Monday, June 14, 2010

RCMP to get new oversight agency

CBC News

The federal government will introduce legislation Monday that would create a civilian oversight body for the RCMP, CBC News has learned.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is expected to table the legislation in Parliament in the afternoon.

This follows the Conservative government's promise earlier this year to bring in a more independent watchdog agency to investigate complaints against the Mounties.

Right now, the RCMP often investigates complaints against itself. There is an independent Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, but its recommendations are non-binding.
In 2007, the federally appointed Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP told the government that the current system lacks transparency. The task force recommended a model where one body could review any incident or aspect of the operations of the RCMP, and all of its findings would be binding.

Task force members also said the agency should have the power to summon witnesses and compel testimony.

It's unclear how many of the recommendations will be included in the proposed legislation, but Toews will hold a news conference at 3:45 p.m. to spell out some of the details.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has repeatedly said he welcomes more oversight.

Earlier this year, he announced that until such an agency was created, the RCMP would have independent agencies investigate cases where Mounties were accused of breaking the law or where they were involved in a serious injury or death.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

RCMP open to independent oversight agency in B.C.

Kim Bolan, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER -- RCMP Commissioner William Elliott says he thinks the force will be able to work out a deal with the B.C. government that includes an independent agency overseeing all the police in the province.

And Commissioner Elliott said he expects there will be a draft agreement of a new contract for RCMP in British Columbia by the end of 2010.

The comments, made by Commissioner Elliott in a wide-ranging interview, opened the door to potentially resolving some of the issues between the province and the national police force, which has seen its image tarnished in recent years, especially in B.C.

Commissioner Elliott said the RCMP welcomes greater independent oversight of allegations against Mounties both in B.C. and elsewhere.

"We are very willing to work with the province and with Public Safety Canada and others to come up with a tailor-made solution that works for the people of British Columbia."

In January, B.C.'s solicitor general said the RCMP might have to submit to civilian oversight or face the consequences.

Kash Heed has said he wants the RCMP to be governed by the B.C. Police Act as part of any renewal of its contract with the national force, which expires in March 2012.

Commissioner Elliott said it would be hard to enforce provincial legislation on the federally regulated RCMP, but that a separate contract or voluntarily agreement could be reached.

"The way to provide for us to be, for example, subject to investigations by an independent agency that might be set up for police more broadly in British Columbia is for us to do that either by contract or voluntarily," Commissioner Elliott said.

"It is in our best interests to participate. Frankly it saves us real problems. It turns the heat down considerably when one of our officers is accused of doing something that they should not have done, for us to be able to say we have turned over this investigation to someone else."

He said negotiations for a new 20-year contract for the 9,500 RCMP employees in B.C. are going well.

"My expectation is that the contract in British Columbia will be renewed and that we will find ways to accommodate the interests of the government of British Columbia and British Columbians in the new contract," Commissioner Elliott said.

"I think the way we have gone about these negotiations is very much principle-based. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and I am optimistic that we will get to a resolution generally and specifically on this issue of our accountability that will work and be acceptable for everyone."

Commissioner Elliott said a civilian review agency may be the "gold standard" of investigation, "but that is not practical everywhere."

Already the RCMP has responded to public concern over high-profile cases like the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, after he was Tasered by Mounties at the Vancouver International Airport, by implementing new tougher policies, Commissioner Elliott said.

"We have introduced a new policy that makes it clear -- that's our External Investigation or Review Policy -- it makes it very clear that we would like to not have to investigate any employee of the RCMP for any serious wrongdoing in future," he said.

"We are encouraged at a number of developments with respect to those areas which are critically important to us because really, at the heart of this, is the public's faith in their police force. And that's an absolutely essential requirement."

A report by retired judge Thomas Braidwood into Dziekanski's death is expected this June. Around the same time, the report on the failings of the 1985 Air India bombing investigation is expected to be released by inquiry commissioner John Major. The RCMP is expected to be criticized in both reports.

Commissioner Elliott admits public confidence in the RCMP has taken a hit with recent scandals, particularly in B.C.

Just this year, allegations surfaced that a leading investigator on the Surrey Six murder file had an affair with a witness. And during the Olympics, 12 Mounties were sent home because of inappropriate conduct.

"We are never, unfortunately, going to get to a situation where no Mountie ever missteps again. I think we have to work very hard to instil in our officers and our employees the importance of appropriate behaviour and the importance of the values of the RCMP," Commissioner Elliott said.

