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Improving police accountability

Dear Editor,

Re: Chief Martin: Change is needed, change is coming

Among the many aspects and issues involved in improving police services, one of the most central should be the existence of a simple, accessible, well-known process for complaints and feedback from the public directly to the chief of police and the police services board. This includes feedback about administrative procedures as well as the character and conduct of officers. The many responsible police officers will be in favour of this because, within the current institutional culture, they can feel inhibited about reporting on problems involving fellow officers.

Speaking from personal experience, when I had complaints about four officers, from frontline up to Oshawa police headquarters, I was directed to the office of the Independent Police Review Director for Ontario. After submitting a detailed description of the situation, I was informed by the IPRD that they couldn’t take the complaint because I was not, technically speaking, the “victim” in the case. End of story. However, the immediate victim was afraid to be involved because of fear of retribution from the Oshawa street culture. So, I was acting in the interests of a group of affected people, including myself. I had also given a copy of the complaint to Durham Region politicians, but did not receive even an acknowledgement of the letter, let alone any sign of interest in the issues. No institution can maintain the quality of its functions without a robust feedback process.

Joell Ann Vanderwagen