Review of the Record Project 2009 – Summary
October 15, 2011
The Review of the Record Project is an in-depth examination of the RCMP public complaints system carried out under the authority of paragraph 45.47(b) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act). It establishes a foundation for assessing the effectiveness of the RCMP public complaints system at the national, regional and divisional levels and examines all completed dispositions stemming from public complaints against the RCMP. The Review of the Record Project is designed to:
- confirm that the RCMP is fulfilling its statutory mandate and responsibilities related to public complaints pursuant to Part VII of the RCMP Act;
- identify and analyze complaint issues and trends that might form the subject of further examination or action;
- identify systemic issues within the complaint process; and
- encourage collaboration with the RCMP to identify opportunities for change and improvement.
The analyzed data is based on all completed complaint dispositions (files) received by the Commission before August 13, 2010, with a lodged complaint date of between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009. The Commission received 1,700 completed complaint dispositions (files) from the RCMP for the 2009 calendar year. Another 667 complaint files still remained active as of the project cut-off date.
For ease of reference, key highlights, significant findings and recommendations from the project are provided below. A full Force-wide analysis is also available.
A total of 2,367 complaintsFootnote 1 were lodged against the RCMP in 2009. This report covers the 1,700 finalized complaints received by the Commission—72 percent of the total.
Of the 1,700 completed complaint dispositions, the Northwest RegionFootnote 2 received the highest number (723) representing 42% of the total, while the Pacific RegionFootnote 3 received 656 (39%); the Atlantic RegionFootnote 4 received 249 (15%); and the Central RegionFootnote 5 received 72 (4%).
Total Number of Complaints by Region
Of the 1,700 complaint dispositions, 1,216 were lodged directly with the Complaints Commission (72%) while 471 were lodged with the RCMP (28%). This continues to represent a shift towards a greater proportion of complaints being lodged directly with the Commission; and may be reflective of the general trend toward greater awareness of review bodies across Canada and an increased comfort level in filing complaints with the Commission.Footnote 6
Number of Complaints Lodged with the Commission versus the RCMP
A total of 4,835 allegations, an increase from 4,511 reported in 2008, were made against the RCMP and its members, representing an average of approximately 2.8 allegations per complaint.
The most common complaint allegations identified were "Neglect of Duty" (32%), "Improper Attitude" (19%) and "Improper Use of Force" (12%).
Force-Wide Allegations Breakdown
For every complaint disposition received, the Commission analyzed the incident details in order to identify key issues related to the nature of the complaint.Footnote 7 Overall, a total of 5,708 issues were tracked in 2009. The most common issues associated with the complaints in a Force-wide analysis were "Attitude" (16%), "Criminal Investigation Quality (RCMP)" (9%), "Arrest" (8%), "Vehicular Incidents" (8%) and issues related to "Service" (7%).
Disposition of Complaints
Once the RCMP receives a complaint, there are four ways that a complaint can be resolved:
- A complaint can be investigated by the RCMP and a Final Report issued;Footnote 8
- A complainant and the RCMP member(s) involved can agree to an informal resolution;
- A complainant can request to freely and voluntarily withdraw his or her complaint;
- A complaint investigation can be terminated under limited provisions identified in the RCMP Act.
After the RCMP issues a Final Report, the complainant may request that the Commission review the disposition in question.
Investigations and Final Reports
Of the complaint dispositions received by the Commission, 834 were formally investigated and a Final Report issued, representing 49% of the total Force-wide dispositions.
Pursuant to section 45.36 of the RCMP Act, a public complaint against the RCMP can be disposed of informally when the consent of both parties involved is obtained.
Informal resolutions represented the second most common way to dispose of a complaint, with 505 completed complaints accounting for 30% of the dispositions examined, a decrease from 34% reported in 2008. Of the 1,031 allegations identified, those relating to "Service", "Driving Irregularity", "Policy" and "Improper Attitude" were most likely to be informally resolved.
Informal Resolution of Improper Use of Force Complaints
The Commission remains concerned that some members of the RCMP continue to informally resolve serious allegations, including those involving "Improper Use of Force". This undermines the public complaint process and limits the effectiveness of police oversight, as the complainant is, in most cases, barred from accessing the review process after an informal resolution has been established. While there may be incidents when it is appropriate to informally resolve seemingly serious allegations involving "Improper Use of Force" (as they are deemed to be relatively minor in nature), in general, this type of disposition method is not conducive to a resolution of complaints involving "Improper Use of Force."
In 2009, there were 58 allegations of "Improper Use of Force" which were informally resolved, 17 (29%) of which were deemed by the Commission to be disposed of in an inappropriate manner given the circumstances detailed in the dispositions (e.g. level of force used). While this represents a 30% decrease from 2008, the Commission will continue to monitor this practice.
There are occasions when a complainant wishes to withdraw his or her complaint, which can be done at any time during the public complaint process.
Consistent with the previous year’s findings, Force-wide complaint withdrawals accounted for 16% of all completed dispositions.
Due to concerns over the execution and interpretation of withdrawals and their tendency to weaken the transparency and accountability of the RCMP public complaint system, the Commission fully supported the RCMP’s decision to eliminate this resolution technique as of April 2010.
Terminations (Notice of Direction)
A Notice of Direction, rather than a Final Report, is issued when the RCMP decides not to investigate a complaint or when an investigation into a complaint is terminated. These decisions may be reviewed by the Commission if deemed necessary. Essentially, a termination should not apply to a public complaint investigation if there is sufficient information to properly address the complaint in a Final Report.
