Good morning, colleagues.
I will call to order this sixth meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
On today's agenda we have two panels of witnesses to continue our hearings on the economics of policing. Given the time, we will take a very few minutes at the end of our session to do future business so that we can establish our work for Tuesday.
We are certainly very pleased to welcome our guests today. From the Canadian Police Association, we have Tom Stamatakis; and of course we have Chief Lloyd Phillips, Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, and representative of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
To our witnesses today, our normal process is to allow each of you up to 10 minutes for an opening statement, should you wish. And then we will open the floor to our members of Parliament for cause and concern, and for questioning.
At this particular point, I'll welcome your opening statement, Mr. Stamatakis, please.
I have a prepared statement, so I'll start with that, and then I look forward to any questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.
I see a number of new faces around the table today, so first l'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the new members of the committee, including you, Mr. Chair, and congratulate you on your election. As well I'd like to welcome Ms. James and congratulate her on her recent appointment as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.
For the benefit of the new members, the Canadian Police Association is the federal voice for over 54,000 front-line civilian and sworn personnel from across Canada. Our members serve in the country's largest cities and smallest villages as members of federal, provincial, and municipal law enforcement agencies as well as first nations police services.
To also give you a bit of background about me, I have had the privilege of serving as president of our association for the past two years, and I also serve as the president of the British Columbia Police Association and the Vancouver Police Union, where I began my career as a police officer in 1990.
My opening statement this morning will be quite brief, since this is my second opportunity to address your committee on this important topic and I want to leave as much opportunity as possible for questions. But I want to provide some updates on a few of the issues I had raised during my first presentation back at the beginning of this year.
First, l'd like to offer my thanks to the Department of Public Safety, and particularly Mark Potter—I understand he appeared before this committee quite recently—and his team for the work they've been doing on the “Shared Forward Agenda”. One of the CPA's key recommendations has always been to increase the amount of valuable research being done within the police sector and to help facilitate the spread of that information. With the recent launch of the public safety index of policing initiatives, we can start to see the seeds of this information sharing being planted, and that will, no doubt, have a direct impact on the costs of policing as we will, hopefully, see more best practices coming into effect more consistently across the country.
The second area our association has focused on has been around the need to find efficiencies within the policing and justice systems. While we seem to have achieved broad consensus over the past year that those efficiencies exist, l'II admit we haven't seen as much movement to address this problem as our members would like to see.
There are two major factors that would help tremendously to alleviate much of the duplication and redundancy that is a large driver of police costs, particularly the cost of forced overtime, which puts a strain on law enforcement budgets.
The first relates to oversight and accountability. Let me be clear, effective oversight is a necessary component of the trust that Canadians put into their police services, and the CPA would never suggest skirting those levels of accountability. However, in most provinces now each police service is subject to multiple layers of regulation, both internal and external. Eliminating some of the duplication, while still maintaining the necessary oversight, would improve the job quality of our police personnel while introducing important cost savings into the sector.
The second area of efficiency relates to the need to streamline the processes that currently keep our officers tied up doing administrative work behind their desks rather than having them out on the street, where the community expects them to be. As you have no doubt heard by now, changes forced on our profession by well-meaning judicial decisions have led to increased workloads and processing times for some of the most basic charges our officers lay.
As I said, I wanted my opening statement here this morning to be brief to give us as much time for discussion as possible, but I do want to close by saying that while there are some very serious concerns regarding the economics of policing, the situation is not nearly as ominous as some vested stakeholders would have you believe.
While I understand this committee has heard from law enforcement agencies in other countries and in other jurisdictions regarding some of their solutions and suggestions to help make public safety funding more sustainable, I also have spoken with my counterparts in countries such as the U.K. and Australia where deep budgets cuts have taken effect. The message they give to me and that I pass along to you is that Canada shouldn't be learning from their mistakes, but should be leading with our own homegrown solutions.
l've been encouraged by the fact that all levels of government, along with our colleagues with the Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Police Boards, have been engaged from the very beginning to work constructively to address our funding issues. I look forward to this committee's final report, which l'm certain will help to shape the discussion going forward.
Thank you again for the invitation this morning. I look forward to your questions.
