Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'll speak very briefly to give a bit of context to the legislation. Mr. Yumansky will speak briefly about the process of registration and reporting. Then, I understand, Inspector Nezan will speak on behalf of the RCMP, after which Chief Superintendent Lines, representing CACP, will speak.
Just to remind members, the sex offender registry came into force in December 2004, so we're now in the fifth year of operation. It was very much a product of federal-provincial-territorial consensus and, occasionally, compromise. It was intended to be a national registry and therefore was designed to, as best as possible, meet the needs of all parts of the country and achieve the overall objective.
The purpose of the registry was to assist police in investigating crimes suspected to be of a sexual nature and, hopefully, to assist police in moving to a rapid resolution of the investigation, either by identifying possible sex offender suspects in the locale or, indeed, by excluding people very quickly from further investigation.
It is one tool of many. The objective of Parliament was to add to the tools that would be available in these cases.
It is not a risk-based registry. Offenders who are convicted of offences are put on the registry. It's not an assessment of whether they are more or less serious in their offending.
The registry was amended by Parliament once, primarily to add National Defence to the registry, because, of course, people there are charged under a separate justice system. The registry now applies fully to those offenders as well.
The registry, from its date of implementation, has been very closely scrutinized by federal, provincial, and territorial officials. There have been amendments made as part of the process of adding National Defence.
Of course, other issues continue to come up, which we meet on regularly, about three or four times a year, I would say. We're also in communication by paper and teleconferencing so we can identify areas in which the registry can still be improved. Sometimes, only operations will reveal what might need to be changed.
Having said that, I'll turn it over to Mr. Yumansky for a brief description of the process.
As Ms. Campbell has indicated, my remarks will be very brief. They will focus on two key aspects of the legislation, namely, the registration process and the reporting process.
I have copies of my presentation. If anybody needs them, I'd certainly be happy to share them with you afterward.
At the time of sentencing for an offence specified in the legislation, the crown can ask the court for a registration order. If the offence is one where it is not obvious that it was a sex offence--for example, trespassing at night--but the crown is aware that there was a sexual component, it can ask for an order but will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was committed with the intent to commit one of the designated sexual offences. The offender has the right to appeal the order.
Once the crown has made the request, the offender either can make no argument or can argue that placing his information on a registry would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest and the protection of society through the investigation of crimes of a sexual nature.
If the court orders registration, notice is provided to the offender requiring him or her to register in person at a designated registration centre within 15 days after the order is made or the person is released from custody. The registration period begins on the day the order is made. Re-registration is required once per year, as well as within 15 days of a change of name or residence. If the offender is absent from his home address for more than 15 continuous days, the registration centre must be notified.
Offenders are required to remain registered for one of three periods tied to the maximum penalty available for the offence: 10 years for summary conviction offences and offences with two- and five-year maximums; 20 years for offences carrying a 10- or 14-year maximum sentence; and a lifetime for offences with a maximum life sentence or when there is a prior conviction for a sex offence.
Offenders can make a special application for early termination of the order, but not before five years for orders lasting 10 years, 10 years for orders lasting 20 years, and 20 years for lifetime orders. As well, both the crown and the offender have full rights of appeal of the original decision to order or not to order registration.
I have just a few remarks about the reporting process under the legislation.
Offenders are required to provide to local police, and to keep them current on, certain information such as addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, given names, surnames, aliases, and identifying marks and tattoos. On subsequent occasions when they attend at the registration centre, they are obligated to update any of the information about them that is contained on the registry.
Under the legislation, persons authorized to register information must collect only the information pertaining to the offence and the resulting order. Information is registered in the sex offender database without delay and is treated confidentially. The offender can request correction of information in the case of error or omission.
Information remains in the database indefinitely, except if the conviction or sentence is overturned on appeal, or if a free pardon is granted. A pardon under the Criminal Records Act does not remove the person or the information; the offender must still apply for an early termination order.
Even after a person is relieved of the requirement to report, the information itself stays on the registry, unless as noted. Access to registry data, except by authorized persons for authorized purposes, is prohibited. Police have access to personal information about past sex offenders for at least 10 years and, in many cases, during their natural lives.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions concerning the National Sex Offender Registry and to discuss this very important program. The RCMP view a proper and robust registry as an enhancement to public safety and look forward not only to the government’s continued support of this program, but welcome much needed efforts to strengthen it.
There are currently over 19,000 offenders on the database, and law enforcement agencies across the country administer and enforce the sex offender registry through 14 centres. While the RCMP has welcomed this program, the legislation which governs the Registry has presented us with very significant challenges, some of which are incongruent with the efficient and effective administration and enforcement of the program.
