Opinion Column

Police watchdog a redundant bureaucracy

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner seems more like an expensive make-work project for bureaucrats than an effective agency. (FOTOLIA)

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner seems more like an expensive make-work project for bureaucrats than an effective agency. (FOTOLIA)

The 2012/13 report of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner was released last week and, after reading it, one is left with, well, not much of anything.

The majority of cases where there was a finding of misconduct on the part of a police officer were minor in nature and resulted in reprimands or short suspensions from duty. The most serious case involved cocaine usage by a member of the New Westminster Police Department and resulted in the officer’s dismissal. That event occurred in early 2011 and was referred to the OPCC by New West police to ensure the information and action taken by them was appropriate.

According to the report, which covers the time period between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, the OPCC received 1,210 total complaints about police misconduct. Of these, 64% were unsubstantiated, withdrawn or otherwise discontinued. A further 21% were “informally resolved,” which means all parties were talked to and agreed on a resolution to close the file.

The report states that there were 106 “substantiated” complaints in the reporting period. Yet, when one reads the summary of substantiated complaints in the appendix to the report, one finds many of these occurred over a four-year period and not specifically in the reporting period. In other words, no big deal or little more than a make-work project for underworked bureaucrats.

The OPCC exists to provide so-called civilian oversight to the 2,413 municipal police officers in B.C. They do what is done internally by the police agencies themselves, but was set up to counter the impression, mostly fostered by the media, that the police shouldn’t police themselves.

The reality is that cops are rightly held to a higher standard. Most police officers are hard-working, upstanding men and women. When a cop goes rogue or does something like the NWPD officer, all police are diminished and want that officer appropriately dealt with. This was always the case and why, typically, an assignment to internal affairs — or professional standards as it has been renamed of late — was only reluctantly accepted. No one wants to investigate colleagues, but that is what the job entails.

The OPCC is little more than a redundant bureaucracy. To underline this, in the summary appendix of the latest report filed it lists the Organized Crime Agency of BC with the notation, “No substantiated allegations in this reporting period.”

That’s not surprising considering this agency was folded into the RCMP’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit 10 years ago and is basically defunct.

We are spending $3 million a year on the OPCC for what exactly?

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.





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