Thursday, January 14, 2016

Those At The Top Just Aren't Doing Their Jobs - Part 2

Continuing with the theme of my previous post, another institution whose leadership frequently fails the public that it is sworn to protect and serve is that of law enforcement. Stories abound of police abuse of their authority, and yet it seems increasingly rare to see a public accounting for that abuse.

While the 2010 Toronto G20 Summit is probably the worst example of unaccountability in recent memory, with the man the at the top, Bill Blair, accepting no responsibility for the terrible violations of citizen rights that took place, there is a plethora of other, less dramatic cases that seldom see the light of day. A recent Toronto Star investigation revealed some disturbing facts about widespread concealment of police misconduct:
A Durham cop was caught on video threatening to beat up a man and plant cocaine on him, behaviour that prompted a Superior Court judge to say the officer “committed several criminal offences in the course of his duties.”

A Toronto officer refused to help his partner arrest an off-duty cop for drinking and driving.

Seven Ontario Provincial Police constables made fake notebook entries claiming they were conducting a RIDE check to catch drunk drivers when they were really hanging out at Tim Hortons.

All of these officers were disciplined under a secretive informal process that is supposed to be used only for cases that are not of a serious nature, an ongoing Star investigation has found. Critics say this is serious misconduct that should have been aired in a public hearing.
This bizarre culture of concealment means that for the most part, the offenders' names and actions are kept from the public, and after two years of good behaviour, the misconduct must be scrubbed from the offending officer’s employment record, according to the Police Services Act, which governs policing in Ontario.

Like the officials profiled in Part 1, the people at the top have much influence over what is concealed and downplayed, thereby distorting the public's perception of both the force and those at the top of that force:
Under Ontario’s Police Services Act, a chief can choose to handle a discipline matter through informal resolution if she is of the opinion the misconduct “was not of a serious nature.”
Although these 'in-house' proceedings are meant to deal only with minor matters, the record reveals they are used to hide some pretty serious matters, with the Peel constabulary having a rather unenviable record:
In the last five years alone, 640 Peel officers — roughly 30 per cent of the force — have been sanctioned under the secretive system, some multiple times. The OPP, a force three times the size, informally disciplined almost the same number of officers over that time period.
While the police insist on the efficacy of these tribunals, the glaring and uncomfortable fact is that names and offences are kept secret, thereby obviating the crucial component of public accountability.

The Star investigation lists numerous examples of misconduct dealt with secretly, but this video of Constable James Egdon is perhaps emblematic of how serious transgressions can be swept under the rug:

In a 2015 decision, a Superior Court judge ripped into Const. Ebdon’s conduct, calling it “reprehensible.”

“The evidence establishes that Constable Ebdon committed several criminal offences in the course of his duties,” Justice Laura Bird said in her decision.

“Const. Ebdon showed a staggering lack of appreciation for the seriousness of his conduct. Perhaps that is not surprising in light of the fact that the only penalty that was imposed on him by the Durham Regional Police Service was the loss of 24 hours pay.”

Because he was disciplined informally, Ebdon’s misconduct wasn’t required to be disclosed in a court case where he testified as an officer — a fact the judge called “concerning.” Durham police will not publicly discuss Ebdon’s case.

The final word goes to Alok Mukherjee, former chair of Toronto Police Services Board.

During Mukherjee’s tenure on the police board, which provides civilian oversight the Toronto force, he said groups of officers were informally disciplined for removing their name tags during the G20 and turning off their in-car cameras — what he calls serious offences that undermine police accountability and integrity.

“My fear is that an impression is created that the discipline is not serious,” he said. “The next person who does that (misconduct) will act knowing that his matter is not serious.”

As I titled this post, those at the top just aren't doing their jobs.


  1. When you tolerate a culture of impunity it's illogical to expect responsibility

  2. .. without question Canadians need to be worried about their police forces. In fairness, policing is a crazy occupation. But larger urban centers, those near border crossings or drug smuggling routes face ever more exceptional challenges. You examined many stunning examples at the civic & provincial level.. but what to make of the RCMP and what appears to be intense interference from the highest levels of Government and the advent of bottomless legal funding.. or simply rewriting Law retroactively ? The 'Law' is now becoming plastic & malleable and even our highest courts are challenged constantly by partisan corporatist captured Governments. Assailed legally from above and below how can we expect policing.. or military for that matter, to be capable or confident? Dirty Politics now sticks its nose into 'Law' with impunity and hordes of taxpayer funded lawyers.. until we clean up the mess at the highest level of governance.. we'll never be able to demand policing reflect ethics or morality that deserves our respect and confidence

    1. Very good points, Salamander, and I think it is a measure of how far politics has permeated organizational structures that those at the highest levels often behave as some of our elected politicians do - with abject dishonour.