Decision Making Process for Complaints
At the end of a formal investigation by the Professional Standards Section, the Calgary Police Service is required by law to determine whether a complaint about police misconduct should be ruled on by the Chief Constable or sent to a Professional Conduct Hearing (commonly known as a disciplinary hearing).
Police officer conduct in Alberta is regulated by the province through the Police Act and Police Service Regulation. These laws establish what is considered police misconduct and create a process for police services to receive, investigate and resolve complaints about misconduct.
Serious Complaints vs. Less Serious Complaints
The most serious police misconduct is addressed through hearings that operate similar to a court room, with a retired judge or retired senior police officer presiding over the hearing, determining whether misconduct occurred, and deciding what – if any – discipline is appropriate. Witnesses are called to testify and evidence is presented during the hearing process.
Since the hearing process is long, expensive and legally complicated for both the officer and citizen involved, the province allows for our Chief Constable to determine in less serious cases of misconduct whether misconduct occurred, and to decide on discipline.
In deciding whether a complaint needs to go to a hearing, the Chief Constable considers three criteria outlined by the province in Section 19 of the Police Service Regulation:
- Whether the conduct may be criminal, unconstitutional or deceitful
- Whether the officer was not cooperative or obstructive
- The officer’s disciplinary record
More information on how these criteria are applied can be read in the flow chart used by our investigators.
If the complaint is not legally considered serious according to these three criteria, then the Chief Constable’s decision and disciplinary actions are final and cannot be appealed. If a complaint is determined to be serious according to the criteria, then the decision made can be appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board and in some cases, the Alberta Court of Appeal.
Disciplinary actions can be taken if, after reviewing the evidence, the Chief Constable or Presiding Officer in a hearing believe – based on a balance of probabilities – that police misconduct occurred. The focus of this discipline is correction and education rather than punishment, where possible.
Section 17 of the Police Service Regulation outlines the types of discipline that police officers can face as a result of misconduct:
- Course of treatment or participation in a rehabilitation program
- Forfeiture of hours of work accumulated through overtime
- Suspension from duty without pay
- Reduction of seniority or rank
The officer may also be directed to attend training or counselling along with another penalty.
In order to decide which penalty is appropriate in a particular case, the Chief Constable or Presiding Officer is guided by a number of principles established by oversight boards in policing law:
- The discipline should be a fair and just sanction
- The focus should be on correction and education as opposed to punishment, where possible
- The public interest should be taken into account, where applicable
- If organizational or administrative factors contributed to the misconduct (for example, training or policy), this should be taken into account in penalty and the priority is to correct those factors
- All aggravating and mitigating factors should be considered
- Discipline should serve as a deterrence to other police officers doing the same thing
- Public respect for the police should be maintained
- The penalty should be proportional to the circumstances of the misconduct
- Consistent penalties should be given for like instances of misconduct
Discipline is also to be progressive if an officer has repeated incidents of misconduct.