SIU Responds to Ontario Ombudsman's Investigation



    TORONTO, June 7 /CNW/ - Ontario Ombudsman André Marin announced today
that he has launched a systemic investigation into the Special Investigations
Unit (SIU).
    In response to the Ombudsman's investigation, the Director of the SIU,
James Cornish, said, "Ontarians have every reason to expect that the SIU
operates with complete integrity and meets excellent investigative standards.
As a world leader in civilian oversight of police, the SIU is committed to
carrying out thorough and unbiased investigations to ensure police
accountability, thus safeguarding public confidence in our police. I have
confidence in the professionalism of the men and women of this Unit and that
the Ombudsman will conduct an impartial and professional investigation. We
intend to cooperate and look forward to receiving his report."
    The SIU has in its 17-year history been the subject of a number of
reviews and audits. Most notably, The Honourable George Adams Q.C. conducted
two comprehensive reviews for the Attorney General of Ontario. Both of these
reports can be found on our website at www.siu.on.ca. Backgrounders on the SIU
and the two Adams reviews are attached.

    The SIU is a civilian government agency that investigates circumstances
involving police and civilians, which have resulted in serious injury or
death. Under Section 113 of the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU
has the authority to decide whether or not charges are warranted based on the
findings of an investigation. The Director's decision is reported to the
Attorney General.


    
    Backgrounder on SIU
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    CREATION

    -   The SIU began operations in September 1990 as a result of a
        recommendation made by the Task Force on Race Relations and Policing
        in 1988. The new Ontario Police Services Act was passed by the
        Legislature in August 1990, which created the Special Investigations
        Unit (SIU).

    -   Prior to the SIU, police services investigated themselves or in some
        instances, another police service was assigned to conduct the
        investigation. There was public concern about the integrity of the
        process in which police officers investigated other police officers,
        particularly in incidents of police shootings where a member of the
        public had been wounded or killed. Simply put, there was a lack of
        public confidence in a system where police policed themselves.

    MANDATE

    -   The SIU has a narrow, consequence-based jurisdiction. It conducts
        investigations into police activity where someone has died or has
        been seriously injured. This includes allegations of sexual assault.
        Complaints involving police conduct that does not result in a serious
        injury or death must be referred to other complaint processes.

    MISSION

    -   The SIU's mission is to safeguard the confidence of the people of
        Ontario in their police services by conducting professional and
        independent investigations of incidents involving the police that
        have resulted in serious injury, including complaints of sexual
        assault, or death.

    INDEPENDENCE

    -   The SIU is independent of any police service. It is a civilian agency
        that operates on an arms-length basis from the Ministry of the
        Attorney General. While the SIU reports to the Attorney General, it
        investigates and makes decisions independent of the government.

    -   The SIU is led by a Director and composed of civilian investigators.

    WHAT ARE "SERIOUS INJURIES?"

    -   The SIU continues to use the definition of serious injury that was
        created by the SIU's first Director, The Honourable John Osler. The
        definition was published after consultations and has withstood the
        test of time. Indeed, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has
        adopted it, recommending to its members that they use this definition
        in determining whether a case falls within the jurisdiction of the
        SIU. The Osler definition reads:

    "Serious injuries" shall include those that are likely to interfere with
the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or
trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual
assault. "Serious injury" shall initially be presumed when the victim is
admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the
skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of
the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault.
Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be
assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and
decide on the extent of its involvement.

    The key aspect of the Osler definition is the impact the injury has on the
individual's life, health and ability to carry on in a normal fashion.

    LENGTH OF INVESTIGATIONS

    -   The SIU has set goals for expeditious investigations. We recognize it
        is important to resolve cases in a timely manner and statistically,
        over half of our cases close within 30 days. However, every
        investigation is different and some, due to their complex nature or
        unforeseen circumstances, require more time to complete.

    -   The thoroughness of the investigation takes precedence over the
        length of time it takes to finish an investigation. No case is
        presented to the Director for his decision until the investigation is
        complete.

    INVESTIGATIVE PROCESS

    -   The sole focus during the investigative process is to gather the
        facts. Once all the facts are gathered, the Director makes a decision
        whether there are reasonable grounds to lay a criminal charge against
        a police officer. Also, in order to ensure that the investigative and
        supervisory staff are always learning, a number of closed
        investigations are selected and subjected to critical review.

    -   At the end of the process, the SIU strives to provide an explanation
        of what happened to all those involved to the extent allowed by the
        law. The SIU will notify the Attorney General of Ontario, the
        involved complainants and/or their families, and the Chief of the
        involved police service or the Commissioner of the OPP of the
        investigation's findings and the Director's decision.