Firstly, the legislation is very specific concerning the information that can be recorded on the database. This means that we cannot include those administrative fields that are necessary for us to ensure the integrity of the data. This conflicts with one of the legislative principles, which calls for this repository to house current and reliable information.
In addition, basic personal data we can collect from convicted sex offenders is restricted. For instance, an offender’s vehicle information cannot be collected or registered on this database, despite the fact that the state, through motor vehicle branch systems, already possesses that information. As a result, the registry is of no assistance to law enforcement in those sexual crime investigations where police may only have a suspect vehicle description as a lead. As you can imagine, some sexual crime investigations are highly time sensitive.
Secondly, not all convicted sex offenders are ordered to the registry. In some provinces, applications are diligently made, while in others, orders are not being sought for a variety of reasons. The absence of an automatic inclusion on the registry of all offenders convicted of sexual crimes has led to the inconsistent application of the law across the country. Someone convicted of molesting a child in one province may be ordered to the registry, while in another province they may not. Given the difficulty of determining which sex offender will reoffend and which will not, this means that some of the recidivists are falling through the cracks.
Third, in many cases, strict provisions on disclosure prohibit communication between agencies that share the responsibility for managing sex offenders. The successful management of sex offenders requires collaboration among different justice agencies; yet the national sex offender registry is essentially prohibited from sharing information that would further this effort or even prevent a crime. This is detrimental not only to the public but to the offender as well.
Finally, the imposed legislated requirement that allows police to access the database only after a sexual crime has occurred runs contrary to our efforts in this country to prevent crime. Law enforcement agencies have a number of databases at their disposal that are accessed routinely by police for law enforcement and public safety purposes. The national sex offender registry database is not among them and is purely a reactive tool. There is no opportunity for this law enforcement tool to prevent what amounts to some of the most serious and devastating crimes.
It is true that offenders who are truly motivated to perpetrate crimes of violence will usually do so. It would be disingenuous on my part to suggest that the national sex offender registry would always or even consistently prevent sexual crimes, but there have been cases with other registries where this very thing has happened. While we do not view the sex offender registry as the panacea for solving sexual crime, it nevertheless has a role to play and can support our efforts in identifying and prosecuting sexual crime offenders. More importantly, crime prevention should always be one of law enforcement’s primary goals.
Crimes of a sexual nature can result in what is often irreparable trauma to the victims. The impact can be a life sentence for some. Therefore every effort should be made to reduce the risk of these crimes. The RCMP believes that a sex offender registry has value and can advance sexual crime investigations and, in some instances, potentially prevent crime.
The Federal government’s introduction of a national sex offender registry in 2004 was a positive move forward. However, there are significant improvements needed in order for this registry to efficiently and effectively fulfil the legislative principles and maximize its contribution to public safety.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I am a member of the Ontario Provincial Police and have been an officer for 33 years, but today I represent the CACP and the approximately 1,000 members we have across this country.
In past duties with the OPP, I was actually the officer in charge of researching, developing, and implementing Canada's first sex offender registry, which was legislated in the province of Ontario eight years ago today, on April 21, 2001. Ontario's sex offender registration legislation is known as Christopher's Law, in memory of 11-year-old Christopher Stephenson, who in 1988 was abducted and brutally murdered by a convicted sex offender who was on federal statutory release.
At the 1993 inquest into Christopher's death, the coroner's jury recommended the establishment of a national registry for convicted offenders. In the absence of that occurring, and with the support of victims' groups and law enforcement organizations and, of course, the support of the Stephenson family, Ontario implemented the first registry in the country. It remains today the only provincial registry and has maintained its existence given the limitations and restrictions of the legislation that's before you today and of the current national sex offender registry program.
After consulting with police agencies across Canada, Commissioner Julian Fantino of the Ontario Provincial Police requested in August 2008 that the CACP call upon the Government of Canada, through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the Minister of Public Safety, to amend the Criminal Code and to consider the Province of Ontario's sex offender registry legislation and software application as a model for enhancing the national sex offender registry. Commissioner Fantino's resolution to maximize the public safety of all Canadians was subsequently adopted by the CACP.
To ensure the safety and security of all Canadian residents, CACP supports that the national sex offender registry program should be further enhanced by, for example: mandating automatic registration of sex offenders upon conviction rather than pursuant to a judge's order; ensuring the members of all police services in Canada have access to registered sex offender information for crime prevention or other law enforcement purposes; mandating federal and provincial correctional services to notify sex offender registry centres of offenders' release dates; creating an electronic link between all provincial and federal corrections agencies to the national sex offender registry to ensure the identification of offenders being released from institutions and ensuring their compliance with registration; ensuring that police services of a jurisdiction verify registered offenders, reporting their home addresses; and last, allowing data matching, which includes comparisons of other electronic applications with the NSOR, which is currently prohibited by the national legislation.
