Police discipline and investigations.In fairness to the reader, I must at the outset confess confess v. in criminal law, to voluntarily state that one is guilty of a criminal offense. This admission may be made to a law enforcement officer or in court either prior to or upon arrest, or after the person is charged with a specific crime. and reveal my bias on the issue of police misconduct Police misconduct refers to objectional actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties, which can lead to a miscarriage of justice. Types of misconduct
1. An imperfection, often concealed, that impairs soundness: a flaw in the crystal that caused it to shatter. See Synonyms at blemish.
2. , and must be replaced with a model which involves investigators who are clearly independent from and unconnected to the individual officers whose conduct and actions lie at the heart of the matter.
Certain aspects of what might loosely be called police discipline most surely can and should properly be left in the hands of the police themselves to address; I am thinking here of such internal rules and regulations as showing up for work on time, keeping one's uniform in proper shape, dealing with members of the public in a professional and reputable rep·u·ta·ble
Having a good reputation; honorable.
repu·ta·bil manner and similar types of matters. However, when it comes to conduct which might be criminal or otherwise illegal in nature, the public interest requires investigations by persons who are--and who are seen to be--independent and apart from the officers whose activities are subject to scrutiny.
The present system in Alberta is described in the Police Act and its accompanying regulations. In general, responsibility for the investigation of complaints of police misconduct is left to the Chief of Police of the particular department or police agency. The Chief has the duty to oversee the investigation of the complaints being made, and to ultimately decide what should take place once the results of the investigation are known. In almost all cases in Edmonton, at least, investigation of the police actions is conducted by other members of the same department, who are temporarily assigned to the "Internal Affairs Internal affairs may refer to:
Crown Prosecutors represent the Crown in right of the Commonwealth and in right of each State or Territory in criminal proceedings. for review, and if the prosecutor prosecutor
Government attorney who presents the state's case against the defendant in a criminal prosecution. In some countries (France, Japan), public prosecution is carried out by a single office. In the U.S., states and counties have their own prosecutors. agrees with the recommendation the formal court process against the officer is commenced.
If the matter is to be dealt with through the internal police disciplinary system, a Chief has a number of options open. Matters judged by him or her to be relatively minor can be dealt with through such informal means as "counselling" the officer involved not to repeat his of her conduct in the future. An "admonishment" and warning may be placed upon the officer's file for a short period. More serious concerns are dealt with in a more formal setting, through the convening con·vene
v. con·vened, con·ven·ing, con·venes
To come together usually for an official or public purpose; assemble formally.
1. of a hearing into the complaint and the police conduct in issue. The Chief of Police will personally conduct the hearing, or he may name another officer to do so on his behalf. At the hearing, witnesses and other evidence may be called and legal arguments advanced. At the end of the proceedings, the tribunal A general term for a court, or the seat of a judge.
In Roman Law, the term applied to an elevated seat occupied by the chief judicial magistrate when he heard causes.
tribunal n. decides whether the officer has indeed acted improperly im·prop·er
1. Not suited to circumstances or needs; unsuitable: improper shoes for a hike; improper medical treatment.
2. , and if so, the penalty or sanction sanction, in law and ethics, any inducement to individuals or groups to follow or refrain from following a particular course of conduct. All societies impose sanctions on their members in order to encourage approved behavior. to be imposed. Again, the full range of minor penalties is available, along with more serious punishment up to and including removal from the force.
The Law Enforcement Review Board exists to hear appeals from the outcome of internal police disciplinary proceedings. A member of the public who has lodged a complaint may appeal to the Board if he of she is not happy with the outcome of the internal processes, and a police officer of other person against whom a complaint has been lodged may similarly appeal from the results of the disciplinary proceedings which have taken place. The Board is composed of provincial government appointees. The only statutory requirement concerning membership on the Board is that one person must be a lawyer, and the legislation stipulates that he or she will be the Chair of the Board.
While the Law Enforcement Review Board has a number of broad powers to conduct inquiries of various sorts, its main function is to consider appeals from decisions made in the course of the internal police disciplinary processes outlined above. For the most part, the appeal proceedings amount to a new and virtually complete rehearing rehearing n. conducting a hearing again based on the motion of one of the parties to a lawsuit, petition or criminal prosecution, usually by the court or agency which originally heard the matter. of the original matter. The Board has the power, after the proceedings have ended, to take various steps including ordering a rehearing of the matter at the initial stages or varying punishment which has been imposed. Where the appeal is from a refusal of a Chief of Police to prosecute To follow through; to commence and continue an action or judicial proceeding to its ultimate conclusion. To proceed against a defendant by charging that person with a crime and bringing him or her to trial. a breach of internal police disciplinary rules Precepts, such as the Code of Professional Responsibility, that proscribe an attorney from taking certain actions in the Practice of Law.
