Trust In Policing Needs Improved Accountability

    OTTAWA, Sept. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - The Commission for Public Complaints
Against the RCMP (CPC) is the civilian accountability tribunal which reviews
the on-duty conduct of RCMP members. It provides recommendations designed to
improve policing. In the past year, the CPC worked diligently on three fronts
to improve its effectiveness and strengthen public confidence in the
complaints process.
    First, in 2006-2007 the Commission issued 48 interim reports containing
184 findings, about half of which were adverse to the position initially
adopted by the RCMP. One case reviewed this year involved the use of the Taser
gun, which administers an electric shock, against an intoxicated woman. She
was tasered twice while handcuffed. The CPC found that, although the woman was
not cooperative, she posed no physical threat to the officer. Therefore,
according to the CPC, the use of the Taser was improper. The Commission
recommended policy changes to ensure that the Taser is not used when a
citizen's behaviour might be classified as uncooperative or resistant rather
than combative. Uncooperative citizens should be controlled by less intrusive
techniques that pose less risk than the Taser.
    Secondly, the CPC implemented a performance-based service standard to
ensure the timeliness of review cases. The Commission's chronic backlog of
review cases has, in recent years, undermined its credibility and
effectiveness. This year the backlog was eliminated for the first time in the
history of the Commission. In addition, for new cases, the CPC met its
commitment to complete 80 percent of its final and interim review reports
within 120 days.
    Thirdly, the CPC was established by Parliament in 1988 to maintain public
confidence in policing through civilian accountability. The world has changed
dramatically in the past twenty years. The Commission has called for the
reform of its governing legislation to address the growing gulf between RCMP
powers and resources, and the Commission's authority and ability to adequately
review police conduct. Incorporating the 2003 recommendations of the Auditor
General of Canada, which sought to equip the Commission with powers more
closely aligned with the level of intrusiveness exercised by the RCMP,
I developed and shared draft model legislation for consideration by the
Minister of Public Safety, Parliament and the Canadian public. These reforms
echo the recommendations of Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor in his second report
of the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in
Relation to Maher Arar.
    One of the issues I address in the proposed legislation is public
concerns about police investigating themselves. Citizens must have confidence
that investigations into serious incidents that raise questions about the
actions of the police are treated impartially and transparently. Even within
the current review structure, we launched an innovative pilot project in
collaboration with the RCMP's Office of Investigative Standards and Practices
in B.C. It assigns Commission staff to observe and to assess the impartiality
of RCMP investigations involving actions of its members when there is serious
injury or death, and for other investigations that are high profile and
sensitive in nature.
    The Commission will only remain relevant if it can keep pace with changes
to the RCMP's policing powers, practices and resources. A better-equipped
Commission, with powers more closely aligned with the level of intrusiveness
exercised by the RCMP, would go a long way to reassuring the public that
Canada's national police force continues to be strong and effective and
conducts itself in the public interest.

For further information:

For further information: Op-Ed for your consideration by Paul Kennedy,
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP; For more information please
contact James Lévêque, Media Relations, (613) 952-2452

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Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

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