Monday, April 18, 2016

Not An Obsession

Looking at the sidebar that lists the tags on my blog posts, I see I have written well over 100 entries on the police, most of them dealing with their abuse of authority; some of those abuses include the murder of unarmed or barely armed people, others the senseless beating of people. All of them attest to a constabulary, whether Canadian or American, out of control and contemptuous of any efforts to bring them to accountability of justice.

Some might say I am obsessed with the topic, but they would be wrong. What I think I am obsessed with is the desire for fairness and justice and an utter and complete contempt for those who abuse their power and authority.

Here in Ontario, that abuse is rampant, and true accountability is rare. The responsibility for such a sad state of affairs resides largely with the provincial government.

Governments seem loathe to incur the ill-will of those sworn to protect and serve us. With their 'us against them mentality,' the police have proven to be formidable forces to fear when politicians and other prominent people incur their wrath.

Legislators are failing us, and it has to change.

Consider, for example, the secrecy that surrounds SIU investigations of police actions. When their investigations are complete and they exonerate, as they almost always do, police officers who have either beaten, shot or killed a person, the public is not allowed to know the basis for exoneration, the names of the officers involved, or anything else that might provide an inkling of how the investigatory body reached its conclusion. What I didn't know until the other day is that such secrecy is not mandated under the Police Services Act.

As revealed in The Star,
the report prepared by the director of the SIU, the agency that probes deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police in Ontario, goes straight to the desk of the Attorney General — and nowhere else.

The Police Services Act, the law that governs the SIU, says the watchdog’s director must report the results of investigations to the Attorney General. It doesn’t state the reports cannot be sent elsewhere or made public.
So what is stopping a wider release of SIU reports?
The spokesperson for Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur [says] the reports contain information protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, “including information relating to affected persons (e.g. persons seriously injured), witnesses and officers under investigation.”
According to Brian Beamish, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, this is a bit of an evasion:
“While the name of a police officer who has been the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) would likely be personal information, there may be circumstances of significant public interest where the SIU may disclose the name or other information associated with its completed investigations for the purposes of fostering accountability and public confidence in police services, and ensuring transparency in its operations,” Beamish told the Star in a statement.
While public consultations will soon be announced by the Wynne government into Ontario's police oversight mechanisms, there really is nothing that exists in current legislation to either encourage or prevent much greater public accountability and scrutiny right now.

The bright light of public scrutiny is something the police themselves seem to fear, and while our political 'leaders' allow themselves to be bullied by our public 'protectors,' horrible situations like the killing of Rodrigo Gonzalez at the hands of police will continue:

Clearly, the dire situation demands strong, unambiguous and immediate remediation.

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