Dr. Dawg

Ontario policing: the fish rots from the head

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G20 police thuggery.jpg

Perhaps I’ve been a little unfair to the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the past. Reports that they almost invariably clear Ontario cops of the most heinous misconduct are entirely accurate. But it seems that in some cases, at least, they have had little choice in the matter, whatever their intentions.

When journalists have to do SIU’s job for them, we’re left scratching our heads. But an absolutely scathing report from Ontario’s ombudsman, Andre Marin, explains why this may be.

[O]fficers did not co-operate in nearly one in three cases investigated by the SIU between October, 2008, and October, 2011, undermining the public’s confidence in the police watchdog.

Marin points out that the SIU has little or no power to compel cooperation. The agency can’t even get its hands on original police notes: these get spruced up under the attentive eye of lawyers before the SIU gets to see the new, sanitized version.

The depths of the cynicism in the Attorney General’s Office is evident:

Mr. Marin said he is skeptical the ministry will follow through on his call for legislation. He cites an internal briefing note from the Attorney General’s office dated March 30, 2009, suggesting the government had no intention of pursuing legislative reform in response to his 2008 report.

“He usually gets his media hit off report releases and then moves on,” the note says of Mr. Marin, who is renowned for garnering widespread media attention.

Wait out public outrage: lather, rinse, repeat.

That note was written under the stewardship of the unspeakable Christopher Bentley, who was replaced this past October by John Gerretsen.

Gerretsen acknowledged that change is needed, but was noncommittal. “The situation needs to be improved,” he told reporters. “We’re going to improve it.”

Sure he is.

Even if the SIU were granted the power to demand the submission of documents and to compel testimony, there is no guarantee that anything would change very much. Increased power doesn’t mean anything without the will to exercise it.

Ontario’s new Office of the Independent Police Review Director, for example, has already proven itself to be yet another lapdog. In case anyone is in doubt on that score, a review of the past six months of disciplinary decisions might assist: the most that rogue cops seem to get even when they plead guilty to Police Act offences is a few hours docked from their leave banks. Its search link for cases prior to that time leads to irrelevant media releases.

There is no accountability, none whatsoever, and the buck stops with Ontario’s new Attorney General. Grafting a new head onto an already rotten fish is plainly insufficient. The entire corrupt system—including the cozy relationship between the Crown and the police (in Ottawa, extending to socializing together at the St. Louis Bar and Grill), the set-up-to-fail internal disciplinary processes, and the toothless external ones—needs to be shaken out from top to bottom, and replaced if necessary.

Meanwhile, cops in my home town and elsewhere will continue to brutalize children and adults alike, knowing full well that they can do anything they want to anyone they choose, even kill them. The most they risk is a little vacation pay.

Impunity is the name of the game. In answer to Juvenal’s famous question, no one is guarding the guards. And the guards know it.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on December 15, 2011 11:11 AM.

A tale of two gunmen was the previous entry in this blog.

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