One third of complaints to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) are not completed within legislated timelines, a legislative review committee has found.
The committee suggested, in its report released Nov. 25, that police training be bolstered with cultural competency training and that processes have supports to ensure complaints are dealt with in a “respectful and safe environment.”
Those were among 94 recommendations in the areas of compliance, documentation of complaints and training.
"Continued confidence in the police complaint process is essential," said review committee deputy chair Mike Morris. "The committee's recommendations will improve accountability, transparency and fairness in the process."
The OPCC oversees handling of conduct complaints related to 3,500 sworn municipal police officers and special municipal constables employed by 11 municipal police departments, the Transit Police Service, the Organized Crime Agency of B.C. and the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police.
The finding that 65 per cent of files are now completed within the six-month, Police Act timeframe is an improvement from the 45 per cent of 2012.
While the committee report said the results are positive, the attached auditor’s report was a little less glowing.
The auditor’s report said expectations were not being fully met in the areas of:
- imposing consistent, corrective and disciplinary measures
- informing the public and police departments on emerging trends in police conduct
- engaging police departments and the public with outreach activities
- providing investigators and front-line supervisors the skills to handle complex cases and ability to train their own staff in alternative dispute resolution.
While improvements have happened, the report suggested a “‘fast-track’ or simplified process could be used to resolve complaints that are minor in nature, and where the officer in question admits responsibility and is willing to accept an appropriate disposition. Additionally, grouping multiple complaints together could help improve efficiency, which aligns with the recommendation of the OPCC.”
“The complaints process would also benefit from an appeal system as well as expanded use of alternative dispute resolution programs, particularly with indigenous communities and greater awareness of mental health issues.
“Committee members feel that the OPCC should improve their communication and outreach activities, and ensure the provision of cultural competency training for staff,” the report said. “The committee would also like the OPCC to develop a shared database as a resource for Police Act investigators and discipline authorities.”
In addition, the report said translated copies of the police complaint process form, brochures, and other communication materials should be available in major languages for newcomers to Canada. And, the complaint form and website should be rewritten in plain language, it said.
Also recommended was ensuring training and resources for investigators with the development of a provincial standard accreditation program.
Some committee members agreed a civilianized complaint process could alleviate burdens on police departments and could allow for implementation an arm’s length, professional adjudicative model.
B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke told the committee that RCMP lockup staff are not subject to the complaints process and that effective oversight systems need to be in place no matter what force polices a community.
Auditors examined 311 files to determine compliance. A public consultation was also held with invitations for written, audio or video submission