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Monday, January 19, 2009

Law school launches police accountability and complaints program

January 19, 2009
Globe and Mail

The University of Windsor law school will launch a program next month aimed at enhancing police accountability and reducing the use of racial profiling.

In what is believed to be the first program of its kind, the school will provide advice about racial profiling and police oversight to government, public interest organizations, community groups - and police forces themselves.

It will also advise civilians who want to lodge complaints regarding police conduct.

"Public consciousness has been heightened with a number of high-profile taser incidents and shooting incidents," said law professor David Tanovich, who will be the director of the new program, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project.

"It is clear that many police forces also want to address issues of racial profiling, so we want to provide them with expertise," said Prof. Tanovich, who powered much of the early courtroom litigation involving racial profiling issues as a defence lawyer prior to his joining the university.

Prof. Tanovich said the program will also be an important learning experience for students.

The launch of the program coincides with an overhaul of Ontario's police complaints system.

Under the Independent Police Review Act, an independent director will have wide powers to develop regulations on complaint policy and procedures.

Prof. Tanovich said the LEAP program is about to begin its first project - a review of anti-racial-profiling policies of one Ontario police force - on behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

"I'm very optimistic about the fact we just launched and already have a project that I'd venture to say is unique," Prof. Tanovich said. "For law students to review actual policies of a police force is extraordinary."

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