Independent office for police complaints

By RON FANFAIR

For more than a decade, Ontario police were in charge of reviewing police complaints and internal investigators could dismiss grievances without publicly revealing the results of their investigations.

This procedure was obviously flawed so significant systemic changes have been made to come up with a transparent system that inspires public confidence.

Last Monday, an independent agency – the Office of the Independent Review Director (OIPRD) – was launched.

Staffed by civilians, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General agency will receive, oversee and address public complaints against all provincial police services.

The OIPRD was created in response to an exhaustive review conducted by former Superior Court Justice Patrick LeSage who recommended a new independent body to administer public complaints against provincial police.

Bill 103 – an Act to establish an independent police review director and create a new public complaints process by amending the Police Services Act – was introduced at Queen’s Park in April 2006 and enacted in May 2007.

“This is a very historic and important day for the province of Ontario,” said Attorney General Chris Bentley. “The work that all of you and so many others have been involved in for years is coming to fruition beginning today where we will have an independent opportunity for people to file complaints and to have them resolved.

“Justice LeSage worked tirelessly to make sure that the system we came up with is the system that would not only hear and resolve fairly, but will have the confidence of the people of Ontario. At the end of the day, everybody may want their issues resolved as they wish them to be. What is the foundation of our province is that we have a system in which all can have confidence.”

The new agency’s director, Gerry McNeilly, a Queen’s University Law graduate, said he and his staff have developed the framework for a transparent and accountable system that will help enhance the positive relationship between the police and the community.

“My vision is to use my office to build community confidence and trust in police and policing because the community and the police need each other,” said McNeilly, a former executive director of Legal Aid Manitoba and chair of the Board of Inquiry for the Human Rights Tribunal which is now the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

“I am committed to ongoing communication with community and police groups throughout Ontario and, as we develop our standards, we recognize that our work cannot stay stagnant. To meet this challenge, it is important to have a flexible system and that is what we are building at the OIPRD. Change is inevitable and we have to be able to evolve and adapt to these changes.

“While I am independent of government, the police and the public in carrying out my duties under the legislation, independence doesn’t mean that I can’t work co-operatively and collaboratively. I intend to carry out my responsibilities in a very open, collaborative and consultative manner and I envisage that the community and the police will give us feedback and let us know what works and what can be improved.”

Individuals can file complaints in either English or French with the OIPRD on its website at www.oiprd.on.ca, by fax or in person at the office located at 655 Bay St., 10th floor.

Completed OIPRD complaint forms can also be filed at any municipal, regional or provincial police station. The police service will record the complaint and forward it to the OIPRD.

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