Good morning, everybody. I am Chief Lloyd Phillips from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, also representing the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, obviously in the province of Quebec, where we have by far the most stand-alone first nation police forces across Canada.
I'd first like to indicate that we're here today to present our point of view on the matter. However, we had less than two days' notice to attend this session. We had to put together very quickly a presentation, not even knowing the full scope and the intent of this committee in the hearing today on economics of policing. However, we do feel it is important for us to share our opinion on the economics as well as the police situation within first nations territories.
Maybe the first thing we could talk about is our review of the economics of policing guide that was recently put out in one of your publications. It talks about the effectiveness and efficiency of police services, as well as the sustainability in times of greater fiscal constraint. I think those are some quotes out of a document that I recently read.
The first thing that comes to our mind is what does this mean for first nations policing? You talk about constraints, effectiveness, and efficiency, so whereas first nations policing is not even deemed an essential service, this makes us question whether or not, if there are constraints, we are the first ones to be cut.
As we all know, in 1991 the first nation policing policy was approved by the federal cabinet. This program was created to improve and also to fund a variety of policing agreements, whether self-administered or tripartite agreements. The intent of the first nation policing policy was to provide first nation communities with access to police services that are professional, effective, culturally appropriate, which is extremely important, and accountable.
The agreements are shared between federal and provincial governments at 52% and 48%. However, this policy also fails to reflect, as mentioned earlier, the essential needs and the essential services of police forces in first nations territory. Rather, it only views it as an enhancement to current police forces, whether it be federally or provincially.
Public security in first nations territory is quite complex and very diverse. It's different from mainstream policing. I can give you a couple of statistics going back to 2008, from the first nations regional health survey from the Quebec region. Many of the concerns involve alcohol and drug abuse. Nearly 82% of adults and youth recognize alcohol and drug abuse as a major factor in their community. As well, the lack of housing and job opportunities is a major concern.
Criminal incidents on first nation territories, which happen to be governed or currently policed by stand-alone police forces in Quebec, are 3.8 times higher than in the rest of Canada. Violent crimes are close to six times more frequent than in the rest of Canada; general assaults seven times more; sexual assaults approximately five times more frequent; and drug trafficking 3.8% more.
Those are some dismal numbers, and some numbers that we're not proud to talk about, but we have to also look at why these numbers are like this. There are many reasons. Obviously there's a social breakdown. There are issues going back to the Indian Act, the lack of recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights, access to resources, as well as residential schools and things of that nature—things that are not directly the responsibility of this committee but the responsibility of the Government of Canada. Any reduction or decrease in the policing within these communities would certainly have a negative impact on the communities and on social well-being, and these numbers would certainly have little hope of becoming much better.
However, despite these dismal numbers that I just quoted, first nations policing, from 2004 to 2011, has also seen a decrease in violent crimes by 19%; in homicides, by 36%; in general assault, by 20%; and in sexual assault, by 23%. So despite the issues that our communities face, they are showing that there are positive movements, moving forward. We also understand that there is a lot of work to be done and it is a long road ahead of us, but certainly there are positive indicators that the first nation policing is a valuable tool.
There are also many jurisdictional issues that are unresolved, aboriginal rights issues that create grey zones sometimes in the area of policing. Whereas sometimes political disagreements between first nations in Canada are handled by police forces, if you have a culturally appropriate and embedded police force within a community, part of the community, a lot of these situations could be diffused long before they become national interests, as we have recently seen in New Brunswick.
Last year the then minister of public safety, the Honourable Vic Toews, announced a five-year renewal of the federal policing program, which allowed for some stability in medium-term planning for first nations, which has been a longstanding concern for first nations. When you're going on year-to-year renewal, from one year to the next, fiscal year to fiscal year, trying to make long-term planning and sustainability for a police force is nearly impossible when you're more worried about renewing an agreement than concentrating your efforts on policing. Although that was a positive sign, a renewal for five years, once again it fails to address the policy itself, which went through extensive review recently and calls for, among many things, that first nations policing be deemed an essential service.
