Ottawa Police Training: Chief Bordeleau's response

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Last week I wrote an open letter the Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau after the  Ontario Court of Appeal found that the Ottawa police “repeatedly violated” the Charter rights of a detainee following an arrest in 2011. 

In that shocking case Ottawa police officers arbitrarily detained an 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”.

I called on the Bordeleau to revisit his position that his officers do not need mandatory continuing education about their Charter obligations.

I spoke about my concerns with CFRA's Bill Carroll and 1310 News host Mark Sutcliffe.

After I wrote my open letter the Ontario Court of Appeal released yet another decision implicating the Ottawa police in serious violations of the Charter and lying in court.

In this second case the court found that the Ottawa police conducted a "dangerous and unnecessary masked take-down at gunpoint" of a 43 year old house cleaner (and then lied about it), misinformed her of her right to counsel, and then held her "incommunicado in a jail cell for nearly five and a half hours after her arrest".

The Court of Appeal excluded the evidence seized by police and acquitted the accused finding that the "admission of the evidence in the light of the seriousness of the breaches, and especially the officers’ dishonest testimony, may send the message that the justice system condones this kind of conduct."

It was a shocking indictment of the police that only reinforces the need for the police to be properly educated about the scope of their authority.

Bordeleau's response to my letter and these cases was disappointing and sadly unsurprising.

The fact that these cases occurred 5 years is of little comfort.  How many constitutional rights have been violated while Bordeleau sat idly by? Bordeleau's delayed response makes things worse not better.

In any event, after the fact reactions to specific cases does nothing to address obvious systemic training deficiancies. To wait for breaches to occur before action is taking means that the damage has already been done.

It is time to talk about prevention. 

Reviewing cases - especially where police have lied in court - with the Crown's office is a good start. But lets not forget that these are the same Crown's who denied that breaches occurred in the initial litigation - maybe not the best and most independent providers of advice.

The simple answer is that our police need independant ongoing Charter training.  This way breaches can be prevented before they occur.  After all, this is in all our interests - innocent people would be spared from illegal conduct at the hands of the police and factually guilty individuals could more readily be held accountable.

It seems so simple. 

Police receive annual training on how to fire their guns and how to use force to effect arrests. Why not annual training when it comes to their constitutional obligations?

With each case that impugns the training and actions of the Ottawa Police Bordeleau's laissez-faire attitude and blind adherence to the status quo becomes more and more untenable.

Ultimately Bordeleau's reluctance to take action is simply inexcusable - the public deserves better.