Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is overhauling police oversight in Ontario that makes changes to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), as well as the mechanism through which members of the public make complaints.
Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones announced the changes at Halton Regional Police headquarters in Oakville, Ont., on Tuesday morning.
The changes are encompassed in new legislation that’s yet to be passed: the Comprehensive Police Services Act, 2019. Jones is set to introduce the legislation at Queen’s Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The bill, which will likely be approved due to the PC’s majority, aims to streamline the investigative process of the SIU, which probes incidents involving police where a civilian is seriously injured or dies, or makes an allegation of sexual assault.
SIU will be expected to provide conclusions sooner
The changes mean that the SIU will now only investigate police use use-of-force, arrests or motor-vehicle pursuits that result in serious injury or death, when an officer discharges a firearm, or when there is an allegation of sexual assault.
In all other circumstances, responsibility will lie with chiefs of police and other designated authorities to notify the SIU if they “reasonably believe” than an officer’s conduct should be looked into.
The bill also calls for the SIU to complete investigations within 120 days, or provide an explanation if that benchmark cannot be met.
The new legislation would replace the Bill 175, which was introduced by the previous Liberal government. That bill had bolstered the mandates of the province’s oversight agencies, including the SIU, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).
Past government’s legislation was ‘anti-police,’ Mulroney says
The bill scraps the OCPC and converts the OIPRD into the Law Enforcement Complaints Agency (LECA), which will receive and screen public complaints involving police officers and other law-enforcement officials.
“When there are concerns with policing in this province, Ontarians should know where to turn,” Mulroney said.
The attorney general attacked Liberals for introducing legislation that was “anti-police” and treated officers as “potential offenders.”
“Police officers are everyday heroes in our communities,” Mulroney told reporters.