It also has to be mentioned that on July 22nd of this year a letter was sent from the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador to the now , the Honourable Steven Blaney, asking for a meeting to discuss, on a very short-term basis, the quality of policing services in Quebec. However, to this date we have not even received an acknowledgement of that letter despite many follow-ups, and it's disheartening because we're trying to talk about effective and efficient policing service to the first nations and we don't even get a minister to acknowledge our correspondence.
Officials at the Ministère de la Sécurité publique in Quebec are committed to upholding first nations policing in the province. They understand the diversity that exists. They understand the fact that the best way to move forward in securing first nation communities is with the first nations policing. They are keen on long-term agreements. Although certainly things aren't always perfect with the government, they do seem to have an understanding for the cultural diversity that exists and the differences between mainstream policing and first nations policing. This is something that I think the federal government has to acknowledge as well.
Certainly there are areas that are not desirable. We have currently eight first nations communities in the province of Quebec who are utilizing the Sûreté du Québec, the Quebec police force, to police their communities. That has proven to be a great cost for the Province of Quebec, and the services being provided are less than acceptable to most of the communities.
They have shown that there is a lack of response in time for emergencies, slow response time, language barriers, as well as often what could be viewed as abuse of first nation citizens. There was one incident recently where an Innu man was brutally beaten by an SQ officer and there was no type of justice handed out in that situation. So there are certain problems that exist. Again we emphasize that first nations policing first nations is the way to go, and to have SQ do policing services for first nations is certainly not a reality in some communities. In my community of Kahnawake in particular and I know in Akwesasne—and I could speak for many other communities—to have SQ presence would only cause many more problems than it would solve.
In closing, first nations need to be supported in their work to find new and innovative measures driven by first nation leadership and based on the specific priorities of each first nation. We're advocating for a new framework to fund and standardize police services to ensure that public safety needs are met for our first nations members.
We all understand that, in order to be an effective police service, you have to have a police force that is recognized and supported by your people. Again, first nations police must be the answer. We are confident that, through positive dialogue and political willingness, an effective and efficient mutual goal of public security can be achieved, which we believe is essential to a healthy community.
I'd like to thank both witnesses for appearing.
Mr. Stamatakis, you've appeared before some of my other committees as well, so it's good to see you again at this committee.
I have a couple of questions and I'm going to direct them first towards Mr. Stamatakis.
Hopefully I'll have some time to ask you some similar questions as well, Chief Lloyd Phillips.
In your brief opening remarks, you talked about the two factors that are driving up the costs of policing. You talked about duplication and redundancy. In the first part, you talked about oversight and accountability on multiple levels, from the very lowest to the highest, causing the increased cost of policing.
When do you know that we have gone too far with our oversight of the process? What is it that you can say to us specifically about where we have gone wrong? What do we need to do to bring that back to a level where there is sufficient oversight and accountability, but not to the point where it's gone too far?
That's a really good question, and I'm not going to profess to have the best answer.
We are doing some research around how the multiple levels of oversight have driven costs in policing. It's not just the cost of creating and sustaining the oversight bodies, but it's also then the impact on the time that it takes to assist with investigations, to participate in interviews, and to go through the various processes that are established by statute in each province.
Using B.C. as an example, we have one body that deals with conduct involving complaints from the public, another body that deals with serious incidents where there is a reportable injury involving a member of the public, and then there is a subsequent investigation to determine whether or not the police officer engaged in any criminal misconduct.
I don't know that we've gone wrong in creating those different levels of oversight. Where I think we've gone wrong is that first the Independent Investigations Office will conduct their investigation, then the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will conduct their investigation, and then the police service will do their own investigation internally.
Where I think we've gone wrong is that some of the steps are duplicated. Why can't we rely on the initial investigation, import to the next process whatever components are not controversial or don't need to be repeated, and only engage in further investigative steps when something hasn't been properly canvassed, for example? I don't think we're suggesting that the types of oversight that have been established are wrong. I think what we're saying is that we don't need to duplicate the investigative steps every time.
Another example would be where a police officer is involved in a motor vehicle accident while on duty. We now have jurisdictions that are conducting the police services act investigations according to the provincial statute in each province around the conduct piece, but then the police department is conducting their own collision investigation. Why can't that just be one investigation to determine what happened and whether or not there was any culpable misconduct?
