Oversight – noun
1) the action of overseeing something
2) an omission, the failure to do something
Dorian Barton was taking a picture of police horses in the park at the G20 summit in downtown Toronto last summer when he was suddenly knocked to the ground from behind with a riot shield, beaten with a baton, breaking his shoulder, and stomped in the face. He was then dragged off by his broken right arm and detained without medical treatment for the first five of a total of 30 hours in detention, after which he was charged with “obstructing a police officer.” The Crown dropped the charges against him at the same time it dropped all the bullshit charges against everyone else.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, the civilian agency charged with investigating “police actions resulting in serious injury, sexual assault or death,” is reopening for the third time an investigation into allegations the Toronto police officer pictured here was one of seven who took part in the vicious assault on Barton. The photographer who took this pic is willing to testify he saw the officer blindside Barton with his shield and strike him as he lay on the ground before other officers joined in. He has provided seven photos of the assault.
SIU dropped its two previous investigations into the case in January because eleven police witnesses, one of whom was the officer’s G20 roommate and two of whom were his supervisors, declined to identify him. SIU director Ian Scott reopened it on Friday after Toronto Police Chief Blair promised to provide the name of the employee who was able to identify the subject officer.
I’m pretty sure if me and six of my friends were caught on film beating the crap out of you, the cops would not drop the case because my boss and my roommate declined to cough up my name to go along with my photo.
According to the Ontario Attorney General to whom the SIU reports, the SIU exonerates the officer in 97% of the cases it does pursue:
“The fact that the SIU overwhelmingly clears officers should be seen by the [public] as an endorsement of good policing.”
However, in Oversight Unseen, a 2008 report on the SIU, Ontario Ombudsmen André Marin saw it differently :
“[T]he Ministry of the Attorney General has relied on the SIU to soothe police and community sensibilities and to ward off controversy. But in doing so, it has also overstepped the bounds of independent governance. The Director’s performance is subjectively evaluated and rewarded, compromising the SIU’s structural integrity and independence.
Its credibility as an independent investigative agency is further undermined by the predominant presence and continuing police links of former police officials within the SIU. It is so steeped in police culture that it has, at times, even tolerated the blatant display of police insignia and police affiliation.”
[T]he SIU often . . . adopts an impotent stance in the face of police challenge. Delays in police providing notice of incidents, in disclosing notes, and in submitting to interviews are endemic. Rather than vigorously inquiring into and documenting delays and other evidence of police resistance, the SIU deals with issues of police non-co-operation as isolated incidents.
Police interviews are rarely held within the regulatory time frames, and are all too often postponed – for weeks, sometimes even months. The SIU will not inconvenience officers or police forces by interviewing officers off duty. When it encounters overt resistance from police officials, the SIU pursues a low-key diplomatic approach that flies under the public radar. If disagreement cannot be resolved, the SIU more often than not simply accepts defeat.”
“The SIU more often than not simply admits defeat.” Good lord.
The current SIU director Ian Scott was appointed just before that report came out.
In February the Toronto Star ran a series based on 300 letters Scott sent to police forces over a 14-month period beginning in January 2009. They detail “his mounting frustration at not being able to hold officers accountable,” including the burning of evidence before he got to see it, and being generally ignored by the Ontario police forces.
Presumably this is why he is giving interviews about this case to the press, despite the fact SIU Regulation 13 forbids it.
Meanwhile, out here in BC, the local media was pleased to bits last week to report that, in response to Justice Braidwood recommendations following from the police killing of Robert Dziekanski in 2007, we will be getting our own civilian police-oversight agency modelled on the SIU. And just like the SIU, the Independent Investigations Office will also report to BC’s Attorney General, not the Ombudsman as Braidwood had wisely suggested.
[I]t was the AG’s Crown attorneys who exonerated the four Mounties involved in Dziekanski’s death. That was what led to Braidwood’s inquiry in the first place.
It gets worse. The government added that incidents or complaints involving IIO staff will be investigated by B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Almost all senior positions at the OPCC are staffed by former police officers.
An exception is police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe. But Lowe is a former Crown attorney and member of the criminal justice branch executive management that unanimously decided to exonerate the four RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanski’s Taser-related death. It was Lowe who made the infamous December 2008 announcement that the five Taser shocks inflicted on Dziekanski were “reasonable and necessary.”