MPCC-2012-015

This complaint arose from interactions between the complainant and his wife, on the one hand, and two members of the Military Police (MP), on the other hand, during a traffic stop that eventually led to the arrest of the complainant and his wife (Ms. X).

One night in November 2011, the complainant was returning home after a night out with his wife when an MP member pulled over the vehicle. When Ms. X, the driver, refused to get back in the vehicle, the MP member attempted to arrest her. She resisted, and the complainant attempted to intervene. The complainant later also placed his hand on another MP member who arrived to provide assistance. Both Ms. X and the complainant were eventually arrested and handcuffed. Both resisted, and both were ultimately charged with assaulting a peace officer and resisting arrest. In addition, Ms. X was charged with impaired driving and the complainant with drunkenness contrary to the National Defence Act.

A few months after the events, the complainant transmitted a letter of complaint to the MPCC. In this detailed letter, he made several allegations about the conduct of the two MP members involved, before, during and after the arrests. He alleged the subject MP members failed to advise him and Ms. X of the reasons for the initial traffic stop and for the arrests. He complained the MP members’ aggressive attitude, their failure to communicate in French with Ms. X or to allow the complainant to provide explanations to her, and their failure to respond appropriately to Ms. X’s medical condition related to prior trauma caused by abusive relationships, caused the situation to escalate and led to the unnecessary arrests. He alleged the MP members used excessive force during the arrests, and failed to ensure adequate heating in the patrol vehicle where Ms. X was detained. He also claimed the MP members failed to take into account his pre-existing knee injury and used excessive force when they conducted a search on his person in the MP Detachment cellblock area.

The complaint was directed to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) to be dealt with in the first instance as per the National Defence Act. The complaint was first held in abeyance pending the resolution of the criminal proceedings against the complainant and Ms. X. Once these matters were resolved through guilty pleas being entered on certain counts, and other charges being withdrawn, the CF MP Group’s Professional Standards (PS) section conducted an investigation and concluded the complainant’s allegations were unsubstantiated. However, PS noted several issues in the file, in particular in relation to equipment malfunctions, the procedure for ensuring detained persons understand their rights and speak with counsel when they so choose, and the lack of supervision of Ms. X during a portion of her detention in a police vehicle.

As a result, the Deputy Commander for the CF MP Group wrote a letter of observation to the Commanding Officer (CO) of the relevant MP Regiment. The CO subsequently provided details of the corrective measures taken in response, and the Deputy Commander was satisfied the concerns had been addressed.

Meanwhile, the complainant was not satisfied with the PS disposition of his complaint, and requested the MPCC review the matter. The MPCC categorized nine separate allegations of misconduct brought by the complainant. Through detailed review of the file and previous investigation, as well as several requests for additional documents and information from the PS Office, the MPCC was able to obtain the information necessary to make findings about each of the allegations. The MPCC concluded all of the allegations are unsubstantiated, and found the subject MP members acted reasonably and did not use excessive force.

There were no findings of misconduct on the part of the subjects of complaint. However, in reviewing this complaint and the underlying events, the MPCC identified several areas that are in need of improvement in MP policies and training and made the necessary recommendations to assist in ensuring the issues are addressed.

In particular, in reviewing the complainant’s allegations relating to the search conducted in the cellblock area, the MPCC found that, although the MP members involved acted appropriately in this case, additional policy guidance and training related to the need to accommodate medical conditions or injuries when performing searches or detaining or arresting individuals would be beneficial. As a result, the MPCC recommended the CFPM review MP policies and orders related to the use of force, arrest, detention and searches with a view to providing additional guidance on the need to adjust procedures to accommodate medical or other conditions that may cause pain, injury or indignity to detainees, where circumstances and considerations of officer safety permit such accommodation. The MPCC further recommended MP members be reminded of their obligations to make such accommodations, where circumstances permit, and those obligations be stressed in the initial and ongoing MP training.

In reviewing the complaint and the police file related to this incident, the MPCC has also noted several other issues of concern. Some of these issues were already addressed in the Deputy Commander’s letter of observation and, as a result, additional recommendations by the MPCC were not necessary. Other issues had not been addressed previously. In particular, there were problems with the cellblock area recording equipment, which resulted in a lack of audio recording for the search of the complainant. There were also concerns with one of the subject MP members’ understanding of the suspects’ right to counsel of choice. Finally, there were reasons to question whether a Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) entry requested by the other subject MP member was warranted.

To address these issues, the MPCC made several recommendations, including a recommendation that the recording equipment in the cellblock area at the relevant MP Detachment be examined to ensure it has functioning audio and video recording capabilities; a recommendation MP members be reminded, through initial and ongoing training, of the need to ensure that individuals who are arrested or detained are provided with an opportunity to contact counsel of their choice, and of the importance for MP members to refrain from interfering with this choice in any way or attempting to influence it; and a recommendation MP policies and orders provide explicitly that MP supervisors have an obligation, when reviewing investigative files, to verify that proposed CPIC entries and SAMPIS (Military Police database) records are accurate, warranted and supported by the facts uncovered in the investigation.

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