Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
OPINION Complaints system changes long overdue
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 26 Apr 2006, p. 6

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For nearly a decade, citizens who believed they had been the victim of misconduct by police officers were often relegated to taking those complaints to the very source of their complaint-- the local police station. However, this often intimidating and ineffective exercise may soon be a thing of the past after the provincial government introduced legislation last week that would see a newly-formed independent civilian agency take responsibility for investigating complaints against police and establish a police review system. "(The system would) have the confidence and respect of both the public and police," said Attorney General Michael Bryant. Much of the proposed legislation is based on recommendations by former Superior Court justice Patrick LeSage who released a report a year ago urging an overhaul of the province's "flawed" police complaints procedures. The new civilian body would be led by an independent police review director who would be responsible for the initial screening of all police complaints. It will be up to the director to decide, on a case-bycase basis, whether to have his own staff, the police service involved or a different police service investigate the complaint. The current system allows the police service involved in the complaint to determine whether to investigate or not. While the vast majority of police officers in Ontario perform their job admirably, there are undoubtedly "a few bad apples" in every profession. Because policing is part of the governmental process, as LeSage points out, it should be "subject to civilian oversight". Certainly a balance needs to be struck to ensure the rights of police officers are not compromised while at the same time Joe Public can feel confident in having his/her complaint heard without feeling intimidated. An independent civilian agency will allow for that and is long overdue.

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26 Apr 2006
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Bryant, Michael ; LeSage, Patrick
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OPINION Complaints system changes long overdue