MPCC-2010-009

This conduct complaint arose from a fighting incident outside a junior-ranks’ mess in the early hours of July 31, 2009. During this incident, the complainant was knocked unconscious and suffered injuries to his head and elsewhere when he was attacked by one of the main instigators of the violence. The complainant’s attacker was a Reserve Force military police (MP) member who was then temporarily posted to a training position on the base in question. The MPs of the base responded to the incident and then proceeded to search for those thought to have been the instigators of the violence, including the complainant’s attacker.

While at the scene, the MPs took some information from witnesses, including the complainant, but determined that formal statements should be conducted later as many of those involved seemed intoxicated. One of the MPs offered to help the complainant obtain medical assistance for his injuries, but he declined and went home.

After trying to sleep for a couple of hours, the complainant woke up feeling unwell and experiencing dizziness, or ‘spins’, along with a severe headache. He decided that he should seek medical treatment, but the base medical centre was closed at that hour and he did not know the way to the nearest civilian hospital. The complainant therefore decided to drive to the MP detachment to enlist their help in getting to the hospital.

The complainant arrived at the MP detachment and explained the situation to the commissionaire on duty, who asked him to wait while he looked for directions to the hospital or an area map. The commissionaire was also concerned about allowing the complainant to drive as he believed the complainant might be intoxicated as he was aware that the complainant had been involved in the incident at the junior-ranks’ mess. After a while, the commissionaire decided to call the MP in charge of the patrol shift for his assistance. Apparently there were administrative complications involved with simply calling an ambulance, so the MP came to the front of the detachment to take charge of the matter, with the intention of finding an acceptable way to get the complainant to the hospital.

After taking charge of the situation, the MP shift commander decided to administer an alcohol screening device test on the complainant, which he passed. At that point, when asked if felt well enough to drive himself to the hospital, the complainant responded in the negative. Therefore, it was decided that one of the MPs would drive him.

Later that day, the MPs continued with their investigation of the junior ranks’ club incident, and started to take formal witness statements, including from the complainant.

Consideration was given to handing the case over to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) due to the fact that the suspect in question was an MP, however, it was determined that since he did not retain his policing credentials at that time, that the base MP detachment could handle the investigation. So the base MPs proceeded with their investigation in which the complainant’s attacker was treated as the main suspect. At one point, this individual was arrested by the MPs for assault in respect of this incident and released on certain conditions.

An advance draft of the MP investigation report was sent to the suspect’s unit and he was given an initial counselling with a four-month monitoring period. However, the suspect’s chain of command was dissatisfied with the level of detail provided in the investigation report and the base MP detachment was requested to review and improve their report. An improved version was subsequently provided to the suspect’s unit, however, they still found it difficult to understand the sequence of events and the suspect’s level of responsibility. In the end, the suspect’s unit did not lay any charges against him, but did impose a further remedial measure in the form of a recorded warning with a six-month monitoring period.

The complainant’s conduct complaint and request for review raised the following allegations against various MPs of the detachment concerned:

  1. Slow response by the MPs to the fighting incident;
  2. Improper grounds for breath test demand of the complainant;
  3. Failure to provide complainant timely assistance in obtaining medical treatment;
  4. Failure to provide complainant with regular updates as a victim on the progress of the investigation;
  5. Conduct of an investigation that was inadequate or biased in favour of the suspect due to his MP status;
  6. Failure to have the suspect charged by exercising peace officer jurisdiction over the case or transferring it to the CFNIS.

After conducting a thorough investigation of the complaint, the Commission determined that the complainant’s allegations were not substantiated, with the exception of the failure to provide the complainant with regular updates on the investigation in keeping with his status as a victim; an omission which had also been noted during the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s (CFPM’s) professional standards investigation of the complaint.

Apart from the failure to follow procedures regarding the updating of victims, in the Commission’s view, the MPs in this case promptly and appropriately responded to the incident and conducted an unbiased and thorough investigation. The MPs provided appropriate assistance to the complainant in obtaining medical treatment. The Commission also determined that the decision to administer a breath test on the complainant was related to his intention to continue driving, rather than to an intention to investigate him for impaired driving when he drove to the detachment seeking help. In any event, there were adequate legal grounds for the breath test demand.

Given the lack of policy direction, the Commission considered the decision of the base detachment to retain the file, rather than transfer it to the CFNIS, to have been reasonable – especially in light of the fact that the suspect was posted to a different MP unit on the base, and therefore was part of a different chain of command.

The base detachment MPs could not be faulted for failing to have the suspect charged as the case was dealt with under the military justice system, rather than under the civilian criminal justice system, in which case the MPs’ peace officer powers would have been triggered. As such, the concluded MP investigation was forwarded to the suspect’s unit for its decision on charges under the Code of Service Discipline.

Although the Commission largely vindicated the conduct of the MPs in question, it did make a number of recommendations aimed at improving MP policies and procedures for dealing with similar cases.

The Commission recommended that, in addition to clarifying the various obligations for providing information to victims, there should be greater clarity as to which members of MP detachments should be responsible for the various duties.

Consistent with recommendations in previous reports, the Commission reiterated its concern with the way in which MP investigation reports are often drafted and recommended that there be more of an effort to synthesize and analyse the information in relation to the elements of possible offences. This would make it easier for the chain of command to exercise their disciplinary authorities.

While the Commission felt the decision in this case not to transfer the investigation to the CFNIS was reasonable, the Commission noted that that MP policies have changed, such that misconduct by MP personnel no longer automatically triggers the CFNIS investigative mandate. While it may not be necessary to transfer all such cases, it should be clarified that the option still exists and guidance should be provided on when it would be appropriate to do so.

The Commission also recommended that steps be taken to better ensure that subjects’ units provide formal responses in a timely fashion to MP investigation reports (which did not occur in this case with respect to the main suspect’s unit). Such feedback is important for various reasons, including preserving evidence, updating victims and quality control.

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