"We are only going to be able to gain and maintain the trust of Canadians if we can demonstrate that we are serious about continuous improvement."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

RCMP needs broader overhaul, Senate group says

thestar.com
Tonda MacCharles

OTTAWA – The federal government should boost RCMP ranks by 5,000-7,000, hire more women and visible minority officers, and impose stronger civilian oversight on the Mounties, says a report by a group of Liberal senators.

Although Parliament is prorogued, six Liberal senators broke with custom, and with their Conservative counterparts on the Senate’s national security committee, and released Monday a “position paper” based on last year’s hearings into change at the RCMP.

The report, entitled Toward a Red Serge Revival, calls for robust civilian oversight of national security investigations and other policing; mini-cameras on cruisers and uniformed officers; and greater efforts to recruit women and minorities that would be tied to executive bonuses for senior officers. It also echoed the suggestion of the current civilian chief, Comm. William Elliott, that his successor should come from within RCMP ranks.

The Mounties insisted Monday via a press spokesman who read scripted media lines that the RCMP “aims” to reflect diversity, and has brought in a new independent investigations policy that “goes as far as the RCMP can” to enhance oversight and review until governments come up with any new measures.

The Liberal report acknowledges “some progress” has been made in overhauling the national police force since lawyer David Brown described it as “horribly broken” more than two years ago. But the Liberal senators say it “falls short of what is needed.”

They say SIRC (Security Intelligence Review Committee), the civilian watchdog that oversees CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, should take over scrutiny of the RCMP’s national security activities and those of the CSE, the secretive standalone electronic eavesdropping agency.

Other kinds of policing should face a tougher civilian review agency with the power to subpoena documents and witnesses, and with full access to RCMP records except for cabinet confidences. The Liberals dismissed the RCMP’s recently-announced policy to try to farm out investigations to outside police or civilian agencies where possible as “smoke and mirrors.”

“If the Transportation Safety Board of Canada can get its investigators to crash sites all over Canada within hours, surely a review mechanism for the RCMP can be created that could get investigators to places in which deaths or serious injuries have occurred that involve the RCMP,” the Liberals say.

The Liberals slag the claim that the RCMP has trained enough new troops to meet Canada’s policing needs. They cite testimony by former minister Peter Van Loan that there is a 6.6 per cent vacancy rate in the authorized personnel strength. That number doesn’t include absenteeism due to training, sickness, maternity, or suspensions, say the senators.

And while the RCMP has recently increased recruitment, the current numbers don’t go anywhere near what they say is necessary to tackle organized crime or increase security on the coastlines, seaports, and borders.

The Liberal senators blamed shortfalls on financial pressures, saying more recruits have not been put through training because it “would have produced too many officers to fit within the RCMP’s budget.”

“That might fill the budgeter’s needs, but it certainly isn’t going to fill the needs of the RCMP or of Canadians,” it says.

The report does not put a price tag on what it would cost to hire the minimum number recommended of 5,000 constables over the next decade. The starting salary for an RCMP constable is $46,003. Within three years of service, that begins to increase incrementally to $74,539 annually, which suggests the price tag could start at about $230 million for salaries alone.

In response, Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin, to whom the government referred inquiries, blasted the Liberal paper, and accused Sen. Colin Kenny, who has chaired the committee for several years, of “grandstanding” and pulling numbers “out of the air.”

Wallin said, “The Conservative government put $400 million into hiring 1,500 new officers. He’s way oversimplifying this stuff.”

Wallin said the force is trying to hire more women and visible minorities, “but we actually live in a democracy, you can’t be conscripted. (…) It seems counterproductive to say there’s some quota that has to be met and then that’s proof the RCMP is modernizing.”

“Everybody agrees there needs to be some civilian involvement” in oversight of the RCMP, but the committee also heard from witnesses who stressed “you also need people who understand policing,” said Wallin.

Wallin defended the Conservative appointment of Ian McPhail (a lawyer who admits he has no criminal law or policing background) as interim chair of the Commission of Public Complaints Against the RCMP, saying he does not make “all decisions independently.” She suggested it is “probably a good thing” to have “some individuals that have some policing experience” and some that don’t.

Overall, Wallin said the report contributes nothing constructive to public debate about the RCMP, nor does it bring effective pressure to bear by ensuring the right kind of change happens under the watchful eye of organizations like the Senate committee.

