By: Hailey DeWitt Williams
Police need to be policed, and as of today the report card is out.
The long awaited review of the agencies that oversee police conduct in Ontario has been released.
The 263 page report reviews the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).
Justice Michael Tulloch, a judge of the Ontario Court Appeal, said oversight agencies will begin collecting demographic statistics such as race, gender, age, mental health status, religion, ethnicity, and more. He recommends that proper use and best practices regarding this data should be implemented. He said data collection offers many benefits and otherwise conversation about police violence and racial profiling is dominated by allegations and anecdotes.
In today’s live webcast, Tulloch revealed the SIU will be provided with more staff who are both socially and culturally competent, and who are dedicated to supporting affected persons and their families.
“Former police officers should be vetted to ensure that they are properly suited to conduct partial investigations by incorporating anti-bias measure into their recruitment, training, education, and evaluation,” said Tulloch, who was appointed to lead the review of the three agencies in April 2016.
The purpose of the Independent Police Oversight Review is to make recommendations on how to enhance the transparency and accountability of police oversight bodies while preserving fundamental rights.
The report wants to ensure police oversight bodies are working effectively, efficiently and have clear mandates, all while reducing overlap and inefficiencies between these bodies. Other aims include enhanced cultural competence in relation to interactions with Indigenous Peoples.
Calls for review began after the death of Andrew Loku in 2015. Other issues that have prompted the review involve police situations where civilians have been sexually assaulted, injured, or killed.
After 7 months of fact finding, information gathering, and 130 private meetings, 1,500 people were heard from in 18 public consultations held in centers across the province.
The meetings were open to the public, the media, and all were streamed live on a webcast on policeoversightreview.ca.
Tulloch said there has been a great appetite for change in the province in regards to the oversight regime. He also said there has been considerable willingness of police stakeholders, the public, and oversight bodies to participate in this change.
The final report makes 129 recommendations aimed at making policing police more transparent.
Some recommendations include:
- Whether subject/witness officer names and other witness names should be released to the public.
- Whether more information than is currently released to the public about an investigation should be released, and is so what form.
- Whether former police officers should be employed by the police oversight bodies to conduct investigations.
- Whether any information collected by each police oversight body in relation to investigations can be shared between them, and if so, how it best can be accomplished.
- Whether the three police oversight bodies should collect demographic statistics such as race, gender, age and community membership.
- Whether mental health information ought to be collected as part of this statistical process, and what, if any, parameters should guide the collection of such data.
“The people of Ontario are entitled and deserve to know that when it comes to the operation of police services in the province, justice is not only done but it is seen to be done,” said Tulloch in the livestream.