The Québec Ombudsman endorses Bill 12 on independent police investigations
QUÉBEC CITY, March 12, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Ombudsperson Raymonde Saint-Germain gave her general approval to Bill 12, which, in her estimation, "strikes a balance between the public interest and respect of the rights of all the ones involved." "When the bill is passed and the act becomes law, it will establish a civilian organization that combines independence and expertise. The organization will be tasked with conducting investigations on incidents involving police officers that resulted in serious injury to civilians or civilian fatalities. The mechanism provided for meets the essential conditions for the quality and credibility of these investigations, namely, independence, impartiality, consistent application of formal rules, transparency, and oversight and accountability in the investigative process," she explained during the special consultations and public hearings on the bill.
In her brief, the Ombudsperson made five recommendations aimed at fostering the fulfilment of the mission to be entrusted to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes and at clarifying its legal framework. This is the gist of the recommendations:
- The notion of "serious injury" should be defined in the Police Act and should encompass any injury likely to have significant repercussions, including those sustained as a result of sexual assault.
- Injuries caused by the use of conducted energy weapons (Tasers) should be included among the situations giving rise to an independent investigation.
- The Bureau should have the power to unilaterally decide to conduct investigations that fall under its mandate even though they were not assigned to them and to comment publicly on the elements observed within the framework of its mandate.
- The regulation respecting the application of the Police Act should set out rules for the investigative process that includes a definition of "subject officer" and "witness officer", provisions covering the obligations of the witness officers and subject officers and of the director of the police force concerned, as well as applicable sanctions in the event of breaches or non-compliance.
- The bill should include the obligation to release a summary of investigation in cases where the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions decides, at the end of the investigation, not to press charges against the police officers concerned.
Ms. Saint-Germain considers that these recommendations will prevent the stumbling blocks encountered by other organizations with similar mandates in the rest of Canada and make the Bureau effective and operational as quickly as possible.
The Ombudsperson wrapped up her brief by stating that "it is no longer time for polarized debates but rather for developing a new approach whose primary goal is the renewed confidence of civilians and police officers in these special investigations."
In February 2010, the Québec Ombudsman released its special report on the Québec investigative procedure for incidents involving police officers (For a Credible, Transparent and Impartial Process that Inspires Confidence and Respect). Two years later, it presented a brief as part of the special consultations on Bill 46—An Act respecting independent police investigations. While reiterating its concern today for strengthening public trust in the police, the Québec Ombudsman believes that everyone—police officers, victims and their families—would benefit from an independent investigation procedure like the one proposed in Bill 12.
The Québec Ombudsman's brief is posted at www.protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca, under Cases and Documentation/Reactions to bills and legislation.
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