Conservatives and Liberal members of the committee had been working on drafts of a report since last fall but had reached no consensus on recommendations. The NDP’s public safety critic Don Davies welcomed the Liberal report as bolstering the NDP’s calls for change.

Kenny, who may lose his position as committee chairman given the increased numbers of Conservatives in the Senate, said Liberals made the decision to release the Liberal’s version of what it should contain – two weeks before Parliament reconvenes – because the matter is so important.

Monday, February 15, 2010

RCMP plans dramatic changes to Taser policy

Jim Bronskill
The Canadian Press


OTTAWA—The RCMP plans a sweeping overhaul of its Taser policy following recommendations from inquiries prompted by the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

An internal briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press says the Mounties’ policy centre on use of force recommends four dozen specific changes on stun gun use.

The note prepared for RCMP Commissioner William Elliott states that the force’s review involved examination of two reports sparked by the death of Dziekanski, recent changes to Taser policy in Alberta and discussions within the national police force.

“Once the final (Taser) policy is approved, there will be an immediate impact on operations and training which will have to reflect the policy changes,” says the November note, released under the Access to Information Act.

The briefing note states that although there has been preliminary consultation within the force and with partner agencies, “further consultations will be required in order to finalize the draft policy before being submitted to the commissioner for final approval.”

Dziekanski, who hoped to join his mother in British Columbia, died in October 2007 after being hit with a Mountie Taser at the Vancouver airport. A video of the confrontation taken by a fellow air passenger, in which a confused, sweaty Dziekanski is zapped repeatedly, was seen by millions of people — triggering public outrage and a fundamental re-examination of stun gun use.

Over the last eight years, Tasers have become an increasingly common tool in the arsenal of police services.

Law-enforcement agencies say the tools, which can be shot from a distance or used in up-close touch-stun mode, are often a preferable alternative to pepper spray or batons when dealing with violent suspects.

Critics say police are using the powerful devices to make merely unco-operative people comply with orders even when they don’t pose a threat to officers or bystanders.

Elliott maintains that the Taser is a useful tool for RCMP officers when used properly.

After looking into the Dziekanski case, Paul Kennedy, then-chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said use of the Taser was “premature and inappropriate.” He called on the Mounties to further clarify for their members and the public when a stun gun should be fired.

Former judge Thomas Braidwood, who led a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use, said while the guns can kill or gravely injure people, they can also be a valuable option for officers.

In an initial report, Braidwood said police should use a Taser only when someone is causing harm to another or there’s a possibility they will imminently do so.

The B.C. government ordered all police in the province to severely restrict stun gun use, but the RCMP said it needed time to review Braidwood’s report.

The RCMP briefing note to Elliott says a policy “revision document is being finalized for review by the commissioner that contains 48 specific recommended (Taser) policy changes.”

Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman, said discussions on the new draft policy continue, adding he could not discuss details at this point.

Federal and provincial governments are working on national standards for Taser use, and it’s not immediately clear how the latest RCMP revisions would tie in to such a cross-country policy.

The last major changes to the RCMP’s national Taser policy took effect in February of last year.

However, there have been some revisions.

Following a bulletin from Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International, the RCMP last October issued an advisory that officers should try to avoid aiming a Taser at a person’s chest. The company denied the bulletin was an admission the weapons could trigger heart problems, only that limiting the target zone would help “avoid any potential controversy on this topic.”

The RCMP also began training officers last year on a revised system for dealing with incidents involving suspects.

The step-by-step system guides officers in their dealings with people from the point they arrive on the scene to possible use of force, including physical contact and weapons such as the Taser or a conventional firearm.

note: A positive step in the right direction but we will have to see if anything substantive does come out of all of this. An outright ban on this barbaric weapon by all police forces in Canada is what is really needed here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mounties Under Fire - Premieres on CBC - January 21 at 9pm

If you're one of the tens of thousands whose trust in the RCMP has been rocked by repeated scandal, here is a film you must see. MOUNTIES UNDER FIRE is a gripping journey into the heart of the RCMP during a period of profound crisis, revealing a painfully flawed organization fighting for its life.

From top brass to beat cop, Bountiful Films captures a force in the throes of self-examination, struggling to get back to its core values. Filmmaker Helen Slinger was struck by the frankness, and discomfort, with which senior RCMP responded to the film. "When commenting on the intimate view of the force that resulted from the open access we were able to negotiate, one senior Mountie said it all: 'Riveting, but it hurts.'"

