An Open Letter to Chief Bordeleau

 

Dear Chief Charles Bordeleau,

It happened again.  A factually guilty man was acquitted of all charges because your police officers failed to follow even the most basic constitutional requirements.

Back in 2013 the Ottawa Citizen raised serious questions about the lack of  continuing Charter training your officers receive.

So did I.

Your response was that “Charter breaches are exceptional” and that your officers receive adequate Charter training through “discussions on parade and peer-to-peer training”.

One thing seems clear – there still is no formal continuing Charter training for Ottawa police officers.

Last week the Ontario Court of Appeal found that your officers “repeatedly violated” the Charter rights of a detainee following an arrest in 2011. 

In plain language your officers arbitrarily detained the accused, violated his rights to counsel on two separate occasions, illegally searched him, and intentionality and gratuitously inflicted pain by standing on his ankles violating his “rights to be free from intentional infliction of pain while being in custody”.

There was also an improper strip search – but whose counting at this point.

Clearly peer-to-peer training is not good enough.

As you acknowledged back in 2013, “search and seizure is extremely complicated and becoming more complex”. 

Does this very statement not make the case for improved mandatory continuing education for Ottawa police officers? Complexity of the law should not be a shield to education but the reason for it.

Judicial findings of reckless, incompetent, or willful Charter breaches make up only the tip of the iceberg as victims of Charter violations are often not charged with any criminal offence - especially when they are innocent and no evidence is discovered.   

With all due respect Chief there are more than just a handful of breaches each year.

When police act contrary to the constitution they act illegally.  When police act illegally and violate the rights of citizens we are all worse for it.  Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for an accused and it should not be a shield for police misconduct. 

That you could be satisfied with the training your officers recieve after such pointed comments from the Court of Appeal is simply not acceptable. Seriously – Ontario’s highest court found your officers showed a “blatant disregard” for the Charter that falls at the “very serious end of the continuum”.

How can members of our community have any confidence that their rights will be respected given the actions of your officers and your laissez-faire attitude toward Charter training?

Police officers are instilled with extraordinary powers but part of the social bargain in granting police these extraordinary powers is that there must be confidence that police know the scope of their authority.  

Police must be held to the highest training and educational standards.  Ignorance and negligence cannot be tolerated.     

What is the downside of giving officers additional forms of mandatory Charter training? There is none.  

Your inaction has lead to abuses of power against the innocent and acquittals of the factually guilty.

You may be satisfied with the state of your officers continuing Charter training but that does not mean the public should be.

Sincerely,

Michael Spratt