My colleague with me today, Superintendent Dave Truax, has a document that hopefully all members will be provided with. It outlines those key differences between the provincial and the national sex offender registries. The CACP has further requested that the federal government financially support a program enhancement, including development, implementation, and maintenance.
Commissioner Fantino recently extended an invitation to the Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, to visit the Ontario sex offender registry unit in Orillia and to view its software applications and its capabilities. On behalf of Commissioner Fantino, I extend that invitation to all committee members.
Actually, the database itself can be demonstrated off site as well and does not necessarily require travel to Orillia. Were it not for the usual restriction on using audiovisual equipment for committee members, I would have liked to use my 10 minutes to show you the tremendous capabilities of the Ontario database in protecting the citizens of Ontario and, obviously, potentially our most vulnerable victims, our children.
As of 8:15 this morning, there were 11,963 offenders registered in the Ontario registry, with 278 currently non-compliant and under investigation. Our compliance rate, again as of this morning, is 96.84%, which is one of the highest compliance rates of a sex offender registry worldwide.
Officers from across Ontario continue to directly access the registry daily in regard to their ongoing investigations as well as in relation to their crime prevention efforts.
Here are a couple of examples of how agencies are using the registry. In Ontario, a police agency recently disclosed information on three registered sex offenders in their jurisdiction to the employers of those sex offenders, pursuant to the Police Services Act of Ontario. Two of the offenders had been in the Ontario registry for offences against children and were in positions where they currently had access to children through their employment. The other offender had a history of sexual abuse of the elderly and was currently employed in a nursing home. This information was obtained and shared as a result of the offenders' obligation to register.
In another case, a male store clerk was sexually assaulted. The physical description and behaviour of the offender were queried in the registry and provided the police with a suspect. A photo lineup was prepared and the victim positively identified the offender, who was subsequently charged and convicted.
If a child were to go missing outside of where we're sitting this morning, perhaps at the corner of Elgin Street and Wellington, Ontario's registry, given its query capabilities, could do a radius search within minutes to identify registered sex offenders in the area and provide their physical description, occupation, and even the vehicles they drive. Within a short period of time, officers could be knocking on the doors of those sex offenders.
If Christopher Stephenson's case would have occurred in Ontario today, police would have been notified that a registered sex offender was living very close by, could have gone to that residence, and potentially could have found that person who was holding Christopher Stephenson against his will, perhaps preventing his death.
Christopher's parents, Jim and Anna Stephenson, will be appearing before you on Thursday of this week. They were very much involved and continue to be in partnership with us in our efforts with the Ontario registry. More than 20 years later, they have not given up the cause that the CACP shares with them, that is, to maximize public safety across this country with a registry that will protect its citizens.
Whether or not the objectives have been met depends on what our measures of success are. Our mission is to first collect and house current and reliable data. To the extent that we can under the legislation, which is very restrictive as to what administrative data elements we can enter on the database, we have done so. We have about a 94% compliance rate nationally.
However, it imposes some very significant challenges for us administratively. We're not allowed to put in some of the fields we need to monitor compliance, basically, so our centres across the country have devised some secondary systems, including Rolodex, spreadsheets, or whatever. Compared to a database, they may be unsophisticated systems to try to make sure we have current reliable data.
So the short answer, if it's not too late to say that, is that we do have current reliable data, but it's very difficult for our centres to do that. As the registry goes, it's going to be increasingly more challenging.
The second aspect of the question is whether it has helped solve crime. I want to say that when you use the database as an investigative tool, you need to have that database populated, and it takes time before you see the results. We saw that with the violent crime linkage analysis system, ViCLAS, or SALVAC, which was created in the early nineties. It took time before there was a sufficient amount of data in there and it took time before we saw the results. You would see the same with the DNA data bank.
So from the RCMP's perspective, we think the results will come, but we need some important modifications, and it just takes more time. We have 19,000 offenders on this database. However, about 10,000 come from Ontario and the Ontario sex offender registry.
Quite frankly, most law enforcement in Ontario doesn't use the NSOR because they have a much better system with the OSOR. So now you have 9,000 offenders in nine other provinces and three territories. It's not very many, really, so it's not surprising to me that we haven't seen those results.
Thank you to those who are here.
