police complaint update: i was misled: withdrawn means withdrawn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 She specifically told me - several times - that a withdrawn complaint is an "accountability mechanism", because the complaint will stay on the officer's record for two years.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 That is what I wanted, so the complaint can be withdrawn with that understanding.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Withdrawn means exactly what it says. The complaint is withdrawn.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database shows the officer's name, complainant's name, place and date of incident; under resolution, it would read: "withdrawn". A withdrawn complaint does not go in the officer's personnel file.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 Because it has been withdrawn.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?

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