What's driving the costs of policing, more broadly, is the demand for police services, and I would attribute that increased demand to a couple of things.
First of all, there has been a significant impact on police forces across the country because of government policy changes, some of which occur at the provincial level and others at the federal level. Frankly, whenever there's a decision to reduce service in one area, whether health, education, or social services, ultimately that ends up having an impact on policing because we've now become one of the few agencies available 24/7, 365 days a year.
In fact, what has happened even since I started in policing is that we're no longer the agency of last resort; we're the agency of first resort. People can phone us and they know somebody is going to show up and do something, whereas when they make the call to other agencies, they might get a recording or get deferred to someone else. That's one issue.
Secondly, in terms of the salaries themselves, the fact is that policing has become much more complex. I talked earlier about accountability. There's more accountability now than ever. We have higher recruiting standards, a greater obligation on training. We see more and more provincially-mandated training—training for crisis intervention and de-escalation; more training in how to deal with people suffering from mental health issues, people who are dual-diagnosed; and on how to avoid some of the tragedies that have occurred in this country over many years, where we have had inquest after inquest—all of which has resulted in greater expectations of police officers, higher standards.
Most of our police officers now have some kind of university-level education. Most have degrees. We have a lot more diversity in policing, more language skills. Policing in the 21st century is far different, I would argue, than it has been historically, and that in turn drives costs. If you want to attract the kind of people the public have said they want to see involved in policing—and Chief Phillips alluded to that in his remarks—then there will be a cost that goes along with it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Through you to the witnesses, thank you for appearing today.
My first questions are going to be prefaced by saying that I do recall that the truth of the matter is that human resource costs to most police forces—wages and benefits—tend to be between, somebody says, 80% to 90%. In my day around 85% to 89% had to do with wages. That's where salaries and benefits came in.
Also, in the Province of Ontario, I've been accessing and had occasion to be looking at some of the areas where there's contract policing. When somebody says, “Well, policing isn't as big a burden on the taxpayers as other people think”, when you deal with a municipality that's gone from, traditionally, 17% to 20% of their municipal budget being for policing and now 50% just for policing alone, I think that's why we're looking at the economics of policing. We've said all along that this is not just about salaries and benefits, but they play a part in it.
But I think you've hit the nail on the head. What does society expect from its police force? You talk about tiered response. When I ran a shift in the communications centre, tiered response was, if there was an accident, call an ambulance, a fire truck, and the police got sent to it until somebody got there and said, “Well, you really don't need the other guy.” Why did that happen? I think you and I would say that there was an inquest or there was some public complaint or some investigation that led to someone deciding, “Oh, well, if we'd had the fire truck out there right away, this would have been prevented or that would have been prevented.” I always used to say, “Why can't you leave it up to the discretion of the communications person?” And I was told, “That's above our wage bracket.”
Anyway, I want to congratulate you. I can remember being a member of a police force that's currently also a member of the CPA, and before we were a bargaining unit—I was the president of a certain area—we were professionals. You've come here today and shown that.
One police department has hired KPMG. Does your association recommend to its brother and sister associations, as well as take on the responsibility yourself, of sitting down, let's say, with managerial levels, and saying, “Okay, how can we be more efficient and effective and look at reducing costs of policing by doing things differently?” Do you actively do that or do your sister organizations do that?
Thank you very much for the question.
Yes, there are positive stories, as I mentioned, and a reduction in crime overall. Many of the good practices you've asked about have already been touched on a little bit today.
We have taken a different perspective with regard to policing in my community and many others. Actually, in Kahnawake they're called the Kahnawake Peacekeepers, not the Kahnawake police force. That philosophy has been across first nations territories in primarily the province of Quebec, where you're actively a part of the community. You're there to maintain peace, not there to strictly enforce the law. You're there to be more interactive with your community and be involved in sports programs. You're encouraged to be the coaches of the hockey teams and the baseball teams, and be active with students and the young people in many different varieties. It's actually highly encouraged for officers to do so. That has proven, over time, to be very effective. As my colleague here was mentioning, that proves to be effective.
Some of the other areas that have proven effective would certainly include collaboration with our social networks in our communities, working closely with, for example, social workers, child care authorities, and various other areas like that.