This is a very important issue. I know that the committee has been seized with a number of other things that are going to fill our agenda.
I listened to you, Superintendent Lines, and you indicated that you have a presentation that could be available. I think you indicated that we could go to your headquarters or that perhaps you could bring it here. I'm just wondering if the committee would be interested in having an evening in which the committee, not as a formal part of the evening, could invite some of these people here, including the RCMP, so we could get an overview of the Ontario program and perhaps how it could or would function in a national program.
I'm wondering if the committee would be interested and if the panel members would be willing to do that. Certainly, my office would be interested in lining up an evening event somewhere. If there's a willingness for that, then certainly we'll carry that forward and contact everybody.
One of the other things we talked about here was trying to prove a negative. I know that it's always, if not impossible, then virtually impossible, to prove how many it prevented. We simply don't know. I think you've done a good job in trying to illustrate the advantages of the system.
I know we talk about it in this context and others, but the other issue is recidivism. Recidivism is always measured by convictions. It doesn't mean that the offender didn't reoffend; it just means that the offender was never apprehended and convicted. We should not lose sight of that, particularly with respect to the crimes we're talking about here. From a practical perspective, there is enough expertise here that perhaps one or two of you would like to talk a bit about that.
My sense is that pedophilia, males on males, might have a rate of recidivism that would be a lot higher if we could measure the offences as opposed to the convictions of the offender. I wonder if you could explain any of that or take a crack at it.
I would like to weigh in on this one as well.
There is some research out there on undetected offences. First of all, sexual assault is the most under-reported crime. People report their vehicles stolen and their houses broken into, but for a wide range of reasons, a lot of victims won't come forward when they've been sexually assaulted. It's very under-reported. That's the first thing.
There has been some research on undetected offences by offenders in treatment. There's one research project where they found that 23 offenders had an average of about 175 victims each for whom they had not been apprehended. Another study indicated that 232 child molesters had admitted more than 55,000 incidents of molestation. I have another study here by Gene Abel, who is well known in this area, which found that 561 offenders—a broad range of sex offenders, not just one type—had admitted to 291,000 offences. It's well known, certainly in our law enforcement circles, that often, but not always, you're dealing with the tip of the iceberg, and that more comes out through treatment, because there's perhaps no longer any jeopardy at that stage of the game for the offender.
The other thing that has been commented on in Canada by well-known researchers is that, as you indicated, using official records as a measure of recidivism is weak. Usually the follow-up periods are four to five years, which is a relatively short period. The offender may have been incarcerated for part of that time. The other thing is that you're dealing with a criminal conviction. So, first, a lot of the time, you don't get caught. Then, second, you have to be charged. Third, you have to be convicted. There are several processes before you get to the end of the road. Measuring this solely by using conviction statistics has its limitations.
I asked our research and development section to measure the effectiveness of sex offender registries. In their search around the world, they could not find any research measuring the effectiveness of an SOR, but it's a project that the RCMP will be undertaking. We already have a project to measure recidivism of offenders in the national sex offender registry. About 18% of offenders currently in the national sex offender registry have a prior conviction for sexual assault.
I would reiterate that no one disagrees with the overall objective--that's very clear--of safety and security for everyone. As with any issue, sometimes there are different paths to achieving that objective.
At the officials level, it's fair to say that we look at many different models. As I say, if people have not looked online at the U.S. sex offender registries, it's very instructive to do so. They're all publicly available online. They are somewhat different from state to state, so it's important to know, when you're talking about a registry, exactly what kind of registry you're talking about.
In terms of expanding the Canadian registry, again, it's a bit hard for me to answer broadly speaking, because there are different ways of expanding the current registry. We've heard comments today about more proactive access to the registry, more automatic registration.
I think it's fair to say that across the country, at the officials level, there are different points of view about the efficacy of the different models. That's the kind of debate you want to have, the kind of analysis you want to have. At the end of the day, I think it is something to be aware of. This is a system that is administered by crown attorneys and police across the country. It's not operated out of Ottawa. We want to have a model that is useful for all jurisdictions, that doesn't impose a burden that some jurisdictions won't be able to meet, but that, on the other hand, doesn't sell short the tools that are needed in other jurisdictions.
I don't have a short answer other than, yes, there are different paths to the same goal. Our job certainly is to listen to the different points of view.
I'll go back to the point that, as we've said, the registry is one tool for police. Of course, CPIC continues to be available as, you might say, a registry of all criminal convictions. That's another tool. Parliament has enacted other measures to try to target sex offending. The idea is to have a range of options available to law enforcement, to schools, to employers, etc.
