MPCC-2003-033

Facts and complaint

An anonymous letter was received by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service alleging that computer equipment on a military base had been purchased improperly, that other computers had been stolen from cadets and that several persons had computers in their homes. Part of the investigation plan prepared by the National Investigation Service stated that a thorough stock check of all equipment within cadet organizations should be ordered conducted. An audit was also conducted and the report produced indicated that there was a serious potential for fraud, theft, and/or misuse or misappropriation of National Defence material. The Commanding Officer supported an immediate investigation into the matter and ordered a verification of all equipment. Materials were gathered, interviews were conducted with certain individuals and one individual was arrested; however, the person was later released and was informed shortly thereafter that no charges would be laid. The individual was also suspended from duty but reinstated a short while later.

The conduct complaint that was subsequently received alleged that the complainant had been unjustifiably arrested, had not been told the reason for the interview and had been pressured to continue with the interview after declining to do so, and had been humiliated and embarrassed. In addition, it was alleged that the subject member had abused his authority and intimidated the complainant.

Decision of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal

The Letter of Final Disposition of the Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards supported the findings of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigation report. The report concluded that the allegation that the complainant was not advised of the reason for the interview was not supported as the complainant had been informed from the beginning of the nature of the interview. The allegation that the subject member tried to intimidate the complainant was supported based on the actions of the Military Police member throughout the interview. The allegation that the complainant had been falsely arrested was supported by the investigation, which found that the subject members had the mistaken belief that they had reasonable and probable grounds to proceed with an arrest.

The Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards also observed other anomalies with respect to the investigation and concluded that the Military Police members had contravened Military Police Policies and Procedures and the Military Police Professional Code of Conduct.

The complainant was not satisfied with the results of the investigation and requested that the Complaints Commission conduct a review.

Findings and recommendations of the Complaints Commission

The Acting Chairperson of the Complaints Commission found that the interview conducted by the subject members was not in and of itself improper as the police are not required in law to be completely open and transparent in their dealings with suspects and witnesses during the course of an ongoing investigation. The complainant had been informed that she was a suspect in the investigation and was advised that she had the right to legal counsel. However, the failure to properly caution the complainant during the interview was problematic as this type of omission could lead to a suspect's rights being breached and the process being jeopardized.

The Acting Chairperson found that the subject member improperly attempted to pressure the complainant into continuing the interview, in clear violation of established policies, which would have jeopardized the process if the attempt had been successful.

As well, the Acting Chairperson found that the subject members lacked reasonable grounds to arrest the complainant. In fact, this presented a serious concern as the subject members' misunderstanding of the concept of reasonable grounds was highlighted when they continued to defend their actions and to deny that they lacked legal grounds for the arrest. The Acting Chairperson recommended that the relevant policies and procedures be reviewed and amended as needed. As well, the arrest of the complainant at her workplace and the use of mechanical restraints were unwarranted and needlessly contributed to the embarrassment of the complainant.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the final letters of disposition sent to the complainant and the subject members differed somewhat. In particular, the complainant did not receive any information regarding the measures taken regarding the subject members; this sort of omission can leave complainants with the impression that their complaints have not been adequately addressed.

Reply of the Complaints Commission following the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal Notice of Action

The Acting Chairperson is satisfied with the response of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal regarding the steps to be taken to ensure that the subject member fully understands the importance of timely cautioning of suspects and the distinction between cautioning them and informing them of their rights under the Charter.

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