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Bill 27 makes police complaints too onerous

Changes to the Police Act introduced in the legislature this week are drawing fire from the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (CTLA), because it will make it much more difficult for them to file complaints about police misconduct.

Changes to the Police Act introduced in the legislature this week are drawing fire from the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (CTLA), because it will make it much more difficult for them to file complaints about police misconduct.

Bill 27 was introduced in the legislature this week and contains a series of proposed changes to the Police Act, which governs police conduct across the province.

Christine Nardella, a spokesperson for the Solicitor General’s department said the changes are about improving the process for reviewing police misconduct.

“The whole purpose of the amendments is to ensure a fair, a timely and an efficient process for hearing and resolving complaints.”

One of the most significant changes is an amendment that removes the right of third party groups, such as the CTLA, from filing complaints about police.

From now on a person has to be directly involved with the alleged inappropriate conduct to file a complaint.

Tom Engel, a prominent defence lawyer who has been involved with several cases of alleged police misconduct, said that is simply unfair.

Engel cited the case of nine homeless people who were picked up in a van by Edmonton police on Whyte Avenue and driven to another part of the city.

The Law Enforcement Review Board investigated that case and found two constables guilty of misconduct.

He said the CTLA brought the case forward, as a third party, because those homeless people have neither the resources nor power to do it themselves.

“They are powerless. They are not the types who are going to make complaints, they just won’t.”

Nardella said the new process still allows for third party complaints, but they go through the chief of police, and if the third party is still unsatisfied complaints can be dealt with by a police commission.

A police commission is unique to each jurisdiction whereas the Law Enforcement Review Board is a provincial agency.

“No one is prevented from bringing concerns forward, ever.”

Engel said that process cannot and will not reach the same outcomes as the current set up and he questions if there is still a route for third party complaints, why bother making the change at all.

“Why is [Solicitor General Frank Oberle] pulling the rug out from what is there right now?”

Nardella said the process is becoming bogged down with too many complaints.

“Removing third party concerns from the Law Enforcement Review Board process frees up resources to deal with concerns that are brought forward as complaints by people who are affected directly.”

Engel rejects there is any problem with the complaint backlog and said every complaint the CTLA has brought forward as a third party has been worth the effort.

“We have taken since the year 2000, about 17 appeals to the Law Enforcement Review Board and not one of them has been shown to be without substance.”