Part of our mission is to monitor compliance and ensure that we have up-to-date data in there. I'll give you an example of the challenges.
We have some people who are convicted of designated offences and receive a custodial sentence, perhaps a federal sentence, and they're in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada. Once they terminate their sentence, they have 15 days to report to the centres located across the country. There is a legal inability for Correctional Service of Canada to communicate to the national sex offender registry to notify us when an offender is being released.
As you know, offender release dates fluctuate. It could be day parole, warrant expiry, work release programs; there may be an intermittent sentence. There can be a number of different reasons why an offender, even though he's sentenced to five years, will come out before five years. Because CSC cannot notify the national sex offender registry of when John Doe is coming out of jail, we don't know when to start that 15-day clock ticking to monitor compliance.
Our centres have had to devise some unsophisticated secondary systems. In this electronic world that we live in, we can't incorporate this at present into the database and be notified automatically from Correctional Service that John Doe is being released in 10 days so we can prepare for the compliance. We have to devise these other systems and try to monitor compliance. It's not very efficient. It's going to become unmanageable eventually, just because of the sheer fact that more offenders are being ordered to the registry every day. At some point, the integrity of the data is going to take a serious downfall.
That's one example.
We also can't record other administrative things. For instance, we may have offenders who are deceased, and because of the specificity of the act, we can't add a little box that says “deceased”. If an investigator calls us and is looking for a potential list of suspects or persons of interest, we may inadvertently provide him with a list that has a deceased person on it, and they'll be essentially chasing a ghost or chasing their tails. That's not what we're after, and certainly that was not the intent of the legislation.
I don't want to sound overly critical. It was better than the registry we had before nationally--which was none. It was a positive step forward. Now that we've operationalized this, we're seeing a number of these restrictions on the administrative side that we need to have fixed.
Those are just some examples. I have an a range of them that I could bring up.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Today I am accompanied by my colleague, Deputy Commissioner Darrell Madill, who appeared before you last time. I am happy to be here. I welcome the opportunity to appear again before this committee to talk about the work of the RCMP, and to expand on the information I provided during my last appearance.
The RCMP's use of force, including the use of conducted energy weapons, or CEWs, is an important and complex matter that understandably is of concern to members of this committee and to the public, whom we are all sworn to serve.
We recognize that in a democratic society public scrutiny is a fundamental aspect of maintaining the accountability of public institutions. This certainly applies to the police, who should be and are in fact held to a very high standard, given our extraordinary powers and obligations to enforce the law and protect the peace. The RCMP fully expects--and indeed welcomes--scrutiny by parliamentarians and others.
The RCMP's ability to provide effective policing services depends on the support of the communities we serve. We believe that the more the public knows about the work we do and the challenges we face, the more likely they are to support us, despite our shortcomings and despite the fact that, try as we might, sometimes we make mistakes.
The RCMP and I, as commissioner, are dedicated to working as hard as we can to ensure that we provide quality police services to Canadians in ways that respect and reflect the values that Canadians and the force hold dear. The RCMP's values include honesty, integrity, professionalism, compassion, respect, and accountability. An important aspect of our accountability is our interaction with Parliament and with parliamentarians, so as I said, I am happy to be here.
The RCMP is also committed to continuous learning and continuous improvement, including in relation to our policies.
I told you that the RCMP's revised policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW.
As I outlined during my previous appearance, the RCMP has taken significant steps to improve our policies relating to CEWs, as well as associated training and reporting requirements. An important factor in this work has been this committee's recommendations in its June 2008 report.
The last time I was before you, I talked about the improvements we have made to our incident management intervention model, policy amendments that further restrict the use of CEWs, and enhanced reporting and more frequent re-certification requirements for those trained to use CEWs.
As a learning organization, the RCMP monitors its policies, procedures, and training on an ongoing basis to identify areas for improvement. Since its inception in 2001, the RCMP's CEW policy has undergone a number of updates and amendments. In June 2008, we directed that the CEW must only be used where there is a threat to public or officer safety. This and other restrictions and enhancements to the policy were subsequently incorporated in the RCMP's current CEW policy, which was published on February 23 of this year.
I'd like to take a few minutes to highlight a few of the significant changes in the policy that restrict the use of the CEW beyond what was provided in the previous policy. These changes and the policy itself do not stand alone, but rather are linked with and relate to our training, including our certification and re-certification of RCMP officers authorized to use a CEW.
Let me start with section 3.1.1, which provides that, “The CEW must only be used in accordance with CEW training, the principles of the incident management intervention model”—or IMIM, as we call it—“and in response to a threat to public or officer safety as determined by a member's assessment of the totality of the circumstances being encountered”.
