Friday, August 30, 1991


p. A 24.

Hand over the files

In 1981, the Public Complaints Commission was set up in Metro so that disputes involving police conduct could be monitored and reviewed by an independent body.

The law requires Metro Police to notify the commissioner of all complaints brought to its attention. However, evidence at a public inquiry into the Metro Police Internal Affairs Unit shows that the force has not been co-operating as the law requires. The inquiry, chaired by lawyer Frank D'Andrea, learned earlier this year that the unit had withheld 192 files.

Last week, Internal Affairs Investigator Mike Federico testified that his unit has routinely withheld from the commissioner information about complaints of criminal misconduct by officers. He said the police think the law requires them to inform the commissioner only about minor complaints.

But as Susan Watt, a lawyer for the commission, says: "The legislation couldn't be clearer; when any member of the public comes forward with a complaint, the commissioner must be notified."

Federico also testified that internal affairs investigators withhold information because they question the commissioner's ability to keep it secure.

This pattern of concealment, by a unit reporting directly to Chief William McCormack, is dangerous. It means that the public can't know anything about the nature of the complaints; what action, if any, the police took; and whether the complainant's interest, and the public interest, were satisfied. This police-controlled process also means that complainants are being denied the right of appeal to the commissioner.

This can't be allowed to continue. Chief McCormack should order the unit to hand over the 192 files.

And the Metro Police Services Board should monitor this matter closely, and order the chief to comply with the letter and spirit of the public complaints law.

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