    Backgrounder on the Adams Reviews
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    THE FIRST GEORGE ADAMS CONSULTATION REPORT - 1998

    -   In the fall of 1997, The Honourable George W. Adams Q.C. was
        appointed to consult with community and police organizations on ways
        to improve the relationship between the SIU and the police.

    -   The approach taken by Mr. Adams was to look for areas of consensus
        and common ground between all involved stakeholders.

    -   Mr. Adams reported on May 14, 1998 with 25 recommendations. The
        recommendations addressed many of the relationship and cooperation
        issues that had proven to be difficult in the past. The report also
        spoke to the critical underfunding of the SIU.

    SUMMARY OF ADAMS KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

    -   The SIU should have the resources necessary to carry out its
        important mandate;

    -   Increased resources for the SIU should address the need for more
        substantial training of investigators;

    -   The SIU, the police and community groups should meet on a regular
        basis to discuss general SIU-related matters;

    -   The tenure of the Director of the SIU should be of sufficient length
        to provide for effective leadership of the SIU;

    -   A Regulation should be enacted that:
        -  lays out a detailed and clear SIU Operating Procedure;
        -  provides that failure of a police officer to comply with any of
           its provisions is serious misconduct;
        -  makes it clear that the SIU has the lead investigatory role in
           gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses;
        -  provides that interviews of witness officers are to be done at the
           request of the SIU, but also allows for the possibility of delay
           where appropriate grounds exist;
        -  provides that an unjustified failure to comply with an SIU
           interview request should be treated as a serious act of
           misconduct; and
        -  requires a police chief to conduct an administrative inquiry into
           any incident involving the SIU, subject to the SIU's lead role,
           and make a report of all findings and actions taken and/or
           recommended to the police services board no later than 30 days
           following the SIU report.

    THE ADAMS REVIEW REPORT ON SIU REFORMS - 2003

    -   The Honourable George Adams was appointed again in July 2002 to
        evaluate the reforms to civilian oversight and the SIU that were
        implemented.

    -   Mr. Adams conducted a comprehensive review based on the
        recommendations that he made in his 1998 consultation report.

    2003 REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

    -   There was agreement amongst stakeholders that civilian oversight of
        policing is necessary and police representatives acknowledged that
        civilian oversight is important for maintaining public confidence in
        police services.

    -   All participants agreed that the SIU is just one component of the
        oversight landscape in Ontario and cannot be the policy instrument to
        address all the problems that may confront police officers and
        members of the public when they are in contact with one another.

    -   "Serious Injury" - The SIU adopted the definition of serious injury
        as defined by the Honourable John Osler in 1991. Both community
        groups and police representatives have raised concerns about this
        definition: the former would argue for a broader definition and the
        latter for a more narrow definition. While Mr. Adams noted that the
        definition does not provide perfect guidance for defining the SIU's
        jurisdiction, it does provide a workable approach, and is abided by
        the majority of police services in Ontario.

    -   Transparency about the outcome of investigations - Both community and
        police representatives have indicated a desire for the SIU Director's
        reports to the Attorney General to be made public when no charges are
        laid, linking this to accountability and to maintaining community
        confidence. There are implications that must be assessed, such as
        weighing the need for transparency and accountability against the
        need to be able to provide witness confidentiality assurances and to
        guard the rights to privacy that are protected by law.

    -   Mr. Adams observed that the current practice of the SIU providing
        informative news releases at the conclusion of investigations meets
        the need to make key facts and outcomes public. As well, the SIU
        holds debriefs with affected persons and their families, and conducts
        case reviews with a sampling of police services.

    -   Continuous improvement in SIU investigator training - Mr. Adams found
        that both police and community representatives agree that the SIU
        conducts professional and efficient investigations. This is due in
        large part to the recruitment and training efforts of the SIU since
        1999, and the Unit's commitment to the continuous improvement of its
        training program as reflected in the appointment of a full time
        Training Coordinator. Mr. Adams suggested that the SIU might engage
        in an independent peer review of its training standards and the
        qualifications of its investigators to ensure that they are
        equivalent to any police service in the province.

    -   Community relations - The report makes many observations about the
        nature of the relationships among the police community, the broader
        community and the SIU. Mr. Adams noted that the SIU deals frequently
        with police organizations, given that its work requires contact with
        the police. Regular meetings with community organizations have been
        more difficult to organize and the Director's Resource Committee was
        developed to address this challenge. Mr. Adams noted that there may
        be some merit to having forums where the community and police
        representatives have an opportunity to discuss matters of shared
        interest.

    -   Community representatives acknowledged that the safety and unfair
        prosecution of police officers are important issues, and understood
        the impact on an officer when he or she is the subject of an SIU
        investigation or is charged with a criminal offence.
    





For further information:

For further information: Rose Bliss, SIU Communications/Service des
communications, UES, Telephone/No. de téléphone: (416) 622-2342 or/ou
1-800-787-8529

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