MPCC-2011-047-Interference

This report deals with allegations of interference in the investigation of a vehicle accident on a base. The particular circumstances are that a motor vehicle collided with marching troops, who happened to be MPs from that base, causing some minor injuries. The driver of the vehicle was charged with careless driving by the MP assigned to investigate the incident, who was from the same MP unit as those involved in the march. The investigator noticed that no one was wearing reflective safety vests and no one had been designated to act as pointers to alert approaching vehicles, both of which are required under standing orders for the base. Moreover, those who were leading the march, and who were responsible for this omission, were the investigator’s superiors.

The investigator proceeded with his investigation and submitted his report for supervisory review. It was determined that his superiors who would normally vet the file on review were involved in the incident under investigation, and so it was decided to send in someone from higher headquarters in a different city to come in and vet and complete the file. However, the manner in which it was done caused concerns for the investigator.

The investigator ended up filing an interference complaint against his supervisor and the member designated to review and complete the file (designated member) based on the following allegations:

  1. the supervisor’s attempt to leave the accident scene and carry on with the march, which was quickly abandoned;
  2. the supervisor not transferring the investigation to CFNIS, which the investigator considered necessary given the involvement of the chain of command in the incident;
  3. an alleged direction by the supervisor not to “overdo” the investigation;
  4. the supervisor’s alteration of the investigator’s report without his knowledge;
  5. the designated member’s conduct of a further interview without the investigator’s knowledge, and his use of the wrong caution form;
  6. alterations made to the report by the designated member, which the investigator was pressured to accept on short notice; and
  7. the pressure from the supervisor for the investigator to accept the designated member’s changes, which the investigator considered substantial.

The Commission’s investigation revealed the following. In terms of the initial decision of the leaders of the MP troop – including the supervisor – to leave the scene of the accident, this did not appear to be related to any attempt to thwart the ensuing investigation.

It was also learned that the supervisor actually tried twice to get CFNIS to take over the investigation, but to no avail. The CFNIS warrant officer at the local CFNIS office failed to see that anyone other than the vehicle driver would be a subject of the investigation. Therefore, there seemed to him to be no conflict of interest to justify CFNIS involvement.

The conduct of the additional interview was warranted, and the use of the wrong caution form was not done with a view to jeopardizing a potential prosecution. Indeed, the cautioning of the officer in question was a sign the designated member was not overlooking, or trying to downplay, the question of possible negligence of the investigator’s supervisors.

With regard to the other allegations, the Commission concluded both the supervisor and the designated member were authorized to make changes to the investigation report and the investigator was given the opportunity to review the changes to the report and ultimately was directed to change it back to its previous state.

The supervisor’s alleged statement not to “overdo” the investigation was actually found to be somewhat unclear, both in terms of what was said and what was being referred to. The supervisor may have been referring to the preparation of the report rather than the scope of the investigation.

For these reasons, the complaint was found to be unsubstantiated. Rather, the Commission noted there seemed to have been poor communication with the investigator by his chain of command, which contributed to the actions of the supervisor and the designated member seeming suspicious to him.

The Commission recommended MPs be provided with guidance about the need to initiate more than one investigation file in cases where, as in this case, an incident raises both law enforcement and disciplinary issues in relation to different subjects. The Commission also recommended policies be developed regarding the process for implementing supervisor modifications to investigation reports and the tracking of such changes.

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