You're taking a holistic approach, as they say, rather than looking at a situation as strictly a policing issue. You're taking a domestic problem, for instance, or even a criminal one where there's violence against an individual, and looking at it holistically. Rather than saying it's a policing issue and you're arrested, let's expand on that and pull in the family. Let's have some mediation. Let's move forward to heal, to solve the problem. You don't necessarily always have to go before a judge.
That philosophy has expanded throughout many communities, and has in turn lessened the level of crime and criminality.
That's a good question.
When it comes to training, we're always making sure, first and foremost, that they're trained to a standard that's equivalent to that of any other police force, but then we also, when they finish their official training, whether it be through Nicolet in Quebec or Depot in Regina, have a cultural component. We call it deprogramming, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, but it's to say, fine, now they know the law, they know how to police, and they know how things should work from a policing perspective, so how does this fit in with the attitudes in the way our community views policing? It's to ensure that there's that collaborative approach.
Especially when a young officer graduates from police college, it's “I'm an officer”, and they're pumped up and they feel good about it. We want to make sure they approach the community in a way that respects the uniqueness of the community and respects the way that we view the world a little bit differently. Every culture is like that; we view the world a little differently. We want to see that they're not.... What some people may view as an insult in regard to the way you enter somebody's home versus the way it may happen in the city—something as simple as that—could make a difference.
We do our best to hire from within our community, which is certainly a bonus. If not, we also try to at least hire other first nation citizens to police, because there are various similarities there. It's easier to have that and understand it.
This is, of course, a particularly exciting time, as is obvious from the other people who have appeared before you. We have access to more information and better data than ever before. Collectively as Canadians we've seen significant declines in crime across the board for a sustained period. There are clearly a number of policing innovations and initiatives developed that have been very successful and are having a significant impact on public safety.
In other words, from my perspective, there's been a lot of progress. We have better means of assessing progress and comparing the effectiveness and efficiency of different methods and adapting to what we learn.
In my role today, I'm primarily speaking from my experience in 2012, last year, in preparing and reporting on B.C.’s criminal justice experience as the chair of the B.C. Justice Reform Initiative. I was asked as a private member of the bar to undertake that review. I'm not a criminologist; I'm not an academic; and I'm not a specialist. The primary perspective that I brought to bear to my task was of a member of the bar, a person interested and passionate in this area, and a person who for about a decade was involved as a director and chair of the Legal Services Society, which oversees legal aid in British Columbia.
What I'll do in the next few minutes is summarize what I recommended last year. I'll summarize what has happened in the intervening year, which may not be known to all of the members, and I'll talk about what I think are the outstanding issues that need attention now.
First of all, the B.C. Justice Reform Initiative was initiated by the B.C. government; it wasn't a federal initiative. I was the chair and sole member of that initiative. I delivered a written report in August of last year that is still available online. I made several dozen recommendations. Let me summarize in just a few words what I concluded in the course of that initiative.
First—and this is important for policy-makers—there's no shortage of worthwhile proposals. In my view, the primary need is to provide overall support for the innovative potential within the system. We need to identify and prioritize amongst the proposals that are afoot, and we need to support them and make sure that they get rolled out and evaluated as best as possible. That includes senior political support and legislative changes where necessary.
Let me say that the particular times we're in, when there's a substantial weight of fiscal restraint, require, in my view, that senior political leadership recognize and affirm that the process of change will require the capture of resources from elsewhere in budgets, and that the public will need to understand and learn that at least in the short term there will be service implications for reform and innovation. When you change priorities, when you change and reallocate budgets, there are going to be changes that the public has to recognize that will be useful in the long term but may have service implications in the short term.
There are a couple of things. First of all, the problem of policy development in isolated silos, in my review, is clearly real. There is a debate in the community in terms of whether or not the silo problem is real; it's often referred to. In my view, the independence of the various justice participants, by the nature of that independence, can interfere with worthwhile change.
For that reason, I recommended the establishment in British Columbia of a public safety council within the provincial ministry of justice to enhance collaboration and coordination within the system and particularly in the development and rollout of reform. I emphasize today the very great need to develop improvements that improve system-wide performance.
