Police Complaints Commission
Individuals sometimes find out about the services of the Office of the Ombudsman through the departments that they are dealing with. This is what occurred when an individual with complaints involving the Office of the Police Complaints Commission (OPCC) was referred to us by the Department of Justice.
The complainant in this case had concerns involving a municipal police department’s handling of an investigation involving the death of a family member. The individual submitted a complaint to the municipal police department expecting to have the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Chief to discuss their concerns; however, they received a letter from the OPCC Commissioner dismissing the complaint. The complainant followed up on their concerns with the OPCC and the Department of Justice. At that time, the Department of Justice advised the complainant that they could contact this Office to discuss their concerns.
After the complainant contacted this Office, an Ombudsman Representative made contact with the OPCC. This led to a review of the information the OPCC had on file regarding the matter and a meeting with an OPCC manager and the Commissioner regarding the investigative process utilised by the OPCC when receiving complaints. Relevant sections of the Police Act and Regulations were also reviewed, as well as the information supplied by the complainant and respondent.
In our review of the matter, this Office found that the OPCC’s involvement in the initial stages of the police complaint were not consistent with their online materials that provide an overview of the handling of these complaints. Further, the OPCC’s involvement in the early stages circumvented the process outlined in the Police Act and did not enable the complainant to engage in any appeal process. It was also identified in this review that the OPCC did not have any policies or procedures in place to process complaints, although this Office was advised that policies were under development.
Based on the information gathered in our review of the matter, the following recommendations were issued:
- Develop policies and procedures that are consistent with the requirements of the legislation for the processing of complaints, specifically clarifying the role of the OPCC at the initial assessment stages of the complaint.
- Ensure materials available to the public accurately reflect the process of handling Form 5 complaints and Notice of Reviews.
- Develop and implement documentation standards to ensure records accurately reflect any and all activity on the file.
These recommendations are intended to improve the process for making complaints to the OPCC and will hopefully create a more effective, efficient, and transparent process for individuals in the future. The OPCC has accepted these recommendations and they will be monitored until this Office is satisfied of their implementation.