This is a fundamental provision that underpins all elements of the policy. It directs that the CEW may only be used where a member has assessed all the factors of the situation and has concluded that there is a threat to public or officer safety. The section goes on to set out specific reporting requirements when a CEW is deployed.
The section goes on to set out specific reporting requirements when a CEW is deployed. The measures taken by RCMP members must be reasonable and any force used must be necessary in the circumstances.
I repeat: the policy provides that “a member's actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances”.
Language was added to enhance accountability, both for the officer deploying the CEW and for the supervisor. It places responsibility on members to properly report and articulate their actions following CEW deployments. It also makes supervisors accountable for reviewing each deployment and ensuring compliance with policy.
Section 3.1.2 of the new policy adds to this, directing that “all members must recognize that any use of force entails risk”.
This is followed by section 3.1.3, which clearly warns that “multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject”. With any prolonged struggle, the potential for injury increases. The objective is to reduce the potential of injury by reducing the exposure to the CEW either through multiple deployments or continuous cycling.
This provision is fortified by the addition of section 3.1.5, which directs members to take control of a suspect as soon as possible during a CEW deployment and clearly indicates that the CEW is not intended as a restraint device.
Finally, section 3.1.4 cautions that:
||Acutely agitated or delirious persons may be at high risk of death. If an individual is in an acutely agitated or delirious state, and whenever possible when responding to reports of violent individuals, request the assistance of emergency medical services. If possible, bring medical assistance to the scene.
The section was changed due to a lack of consensus within the medical community regarding the term “excited delirium”. With the revised wording, the policy is now more encompassing and also eliminates any perception that members are being asked to make a medical diagnosis.
In considering all of this, it is important to note that only appropriately trained RCMP members are authorized to use the CEW, and RCMP policy has been changed to require yearly mandatory re-certification of these officers. Previously, the requirement was re-certification every three years.
The RCMP's training standard for CEWs is comprehensive, includes theoretical and practical components, and makes use of scenario-based training. It is important to note that before being trained to use a CEW, all RCMP members are taught the incident management intervention model, which guides them in their decision-making process. The IMIM helps police officers choose appropriate intervention options.
We have also developed a new subject behaviour officer response, or SBOR, reporting tool for reporting the use-of-force incidents, which is currently being piloted. SBOR will be used to report on all use-of-force incidents, not just those involving a CEW. This new reporting process will help members record relevant details following incidents, and will provide useful data for future analysis. It will also aid the articulation of the circumstances that led officers to decide to resort to the use of force.
I'd like to stress again that the RCMP believes that when properly used in appropriate situations by officers who are well trained, the CEW contributes overall to the safety and security of the public and police. It has been used in situations where, in its absence, police officers might have had to resort to greater force.
The RCMP strives to be a learning organization and to improve our services to Canadians on an ongoing basis. In fact, the story of today's RCMP includes a sincere commitment to change, renewal, and growth. While fully recognizing that there is more to do, we are proud that our comprehensive transformation initiative is progressing well, as confirmed by two reports to date by the Reform Implementation Council, an independent panel appointed to advise and report on renewal in the RCMP.
Perhaps on another occasion, Mr. Chairman, you will invite me to come back before the committee to speak further about our transformation initiative. Today, I know you're interested in learning more about our CEW policy, so I'll end there.
My colleague, Deputy Commissioner Madill, and I would be happy to respond to any questions.
Thank you, Commissioner, for appearing before the committee today.
Commissioner, I'm particularly concerned with a couple of items I'm going to ask for your help on. We know that while there's been a decrease in the use of tasers, certainly one of the things Mr. Kennedy has noted is that it's his belief that the reason for this is more because of all the media coverage--Mr. Dziekanski and the horrible incident that occurred in the Vancouver airport--and less because of policy.
In fact, one of the things that I think particularly concerned the committee was when you said that “the RCMP's revised CEW policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling of” the conducted energy weapons.
Now, when you said that, the committee was left with the impression that there in fact had been a tightening around multiple deployment of tasers. In fact, it is a very large issue that in 2008, according to the most recent statistics, there were 16 people who were tasered five or more times consecutively.
Yet when we take a look at the actual policy, it has changed. There has been a deletion of this clause: “Unless situational factors dictate otherwise, do not cycle the CEW repeatedly, or more than 15 - 20 seconds at a time against a subject”. That was deleted.