The report also recommended that there be regular justice summits to include those outside the ministry in the process of reform.
I also endorsed making the system as transparent as possible through the use of modern information and communication systems.
I made several dozen other recommendations, but those are some of the important ones.
Let me say that from the newspapers and the public response to my report, I think it's fair to say that the greatest public impact of the report was on the widespread recognition of the problem of unnecessary and extensive delays within the system and the development of a broad social consensus, in British Columbia at least, and that better methods of ensuring timeliness are needed to ensure not only an effective and cost-efficient system but also one that achieves justice and facilitates the impact of criminal justice on public safety goals generally. I think I can say this without any fear of contradiction.
There was a very widespread and, I think, unanimous recognition of the disadvantages of the delays that we've experienced in the system and that have in many ways bedevilled the criminal justice system for a very long time.
So let me give you a quick update. In many respects, my recommendations were accepted. There was a statute passed in the spring of 2013 on the eve of the election, the Justice Reform and Transparency Act. It was passed unanimously in the legislature, which is somewhat unusual, and the government has issued two white papers in response to the report, both of which have largely sought to implement the recommendations within the report.
A public safety plan has been published for consultation in 2013, which is one of the recommendations I made to achieve improved public safety across the province, and the province has continued with its open data initiative and made improvements in system transparency. For example, you could go online right now and obtain a listing of all active civil forfeiture files in the province of British Columbia.
What have we learned from the past year? I would say, firstly, that one of the surprises is that, in the absence of any dramatic change to the rules, there have actually been significant reductions in the delays in the provincial court, very significant reductions. Although there's still a study ongoing as to exactly why that has happened, in my view the principal reason is that individual professionals within the system—prosecutors, defence counsel, and judges—both individually and collectively decided to reduce the backlogs and delays within the system. I think that is a demonstration of the goodwill and professionalism within the system, as well as the impact that a social consensus can have on a system.
One largely unanticipated consequence of that is that the reduction of wait times has produced a shortfall in legal aid funding because legal aid defence counsel have, of course, submitted their accounts much faster than anticipated. That brings to the forefront my first lesson of the last year, which is the need for flexibility. We can't anticipate all the dynamic consequences of improvements as well as problems.
What are the main outstanding challenges? I will just take a couple of minutes and then finish. The first one is that I don't think we've made significant progress on the costs and delays associated with major criminal cases. There's a paradox, in my view, in our vastly improved capacity to obtain data respecting criminal events. That capacity should permanently reduce the chances of prosecutorial error and wrongful conviction, but at the same time the disclosure and trial process is encountering massive challenges coping with that increased data respecting the criminal event. We haven't yet got the solution to that, in my view, and we need to work toward it. There's no reason why the solutions can't produce just outcomes in criminal trials using modern systems.
Second, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people facing breach or administrative charges in British Columbia and elsewhere. This has produced an increase in remand populations. I don't think we've done anything to understand fully what that's about.
Third, I think there is serious doubt as to whether the current system and approach to domestic assault is working. I think we need to look at that again and on an ongoing basis. It's simply too critical an event in our community to not have the best methods applied to it.
One final lesson for the national audience, I would say, is that B.C. has had tremendous success in reducing the levels of drinking and driving through applying immediate administrative responses such as roadside vehicle seizure and licence suspension. I think we need to learn from that lesson across the board. It has produced an immediate and dramatic reduction in driving deaths, which I think can be applied to other subject matters.
I have two final remarks and then I'll close.
I think any casual review of the Internet will demonstrate that justice participants, all of them, are committed to innovation, collaboration, and productive reform. I think it's important that momentum be maintained and that changes be made as we learn and that we not be afraid to admit failure as well as celebrate success.
My final point, and it's one for the members of the committee, is that in my view concrete benchmarks and performance measures for the system and its participants are critical to success. Those must be achievable and real, but they should reflect reasonable public expectations and not simply be the views of those of us within the system. They should reflect expert input, but they must have a public dimension.
