Calgary, AB,

Professional Standards Section 2022 annual report shows continued improvements in police accountability

During the Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, public meeting of the Calgary Police Commission, the Calgary Police Service Professional Standards Section (PSS) released its 2022 annual report, which shows that the Service made additional strides to increase efficiency in police accountability, which began several years ago.

In 2022, the Service responded to more than 534,000 calls for service, resulting in 331 formal complaints. This indicates that only a small portion – approximately 0.06 per cent of calls for service – gave rise to a complaint. The 2022 report demonstrates notable decreases in the number of citizen contacts and complaints to PSS. A 19 per cent decrease in citizen contacts led to the lowest number of contacts since 2017 and the number of formal complaints is down 14 per cent compared to 2021.

“Transparency and accountability to Calgarians remains a key priority for the Service and PSS. We are pleased to see continuous improvements in the timeliness and overall experience for members of the public and our employees alike,” said Executive Director Katherine Murphy.   

Notable gains were made in process efficiency and the use of clear and objective Body Worn Camera footage benefited both citizens and CPS officers through more timely complaint resolution. Noted efficiencies include:

·        A 20 per cent decrease in the time it takes for PSS to close complaints, over the five-year average.

·        A 25 per cent increase in the number of files that were closed within 12 months compared to 2021.

·        More than half of all files (52 per cent) are now closed within a one-year timeline.

Eighty-seven per cent of closed PSS files were resolved through alternative dispute resolution, dismissed, withdrawn or not sustained. Thirteen per cent of closed files resulted in discipline.

The 2022 report also contains more information and statistics about disciplinary penalties imposed by the Chief of Police and by Presiding Officers following disciplinary hearings to enhance our commitment to transparency. The most common sustained allegation of officer misconduct in 2022 was insubordination (non-compliance with a policy, rule or order), followed by discreditable conduct (conduct that reflects poorly on CPS). The most common sustained penalty for minor misconduct was an official warning (51 per cent), followed by a financial penalty of forfeiture of pay accumulated through overtime (32 per cent).

While PSS handles citizen complaints, they also receive compliments,  which are nearly equal to the number of complaints. In 2022, PSS received 306 compliments about CPS employees acknowledging how officers have served and supported citizens.

Other key improvements to PSS in 2022 included civilianization of key positions, including permanent civilian investigators and a civilian Executive Director and evaluating and acquiring new technology to improve accessibility for citizens making public complaints to PSS through an online portal. In addition to easier complaint submission, the online portal allows complainants to check in on the status of their file for real-time information.  

“Employees and the public want easier access to information about PSS processes and complaints and we are finding new ways to deliver on the call for transparency. 2022 was just the beginning of these improvements and we have already seen the benefits of them throughout the first half of 2023,” says Murphy.

As part of our commitment to handling complaints about officer conduct in a fair and transparent manner, the 2022 annual report is available on the Calgary Police Commission website here.

The Calgary Police Service takes all complaints seriously and investigates in accordance with the Alberta Police Act. More specific information on the investigative process and the decision making process for complaints is available on the Professional Standards Investigations webpage. Additional information and resources about our commitment to transparency and accountability is included on our Community Accountability page.