In 2009, 5% of all public complaints, representing 173 allegations, were terminated by the RCMP. The most common grounds for termination fell under paragraph 45.36(5)(c), "investigation or further investigation is not necessary or reasonably practicable" (often perceived to be the "catch‑all" provision).
Number of Complaints by Disposition Type
Multiple Complaints Against Individual Members
A "repeat member" is an RCMP member who, over the course of a year, is the subject of two or more separate public complaints.
Overall, a total of 332 RCMP members had two or more complaints lodged against them in 2009. Of the 1,838 allegations lodged against RCMP members who had multiple complaints, the most common types were "Neglect of Duty" (27%), "Improper Attitude" (20%), "Improper Use of Force" (14%), and "Improper Arrest" (8%).
Monitoring of RCMP Members with Multiple Complaints Lodged against them
In 2008, 314 RCMP members had two or more complaints lodged against them. While the number of RCMP members with two or more complaints lodged against them as a percentage of total subject members has fallen from 13.9% to 12.5% since 2008, the Commission is concerned that the number of RCMP members with multiple complaints lodged against them has increased.
The Commission is aware that "K" Division and "G" Division utilize multiple complaints as an "early warning" indicator to monitor and track RCMP members who are potentially exhibiting a pattern of problematic conduct. In addition, the Commission was made aware of a similar project, the "Early Warning Program," being conducted by the RCMP National Public Complaints Unit, which identifies RCMP members with multiple complaints and allows the Unit to communicate with the appropriate parties at the divisional and detachment levels.
Multiple Complaint Member Project
In 2009, the Commission initiated the Multiple Complaint Member Project. This project is an early warning system designed to identify RCMP members who are subject to 3 or more public complaints, in which the allegations are deemed serious in nature, within a 12-month period.
In the 2009 Report timeframe, the Commission identified 5 RCMP members under this project.
Complaint Dispositions Timeframes
In 2009, the RCMP took, on average, 119 days to issue a disposition once a complaint was lodged. This is a 16-day increase in processing time compared to 2008.
Incomplete or missing complaint dispositions, Final Reports and Notices of Direction (terminations) which do not fully address the complainant's allegations, contain inconsistent citations of the RCMP Act, or do not properly cite the Commission have made the task of capturing data related to public complaints difficult for both the RCMP National Public Complaints Unit and the Commission.
In 2009, there were 114 (7%) incomplete records identified, which is an improvement from 183 (10%) incomplete records in 2008. Furthermore, there were 33 incorrect Commission references (e.g. incorrect or no address being provided to the complainant) in 2009, which represents a decrease from 51 in 2008. Of note, 19 (58%) of the incorrect Commission references were from "H" Division.
The RCMP National Public Complaints Unit is cooperating with the Commission in order to rectify these recurring issues and improve the overall functioning of the public complaint process.
Other Key Findings
The RCMP has continued to cooperate with the Commission’s follow-up requests relating to the Review of the Record Project.
In many cases, the Commission’s requests for further information regarding complaints were met within days. Moreover, in response to the Commission’s repeated requests for additional information with respect to informally resolved complaints which lacked sufficient details, some divisional professional standards units have taken proactive steps to gather and provide additional information explaining the actions and outcomes of the dispositions.
The RCMP National Public Complaints Unit now has an effective public complaints database and tracking mechanism.
The RCMP National Public Complaints Unit has implemented a new database which allowed the unit to improve on the administrative issues of concern identified in previous Review of the Record annual reports, such as its ability to identify when complaints were lodged, how many had been lodged, where they were lodged, the RCMP member(s) involved, the nature of the complaint and whether or not an investigation had been completed.
The RCMP has significantly reduced the number of outstanding pre‑January 2007 complaints.
The 2008 Review of the Record Report indicated that there were 48 complaints which remained outstanding prior to January 1, 2007. The RCMP has further reduced this number such that only 8 dispositions remained outstanding at the time of writing this report.
There was a greater proportion of complaint dispositions which remained outstanding compared to 2008, some of which have been outstanding for more than 750 days.
The Commission has been notified that there were 2,367 complaints lodged in 2009, 28% of which remained outstanding as of the project cut‑off date. This is an increase from 2008, when 23% of the 2,375 lodged complaints remained outstanding by the report cut-off date.
However, the Commission recognizes the significant human resource impacts that the Vancouver Olympics and the G8/G20 summits had on the RCMP in 2010.
Based on the 2009 Review of the Record findings, the Commission is making three recommendations to improve the overall complaint system:
- That the RCMP clarify its policies and procedures regarding the different types of public complaint dispositions (such as informal resolutions or withdrawn complaints), particularly regarding the acceptance of informal resolutions dealing with serious allegations.
- That the RCMP continue to develop a national policy and handbook and provide training in order to standardize its public complaints policies and procedures among its divisions.
- That the RCMP consider revising the delegation of the Commissioner's authority with respect to the issuance of Notices of Direction for terminations from the detachment level to, at least, the level of officer (or non-commissioned officer) in charge of the divisional professional standards units.
This project has proven valuable for a number of reasons, as it has:
- increased cooperation between the Commission and the RCMP;
- assisted in reducing the large number of outstanding complaint dispositions with the RCMP; and
- identified opportunities to improve the quality of the public complaints system and to enhance service to the public.
The Commission will continue to work closely with the RCMP to identify trends and issues that can be utilized to improve the quality of, and enhance public confidence in, the overall public complaints system.
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