The earlier section, which you referred to as though it were a change, was there previously: “Multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject”. That was there previously. We've seen reports that have shown that lethality increases the more times a taser is used, but the biggest change when it comes to this critical issue is that the section that specifically warns against that and says that it's not to be done is deleted.
So why did you lead the committee to believe that it had been made tighter when in fact the opposite was true and when one of the more essential provisions restricting that happening was deleted?
Thank you very much for the question.
I certainly agree, as I said in my opening remarks, that our policy and our practices are very important, and it's important for us to foster an understanding of them. I'm happy to have the opportunity to come back to provide further information.
I stand by my statement that, overall, our current policy and all of the things associated with our current policy, which, as I said, include the revised IMIM and all of the training associated with CEWs and the reporting requirements, is a more restrictive policy than in the past.
Certainly, the issue with respect to multiple deployments is very important and you asked a straightforward question: why was it removed? I will try to answer that question in a straightforward way, but I will tell you that there are a number of reasons for that. Again, I premised my remarks by suggesting that you need to look at everything in totality.
I will tell you my reaction when I first read the policy and read the previous provision with respect to exposures of 15 or 20 seconds. Having been tasered myself for a very short period of time, I can tell you that I was surprised and concerned to see a provision that, on its face, might suggest that a deployment of 15 or 20 seconds would be a normal or usual deployment. I think we also must look at the policy that talks about risks.
Certainly, I would agree that our members are very much more aware of risks associated with using the CEW, including for long periods of time and multiple deployments, as a result of all that has gone on. I think members of Parliament and this committee have played a role in that. The media, as you suggest, has certainly played a role in that. I think our training and policies certainly have played a role in that as well.
I think it's important to look at the IMIM that is specifically referenced in the policy. There are a number of principles set out in that. Those principles include that the primary objective of any intervention is public safety—
With respect, there was a warning in the policy and there continues to be a warning in the policy. There was a reference to 15 or 20 seconds. That reference is no longer there. Perhaps I could continue to explain the overall policy, our overall approach, and what it is that members are trained and expected to do.
Again, I refer to the policy. The policy indicates that the force used must be necessary in the circumstances and the force used must be reasonable. I was referring to the principles of the IMIM, which provide that: it must always be applied in the context of a careful risk assessment; the risk assessment must take into account the likelihood and extent of loss of life, injury, and damage; the best strategy is the least intervention necessary to manage risk; and the best intervention causes the least harm or damage.
In the totality of what we have said, what we have written, and what we instruct, we have made our members more aware of the risks associated with the use of CEWs, including being more aware of the risks associated with multiple tasering. I commented as well when I was before you on our desire to not be overly prescriptive in our policy and commented that there were benefits to having similar approaches across law enforcement.
We've looked at other police policies. With respect to specific restrictions, the approach we have used is similar to that used by the Toronto Police Service, the Halifax police service, the Peel police service, the Ontario Provincial Police, and by Edmonton, to name a few examples. Calgary, in its policy, has an approach similar to the previous version of our policy.
Mr. Holland, in his question, actually raised a very important matter, which is how our training and our policies associated with CEWs relate to our training and policies with respect to the use of force overall. We do not prescribe in our policies, for example, how many times at minimum or maximum it is permissible or advisable to strike someone with a baton. As I said, when I read the policy, the provision of 15 or 20 seconds.... In fact, I was concerned that it suggested that such use was normal or to be expected. The truth of the matter is there is no prescription--
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Commissioner, for your willingness to come back and be part of this accountability session on your force's policy.
I will suggest at the outset, though, that to add the words “necessary” and “reasonable” to constraints on the use of force is not really something new. I don't know if it was ever the policy of the RCMP to have unnecessary or unreasonable force used in the operation of its duties, so that really doesn't help at all. I'll just leave that to one side for a moment.
When you appeared before us on February 18, your explanation of the change in the policy was that you were suggesting, as you did on February 18, that weapons would only be used when it was necessary to do so in the circumstance of threats to what was called “officer or public safety”. I had some concerns about the public safety notion because, again, it's all up in the air.
That same day, the minister, Mr. Van Loan, kind of had the same interpretation that we did, I guess, which was that the RCMP has set a new policy, a clear message, that tasers are to be used only in situations where they assess there's a real threat, not simply to deal with someone who is unruly. The device was to mean fewer people are exposed to actually being dealt with by a gun. That was kind of in accordance with my understanding of what you had to say.
When we looked at it, that very same day one of your members was on national television describing an incident where the use of a taser was deemed to be appropriate where someone was intoxicated, in handcuffs, and lying on the ground. The use of the taser was prescribed to get this guy into the car because there might have been a potential threat from some other people who might have been around the area.
