Municipal cops call for RCMP accountability

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      Municipal police officers want RCMP forces doing contract police work in British Columbia to be accountable to the same civilian-oversight process as they are for public complaints in the province.

      Tom Stamatakis, founding president of the 2,500-member B.C. Police Association, noted in a phone interview that the existence of two separate mechanisms dealing with public grievances is “problematic”.

      “What we would say is that all police officers in the province of British Columbia should be subject to the same type of oversight, the same type of legislative framework, and the ownership of that oversight should belong to the province of British Columbia,” Stamatakis told the Georgia Straight.

      The BCPA was launched in September of last year. It represents officers from the province’s 11 municipal police departments, as well as the transit police. (Stamatakis is also the head of the Vancouver Police Union.)

      Under the current setup, complaints against local police are handled by the Victoria-based Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, an independent agency created under the Police Act. Those relating to the RCMP are dealt with by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, a body that is based in Ottawa.

      However, Stamatakis pointed out that the federal complaints commission can only make recommendations and that it is ultimately the RCMP commissioner who decides cases filed against Mounties.

      “Whereas in this province and in most other provinces in the country, when it comes to municipal or provincial police”¦the oversight is independent of the police agencies,” Stamatakis said.

      According to figures provided to the Straight by Nelson Kalil, spokesperson for the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, complaints against Mounties doing contract police work in B.C. make up more than half of all cases nationwide.

      For the period from April 1, 2003, to March 31, 2008, RCMP officers in B.C. accounted for 2,418 out of the total of 4,493 complaints filed against Mounties across the country.

      Kalil explained in a phone interview that because of the volume of complaints against RCMP officers in the province, the commission decided to put up its national intake office for cases in Surrey.

      Bruce Brown is a former RCMP officer and a deputy commissioner at the provincial Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Brown told the Straight that putting the RCMP under a provincial oversight process is a complicated matter because the RCMP is a federal agency. However, he acknowledged that having two separate complaints processes is “confusing” to the public.

      “Whether or not it’s possible to have one system, that remains to be seen,” Brown said. “That’s something that will have to be decided by the politicians.”

      The B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association counts about 500 members across the province and is independent of the RCMP brass, according to its president, Patrick Mehain.

      According to Mehain, the association’s members wouldn’t have any problem being under the same oversight process as local police forces. He even went further by suggesting that B.C.–based Mounties may even switch uniforms if Victoria decides to pass legislation creating a provincial police force.

      “If they go to a provincial force or a regional police force, they’re going to need a certain amount of members right off the bat,” Mehain told the Straight. “I’m not speaking for the RCMP, but I believe the members who I have spoken to would be willing to cross over.”

      In 1992, the province struck a commission of inquiry into policing. It was headed by then-judge Wally Oppal, now the province’s attorney general.

      One of the issues tackled by Oppal was the split complaint process for municipal police and RCMP forces, which he himself described in his 1994 report as “clearly unacceptable”.

      “Clearly there should be one process for complaints against all police officers,” Oppal wrote. “There are several ways in which this can be accomplished. The first would be to have the RCMP, by moral suasion, consent to compliance with the provincial complaints systems. This could be effected by reopening the contract with the RCMP. This seems highly unlikely. The second way would be to enact provincial legislation which would be applicable to all police officers in the province.”

      Both these options remain open to the province. The RCMP contract with the province expires in 2012. According to Stamatakis, the matter of having a single civilian-oversight authority should be on the table when the contract is renegotiated.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      gmc

      Jan 22, 2009 at 4:21pm

      Municipal cops call for RCMP accountability. What about there own or have they read the paper lately. Cops being suspended over allegations and nor RCMP, hello. They should look after there own.

      sleepswithangels

      Jan 22, 2009 at 5:41pm

      If BC cancels their contract with the RCMP and creates a provincial police force I would have a major problem with hiring most, if not all, former Mounties. This is because of the mindset that results from their paramilitary training and the hard right wing pro corporate and pro American slant that goes into their curriculum and imbues the thinking of their mid and senior level staff. In other words, Mounties are damaged goods and a fund should be set aside for thousands of hours of deprogramming for each pink slipped robocop so our communities don't have to deal with a sudden influx of unemployable, untreated misfits.

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      dogmann

      Jan 26, 2009 at 6:22pm

      Personaly I think the RCMP should NOT be accepted into a provincial police force as they have had a free reign over their actions and are as someone previously had said "are damaged goods" and compared to municipal police, had not been under the same scrutiny or been prosecuted the same when under investigation if and when they've commited crimes such as in the past. And I believe ALL cops should be fired after commiting any crime under the criminal code and lose their pay from the moment they originaly commit the crime, and if found not guilty by an independant review board, their pay given back along with their jobs.This will be a deterent to others looking to break the law.

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      henripaul

      Feb 1, 2009 at 3:36pm

      The Mounties are damaged beyond repair in BC, time to disband.
      B.C. Mounted Police would be governed and control by us here in BC.
      Carol James are you listening.

      thecossack

      Feb 18, 2009 at 12:12am

      The municipal cops calling for RCMP accountability? That's rich. Lets see, the Stanley Park crew, Pivot legal societies cases, the West Van impaired, cover up, and the accounting of the two there. Hmmmm. Sounds good to me, they are doing a hell of a job alright. Gotta spread that manure around a little more.

      Who you going to hire dogmann? And the presumption of innocence? Probably an outdated idea anyway right? Who cares if the accuser is wrong in the end. We can buy the cop a new house that he lost and find him a nice new wife as well maybe seeing as how we cut off his income. Screw the jurisprudence in opposition to that eh?

      henrypaul is right, all 5000 RCMP officers in the province are only worthy of firing. How could I not see that?

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      LexLutho

      Mar 16, 2009 at 11:54pm

      People people...the RCMP in BC are here to stay. Period. Do you really think the force is going to let their largest contract (BC) slip? They're already hiring new officers JUST so that they can return to BC. Plus they've created the RCMP Pacific Training Academy in Chilliwack. Now, why do you think they would do that? Because they're leaving the province? Whoever's in office during the contract negotiations will be committing political suicide by forcing the RCMP (federal gov't) out of BC. And don't let a few bad apples rot the entire force; most officers are outstanding characters. But I do agree to having a "local" complaint's process for BC Mounties.

      Catty

      May 8, 2009 at 1:55pm

      Thank you LexLutho! One cannot posibly think that ALL Mounties are bad ! Its like saying that just because all of "theCossacks" was a jerk to me yesterday at work, that all of his relatives and family and anyone who looks like him is a jerk as well!
      Take a deep breath ! Perhaps some understanding is needed. Why not take some time and work with one of your local cops (municipal or RCMP) and see what MOST cops are doing which is good work...get involved in your community and be part of the solution.

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