In this area, I think it's critical to obtain public input. Political leadership such as members of this committee must demand system performance that meets reasonable public expectations. I think that's critical and it is very difficult to otherwise obtain informed public input on system performance. So I would encourage you to explore system benchmarks and how those might be achieved for the benefit of Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I have come before this committee on several occasions over the past few years as interim chair of the CPC to contribute to your deliberations on issues relating to the performance of the RCMP and the need for effective oversight of this important Canadian institution. I am very pleased to be here today to assist you in your examination of the economics of police service delivery across Canada.
I am accompanied by Mr. Richard Evans, senior director of operations for the CPC.
Thank you for inviting me to joining you today.
It is a universally accepted principle that public trust of the police is essential to the effective and efficient delivery of any police service. Even a strong and economically viable law enforcement service cannot operate without public support. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP provides an important role in the accountability framework of the RCMP and its delivery of policing services at the federal, provincial, municipal, first nations, and international levels. It is a large, diverse, and complex organization in both its mandate and its jurisdiction.
The integrated nature of its operations with other law enforcement agencies adds to this complexity, and its presence in virtually every corner of this country and abroad is unique in law enforcement circles. All of this serves to increase the visibility of the RCMP and its members' contacts with the public.
The commission's mandate includes investigating, reviewing, and conducting hearings into public complaints concerning the conduct of the RCMP and its members in the execution of their duties. As the chair, I can also institute a complaint and investigation into any matter relating to RCMP member conduct when I believe it is in the public interest to do so.
While discussions about the economics of policing, for the most part, rightly focus on the tangible elements of front-line policing service delivery, the less obvious cost associated with public discontent with police conduct must also be considered in the overall cost of public policing. We are all familiar with the increasing frequency of public inquiries and lawsuits resulting from public complaints about the conduct of the police. These mechanisms are labour-intensive and protracted. They consume significant resources and add to the overall costs of delivering policing services.
There are many recent examples of such forums, the cumulative cost of which would be considered staggering by most. In contrast, the commission, supported by an annual budget of roughly $8.2 million, responds to roughly 2,000 public complaints per year about the conduct of RCMP members. The commission employs both informal and formal dispute-resolution processes to address public concerns. In so doing, it conducts approximately 240 in-depth, independent, fact-based complaint reviews and reports on a yearly basis.
In recent years, the commission has also conducted numerous high-profile public interest investigations into matters that could have otherwise resulted in costly public inquiries. Some recent examples that you may be familiar with include the public-interest investigation into the conduct of RCMP members regarding the handling of allegations of harassment within the workplace; the review of the RCMP's seizure of firearms from residences following flooding in High River, Alberta; and the public-interest investigation regarding policing in northern British Columbia following the concerns expressed by Human Rights Watch in its February 2013 report on this issue.
Through such public interest investigations the commission establishes facts, reports on its findings, and makes constructive remedial recommendations that are aimed at correcting and preventing recurring policing problems. The RCMP accepts and implements the vast majority of these recommendations.
As you are no doubt aware, this mandate will be expanded with Bill , which received royal assent this past June and is expected to come into force in 2014, and once a new civilian review and complaints commission with additional authorities and enhanced effectiveness is established.
Included in these enhancements are the authorities to address public complaints through an enhanced alternative dispute resolution process; establish an integrated public complaint intake system with provincial police review agencies, effectively creating a no-wrong-door process for anyone wishing to make a public complaint about police conduct, and a standardized complaint intake process; conduct joint reviews of public complaints with provincial police review agencies; and conduct reviews of specified RCMP activities on the initiative of the chair at the request of the , or at the request of a province that contracts for RCMP services.
On this last point it is important to note that the ability to conduct such strategic, forward-looking analysis of RCMP activities will allow the commission to assist the RCMP in pre-empting potential problems. The goal is to reduce or avoid incidents of police conduct that could give rise to public complaints, and by consequence, lead to calls for lengthy and costly public examinations, which add to the cost of police service delivery.
As front-line policing services continuously adapt to the complexities of public safety and security in today's global reality, so must the strategies and practices of the bodies that oversee their activities.