For more information on the film and the RCMP: Go to http://bountiful.ca/

And please forward this email to any in your circle who might like to like to see this film.

MOUNTIES UNDER FIRE
CBC's Doc Zone
Thursday, January 21 at 9pm (9:30 NT)

note: For sometime now I have spoken out on this blog and on my John Prince blog, on the inhumane use of Tasers by our police forces across Canada, resulting in torture and death on those of us they have been entrusted to 'serve and protect' (sic). The RCMP, especially, have been singled out mainly because of what they did to a Polish immigrant newly arrived to Canada, but also because of the complete lack of accountability and immunity to prosecution resulting in real jail time (comparable to what any of us so-called denizens would receive if the roles were reversed). This is a police force that is totally out of control... and the bodies keep piling up. From what I understand the above CBC documentary attests to this fact.

UPDATE: Watched this last night and was 'extremely' disappointed. Thought it landed up being more of a PR propaganda exercise on behalf of the RCMP, rather than an honest, hardhitting 'expose' on how completely out of control they are. Far too much attention and time spent on their recruitment and training facility in Regina (including 'Taser' training exercises (sic)), rather than on their complete lack of accountability, truth and transparency.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Judge has jurisdiction in Taser death inquiry, court says

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER – The judge conducting a provincial inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski can find misconduct against the RCMP officers involved, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.

The Appeal Court upheld a lower court decision rejecting the RCMP's argument that Thomas Braidwood had no jurisdiction to make the findings because his provincial inquiry doesn't have authority over the federal force.

Braidwood warned early this year that he wanted to consider whether to allege misconduct against the four officers involved when he writes his final report.

The RCMP took the issue to court, but the B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed their claims. Three of the officers appealed that decision.

The appeal decision hinged mainly on two key questions considered by the three-judge panel: whether Braidwood's report would infringe on federal jurisdiction over criminal law and whether it would infringe on federal powers over the RCMP.

In her reasons, Justice Mary Saunders said findings by the inquiry that might include misconduct don't equate to a criminal investigation, as lawyers for the officers suggested it would.

"It seems to me (Braidwood) is entitled to comment, if comment be warranted, on the response of public officials to the events and to his process, thereby to advance the public interest of confidence in the administration of justice," she wrote in her decisions, which were agreed upon unanimously.

She also said the inquiry didn't tread into the management or administration of the RCMP, noting she trusted Braidwood to stay within his boundaries.

"The Commissioner has demonstrated an appreciation of the limit upon his constitutional authority arising from the character of the officers as members of the RCMP," she wrote.

"I would not anticipate he will stray over that line of demarcation and I see no basis upon which to interfere."

Lawyers for the officers could not immediately be reached for comment, but David Butcher, the lawyer for one of them, has said in the past that their argument raises "legitimate and difficult constitutional issues."

Butcher, who represents Const. Bill Bentley, added these kinds of issues often end up being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Dziekanski died after he was zapped multiple times with an RCMP Taser at the Vancouver airport in 2007.

The Polish immigrant had been acting erratically, throwing furniture and brandishing a stapler, after being stranded at the airport for hours.

Braidwood's inquiry heard from more than 80 witnesses, including the four officers, starting last January.

Among the allegations levelled at the inquiry were that the officers used the Taser when they shouldn't have and that they lied about what happened to cover up their actions.

The officers argued in court that those allegations amount to criminal offences that are best left to the courts.

Last December, Crown prosecutors in British Columbia decided against charging the officers, saying they used reasonable force on Dziekanski, given his behaviour.

While the inquiry's final report carries no legal consequences, findings that the officers acted improperly could increase pressure on the Crown to reconsider charges and would likely intensify criticism of the RCMP.


note: This is good news, as it should be apparent to all by now that accountability is what is called for here. On that note, I find it interesting, perplexing and astonishing that the Crown prosecutors in British Columbia decided against charging the officers involved in this matter.

As they did again recently by not charging Monty Robinson, one of the officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport, who has been charged only with attempting to obstruct justice in connection to an unrelated car accident that killed a man. Delta police had recommended a charge of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death, but the B.C. Crown did not follow there recommendation.

The B.C. Crown's ongoing track record of not charging the RCMP with criminal wrongdoing is quite disturbing, until you remember, we have a two-tiered justice system in this country that protects (at all costs) those who are suppose to serve and protect us... even when they cross the line, resulting in death and injury to those of us in the public who have been reduced to nothing more than... collateral damage.


When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny.