Facts and Complaint
The complainant, a Military Police supervisor, filed a complaint with the Military Police Complaints Commission (“
Complaints Commission”) alleging that an officer interfered with two Military Police members under his command while in the lawful performance of their duties. The incident happened when the subject of the complaint ordered the members to come into his office to explain their actions while they were in the process of issuing a traffic ticket to a Canadian Forces member. The complainant further alleged that the subject of the complaint was hostile and belligerent.
Findings and Recommendations of the Chairperson of the Complaints Commission
A- The Military Police Members' Actions
The Military Police members were conducting an investigation when the subject of the complaint ordered them into his office. The fact that they had let the Canadian Forces member to whom they were giving the traffic violation ticket enter the building did not interrupt the investigation. Allowing the person to leave the scene for a few minutes during the traffic stop is an example of the use of enforcement discretion. This person was known and was not going to escape justice. The Military Police members showed some compassion by letting the person go for a few minutes. Also, the vehicle was parked and did not present a danger to the public.
B- Interference with the Investigation
Despite his motivation, the subject of the complaint did, without authority, interfere with the two members' investigation while they were on duty, in a marked patrol car and in uniform. No officer or official in the Canadian Forces or in the Department of National Defence has the discretionary authority to interfere with Military Police members when they are conducting policing duties. If a member informs another member of the Canadian Forces or an employee of the Department of National Defence that he cannot obey an order because he is performing a policing duty, this decision must be respected and not interfered with. Military Police members must be able to operate independently without undue interference from the Chain of Command.
The subject of the complaint should attend a familiarization program concerning the role of the Military Police as police officers and their need to be able to operate independently of the Chain of Command when performing policing duties.
Ranks have significant importance in the Military, and it is understandable that not all non-commissioned Military Police members conducting an investigation are at ease with an officer and able to express an opposing point of view. In order to dispel any ambiguity, while ensuring that consideration and mutual respect are maintained, rank should not enter into the relationship between an officer and a Military Police member conducting policing duties or functions; the latter should take precedence over hierarchical considerations.
This case highlights the need for additional training to raise awareness among military and civilian personnel in the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence regarding the distinct functions carried out by the Military Police.
Chairperson's Reply following the Chief of Defence Staff's Notice of Action
After reading the Notice of Action from the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Report of the Somalia Inquiry, the Dickson and Belzile reports, as well as Parliamentary debates that preceded the creation of Part IV of the National Defence Act, the Chairperson disagreed with the Chief of the Defence Staff's interpretation of section 250.19 of the Act. The Chairperson believes that any interference or intervention by a non-Military Police member is improper and damages the military justice system.
The Chief of the Defence Staff argued that sometimes interference with Military Police investigations by non-Military Police superiors is proper. He stated that there could be situations where intervention is necessary to ensure that commanders are able to carry out their responsibilities or when there is an obvious abuse or improper situation occurring. He further held that since the National Defence Act refers to “
improper” interference, “
proper” interference could exist.
According to the Chairperson, proper interference could happen, for instance, when a Military Police subordinate has abused his power or has neglected to interview a witness and his superior gets involved in an attempt to correct the situation. There is a clear distinction between a Military Police member properly exercising his supervisory capacity and a non-Military Police superior who attempts to interfere with an investigation.
The distinction between “
Interference” and “
Intervention” must be made with caution. There is a very fine line to be drawn between the Chain of Command who gives appropriate instructions and the one who actually intervenes in an investigation. The latter could be perceived as, and could constitute, “
interference” with a police investigation. Complaints of interference will be vigorously pursued by the Complaints Commission and the Chairperson solicits the Chief of the Defence Staff's support in encouraging independence and discouraging interference or intervention in military policing.
Finally, regarding the Chief of the Defence Staff's objection to the phrase “
Military Police, and police in general, have a duty to serve and protect”, the Chairperson believes that, even though the Military Police is a specialized police force, its pivotal role is to serve and protect, the same as civilian police forces.
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