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Improving Transparency and Accountability in Policing Oversight

Archived Backgrounder

Improving Transparency and Accountability in Policing Oversight

Ministry of the Attorney General

Ontario is proposing changes to enhance accountability and transparency of the policing oversight system in order to strengthen trust between the police and the communities they serve.

The proposed changes respond to the recommendations made by the Honourable Justice Michael Tulloch in April 2017, to improve Ontario's three policing oversight bodies. Ontario is acting on 118 of the 119 recommendations directed towards the Ministry of the Attorney General - making this the most significant overhaul of policing oversight since these agencies were created.

Strengthening Ontario Policing Oversight Bodies

Special Investigations Unit

The Special Investigations Unit would be renamed the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (OSIU).

In addition to conducting criminal investigations into circumstances involving police officers and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death or reports of sexual assault, the OSIU's mandate would be expanded to investigate:

  • Circumstances involving former police officers, volunteer members of police services, special constables and, in certain cases, off-duty officers and members of First Nations police services
  • Any charges related to a criminal offence uncovered in the course of an investigation, even if it is not related to the civilian death, serious injury or sexual assault.

Further, the OSIU would be able to require police officers to comply with its investigations and would now be able to impose penalties for failure to do so.

To increase transparency, OSIU reports would be released publically and new time limits wouldalso be imposed for the completion and public reporting of investigations. This would result in a stronger, efficient and more accountable oversight agency.

Office of the Independent Police Review Director

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director would be renamed the Ontario Policing Complaints Agency (OPCA).

The OPCA would, within five years, become the sole investigative body for all public complaints made against police officers, special constables and in some cases, members of First Nations police.

This would enhance the independence of policing oversight investigations by ensuring that police services are not investigating themselves, and increase accountability through broadening the types of policing officials that may be the subject of public complaints.

Ontario Civilian Police Commission

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission would be renamed the Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal (OPDT), and would be dedicated solely to adjudicating disciplinary matters involving police officers and special constables. Public complaints would no longer be adjudicated internally by police services.

This would increase the tribunal's efficiency and improve transparency in the adjudication of public complaints.

Better Investigative Processes

The oversight agencies would be equipped with better tools to carry out their investigations. Key changes would include:

Present system

Proposed Changes

  • Police officers are asked to co-operate with the investigations of oversight agencies, but there is no provincial offence for failure to do so.
  • Police officers would have a duty to comply with OSIU and OPCA investigations. Failure to do so would result in a provincial offence with a penalty of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
  • Currently, most complaints to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director about police officers are referred to their respective police service to resolve.
  • Within five years, the OPCA would no longer refer public complaints about police officers to police services for investigation. Instead, the agency would investigate nearly all complaints itself.
  • The OPCA would have the power to investigate police officers or special constables without having a public complaint filed, if it is in the public interest.
  • Investigators working for oversight agencies can be former police officers.
  • The proposed legislation would give the government the authority to limit the number of former police officers or special constables that could be on an investigative team for the OSIU or that could be employed by the OPCA.
Greater Transparency and Accountability to the Public

The public would be provided with more information about the results of investigations and disciplinary hearings by policing oversight agencies.

Key changes would include:

Present system

Proposed Changes

  • The results of investigations into whether a police officer has caused a death or serious injury to a civilian are provided to the Attorney General, but are not required to be made public.
  • If criminal charges are laidagainst a policing official, the OSIU would publicly report the police officer's name, the offence charged, when the charge was laid and the date of the next court appearance.
  • If criminal charges are not laid against a policing official, the OSIU would publicly share its report, which would be required to provide information on why the official was not charged, a detailed summary of the events leading to the investigation, a timeline of the investigative process and any relevant video, audio or photographic evidence, subject to privacy concerns.
  • These reports would be published on the OSIU's website. In the interim, these reports are already being published on the Ontario government's website.
  • Currently, disciplinary hearings resulting from public complaints about a police officer are heard by the relevant chief of police or their delegate and the prosecutor is selected by the chief of police.
  • All hearings resulting from a public complaint would be heard by one or more independent adjudicators from the OPDT. In addition, independent counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General would conduct these hearings.
  • The Ontario Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and has limited jurisdiction over the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
  • The ombudsman would have jurisdiction over all three oversight bodies.
Promoting Inclusiveness

Policing oversight agencies would be equipped with more tools to tackle racism. Key changes would include:

Present system

Proposed Changes

  • There is no mandatory anti-racism training for staff at the police oversight bodies.
  • The OSIU and OPCA would have a duty to provide training for their employees that promotes recognition of and respect for the diverse, multicultural character of Ontario society, and the rights and cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples.
  • In addition, the OSIU and OPCA would be able to collect personal information specified by regulation, which could include race-based and other demographic data, and would be required to publish reports to inform, evaluate and improve the policing oversight systems.

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