I recently attended the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement meeting in Salt Lake City. This is an organization that brings together individuals and agencies working to establish or improve oversight of police officers in the United States. I was struck by how advanced our oversight regime is in Canada when compared to systems in place in most U.S. jurisdictions. There appears to be little consistency from one area to the next in terms of how to approach civilian oversight of the police, or on what the accountability, framework, and standards should be. Civilian oversight of law enforcement in the U.S. seems to be largely left in the domain of municipal governments, some of which place little emphasis on it. The contrast to the Canadian experience is quite striking.
I am pleased to inform you today that the CPC has just completed two days of meetings with the heads of police-review agencies and special investigations units from every province. We focused on how we can work together to implement and make the best use of the new authorities set out in Bill . Together we have laid the foundation for a more coordinated and collaborative community of practice. By leveraging each other's experience and resources and by streamlining our practices, we will be able to provide a coordinated oversight regime that effectively addresses police conduct and accountability issues coast to coast.
I look forward to continuing to contribute to a trusted, accountable, and economically viable RCMP.
I am happy to expand on these points with you and respond to any questions you may have.
I'd be happy to do that.
First of all, there's not just one problem when you talk about delays. That's important to recognize. There are different types of delays within the system, and I think one of the reasons why I call for a system-wide approach is that you need to realize that delay in one part of the system is going to produce delays in other parts of the system and that improvements in one part of the system can be frustrated by responses in other parts of the system.
Let me try to break it down and say that in relation to delays you of course have to concern yourself with investigative time, that is, how long it takes from the time of the event to the time of the report to crown counsel. You have to deal with the initial delay within the court system of moving from a charge to a judge's actually looking at the charge, and anything happening with it. So to take that as a concrete example, in British Columbia it's generally six to eight weeks before the matter is brought before a judge, between the time that the person promises to appear and the actual first appearance. In other jurisdictions that can be a day or two.
The next concern for delay is how long it takes for something to actually happen. So there's a delay to trial, but there's also a problem of multiple appearances in and before the judge without anything actually happening. That's a problem that has been looked at for the better part of a decade, and I think some improvement has been made, but that's the pre-trial delay. Then when you get to trial, with respect to the few cases—as you know 98.5% of cases don't proceed to trial—we have to be concerned about the length of trial across the board, because even simple cases now take three or four times as long as they used to not that long ago. So a case involving an allegation of over .08%, which might have taken an hour or two hours 30 years ago, can take four or five days today, for example. In my view, although it's a relatively small part of the system, it's one that the public is very rightly concerned about. So the length of trial is also a matter of concern.
Finally I would say the biggest example that is a high profile is the length of time it takes to adjudicate really complex criminal cases, which involve conspiracies or murders. In British Columbia we've had several examples of cases that have taken five or six years to proceed through pre-trial motions and the trial itself. That was probably a longer answer than you wanted.
Well, there are two things.
First of all, I think there is a very inconclusive debate about the longer term consequence of mandatory minimums for charges. The evidence is mixed. For example, the defence bar tends to adapt itself to what's possible. Mandatory minimums often have the effect—and certainly it's the experience in the States—of actually increasing the sentences for offenders and not necessarily increasing the length of time to get to a resolution. Having said that, I think there are, obviously, untested consequences of mandatory minimums and there is a view out there that they're going to result in increased process costs. I think it's really inconclusive right now.
I think the other feature of it, which is equally important, is that it does effectively transfer discretion to the investigator and to the prosecutor, because the prosecutor has an option as to what to charge. So it's taken discretion away from a judge on sentencing. But there's still a great deal of discretion earlier in the system. I think the public interest concern about that is whether that discretion is being exercised in a transparent way or whether in fact it ends up being a discretion that favours people from some walks of life rather than other walks of life.
As a Canadian I am generally concerned about where discretion in the criminal justice system rests and how it's exercised. I think that has to be carefully considered. I actually suspect that what you'll find with mandatory minimums is a broader scatter, if you will, of the types of charges that are produced from the same criminal event in order to perhaps avoid the impact of mandatory minimums or to bring it to bear.
So in answer to your question, I would say two things. First of all, we have to study it very carefully. I don't think the consequences can be easily predicted. Secondly, we have to be aware of the indirect process consequences of something like a mandatory minimum, and we need to manage it. Otherwise, you're not going to achieve the public goals that Parliament is determined to achieve in those areas.