Board urges police in N.S. to fully explain complaint process
A three-member panel of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board has issued a recommendation to all police agencies across the province dealing with the public complaint process.
“The board strongly recommends that Cape Breton Regional Police, and indeed, all police departments in the province, ensure that members of the public who express a concern about policing issues impacting them, are promptly made aware of the complaint process available,” said the panel, in a decision regarding complaints against three Cape Breton Regional Police officers.
Two of the complaints were dismissed while one officer was found guilty on three counts of discreditable conduct.
In its decision, the panel noted that some of the complaints filed against police by Stephanie Bonner and Edward O’Quinn could not be adjudicated because the six-month deadline had passed.
“We note that Ms. Bonner complains that Supt. (Walter) Rutherford did not advise her of the options available for public complaint under the Police Act,” wrote the panel.
The panel added that making such information readily available would have provided a greater measure of transparency.
“It is unfortunate that she (Bonner) does not seem to have been made aware of the public complaint process available, in a timely manner,” stated the board.
The board noted that because regional police did not make Bonner aware of the time deadline, many of her issues could not be addressed.
The following is a brief summary of the process, described by the review board, in filing a complaint against police.
• A complaint against police, including the chief, is made by filing a Form 5 application which is available at any police department or the provincial police complaints commissioner. The form is also available on line at novascotia.ca/opcc/filingacomplaint.htm.
• If you feel you have been treated improperly by a municipal or town police officer, or for any reason you feel an officer has not behaved properly, you can file a complaint. You may also file a complaint against a police department in general.
• Complaints must be in writing and signed.
• There is a six-month time limit for filing.
• After the complaint is filed, the police department will then investigate and must complete such work no longer than 60 days after the complaint was filed. A time extension may be granted.
• Possible outcome for such
investigation includes taking no action regarding the complaint or issuing some form of discipline against the officer.
• If not satisfied with the outcome of the internal police investigation, an individual can file for a review of the department’s decision. This must be filed within 30 days of receiving the department’s initial decision of the complaint.