police complaint update: i was misled: withdrawn means withdrawn

You remember I had a brief but unpleasant run-in with a Toronto cop: here.

I filed a complaint, and when I went in for the interview, I was told I had three options: informal resolution, withdrawal and formal complaint. The detective took great pains to explain to me - several times - that "withdrawal" didn't actually mean withdrawal, that it's an incorrect term for that option. She specifically told me - several times - that a withdrawn complaint is an "accountability mechanism", because the complaint will stay on the officer's record for two years. The department can thus see if this was an isolated incident or if there is a pattern of similar behaviour.

The detective was clearly steering me in the direction of withdrawal. She said the first option, informal resolution, required a face-to-face meeting with the officer and was a route seldom taken. The third option, formal complaint, was a long, involved process involving an investigation and usually reserved for allegations of serious misconduct. The middle option, withdrawal, was presented as the "just right" solution to provide what I was looking for.

Given all this, I signed a withdrawal, but in the space for "reasons for withdrawal" I wrote: I understand that the details of this complaint will remain on the officer's record for two years, as an accountability mechanism. That is what I wanted, so the complaint can be withdrawn with that understanding.

Yesterday I received a phone call from someone at the OIPRD who files and tracks complaints. When she read my withdrawal form, she thought I had the wrong impression of the option I had chosen. And indeed I did.

Withdrawn means exactly what it says. The complaint is withdrawn. It remains in a police database of every complaint that is filed. The database shows the officer's name, complainant's name, place and date of incident; under resolution, it would read: "withdrawn". A withdrawn complaint does not go in the officer's personnel file. The officer's supervisor does not see it. It does not become part of their performance evaluation. Because it has been withdrawn.

The OIPRD person explained that the informal resolution process is often used in cases like this, and does provide the accountability I was seeking. Both complainant and officer are given an opportunity to explain their positions, and the details are recorded in the officer's personnel file, seen by her supervisor, and become part of her performance evaluation.

I do not see how this could have been a misunderstanding on my part. In the interview, the detective took great pains to explain, in detail, several times, that a "withdrawn" complaint remains on the officer's record for two years - in exactly the way it does not. I was deliberately misled.

Both detectives were so friendly, even jolly, as we chatted about the inconveniences of film shoots in Toronto. Perhaps cynically, I viewed that friendliness as good customer service practice. Now I see it as something more sinister.

The clerk who called is going to speak to her supervisor to see how a withdrawn complaint can be un-withdrawn and re-activated, so we can begin an informal resolution process.

How many complaints against Toronto police are withdrawn under these conditions?


johngoldfine said...

Interesting that the department does not quite know its own mind. OTOH, there are officers misleading the public and protecting their own. OTOH, there are officers making phone calls to contradict the first officers and to set the public straight.

Amy said...

Wow. I am more amazed that someone called to follow up on your withdrawal than I am that the police misled you the first time. My old memories of cops in the 60s lingers on to make me quite unwilling to trust them. I still think they are out to get us and trigger happy, power happy, fun toting overgrown adolescents in uniforms, I am sad to say.

laura k said...

No evidence from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s or the 10s so far refutes your views.

I was pretty surprised to get that call, too.

Amy said...

Obviously I meant GUN toting, not FUN toting! LOL! Too bad Blogger has no edit function once a comment is posted.

laura k said...

And here I thought it was clever wordplay! As in, they have fun toting guns. :)

laura k said...

Re John and Amy's comments, could it be the "Office of Independent Police Review Director" is actually independent?

rww said...

Interesting that the person that called to clarify what you wanted was a "clerk" not a "cop".

Something who, obviously outwittingly, thought she/he was supposed to do the right thing.

laura k said...

I'm calling her a clerk. I don't know what her title is. She's definitely not a cop. She's an administrator with the OIPRD. I spoke to her again today. She seems pretty determined to get it right.

geek guy said...

If this is not fixed Go to the press

jpg said...

I wish I had seen your earlier post... I'm sure you already did a bunch of research on OIPRD so this may or may not be helpful to you now, but the Law Union of Ontario and Movement Defence Committee put together a few resources on the OIPRD process after the g20. They are here: http://www.lawunion.ca/g20guide (also includes human rights complaints and small claims court info, fwiw)
http://movementdefence.org/node/29 (incl a video presentation on OIPRD process by a legal aid clinic and some "strategy" suggestions)

From what I've heard, everybody is still figuring out how this thing is going to work, which is one reason why it's awesome to hear that you're persevering and not letting your complaint be nullified by misdirection. It seems like the only way the OIPRD will become a serious mechanism is if the first round of complainants push for it to become serious. (I'm not trying to imply that you have some weird "duty to the system" to go further with it than you're comfortable, just to cheer you on in going as far as you want to.)

laura k said...

Jpg, thank you very much for your support, I appreciate it. I do feel a responsibility to complete this process, and to make it meaningful to the extent that I can.

I've now had another conversation with the detective who misled me. I will update soon.

(Also, your comment went to spam for some reason, thus the delay in posting.)

allan said...

Good update coming!

Stand up for justice said...

Hi L-girl,

Would you update me with the process? I feel extremely disappointed by the police officer and filed a complaint against one.
I wanted to know whether OIPRO is truly independent and impartial in the investigation. I was misled by the police and paralegal. They misled me and intimidated me during investigation and before trial.
The way they interrogate me ( I seriously think that the driver who hit my car was connected to the police enforcement) as a result and they had to unjustly charge me and did what they are skillful at- to intimidate and mislead me - into pleading guilty. I don't think there's justice in our society. I don't trust police officers or our legal system anyone.

May the truth be told and!

laura k said...

Hi, thanks for your comment. I did post updates about this. The final update was here.

I think it's pretty obvious that the OIPRD is not independent. Good luck with your case.