| Feb 23, 2006


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Police complaints

by Peter Graham, staffLawyer

Legalese - A column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

AmalgamationPolice Complaints - In Ontario , if you have a complaint about the conduct of a police officer, the services provided by a police service or the policies of a police service, there is a formal process in place to pursue that complaint. The Players - Each municipal police service in Ontario is governed by a police service board, which is responsible for ensuring the adequacy and effectiveness of its police service. Province wide oversight of policing services is provided by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCPS), an independent, civilian, quasi-judicial agency that reports to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Making a Complaint - Complaints may be made only by persons directly affected by the incident giving rise to the complaint and should be made within six months of the incident. The complaint must be made in writing and be signed by the complainant. There is a standard complaint form. Although a complaint may be made without the form, the information required in the form must be included. The completed and signed complaint must be mailed, faxed or delivered to any office of the police service named in the complaint or to the OCCPS office. Initial Processing a Complaint - Initially the chief of the police service (or the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] as the case may be) classifies the complaint. The chief/commissioner may decide not to deal with a complaint for one of the following reasons:

ؠ the complaint was filed more than six months after the incident that led to the complaint;

ؠ the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith; or

ؠ the complainant is not directly affected by the incident.

Complaints about Conduct - A chief/commissioner must ensure that every conduct complaint that passes the initial screening is investigated and based on that investigation may:

ؠ find that there is misconduct or unsatisfactory work performance of a less serious nature and propose that the matter be resolved by way of informal resolution. Such resolution requires the consent of the complainant, the officer and the chief/commissioner.

ؠ find that there is misconduct or unsatisfactory work performance of a serious nature and hold a disciplinary hearing into the matter. A complainant is advised about his or her participation in the hearing.

ؠ find that the complaint is unsubstantiated.

Appeals - An appeal may be made to the local police service board or the local detachment/commissioner of the OPP as the case may be if the complainant disagrees with the outcome of a complaint about the services provided by the police service or the policies of the police service.

An appeal may be made to the OCCPS if:

ؠ the complainant disagrees with the classification of the complaint;

ؠ the complainant disagrees with the decision not to deal with the complaint;

ؠ the complainant disagrees with the finding of the chief/commissioner following an investigation into a complaint about police conduct.

On an appeal, the OCCPS may:

ؠ uphold the decision of the Chief/Commissioner;

ؠ refer the complaint back for investigation;

ؠ assign the investigation of the complaint to another police service;

ؠ find misconduct of a less serious nature;

ؠ find that there is sufficient evidence to allege misconduct of a serious nature and order a disciplinary hearing.

There is no appeal from a decision of the OCCPS.

More information about the complaint procedure, including time limits for the various steps involved, may be obtained by calling the OCCPS at 1-888-515-5005 and on its website at www.occps.ca.

- Peter Graham, Lawyer

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