Police Reform 


New thought and new initiatives are needed for true reform. A deeper discussion into law enforcement practices is required. Past and present efforts of re-enforcing the status quo (identify bad apples, fire them and then re-enforce supervisory mechanisms) is flawed and fails, as is seen historically and at present.

How to Initiate Police Accountability

In Canada, similar to other western democracies, the police enjoy a position of high regard and trust by the public. This position has been consistently held for many years regardless of police scandals that plague individual police organizations from year to year. For the most part, Canadians are satisfied with the policing product that is provided to them for their tax dollars. Satisfied because, other than a scandal of significant merit and/or attention by which change is demanded, we are assured by the chief of police or superintendent that things are fine and to trust that everything is under control. Such assurances, given when a department is shaken by scandal, are provided in the guise of promises of "greater oversight" by police management, and careful due diligence, to prevent such a thing from occurring again; to trust the police, once again, to keep their house clean. Assurances which are nothing more, really, than rebuilding an ever larger sandcastle on a tidal basin.

But, organizationally, what does it entail to keep ones house clean especially with such agencies as the police who, internally, are secretive and suspicious of any outside poking and prodding? The public is assured that everything is fine and running smoothly regardless of the dearth of available information of whether or not best practices are being followed. And, when a best practice is suggested it is tempered with the coda that policing is a situational enterprise and thus the best practice is watered down so as to tailor it to a specific community (a discretion left to the police chief).

There is no sufficient reason as to why this practice needs to continue. The police should be audited by an outside agency. As the appointed Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, has proven time and again, an audit brings light to dark corners and reveals practices that need to change or even eliminated; change that may not be obvious to those within the organization or who are unwilling/unable to bring it about. Typically, the most opportune time is either in response to crisis or when new blood, a new chief, is brought in (from an outside agency not promoted from within). However, this is not sufficient, as is evident from the continual cycling of scandals which plague departments across Canada, an audit of a police department should be a regular occurrence.

The Problem As I see It

The fusion of military structures and training procedures in a citizen constabulary inadvertently encourages behavior that may be seen as inappropriate by police officials and the judiciary. Military institutions have a different raison d'être than that of citizen constabularies, and thus a different code of behavior. The result is that citizen constables are continually forced to choose between conflicting traditions in carrying out their duties in any community. When they choose wrong the standing of the police organization may be diminished. Many instances of purportedly inappropriate police behavior result from the application of military rather than citizen policing perspectives.

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