Ottawa Police, The Charter, and Chief Bordeleau’s Large Hands

October 17, 2013

On October 12 the Ottawa Citizen published an editorial asking if Ottawa Police work is reckless due to a lack of training in Charter values.  It appears the Citizen agreed with me on the issue of lack of police training – I posted an eerily very similar opinion on October 10

It remains shocking that Ottawa police officers not required to undergo formalized continuing eduction with respect to their powers and scope of authority.

Today in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen’s Andrew Seymore, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau maintained that he was satisfied with his officers’ Charter training.  In explaining the recent acquittals due to Charter breaches the Chief said:

“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.

Bordeleau went on to say that Charter breaches are exceptional and that there are only a handful of acquittals due to police Charter breaches.

This protectionist reaction misses the point.  

Chief Bordeleau must have very large hands; Charter breaches are not exceptional.  There are numerous reported cases in addition to the ones quoted by the Ottawa Citizen and in my prior post.  For example in 2011 an Ottawa judge made the following comments in excluding a large amount of cocaine:

A private residence is sacrosanct. It is trite law that ‘a man’s home is his castle’ and that residents are free from state interference when they are in their homes. That right is not without its limits. Police may enter a house with permission, when they have a judicially authorized warrant, or when there are exigent circumstances. In this case, none of those circumstances existed. When Jacobs and Edgar entered the residence on Edenvale Drive, they committed an egregious breach of one of the most important rights possessed by the citizens of this country – the right to privacy in one’s own home. The public would be horrified

An egregious breach of one of the most important rights possessed by citizens of this country.  The public would be horrified.  But the status quo is fine for Ottawa’s Chief?

Examples such as the one above are not so uncommon as to be dismissed.  Judicial findings such as the one quoted above make up only the tip of the iceberg as victims of Charter violations are often not charged with any criminal offence – especially when no evidence is discovered.  Additionally, many charges are withdrawn by the Crown prior to trial due to Charter Breaches.  

That the Ottawa Police Chief would be satisfied with his officers training is simply not acceptable.

In his interview with the Citizen Chief Bordeleau said that Ottawa police officers are not required to take any mandatory training specifically on Charter rights and the force relies on “specialized investigative training, discussions on parade, peer-to-peer training and from computer-based training modules.”

These methods of training don’t seem to be working given an Ottawa judges comments in one of my cases:

“In this case, I am particularly troubled that a sergeant of the Ottawa police force, an officer with 30 years experience, an officer who is in charge of guiding and supporting other officers and providing advice to constables, an officer who works in general uniform patrol on the streets of Ottawa, is not aware that an accused’s right to counsel are engaged on detention. This is particularly troubling given that the officer said he was unaware of the need to advise detained individuals of right to counsel.

What is the downside of giving officers additional training – There is none.  The Chief may be satisfied with the state of his officers training but that does not mean the public should be.