It was a sad sight to behold. In a tweet by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police there was a photo of Attorney General Yasir Naqvi grinning ear to ear surrounded by OACP officials lobbying hard against the Special Investigations Unit.
It’s almost as if Naqvi was getting a rush from rubbing shoulders with the mighty cop bosses.
The issue? It’s the one I covered a couple of weeks ago. The OACP wants the SIU to butt out of cases that police must advise the SIU whenever serious injury or a death occurs during a police interaction and, in particular, when the administration of Naloxone was attempted or given.
The SIU by law must been notified of cases of death or serious injury occurring during police interaction. It’s a legal obligation in Ontario and it makes sense. If a suspect has a heart attack and dies in the back seat of a cruiser, you’d expect an independent and impartial investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death. Police investigating the police just doesn’t work. That’s why the SIU was created.
Cops are trained to be in control. Crowd control, arrests and various police interactions require it. But when it comes to the SIU, they have yet to learn that they need to be hands-off. Since it was created 1990, there have been hundreds of cases where they failed to notify the SIU (or didn’t do it “immediately” as required by law), tampered with evidence and fought the SIU at all levels of courts – and lost.
The latest coup in police chiefs declaring that they will defy the law and not notify the SIU in death or serious injury involving the police seems to be triggered by the current opioids crisis. Police want to investigate themselves if, in administrating the anti-opioid drug Naloxone, they are unsuccessful at saving a person.
How is it different from someone who dies while the police are administrating CPR?
The difference is that the former is likely an addict while the latter may simply be suffering from heart disease. So, addicts don’t deserve an independent and impartial investigation while the patient with heart disease does. The Chiefs’ position amounts to class warfare and discrimination.
Bill 175 is legislation designed in part to bolster the powers of the SIU as a result of cops snubbing the SIU since its inception but doesn’t speak to this issue. It’s at committee for study and it should be amended to prevent the police from undermining civilian oversight.
Interestingly enough, the OACP tweet notes that they had “a fruitful & honest discussion about changes to #policing legislation #Bill 175 & Naloxone” with Naqvi, even though Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie France Lalonde is the one having carriage of the Bill. Why then give the gears to Naqvi and not go solely to the minister responsible? My guess is that the OACP knows where the weakest link lies and is quite cleverly prepared to exploit it.
Naqvi has never been the friend of the downtrodden and disadvantaged.
Remember when he was minister responsible for jails and let a prisoner, Adam Capay, spend 1,560 days in solitary confinement in Thunder Bay? Jail staff said Naqvi had met Capay and been briefed on his situation. But he did nothing about it. He later dubiously claimed that he “had no recollection” of the meeting.
And Naqvi’s been the weakest AG in recent memory. A recent independent report on the operations of his current ministry reveals that Naqvi and his most senior bureaucrats did nothing to fix the “festering sore” at the Ministry of the Attorney General, with reports of wide spread “belittling, gossip-mongering, bullying and a tendency to unduly punish employees.”
The OACP boasting about a “fruitful & honest discussion” with Naqvi should make anyone concerned with proper civilian oversight very nervous. Hopefully Lalonde will ignore Naqvi when he comes knocking on her door parroting the OACP’s position.