The Chiefs of Police and Police Services Board

As both police officers directly accountable to their police services boards and managers of police services, chiefs of police play an important role in civilian oversight and have a unique perspective. Being ultimately responsible for notifying the SIU of an incident, police chiefs have expressed frustration over what they say is an absence of clear guidance as to when the SIU should be contacted. They also expressed concern over the cost to police services for police officer criminal defence lawyers whenever the SIU is called. They questioned the need for an automatic and expensive criminal investigative response each time a serious injury or death has occurred. Instead, the proper approach, they argued, was for the SIU to simply inquire into a matter and only when it has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed should the SIU embark on a criminal investigation. This would then be the point at which to designate officers as either subject or witness officers and to accord rights of representation. To the OACP, there is nothing inherent in being a police officer - or a doctor, firefighter or paramedic - that compels an automatic criminal investigative response each time a serious injury or death occurs in the context of a professional encounter.

Chiefs of police also shared several of the concerns of the police officers they manage. For example, the OACP and the SIU have been engaged in a lengthy debate over issues such as the Unit's accountability and mandate. Like the police associations, it advocated a Code of Conduct for SIU investigators and the Director and a related complaint mechanism. The OACP has also proposed its own definition of "serious injury" [8] and that the SIU only be contacted when a chief of police has determined that there is a serious injury or may have been criminal wrongdoing. Indeed, these proposals appear to have been recommended to the OACP's membership for unilateral adoption in the face of SIU and community objections. The current SIU definition is the product of a controversial agreement between the SIU and the OACP in 1991. [9] Community groups had not been consulted at that time and objected. However, with the passage of time, the definition has come to be accepted. The OACP also questioned the SIU's policy of incident reviews which it sees as a unilateral expansion of the Unit's mandate.

The OACP has been active in developing so-called guidelines to assist chiefs of police in determining which police documents should be given to the SIU in compliance with the duty to cooperate. I was told that the Association is often asked for advice and believes there should be a uniform approach across the Province. While an initial draft was vigorously rejected by the SIU, by the time of my appointment the OACP had made several significant concessions in response to the SIU's comprehensive criticism. [10] Unfortunately, these OACP efforts have appeared to racialized community groups as outright opposition to the SIU and have undermined confidence in the chiefs' enforcement role of the duty to cooperate as accorded by the implemented recommendations. Fortunately, there have also been inspiring acts of cooperation between chiefs of police, police service boards and community groups. For example, in 2002 the International Association of Chiefs of Police at its 109th Annual Conference jointly honoured community and police representatives from the City of Toronto for participation and leadership shown at the "Alternatives to Lethal Force by Police" community conference held in June 2000.

The OACP pointed to what it perceived as the SIU's lack of cooperation with parallel criminal investigations and the chiefs' administrative investigations. While the OACP wishes its members to provide as much information to the SIU as reasonably possible, it complained that the SIU, due to its confidentiality policy, did not reciprocate. The OACP requested full disclosure of SIU investigative findings to chiefs of police.

Importantly, the OACP is willing to continue to work with the SIU to bridge their outstanding differences and sees value in ongoing dialogue. The OACP also acknowledged that the SIU has vastly improved in respect of its core investigational responsibilities.


Footnotes:

[8] Ibid.

[9] See: A. Duffy, "Deal limits probes into shootings by police" Toronto Star (13 July 1991) A8; "A toothless tiger" Toronto Star (15 November 1991) A24; "Groups want head of police agency to resign" Toronto Star (26 February 1992) A5.

[10] SIU, "SIU Position Paper: Proposed OACP Guidelines on Production of Information to SIU Investigation" (1 February 2002).