As this project has detailed repeatedly police across Canada act largely as they wish in investigations into the harms they inflict on civilians. This includes not even reporting those harms.
In September of 2016 a Hamilton police officer was involved in a vehicular pursuit that killed 20-year-old motorcyclist Chokha Bayez. Yet the Hamilton police broke the law and never reported the killing by the officer to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as they are required to do. Every police service in Ontario is legally mandated to notify the SIU immediately of any incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officers (Carter 2017).
An SIU investigation into the Hamilton police killing of Bayez was only initiated when the victim’s family contacted the unit a month after the crash. This is an unacceptable delay that further serves to interfere with any proper investigation. As judge Michael Tulloch put it is his report on oversight in Ontario: ”In most cases, the SIU depends on the police notifying it of incidents within its mandate. Prompt, thorough police notification is the starting point for effective, efficient SIU investigations. If the police take too long to notify the SIU of an incident, or fail to do so at all, any investigation may be compromised and justice may not ever be done” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Furthermore, the investigation is not even listed on a Hamilton police report of SIU investigations presented to the police board earlier in April 2017 (Carter 2017). Constable Steve Welton told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the incident was included (despite saying he could not comment on the case and failure to report to the SIU). Oddly, according to the CBC, no vehicular death can be found in the police board report (Carter 2017). CBC News only became aware of the SIU investigation as a result of a freedom of information request listing all of the SIU’s investigations into Hamilton police officers from 2016 (Carter 2017).
As we have documented consistently in this project there is no proper independent oversight of police and no mechanism is used, legal or otherwise, to ensure there are any negative consequences for officers and police forces who fail to comply with investigative policy and requirements. Even where they violate or flaunt the law.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon told CBC News: “If the SIU Director is of the view that there may have been a breach of the regulation, and no charges are laid, it has been the Director’s practice to notify the Chief/Commissioner of his concerns in order that they may be reviewed” (quoted in Carter 2017). Of course the chief is under no obligation to act and it is unsure if such notice has even been given in this case.
André Marin, a former Ontario ombudsman and past SIU director, is clear in stating that under current conditions there is nothing to stop police from acting like this whenever they so choose. In his words: “Because there are no consequences, police can be extremely lax. They have proven themselves to be ungovernable” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Marin has a stark assessment of police services boards as well. In his view, while they could push for oversight: “Police services boards should be vigilant and hold their feet to the fire — but they don’t care either. There is absolutely no excuse for this” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Again, the police are a law unto themselves. And the state always protects the state.
Carter, Adam. 2017. “Hamilton Police Broke the Law and there were No Consequences.” CBC News. April 25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-police-siu-1.4083410