What Sask. Police Commission's numbers actual mean when it comes to misconduct
It’s a way of policing the police. The latest report shows there have been a total of 123 police discipline files, among eight different departments in Saskatchewan, that were concluded in 2017.
Detective Staff Sgt. Dave McKenzie, with the professional standards division with the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS), said if anyone has an unpleasant experience with any member of the force, he and his team want to know about it.
“We encourage people who have conflict with the way we conduct business to make a complaint if they feel that’s required,” McKenzie said.
In 2017, 63 complaints launched against SPS reached a conclusion and therefore were closed.
The force had the highest number of files of any department in the entire province, including being 52 per cent higher than Regina police.
“We’re a large city about 50,000 more citizens. We have more police officers, you put that all together and you could suggest there’s more opportunity for interactions.”
A photo from the 2017-18 Saskatchewan Police Commission: Disposition of Police Discipline Files.
The numbers are also a bit misleading, here’s a breakdown of what they really mean when it comes specifically to Saskatoon:
- 45 cases of no offence against discipline: An investigation revealed there was no misconduct; and
- 10 cases of non-disciplinary disposition: The commission defined this as a minor incident of misconduct such as an error in judgement or an officer using uncivil language.
The two columns (above) that are the most noteworthy are the following:
- seven cases where remedial action was ordered: this is an offence still on the lower end of the spectrum but one that requires disciplinary action and remedial action is with the consent of the member involved; and
- one case of formal discipline: this is when a formal hearing has to be conducted.
“Eight out of 100,000 – so .008 per cent of all interactions where officer misconduct ended up being a formalized issue,” McKenzie added.
In any case that doesn’t end in a hearing, the chief of police is solely responsible for the repercussions the member would face. When it comes to formal discipline, it would be a hearing officer that prescribes the remedy.
None of these cases were criminal matters involving an officer that went before the courts.
They are also part of a deep dive into data by the Saskatchewan Police Commission featured in its annual reports.
According to Richard Peach, the executive director of the commission, they’re looking for any concerning trends among the statistics.
The numbers don’t represent every single complaint filed against police by a member of the public and there’s a reason for that.
“Every year what we find is between 80 and 90 per cent of public complaints are determined after investigation to be unfounded or unsubstantiated,” Peach explained.
“So they really don’t tell us much from that is of concern from a discipline or training perspective.”
This year, nothing jumped out at the commission requiring them to audit a police department, and any officer where there was wrongdoing was held accountable, according to Peach.