‘Wheels of justice’ moving slowly

Police commission members concerned

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Two members of Manitoba Police Commission are voicing concerns about the slow startup of the new body that's supposed to bring greater public accountability to policing throughout the province.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/12/2011 (3903 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two members of Manitoba Police Commission are voicing concerns about the slow startup of the new body that’s supposed to bring greater public accountability to policing throughout the province.

As well, the commission members are warning their work at times has been without direction and resources.

“The frustration isn’t in the fact we’re held back or other people are slowing us down,” one commission member said. “It’s just that no one knows what they’re doing.”

He and the another commission member spoke to the Free Press on the condition on anonymity following a meeting Saturday of the commission at the Delta Hotel, its second meeting since being formed last February.

The commission was created as part of the government’s new Police Services Act introduced March 3, 2009. Former Winnipeg Police Service officer Brian Cyncora has been hired as the commission’s executive director.

“It’s been a slow process,” one of the members said. “I think once we take off, I think we’ll be doing OK as long as we keep pushing it ourselves. If we think somebody else is going to do for us I don’t think it’s going to be there. We’re going to have to push it from our end.

“The wheels of justice are sometimes not as fast as we want them to be.”

The other commission member said a sign the process is unnecessarily slow is that the commission only recently leased space at an office building. An acting assistant director position was filled last week to be a policy analyst, and to help Cyncora and commission members begin to fulfil their mandate. A third person to run the office will be in place early next month.

“None of us have done this before,” a commission member said. “We have limited resources. Our best effort until now just hasn’t been good enough.”

That mandate is no small order. It includes bringing civilian-led police boards to each municipality in the province that has its own police service. Under the new act, Winnipeg and 10 other municipal police forces will each be required to have a police board.

The commission also has to write the rule book for the use of civilian monitors in future investigations of police officers by the yet-to-be-created Independent Investigation Unit (IIU). Under the act, police will no longer investigate themselves in serious cases such as fatal shootings. Civilian monitors will be involved in these investigations, but under guidelines written by the commission. The commission itself is not responsible for creating the IIU–that’s up to the Justice Department as it’s a separate office from the commission. One estimate is the IIU will not be operational for at least another year.

Progressive Conservative justice critic Kelvin Goertzen said the slow pace of the commission’s work should be laid at the feet of Attorney General Andrew Swan. “I think because of Mr. Swan it’s turned into a gong show and it threatens the validity of the commission going forward,” Goerzten said. “It has the potential of losing credibility if the minister doesn’t start to move on this.”

Commission chairman Rick Linden said the business of the commission has been slow, but that that’s more due to the cumbersome bureaucracy of government than anything else.

“It’s frustrating, but this seems to be the way government normally works,” Linden said.

Linden said it took almost five months for one government department to get approval from Treasury Board to lease the office space. It took almost eight months to develop the terms of reference for the executive director’s position and then to hire Cyncora.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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