Police

It is not accurate to consider the police community as a monolith. For example, chiefs of police may have a different viewpoint from police associations on certain issues. Similarly, the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) - two organizations with the most contact with the SIU [6] - have opinions which are quite different from those organizations with much less experience involving the SIU. Therefore, the following generalizations must be read with considerable care.

This caveat registered, police officer associations expressed general satisfaction with the implementation of the recommendations, especially in regard to the legal protections that have been accorded to their members. The SIU is seen as a competent investigatory body. Concern instead was raised over the accountability of the SIU and the Unit's mandate. For example, the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) proposed that the SIU adopt a Code of Conduct and a complaint procedure similar to those applicable to police officers. It also proposed that there be a dispute resolution process made available to address disputes between police officers and the SIU arising during an SIU investigation. The PAO further recommended a new definition of "serious injury" be adopted. While this proposed definition is aimed at confining the SIU to truly serious injuries, it is principally a response to a perceived uncertainty surrounding the definitions being applied by the SIU and being recommended to members by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) [7] . Police associations also expressed concern over the SIU carrying out what are called "incident reviews". SIU incident reviews are now undertaken when it is not immediately clear that an incident falls within the SIU's mandate. The PAO's view is that this is incompatible with the Unit's limited mandate and, instead, would like to see the SIU deciding immediately whether it has the mandate to investigate.

Not all police associations share the same concerns as described above. The relationship between police associations and the SIU over the past five years has varied depending on the police association. The larger police associations appear to have developed working relationships with the SIU concerning its investigations. When problems do arise, they are usually quickly and effectively resolved. Police associations that have infrequent contact with the SIU have on occasion experienced greater difficulties and these difficulties have tended to infect the police association's future encounters with the SIU. As a result, some associations have called for more radical changes to the SIU while others have pragmatically adjusted to the existing approach and put in place experienced personnel to make it work. Similarly, while most associations agreed that there has been significant improvement in the core competencies of the SIU, there were dissenting views which were the product of specific investigations and prosecutions. For example, I was told that particular charges should not have been laid and that the ensuing prosecution tactics were entirely too adversarial. Understandable concern was expressed for the families of these officers who had been put through the turmoil of a public criminal trial. However, in each case, the police officer appears to have been accorded due process and was ably represented by counsel. Because some of these cases are ongoing, no more can and should be said.

All police associations I spoke with said they were committed to civilian oversight. Nevertheless, they all were very worried about "armchair" second-guessing of split second police officer decisions made under difficult circumstances and in defence of themselves and the public. They, therefore, demanded the highest investigatory standards be met in reviewing the actions of their members and made no apology for the procedural protections accorded by the Regulation.


Footnotes:

[6] Two-thirds of all SIU investigations involve either of these two police services.

[7] The OACP definition is at page 33 of this report. The SIU definition is at page 32 of this report.