Thursday, February 24, 2011

Police Response to Criticism? The Best Defence is an Offence (to all of us)

Yesterday I wrote an entry detailing the frustrations of Ian Scott, head of the Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, over his inability to get the cooperation of the majority of police forces when investigating allegations of police misconduct. Today, The Star reports on the strategy these forces use to combat such criticism.

Here is an excerpt from that story:

The association representing 33,000 front-line police officers in Ontario has accused the head of the province’s police watchdog of “destroying public confidence in the criminal justice system” with a “bias against police officers.”

In a letter of complaint to the body that regulates lawyers, the Police Association of Ontario says that Special Investigations Unit boss Ian Scott, a lawyer, committed professional misconduct by telling the Star in an interview that officers being investigated for alleged crimes “get all kinds of breaks in the (criminal justice) system.”

The Law Society quickly dismissed the December 2010 complaint without an investigation, telling the Police Association there is “insufficient evidence” of misconduct to warrant even a request for a probe.

The most ironic part of the complaint made by the police against the SIU head is found in the first paragraph, accusing Scott of destroying public confidence in the criminal justice system by his assertion that police officers are not held to the same high standard when being investigated for alleged crimes.

I agree that public confidence is being undermined, but not by the SIU. It is the refusal of the police themselves to cooperate with investigations, their refusal to bring wrongdoing of fellow officers to light (e.g., exactly how many have been charged in the G20 fiasco?), and the refusal of the police chiefs in charge of them to do anything to try to alter the 'brotherhood of the badge' mentality that appears to allow corruption and abuse of authority to exist and spread.

But then again, I'm sure, in their complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada, that they were aware of how effective 'shooting the messenger' can be.

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