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.