The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner’s role in the police complaint process is to ensure that the complaint process is conducted with impartiality and fairness to both the complainant and the police officer.
When the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) receives a complaint about police misconduct, we must determine whether or not it is an admissible complaint that should be forwarded for investigation.
For a complaint to be admissible it must contain the following three criteria:
- an allegation of police misconduct as defined under section 77 of the Police Act;
- be filed within one year of when the incident occurred; and
- not be frivolous or vexatious.
The Police Complaint Commissioner may extend the time limit for making a complaint if the Police Complaint Commissioner considers that there are good reasons for doing so and it is not contrary to the public interest.
If the complaint is determined to be admissible, the complainant will receive a letter advising that their complaint is admissible and that the police department has been directed to investigate their complaint. The complaint investigation process will now commence. The police cannot investigate your complaint under the Police Act unless the OPCC has determined your complaint to be admissible.
If the complaint is determined to be inadmissible, the complainant will be informed by way of a letter which will explain our decision.
If the complaint contains allegations that concerns a department’s services or policies, it would be processed under Division 5 of the Police Act. In that case, the complaint will be forwarded to the department’s Police Board for processing.
Your complaint may be selected as suitable for Complaint Resolution. If this is the case, an Investigative Analyst from the OPCC will contact you to explain this process. The main goal of Complaint Resolution is to provide complainants and police officers an opportunity to engage in a process where they can share their perspectives and find common ground with the aim of coming to a resolution agreement between both parties.
A trained senior member of the department will be assigned to facilitate this resolution.
Once a complaint has been determined to be admissible by the OPCC, the OPCC will direct the department to conduct an investigation. The police department will assign a Professional Standards Investigator to conduct this investigation. An Investigative Analyst from the OPCC will be assigned to the file and provide independent civilian oversight of the investigation.
A Professional Standards Investigator will likely need to contact the Complainant to obtain further details and information about the complaint. The OPCC strongly encourages complainants to cooperate with the Professional Standards Investigator as it allows for a full and balanced investigation. If a complainant has any evidence or records that would assist in the investigation they are requested to provide it to the Professional Standards Investigator.
The Professional Standards Investigator must provide the OPCC with regular written reports on the progress of the investigation. Our office will provide you with a copy of these progress reports.
Throughout the course of the investigation, an OPCC Investigative Analyst will continuously review the investigation and the evidence and material gathered as it progresses. The Investigative Analyst may provide advice to the Professional Standards Investigator regarding the investigative steps taken. The Investigative Analyst will also be able to inform, advise and assist you with any procedural questions you may have about the complaint process.
Unless there is an extension granted by the Police Complaint Commissioner, the investigation must be completed within six months of the date an investigation is initiated.
Once an investigation is complete, a Final Investigation Report is submitted to the OPCC and the Discipline Authority. A Discipline Authority is usually the Chief Constable of the police department the police officer is from. The Chief Constable may delegate these responsibilities to a senior officer in that department.
The OPCC will review the investigation to ensure that it is thorough, professional and complete. The OPCC can direct further investigative steps if necessary.
Complainants may request a review of the file if you disagree with the Discipline Authority’s decision to not substantiate an allegation of misconduct against the police officer. This request must be sent to our office in writing and must be done within 10 business days of receiving the Final Investigation Report and Discipline Authority decision.
The OPCC reviews all decisions made by a Discipline Authority even if a complainant does not send in a request to review the file.
Once a Discipline Authority makes a finding of an appearance of misconduct, the matter will go to either a Pre-Hearing Conference or a Discipline Proceeding.
Complainants are able to make written or oral submissions (or both) to the Discipline Authority about the complaint, the adequacy of the investigation and/or the disciplinary or corrective measures that are considered to be appropriate at this stage.
The Police Act states that measures that educate and correct the member’s behaviour are to taken precedence unless it is unworkable or would bring the administration of police discipline into disrepute.
Prehearing Conferences and Discipline Proceedings are not open to the public.
The OPCC must confirm all corrective or disciplinary measures. If the OPCC confirms the disciplinary/corrective measures imposed, the complainant will receive a letter advising of this decision.
If the OPCC rejects the corrective or disciplinary measures imposed following a Prehearing Conference the matter will move to a Discipline Proceeding. If the OPCC rejects the corrective or disciplinary measures following a Discipline Proceeding, the OPCC can appoint a retired judge to review the matter and determine the appropriate disciplinary/corrective measures.
The OPCC will review the Discipline Authority’s decision. If the OPCC agrees with the decision, the complainant will receive a letter advising this decision.
If the OPCC disagrees with the findings of the Discipline Authority, the Police Complaint Commissioner can appoint a retired judge to conduct a paper review of the matter (Review on the Record) or call a Public Hearing into the matter.
Complainants and respondent police officers have a right to request the Police Complaint Commissioner appoint a retired judge to call a Review on the Record or Public Hearing. This request must be received within 20 business days of receiving the Discipline Authority’s decision following the Discipline Proceeding.
The decision of the retired judge is final and conclusive.