Proceedings can be instituted to disbar an attorney who violates the disciplinary rules. , the Board may order that such a charge be laid. Where the Board is of the view that a party involved in proceedings before it has acted "in a frivolous Of minimal importance; legally worthless.
A frivolous suit is one without any legal merit. In some cases, such an action might be brought in bad faith for the purpose of harrassing the defendant. of vexatious manner," it may order that individual or person to pay costs to the other side, or to the government of Alberta, or both.
In the recent past, this system has come under increasing public scrutiny and criticism, and the reasons are not difficult to discover. No other sector of society is entrusted with the legal power to conduct investigations of its own members to determine compliance with the criminal and similar laws, and to make decisions about who is prosecuted and who is not. Even the professions--doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and so on--do not decide which of their members are to be charged with and prosecuted for committing criminal offences. While the professions govern the conduct of their members in the sense that they oversee and enforce compliance with special roles and requirements applicable only to those individuals, none of the professional disciplinary bodies investigate, charge, and prosecute where criminal conduct is concerned. If I, as a lawyer, do not follow the special rules imposed upon me by the Law Society of Alberta, I may face disciplinary proceedings before the tribunal established under the Legal Professions Act for this purpose. If, however, my conduct is criminal in nature and I abuse my position as a lawyer in order to commit a criminal act, it is the police and not the Law Society, who will decide if I should be charged and prosecuted in court under the terms of the Criminal Code.
In Edmonton, the past few years have seen a number of incidents and episodes that have led the public to become suspicious of the results which occur when the police are permitted to investigate their own members who are thought or alleged to have committed criminal acts. On a number of occasions where individual police officers have acted in ways "which seem to be improper
There are a number of improvements that could be made to the present system in order to restore the public's confidence in the resolution of issues surrounding police behavior and apparent misconduct MISCONDUCT. Unlawful behaviour by a person entrusted in any degree: with the administration of justice, by which the rights of the parties and the justice of the, case may have been affected.
2. . The main change would be to remove responsibility for such investigations and charges from the hands of the police department involved, and place that duty into the hands of an outside agency: either another unrelated police agency, "with no connections to the body or officer being investigated", or to follow the Ontario model and establish a province-wide unit whose sole function is to investigate and prosecute the wrong-doing of police officers anywhere in that jurisdiction.
Removing the task of investigating and dealing with police law-breaking from the hands of the same department itself carries benefits and protections for both the individuals involved and the public at large. Where an investigation has been conducted by a truly independent and impartial Favoring neither; disinterested; treating all alike; unbiased; equitable, fair, and just. body with no connections to the officer(s) whose behaviour is being examined, each of the complainants, the officer, and the public at large, could have confidence in the integrity of the outcome regardless of what that outcome may be. Where no charges are laid against the officer, the public and the complainant A plaintiff; a person who commences a civil lawsuit against another, known as the defendant, in order to remedy an alleged wrong. An individual who files a written accusation with the police charging a suspect with the commission of a crime and providing facts to support the allegation would at least have the comfort of knowing that the officer is not simply being shielded by his friends and co-workers. And where charges are laid, the officer accused would similarly know that he or she is not being prosecuted as past of an internal dispute with his or her co-workers, or to protect the public image of the department concerned.
In our society, the police occupy a position of unparalleled authority and power. They alone among us have tremendous legal abilities to intrude intrude,
v to move a tooth apically. into the lives of others, in the most forceful force·ful
Characterized by or full of force; effective: was persuaded by the forceful speaker to register to vote; enacted forceful measures to reduce drug abuse. and direct fashion. Most police officers govern themselves according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the highest standards of professional and personal conduct, and society owes them a debt of gratitude. But because of the special powers we entrust to our police, we also have the right and the duty to expect them to scrupulously scru·pu·lous
1. Conscientious and exact; painstaking. See Synonyms at meticulous.
2. Having scruples; principled. abide by the same laws they are asked to enforce. We have the right to expect possible or alleged police wrong-doing to be dealt with seriously and with integrity. Adopting a system for the independent and impartial investigation of complaints against the police is essential to maintaining public confidence in the police as a necessary institution in our society and with a central role in the continuation of our democracy and civil peace.
Charles Davison is a lawyer with the firm of Abbey, Hunter, Davison, Spencer in Edmonton, Alberta.