Conduct Case Summary MPCC-2014-034

This complaint arose from the execution of a search warrant at the complainant’s residence. The complainant was a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member employed on a nearby military base, but his house was located off-base. The search was further to an investigation of the complainant by the local Military Police (MP) detachment in regard to suspected security of information infractions related to his use of, and access to, Department of National Defence (DND) information technology (IT) networks. The search warrant was directed at computer and other IT devices at the complainant’s residence belonging to either him or his spouse. Some 41 items were seized by the MP members from the complainant’s residence.

The complainant took issue with the MP members’ seizure of four items: (1) a child’s iPad belonging to a young girl who attended the home daycare run by his spouse; (2) a computer tower belonging to his mother, who also resided at the complainant’s home; (3) a laptop belonging to an area college which the mother (a student at the college) was using; and (4) a bayonet which the complainant had apparently purchased at a garage sale. In the complainant’s view, these items fell outside the warrant and should not have been seized. While these items were subsequently returned to the complainant, he complains that their return was subject to undue delay.

The complainant further alleges that his laptop, which had been among the items seized by the MP members, was damaged while being examined in MP custody and that he was denied compensation for this.

The complainant further objected to MP members showing up at his door to ask him questions, also calling him, his wife and his supervisor and leaving messages to contact them.

Finally, the complainant alleges that MP members at the detachment failed to accept his conduct complaint when he attempted to submit it to them.

Following an investigation, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) concluded that the first allegation was partially substantiated in that the child’s iPad did not belong to anyone who normally resided in the home, and with respect to the complainant’s bayonet, while apparently indistinguishable from a CAF‑issued bayonet, the MP members responsible for the seizure were unable to specify the law or regulation that its presence in the home would have violated.

The second allegation was also partially substantiated in that the bayonet was not returned to the complainant for five months, nor was it made the subject of a Report to Justice and Detention Order following its seizure.

The third allegation was found to be unsubstantiated due to the fact that the person examining the laptop at the time it was damaged was a civilian technician, and not an MP member.  Further, there were no MP members directing the technician’s work. Finally, the decision not to approve compensation for the damage was the responsibility of a CAF legal officer, not an MP member.

The fourth allegation was also concluded to be unsubstantiated, as the MP members, in attending at the complainant’s residence and trying to contact him by telephone, were merely attempting to seek the return of some of the seized items which had apparently been returned to the complainant by mistake two days prior. The MP members did not conduct themselves in an unprofessional manner.

Finally, the MPCC has concluded that, though it was done through ignorance rather than bad faith, the failure of the MP member and his shift i/c to accept the complainant’s conduct complaint was contrary to the legislative scheme and applicable MP policies.  As such, this allegation was substantiated.

The MPCC noted a certain amount of confusion stemming from the failure to tag and log all seized items at the scene (apparently due to a shortage of evidence tags). As a result, the MPCC recommended that the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) take steps to remind this MP detachment of the need to tag and log all seized items at the scene and to ensure adequate supplies of the necessary materials are on-hand before executing a search warrant.

In response to the Commission’s Report, the CFPM accepted all of the MPCC’s findings as well as the MPCC’s recommendation; however, the CFPM only partially accepted the MPCC’s Finding #1, regarding the correctness of the MP members seizing certain items from the complainant’s home. The CFPM concurred with the MPCC analysis in part, as it related to the bayonet, and advised that the unit Chain of Command will be directed to conduct remedial training regarding protocols for the seizure of items during the execution of a search warrant. The CFPM further advised that, with regard to the other two IT devices that were seized, his position is that these items should not require ownership to be established through information provided by persons in the residence at the time of a search, where such information cannot be objectively and immediately verified. As such, the CFPM did not accept this portion of the MPCC’s finding.

After consideration of the CFPM’s Notice of Action response on this issue, the MPCC reiterated that its finding had only taken issue with the seizure of one IT device: the iPad belonging to one of the children who attended the daycare at the home. In the MPCC’s view, the appearance and location of the device were such that its ownership by a third party who was not a resident of the home would have been apparent, even in the absence of the homeowners’ assertions regarding the device’s ownership. As such, the MPCC re‑affirmed this finding.

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