understanding of the daily struggles of having to balance public interest, their own policies and the criminal code.  Not to mention various public appearances meant to stimulate the RCMP’s public image: musical ride and holding as a symbol of Canada to meet visiting dignitaries and diplomats.

There are three ways in which to make oversight mechanisms ‘work’.

First, giving them power to force change.  Once positive of this could be rising public confidence.  but this may also lead to an inflated self-ego and specialization through bureaucratization.  What I mean by this, because of their high specialization they would be the only ones with the resources to review police deviance and through this their reputation as the only ones with power to deal with the deviance with grow.  Dealing with an increased workload leads to growth thus hiring more people.  And through this not everyone will either be of the caliber the organization requires or susceptible to the invitation of a bribe.  Those wanting to implicate someone may bribe someone within the organization.  Specialization through bureaucratization means that through policies and other legalities they gain both power and a narrowed vision of what they encompass, leading to increased public and police isolation and distrust.  In short, are we not creating an environment in which we needed the oversight for the police?

The second, keeping the oversight the same.  It has already been established that the oversight cannot fully contextualize what they were originally created for.  Meaning they were meant as a vehicle of change, to oversee the police and deal with deviance, along with producing recommendations, policies and new legislation to prevent further deviance and to facilitate a more harmonious relationship with the public.  The police and the public both feel victimized and inadequate.  The advent of social media adds to this through repeated visualization of the event, sometimes edited to produce a particular result geared towards a certain side.

Third, is to tear down the existing structure and build anew.  To create a committee that is equal between the public, police and more importantly within the community.  I have some ideas about its creation.

For instance, its membership.  It should be temporary as to not become desensitize to the action it is investing and should be based off of voter registration and telephone directory to get a better cross-section of the community.  There should be an equal number of community members and the police.  Within the police, there will be a propionate number of upper, middle management and ‘beat’ cops.  As well as with the community should be reflective of all of its aspects.  This is so each side can explain their position on the issue and each can address concerns from their level of expertise.  Chairs will be in name only as there must be someone to control the meetings.  There will be open sharing of information between the both sides.  It will also be easier to compel the police.  Though sensitive information must remain within the committee.  As Chris Beach, who is an outreach and complaints analyst for the Commission, mentioned a shared data-base to make sure each side is sharing completely with one another.  Meetings of the oversight will not be public at first, to bolster the relationship between them and the police.Though later on, they may observe the happenings.  And like the Canadian court system, they will not be televised.  Andy discussion will be handed down through third parties like a public relations person, media or another organization.  As to waylay the force of questions directed towards them.  They would still be answerable to the public but this is to ensure that they can continue their proceedings without constant interruption.

As to whether these options ‘work’ is subjective.  Several people believe that the current oversight is workable while others have a variety of opinions.  Without major reorganization of the mechanisms implemented and a true cohesive/ collaborative relationship between these committees and the RCMP, there can be no progress.

Main themes include complaint form, RCMP security level, power and mistrust.

The formal complaints form found on the RCMP website allots more space to help identify the complainant rather than the incident.

Even though the RCMP lost the ability to investigate national security through the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, in 1985, but sixteen years later the Anti-Terrorism Act allowed for their greater involvement.

Power because both sides lack it.  Power to enforce and to develop an open relationship with the public because of their sanctioned use of deadly force.

This helps to spread mistrust because both sides cannot understand the others position and through the blue wall of silence there cannot be clear communication between them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.