Langley Advance View: Transparent, accountable trust needed

Investigation into the alleged misconduct of 17 Abbotsford Police Department members by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is astounding – and worrisome.

The case centres around one officer who is now charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice, as well as 16 other officers in the force.

At issue is the “integrity of statements” officers used when applying to judges for search warrants in drug-related cases.

Convictions of criminals related to the investigations are already being reviewed, raising the prospect that some may be tossed out. Even worse is the prospect that some of those behind bars today were wrongfully convicted. Either way, it brings the justice system into serious disrepute.

Police agencies ought to know judges can and will throw a case out on a technicality if charter rights are abused.

The antidote to this problem is more transparency and accountability. B.C.’s police watchdog legislation is weaker than that of most other provinces. The police complaint commissioner doesn’t have power to compel testimony, and the complaints process is carried out behind closed doors with scant public scrutiny.

The RCMP’s process for dealing with complaints is even more opaque. 

Officers are suspended, usually with pay, for years while they are under investigation for anything from criminal misconduct to harassment. Not only does this erode the public’s confidence in the system, but it also must irk a lot of good, hard-working officers who have to keep their mouths shut and toe the line.

When you’re working in a system that is tasked with holding others accountable to the rule of law, it seems to make sense that that system is held up to a higher standard. At this point, the public may, justifiably, think it’s a lower standard.

We hope our minister of justice is paying close attention; a fundamental principle of policing in a free society is that officers’ authority is matched by commensurate accountability to the public they police.

– Glacier Media

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