MPCC-2010-046

This complaint arose from a routine traffic stop which took place in a daycare centre parking lot adjacent to a military base. The military police member (MP) who became the subject of the complaint was on patrol near the gate on the base and pulled over a vehicle driven by the complainant. The reason for the stop was that the car did not have a properly mounted front licence plate. The plate was instead lying on the vehicle’s dashboard.

In the ensuing encounter between the subject MP and the complainant, both parties became agitated and their somewhat heated interaction ended up taking place in front of children at the daycare, including the complainant’s young son.

From the complainant’s perspective, the subject MP was unduly aggressive, loud and impatient in his manner. From the subject’s perspective, the complainant was challenging him from the outset, would not let him explain his purpose in stopping her (which was originally just to give her a warning), kept trying to talk over him, and repeatedly reverted to speaking French (she was a francophone posted to a predominantly anglophone base in a predominantly anglophone part of the country) even though he told her he could not understand French.

Due to the subject’s perception that the complainant was uncooperative and disrespectful of his rank (the subject was a master corporal and the complainant, a private) and authority, the subject suggested to his superiors that they follow-up with the complainant’s chain of command. Based on the subject’s account of what had occurred, his supervisor called a superior of the complainant and informally expressed his concern with the complainant’s conduct during the traffic stop. The complainant disputed the account of her actions provided by the MPs and no action was taken against her by her chain of command.

In her conduct complaint, the complainant alleged that the subject breached the Military Police Professional Code of Conduct (MP Code of Conduct) by: 1) acting in a discourteous manner; and 2) misrepresenting facts in his report of the incident. The complainant also objected to her chain of command having been contacted regarding the incident. In her later request for a review, the complainant also suggested that she should have received an active offer of service in French by the MP and expressed suspicion at the disappearance of the MP vehicle recording of the traffic stop.

As a result of its investigation, the Commission concluded that, while the subject MP spoke too loudly to the complainant, this behaviour was influenced by the complainant’s manner and approach to dealing with him. The complainant (a francophone) had indicated that it was somewhat difficult for her to understand him when he spoke to her in English, especially if he spoke quickly. The complainant would also revert to speaking French, even after the subject had made it clear that he did not speak any French. It was also apparent that the complainant tried to speak over (i.e., at the same time as) the subject. Rightly or wrongly, the subject believed the complainant’s actions were, at least to some extent, motivated by a lack of respect towards him and his policing authority and even his rank (the subject was superior in rank to the complainant by two levels).

Given the foregoing, the Commission considered the excess loudness on the part of the subject MP was not a deliberate act of discourteousness such as would breach paragraph 4 (d) of the Military Police Professional Code of Conduct (MP Code of Conduct). The Commission considers that discourteous conduct within the meaning of the MP Code of Conduct implies a certain element of intentionality.

The Commission further concluded, given the relevant DND policies and the requirements of federal official languages legislation, there was no requirement for MPs at this particular base to offer services in French, given the lack of reasonable demand for such service as defined in the legislation.

As the Commission considered there was no basis to view the divergent perceptions of the traffic stop as between the parties as other than genuine, it found the complainant’s allegations regarding misrepresentation of the event and inappropriately complaining to her chain of command to be unsubstantiated.

Finally, the MP patrol car recording whose disappearance was a matter of concern for the complainant was ultimately located following a further search of the relevant MP Detachment at the Commission’s urging. Unfortunately, the video recording was of little assistance as the camera was not pointed in the right direction to capture the interaction between the parties and there was no audio for the most crucial portion of their encounter. However, this limited utility – along with the recording’s ultimate recovery – also strongly militated against the likelihood of any deliberate attempt to conceal it on the part of the MPs. The Commission concluded that the recording’s disappearance was inadvertent.

Subsequent to this event, the MP Detachment issued a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use and disposition of patrol car recordings. While the Commission considers the new SOP to be a positive development, it notes that the default retention period of 60 days may not adequately address the requirements of the conduct complaints process, as set out in Part IV of the National Defence Act (wherein a complaint may be made for up to one year following an incident). As such, the Commission recommended the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal review the relevant MP policies and procedures to ensure the stipulated retention period for MP patrol car recordings meets the requirements of the complaints process.

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