Court Decision Affirms the Legal Rights of Police

BARRIE, ON, June 24 /CNW/ - Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) President Karl Walsh said today he had every confidence in the justice system and that Justice Wailan Low of the Superior court made the right decision in striking down an application that would have threatened the legal rights of all police officers.

In striking the application, Justice Low noted that "police officers have no less right to retain counsel of choice than any other citizen." She also noted that this case involved public policy issues and that it was not the proper function of the court to act as a "policy maker of last resort". She referred to the notion that the courts exist to resolve real disputes between parties and not to provide opinions in response to hypothetical or academic problems. Justice Low also observed that the families failed to indicate that any right of theirs had been infringed.

This ruling was in relation to an application brought by two families whose relatives had been fatally shot in separate incidents as a result of confrontations with OPP officers. In both cases, the SIU had conducted a thorough investigation and determined that the officers' actions were justified.

Walsh said: "Our officers are highly-trained professionals who are out on the streets and highways of Ontario every day serving and protecting its citizens. Sometimes police officers' work exposes them to dangerous situations where they have to use lethal force. Regrettably the actions of the individuals in both cases necessitated the use of lethal force by the police."

Walsh also said Justice Low's decision is an affirmation of the current legislative scheme which strikes a balance between the accountability of police to the public while ensuring their legal rights are protected when they are the subject of an SIU investigation.

"Every day police officers across this province conduct themselves professionally and honourably," Walsh said. "Police officers are duty bound to act in accordance with the policies and procedures of their various police forces, the laws of Canada and the Province. Part of a police officer's obligation in Ontario is to comply with the rules and regulations that flow from an SIU investigation. The police officers in these two incidents complied with their obligations."

Walsh went on to say: "This court proceeding highlights the fact that the SIU Director continues to exceed his mandate by publicly advocating for changes to his very own governing legislation and regulations. It is the SIU Director's actions that are undermining his office not the conduct of police who, as this court decision demonstrates, are following the legislation and regulations."

Walsh echoes the previous sentiments of Commissioner Fantino when he urged the SIU Director to "fully explore all avenues available to address police and procedural issues before making inflammatory public statements."

President Walsh wishes to thank the other police organizations for their support during this proceeding, and in particular the Toronto Police Association.

SOURCE Ontario Provincial Police Association

For further information: For further information: Karl Walsh, President, OPP Association, 705 728-6161

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