MPCC-2008-025

This conduct complaint arose from the laying of traffic charges by a military police member (MP) against an Air Force search and rescue technician (SAR tech) who was then responding to a call-out for a mission.

The complainant was initially pulled over for speeding, at which time he was dressed in civilian attire and was leaving the air base to get his uniform and some equipment from his off-base residence. Immediately upon being pulled over, he exited his vehicle, shouted “I’ve had a call, I’ve got to go” (or words to that effect), waved his arm toward the MP, got back in his vehicle and drove off before the MP had a chance to respond.

The next evening, the complainant attended the MP detachment as requested and met with the MP who is the subject of the complaint. The complainant was served with three offence notices: speeding (71 km/hr in a 30 km/hr zone); careless driving; and failure to stop for a peace officer. Ultimately, the case was settled without a trial, through an arrangement with the prosecutor, on the basis of the complainant pleading guilty to the speeding charge in exchange for a withdrawal of the other charges.

The complainant alleged that the subject MP abused her authority in laying the three charges against him, although he concedes that he was speeding and that he had no authority to do so, even when responding to a SAR mission call-out. According to the complainant, the subject MP would have recognized him as a SAR tech when she pulled him over and knew that he was on a call-out. He also claimed that he thought she had made a gesture which he interpreted as a signal that he could continue on his way. Ultimately, the complainant alleged that the subject MP abused her authority and over-reacted to his failure to remain at the sight of the traffic stop.

In concluding that the complaint was not substantiated, the Commission noted that, despite the urgency appropriately expected of SAR squadron members when responding to a mission call-out, they are not exempt from the rules of the road, including speed limits. Violation of traffic rules is not condoned by the SAR squadron chain of command. In their view, if team members have organized themselves appropriately and in conformity with squadron directives (which the complainant had not done in leaving necessary kit at his off-base residence when he was attending a function at the base). In any event, the base MPs did generally tolerate speeding on the part of SAR team members by 10-20 km/hr over the limit, but the complainant was well over this limit. The subject MP had articulated grounds for each of the charges.

The Commission found, moreover, that the subject MP reasonably construed the complainant’s actions at the traffic stop as a dismissive disregard of the MP’s traffic law enforcement mandate and authority. It was entirely appropriate for the MP to treat such conduct – as distinct from a mere personal slight or insult against an MP as an individual – as an aggravating factor in the exercise of her enforcement discretion in this, which the Commission found was reasonable in all the circumstances.

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