There are several well known programs in Canada representing the fully independent model. One is the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario established in 1990. Its mandate is to investigate police actions that result in the serious injury or death of a citizen. The second is the Manitoba Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA). It has the power to refer a complaint to a provincial judge who can order a public hearing (Wortley Civilian Governance 8). The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP also functions independently (Commission for Complaints).
The process of lodging a complaint is far more problematic and controversial than the organizational structure of civilian review. Problems precipitating citizen dissatisfaction with the complaint process are summarized below. The majority of citizens simply do not have confidence in a process in which the police investigate themselves – the in-house model (Goldsmith "External review"). Neither do they willingly support a civilian oversight body that utilizes active or former police officers who perform the investigative function. The likelihood of collusion is regarded by most complainants as too great.
Conduct generating complaints
The police perspective on misconduct, as discussed previously, is primarily governed by police service regulations, the internal policies of police forces, and existing codes of conduct. What type of police behaviours generate complaints - in addition to the issues of race and the excessive use of force mentioned earlier? Several studies address this issue. Holland examines eight categories of citizen complaints: assaults, general behaviour, traffic control incidents, failure of duty, searches, placement in custody, crime involving property, and criminal behaviour (Holland). Cao and Huang focus on abuses of power incurred during unlawful arrest and detention, illegal search or seizure, harassment and intimidation, misuse of authority, and the use of racist and improper language (Cao et.al.). Burgess and his colleagues find that in almost fifty percent of the incidents resulting in a complaint, it was alleged that police officers had punched or kicked a complainant (Burgess et. al.). Birkbeck and Gabaldon discover that officers were more prone to use force against people with lesser social status (Birkbeck and Gabaldon).
Tammy Landau's study of complaints provides a different perspective. She notes in her study that complaints frequently involved citizens who were simply engaged in some form of public activity, and not during an arrest. Conflicts with the police, in other words, occurred during routine interactions between citizens and law enforcement officers (Landau "When police investigate").
|Previous Page||Table of Contents||Next Page|