You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A time for a more conservative approach...

Message from the Chair of the
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

The increasing reliance by the RCMP upon the conducted energy weapon has generated significant expressions of public concern. These concerns have been building over the years and involve the use of the conducted energy weapon by police forces generally in North America and other democratic countries.

The debate concerning deaths proximal to conducted energy weapon use and international instances of the weapon allegedly being employed as an instrument of torture have afforded the weapon a public reputation different from other types of equipment employed by the police. This may be an unfair reputation in light of the fact that many other police techniques induce pain and a number are in fact lethal; nevertheless, it is an important factor that has influenced the public debate concerning public acceptance or lack thereof of the conducted energy weapon. It is reasonable to assume that, absent a decision to the contrary, more devices will be acquired and deployed in future years. Instances of alleged improper use will abound and the current public expressions of concern will be further exacerbated.

To assist the public, the Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of the RCMP, and to acquire a clearer picture of the weapon's use, the adequacy of controls and the factual basis for policy shifts in recent years, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP has undertaken a systematic review of RCMP policies and practices following its adoption of the conducted energy weapon.

An analysis of data alone, however, would be a sterile exercise absent a philosophical context. In the area of policing, particularly the tradition that exists in Canada and most Commonwealth democracies, the guiding philosophical principles are those that were articulated in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, the creator of the prototypical professional police force.

These principles, which may be found in their entirety in Appendix A, have become such an essential characteristic of policing in Canada that most people are unaware of their genesis or importance. However, we would quickly notice the difference in our quality of life if a number of these principles were to cease influencing and shaping how policing services are delivered in Canada. The wise counsel of Sir Robert Peel is as relevant today, as we discuss the proper usage of CEWs, as it was in 1829.

It is clear from an examination of the data provided by the RCMP that there was a lack of factual information to support any decision by the RCMP to depart from its initial 2001 decision to restrict conducted energy weapon use. It is also clear that inadequacies in the present data severely hamper the ability of the RCMP to make informed decisions concerning existing usage of the conducted energy weapon.

Inadequate policies, supervision, data collection and analysis have undermined the RCMP's ability to demonstrate adherence to four of the nine principles articulated by Sir Robert Peel. These principles are:

The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

A continued departure from these principles by the RCMP is not a minor matter. It is a harbinger of a new model of policing in Canada, one in which the police are a group distinct from the public and whose decisions are the preserve of public safety experts. It is a model in which officer safety takes precedence over that of the general public and where the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is significantly undervalued. The cumulative effect of these trends over time may reduce the degree of co-operation of the public that is essential to public safety in Canada.

The tasks that we ask police to fulfill are challenging and are increasingly becoming more so. We have an obligation to ensure that officers have the best tools available to perform their duties. The very nature of the work performed by the police entails the potential use of force attendant with the application of pain and in rare cases, serious injury or death.

The conducted energy weapon has a role to play in this use of force model. The policies, training and actual deployment of the weapon must be circumscribed by clear policies and practices that recognize that it induces intense pain and may in some cases play a role, as yet undefined, in the death of persons upon whom the device is used. Failure to draft and adhere to strict protocols on the weapon's use will continue to have a corrosive impact upon public support for the police.

Certain realities face today's RCMP: a high number of new recruits, a high rate of turnover, a high number of baby boomers retiring, experienced members leaving the force for a variety of reasons, and a lack of resources have resulted in the inadequate mentoring of new members, understaffing of detachments, and morale issues. All of these factors influence operations and, in turn, influence policy. Subtle changes to policy can, and do, have major consequences on behaviour. Policy, in fact, drives training, which drives conduct. In a workforce of less-experienced members, the need for strong policy guidance is imperative.

The Commission supports the continued use and deployment of the conducted energy weapon. However, in light of the above-mentioned realities confronting the RCMP, this support is subject to RCMP acceptance and implementation of the recommendations contained in this report.

It is of note that during the production of the Interim and Final Reports, the level of cooperation and openness of the RCMP has been commendable.

Paul E. Kennedy
Chair, Commission for Public Complaints
Against the RCMP

No comments: