COMPAC hosts release of SIU report

Ketcia Peters, COMPAC Co-Chair, left and César Ndéma-Moussa, President Caribbean Union of Canada, centre at the event

Ketcia Peters, COMPAC Co-Chair, left, César Ndéma-Moussa, President, Caribbean Union of Canada, centre, and police officer Heather Lachine, OPS Professional Development Unit, listen intently at the presentation

22 February, 2017

COMPAC – SIU Event Report

Summary

Following months of community and police tensions in Ottawa, resulting from the death of a black Canadian man, Abdirahman Abdi,in Ottawa in 2016 and the consultation visit of Justice Tulloch for the Ontario police review, Ottawa’s COMPAC (Community and Police Action  Committee) held a special event featuring the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) on February 22nd in the Champlain room at City Hall.  SIU’s Outreach Coordinator Jason Gennaro and Executive Officer William Curtis presented the SIU ‘s mandate along with its history and functions as well as its limitations. They also answered the questions from participants on such topics as the relationship of SIU with the police and how they handle cases involving members of the francophone community.  Here is the report from the event’s question and answer session.

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Q: How is policy formed at the SIU?

A: The SIU is governed by the Ontario Police Service Act. Sometimes internal policies are created with some external input.

Q: Which stakeholders have formal relationships with the SIU?

A: The position of the SIU Outreach Coordinator, currently held by Jason Gennaro, was established to further the SIU’s Outreach Strategy. The SIU has also established a Director’s Resource Committee that meets annually.

Further Information:

Jason Gennaro’s email:  jason.gennaro@ontario.ca and Twitter: https://twitter.com/jasongennaro

To learn more about the SIU Outreach Coordinator Position visit: https://www.siu.on.ca/en/outreach_coordinator.php

To learn more about the Director’s Resource Committee visit:  https://www.siu.on.ca/en/drc.php

Q: Who or what is obstructing SIU investigations, causing them to take so long?

A: The SIU do not feel that their investigations are being obstructed by anyone. Police encounter similar issues in their investigations.  As these are serious investigations, some of them possible homicides, it is necessary to do a lot of investigative work. For example, in cases resulting in serious injuries, the witness may need time to recover before they are interviewed.

There is only one director of the SIU. Each report is about 200 pages. The director has to deal with about 330 cases a year. SIU investigators gather information from witnesses, physical evidence, and forensics reports. This is all presented to the director. He will also listen to most of the interviews that have been recorded for the report. He may request more information on issues such as police training or may wish to get the expert opinion of a pathologist before making a decision. This takes time.

The SIU is not a stakeholder but similar a user of the legislation (Police Services Act). Currently, recommendations about how to improve the SIU are being made by community members to the Independent Police Oversight Review.

The SIU agrees that there is room for change.

Q: Police don’t usually take as long to press charges as the SIU. Why is there a difference?

A: The police are required to take action and just need reasonable grounds to arrest people before building a case file. However, the SIU is not in that position.  The SIU director has to build the case file and wants to make the most well informed decision before recommending charges be laid.

Q: How are cases prioritized?

A: SIU investigators start investigating case as soon as they are notified about it.

Q: How many police officers have been convicted as a result of SIU investigations?

A: The SIU do not keep stats on convictions. As mandated by legislation (Police Services Act), the SIU recommends that charges be laid when there are reasonable grounds. The director does not have any discretion on that. It is up to the crown to lay those charges and when that is done the crown considers that there is reasonable grounds for conviction and it is in the interest of the public.

Q: Who holds the SIU accountable?

A: The Attorney General of Ontario.

Q: How would the Attorney General know if the SIU did not do a thorough job investigating a case?

A: The Attorney General could review the SIU report to assess if the investigation was thorough or not.

Q: Do witnesses lose anonymity if charges are laid?

A: SIU witnesses are informed in advance that their statements could be made public if the case goes to court or if there is an inquest.

Q: How does the SIU work with the Francophone community? Do you provide reports in French?

A: SIU will provide translators for any witnesses and families no matter what language they speak.

Q: Do you have a French-speaking SIU team?

A: Some SIU investigators speak French but there are not teams just for French speakers.

Q: When will the SIU have race based data collection for their cases?

A: The SIU never collects race-based data. This is being considered by Justice Tulloch as part of his Independent Police Oversight Review.

Further Information:

As part of the Ipperwash inquiry, University of Toronto Professor Scot Wortley wrote the Police Use of Force Report, which examines race based data he extracted from completed SIU reports from a five and a half year period between 2000 and 2006.

Read the Police Use of Force in Ontario report here: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/ipperwash/policy_part/projects/pdf/AfricanCanadianClinicIpperwashProject_SIUStudybyScotWortley.pdf

The Independent Police Oversight Review by Justice Tulloch has recommended that the SIU collect data on demographics including race.

Ontario commits to releasing past and future SIU reports (Toronto Star, April 6 2017)

https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2017/04/06/judges-report-recommends-more-powers-for-ontario-police-oversight-bodies.html

The full Independent Police Oversight Review Report can be downloaded here: http://www.policeoversightreview.ca/

Q: Why can’t the notes of police officers involved in a case be subpoenaed by the SIU?

A: This right has been established by the courts if there is concern that the subject police officer’s notes could result in his or her potential incrimination. However, the SIU can have notes of witness officers and subject police officer’s if he or she consents. If charges are laid, the crown can get the notes of some subject police officers.

Q: In cases that don’t meet the SIU threshold for recommending that charges are laid, are these cases then sent to the OIPRD?

A: The legislation does require that the SIU pass these cases to the OIPRD. Justas the OIPRD are not required to send the complaints they receive to the SIU.

Q: The province of British Columbia is considering phasing out having former police officers work as SIU investigators. Is this being considered by Ontario’s SIU?

A: The legislation places rules on who former police officers working as SIU investigators can investigate. You cannot investigate any service you have worked for.

Q: How many SIU cases involved people who died?

A: The SIU doesn’t have statistics like this easily accessible and they are not required by legislation to.

Q: There are only about 200 working days a year and the SIU is working on over 300 cases. Is this a problem? Is there any possibility to restructure the organization to address this?

A: This concern has been raised with Justice Tulloch as part of the Independent Police Oversight Review.

Previously, Justice Adams conducted a review of the SIU that resulted in regulation of how the SIU interacts with police. This shows that when the community raises concerns with politicians about the SIU, change does happen.

Q: What is the trend in terms of cases? Is it going up or down?

A: The SIU does collect some information like this. You can see some of these trends in SIU annual reports.

Further Information:

The full Independent Police Oversight Review Report can be downloaded here: http://www.policeoversightreview.ca/

To read SIU Annual Reports visit here: https://www.siu.on.ca/en/annual_reports.php

Q: As part of your PowerPoint presentation, the SIU stated that it recommended to the Justice Tulloch report that its oversight should include federal police services (Slide 30). Given the amount of time it takes to investigate cases currently, why does the SIU want to take on this additional responsibility?

A: The SIU does not have jurisdiction over cases involving First Nations police services. Currently, the SIU has established protocols when SIU investigations overlap with First Nations police services.

Further Information:

To learn more about the SIU’s relationship with First Nations police services visit: https://www.siu.on.ca/en/outreach_programs.php

Q: How often can the SIU interview a subject police officer?

A: The SIU can only invite the subject police officer to an interview. There is no pressure on he or she to comply. In about 50% of cases, the subject police officer cooperates.

 

Submitted by Ketcia Peters, COMPAC Co-Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

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