An independent review of Manitoba's Police Services Act says new legislation is needed to govern the province's police watchdog and give it some teeth.
The 200-page Independent Review of the Manitoba Police Services Act was made public Thursday after it was presented in the legislature.
It says Manitoba's Independent Investigations Unit (IIU) doesn't have the authority to require compliance by a police officer, "nor the ability to enforce such compliance in a meaningful way."
That's because the Police Services Act governing it lacks a clearly stated "duty to comply" binding police chiefs, police officers and services.
Without that duty to comply, officers can refuse to participate in interviews or produce relevant documents in a timely manner, or provide "full and frank disclosure," the peer-reviewed report by Community Safety Knowledge Alliance of Saskatoon said.
A 2018 Free Press review of police watchdog reports found that only 23 of 81 "subject officers" — who might face criminal charges as a result of IIU investigation — have fully co-operated with the IIU since it began its work in 2015.
Manitoba will introduce legislation next year to strengthen the police watchdog and address gaps in the current act, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Thursday.
"The changes that will come about as a result of this report will support greater responsiveness and accountability in policing, and help to ensure Manitobans have the utmost confidence in the law enforcement agencies who serve our communities so well," Cullen said in a press release.
The Police Service Act defines the roles and responsibilities of the Manitoba government, the Manitoba Police Commission, the IIU, municipal and First Nations police boards, municipal councils and police services and establishes the interrelationship between them.
The review contains 70 recommendations having to do with oversight and accountability reforms, the creation of policing standards, enhanced police boards, enhanced alternative service delivery models and the development of community safety and well-being plans.
Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Ralph Groening said the organization has been waiting for the report, and was hoping it would address concerns about equitable funding arrangements for policing municipalities and public safety.
"We understood there was inequity within the system," Groening said Thursday before seeing the report. The association was consulted by the review's authors and provided input on its main concerns — funding and public safety, he said.
"There is a complicated funding formula involved with some communities contributing more than others and some nothing at all," he said. "We all want public safety and an equitable funding arrangement."
The province said it has established an implementation team within Manitoba Justice to lead on further research and consultations with a variety of stakeholders and subject matter experts, including police agencies, Indigenous and non-governmental organizations, oversight agencies, police governance organizations, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and others.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.