Halton’s police chief is urging the Attorney General to look at changes to speed up the time it takes for the province’s police watchdog to close cases.
According to the Special Investigations Unit, that probes incidents of police-related deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault, it takes on average six months to close a case. But in some situations they take more than a year, impacting not only the victims and their families but the officers involved.
The SIU declined an on camera interview but issued this statement: “thoroughness of the investigation must take precedence over the length of time it takes to finish one.”
In 2018, 37 cases were launched in Hamilton, Halton and Niagara against police. But when you look at cases that were closed they only account for 35% of the total, and of those cases the SIU said there were no grounds to lay charges.
They continue to investigate the other 24 cases last year- including the cop on cop police shooting in Pelham, two fatal police shootings in Hamilton, a fatal police shooting in Burlington that also left two officers with gunshot wounds, and the recently launched probe into the death of Yosif Al Hasnawi.
The oldest case still unresolved is an “injury” from December 2017 involving Niagara Regional Police.
According to the watchdog’s website they’re waiting for the director to sign off and that can be time consuming. In 2018 there were 381 cases for director Tony Loparco to review.
Chief Tanner says legislative changes have to be made to allow more people to sign off and Halton’s top cop is using social media to do it. He commented on posts from the SIU asking why some cases took upwards of 18 months to complete and tagging government officials.He has yet to get a response.
Chief Tanner says there are some cases that are not even worthy of an SIU investigation and it’s ultimately wasting time.
In one case, it took nearly 13 months for the SIU to clear an officer involved.
As of right now if the SIU invokes their mandate the police service involved can’t comment which can lead to distrust. Another change Chief Tanner is suggesting is to allow top cops the opportunity to address the public after a police involved incident.