I have a real problem with the clarity of the policy, both as you expressed it and also as written. Your new policy, like the old one, says that the taser was approved for RCMP use as an “intervention option to control individuals and avert injury to members and the public”. That's number 1.1 of your policy. Some of the other aspects of it later on talk about assessment of the totality of the circumstances, etc. They use the term “public safety”, which is very general.
I want to know this specifically: are you prepared to commit to a strict prohibition on the use of tasers for the purposes of restraint? This is not just for active restraint, or combative, but restraint whether it's active or passive. As you say, it's a prohibited weapon. Are you prepared to say that this not a weapon that is to be used for the purpose of restraint, but only to avert, as our committee has said, a threat of death or grievous bodily harm to the police, himself, or the public?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, with respect to a commitment to provide in our policy that the CEW is not to be used as a restraint device, that is certainly something I can do because of our current policy. I quote the note under section 3.1.5 that reads, “The CEW is not intended as a restraint device”.
With respect to a number of the other things raised, again, you have to take into account the totality of the circumstances. I agree with Mr. Harris that the notions of reasonableness and necessary force are not new. In fact, that is a point I made when I was before the committee the last time. Those are tests the courts have a lot of experience in applying.
I think what is new is the increased emphasis in all of what we have said and done with respect to the assessment of risks. Certainly, there is a heightened awareness, on behalf of the RCMP and our members, of the risks associated with the CEW and the risks associated with multiple deployments of the CEW.
Lastly, with respect to your question, Mr. Harris, about the appropriate threshold, as I said when I was at the committee before, we do not believe that the appropriate threshold with respect to the CEW is exclusively situations involving death or grievous bodily harm. The appropriate response when there is an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm is to use firearms, conventional firearms, that is, to shoot people.
Commissioner, because I have three minutes, I'm going to pose three questions to you and ask for your responses to each three individually. If you run out of time, I'm going to ask you to provide a written response at a subsequent date.
On the first question, in the first operation manual, there was a CEW challenge. Everybody acknowledges that these are dangerous instruments. This challenge has been absolutely removed. There was a challenge that said, “Police, stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity!” That is missing from the new procedures. I find that shocking and I'm asking for your commitment to do something to remedy that.
On my second point, under the definitions of when this can be used, it says: “The CEW must only be used in accordance with CEW training, the principles of the Incident Management/Intervention Model (IM/IM) and in response to a threat to officer or public safety as determined by a member’s assessment of the totality of the circumstances being encountered”. It says, “Members' actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances”.
That is the test the officers have to use to determine whether or not they're actually going to use a taser. As a lawyer, I find that very open and broad in terms of how it needs to be interpreted. I find it shocking that there is no specific training at depot for this. I am asking you to remedy that and to put training specifically in depot for officers on the use of tasers, on when they should be using it, the whole gamut.
Third, in this operations manual, there's nothing with respect to children. There's no recognition that children should be treated separately. There are no guidelines. I'd like to see training at depot with the respect to that. Once again, I find it shocking.
There is a Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Canada. It says in particular, in article 19, that every child is protected from all forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and under which states parties commit to ensure that children are protected “from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, or abuse”. There's nothing in this manual at all with respect to children and there should be. I'm asking that to be changed, as well, taking this convention into account.
Thank you very much for those three important questions. I'm very happy to elaborate on each of them and I will be happy, if I don't get through this, to provide further information.
First of all, with respect to a warning, the old policy did contain reference to a so-called CEW challenge, which read, “Police, stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity!” We have deleted that, but we have certainly not deleted from our training or requirements the notion of a police challenge. The old policy talked about using the challenge--and I won't quote the exact words, but certainly we can look at that--where it's feasible or appropriate. That's the idea. Sometimes situations dictate that no such warning would be appropriate.
The previous policy, which I actually do have it in front of me, said, “Before using the CEW, when tactically feasible, give the CEW Challenge”. The new policy does eliminate this, but again, I would invite honourable members to look at the entire context, and I would underscore the importance of that, including the IMIM and training.
For no other RCMP intervention is there a specific policy requirement to issue a specific challenge. The former challenge was long and complicated, and frankly, it was inaccurate. In fact, the taser does not deliver 50,000 volts.
The IMIM and our training stresses de-escalation, including dialogues and warnings. Our belief is that a shorter, clearer warning is better, and we train our people to use the standard warning, which is, “Stop! Police!” We also train them, where appropriate, to specifically warn of the deployment of a taser, normally by something like, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” It's simple. It's easy to understand. It's easy to remember.