QUÉBEC CITY, Feb. 27, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - "For the most part, Bill 46
does not change the procedure in place under the current ministerial
policy: a second police force will still be designated to investigate
serious incidents involving police officers. The proposed solution—the
creation of an independent civilian bureau to oversee investigations,
Bureau civil de surveillance des enquêtes indépendantes—fails to ensure
the independence, impartiality or credibility of the investigations,"
explained Raymonde Saint-Germain, the Québec Ombudsperson, in the
course of special consultations and public hearings on the bill.
The public oversight bureau proposed in Bill 46 solves nothing:
Police investigations will continue to be conducted by police officers.
There is no regulation spelling out the rights and obligations of police
officers involved in or witness to incidents, or of police force
directors (e.g., prohibition for officers involved to communicate with
each other) to ensure consistent enforcement or provide for penal
sanctions in the event of noncompliance.
The bureau will not have sufficient powers to properly fulfill its
mandate. Civilian observers will have no authority to communicate with
investigators or officers under investigation or to investigate on
their own. How will they be able to determine impartiality?
Should the bureau find evidence of partiality, another police force will
be called in to redo the investigation, at the risk of being hampered
in its work by evidence contamination due to time or other factors.
The Bureau would not have the necessary autonomy to act independently.
In addition, the notion of serious injury is not defined, and the scope
of application does not extend to investigations of incidents involving
injuries caused by electronic stun guns (Tasers).
Ms. Saint-Germain told committee members that "by qualifying the
investigations that will be conducted as 'independent' without making
significant changes the procedure in effect, the bill only perpetuates
a situation that has been cause for concern."
In 2010, the Québec Ombudsman conducted an in-depth review of the
investigative procedure in effect and found that it lacked credibility.
Today, the Ombudsman concludes that the proposed solution is inadequate
on a number of accounts: independence, impartiality, consistent
application of formal rules, transparency of the process and results,
oversight, and accountability. The Ombudsman reiterates that the only
viable and effective solution is to have qualified civilian
investigators team with police investigators to conduct the
investigations. Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia have all
recently gone this route, as Ontario did several years ago.
In a brief tabled today, the Québec Ombudsperson formulated nine
recommendations to improve Bill 46 in the interest of the public and
the police (for precise and complete wording, see the brief, starting
on page 41):
Entrust responsibility for criminal investigations of incidents to an
independent entity headed by a civilian director. The entity would be
staffed by civilian investigators, including former police officers, as
well as civilians trained in criminal law and investigative techniques.
Have the director of the independent entity appointed by the National
Attach the independent entity to the Minister of Justice for
Replace the position of civilian observer with that of civilian
investigator endowed with the status of peace officer and full-fledged
participant in the investigations.
Incorporate a definition of serious injury and include injuries caused
by electronic stun guns (Tasers) as well as allegations of sexual
assault committed in the exercise of duty.
Mandate École nationale de police to provide adequate training to
qualified civilian investigators.
Regulate the responsibilities, rights, and obligations of the parties
Provide for penal sanctions in the event of noncompliance with
Incorporate a mechanism enabling the director of the independent entity
to comment in public on the investigations under way, formulate any
recommendations deemed appropriate in the exercise of his/her mandate,
and release a summary of the investigation.
In the view of the Québec Ombudsperson, "police officers, who perform a
tough job in often difficult conditions, would be the first to benefit
from an investigative procedure that inspires public trust and
respect." She concluded by calling on legislators to make sure that the
proposed solution is an effective one: "Given the constructive
contributions from participants at these hearings, I am confident the
committee will take the necessary steps to ensure an improved bill is
passed in a timely manner. It would be in everyone's best interest."
SOURCE Protecteur du citoyen
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