Police Act Authority
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has civilian oversight authority of the British Columbia Police Act for complaints against municipal police officers. The Police Complaint Commissioner is an independent officer of the provincial legislature with an office in Victoria. The Police Act, introduced on March 31, 2010, gave the Police Complaint Commissioner extensive authority and powers related to complaints against municipal police officers.
Accountability for Police Act Complaints
Complaints are coordinated for investigation between the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and the Office of the Chief Constable. The Chief Constable or his delegate is the discipline authority for municipal police departments. In accordance with the Police Act the Police Complaint Commissioner has final authority over all police complaint investigations.
In most cases complaints are assigned to the host agency Professional Standards Office and, in some instances, the investigations will be directed to other police agencies. Police Complaint Commission staff monitor police complaint investigations concurrently through access to the investigative file and regular updates.
Once an investigation is completed, the file is submitted to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Findings arrived at by the Discipline Authority must be supported in writing. Investigative reports are disclosed to the complainant and to the subject police officers. The investigative reports and findings are thoroughly examined and critically assessed by Police Complaint Commission staff. If any shortcomings are detected in the investigations, or with the findings, the Police Complaint Commissioner may direct a number of steps including: further investigation, order the matter to be re-investigated by another agency, order an independent review by an adjudicator with full authority, or direct the matter to a Public Hearing. As such, municipal police officers are held to the highest accountability by the Police Complaint Commissioner in complaint investigations.
The Professional Standards Office
The Professional Standards Office is an independent section within each municipal police department established to investigate allegations of police misconduct. It is staffed by experienced officers with specialized training in the handling of citizen issues, complaints and in police discipline. Professional Standards Officers conduct Police Act investigations with objectivity, fairness and openness.
Other duties and responsibilities of Professional Standards Officers include:
- Managing all aspects of complaints in compliance with the Police Act.
- Reporting to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
- Researching and reporting on police disciplinary issues
- Producing quarterly police board reports
- Conducting risk management related to disciplinary trends and issues
- Providing Police Act training to staff
- Giving public presentations
- Administrate civil complaints in liaison with Corporation of Delta legal counsel.
Confidentiality of Police Act Investigations
Participation in Police Act investigations by all persons is protected by the confidentiality provision of the Police Act (Section 182). The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not apply to any record of a complaint concerning the conduct of a member that is made, submitted, registered or processed under this Act. Police Act reports and investigations are therefore not subject to disclosure apart from exceptional circumstances, for example, where the incident is related to an ongoing or relevant criminal proceeding, or as a result of a Supreme Court civil disclosure order. You can be assured of confidentiality in the Police Act process.