Calgary, AB,

Reforms improve police conduct investigations

Our Professional Standards Section showed improved timelines, increased transparency, and a commitment to collecting race-based data last year, thanks to ongoing efforts to reform how police conduct concerns are addressed.

Eighty-four per cent of the conduct concerns reported in 2020 were investigated and addressed within three months, with a total of 96 per cent being completed in less than a year. Last year also saw us start publishing the written decisions from all disciplinary hearings and centralizing all accountability reporting in one place online to make it easier for Calgarians to see what is available.

There was a total of 1,368 police conduct concerns raised in 2020. Every concern was documented, and a review of the incident was done to determine what happened and how best to address it.

When a concern cannot be resolved informally, is too serious to be resolved informally, or when the person who reported the concern prefers it, the concern is processed as a complaint and a formal misconduct investigation proceeds. There were 404 conduct concerns that resulted in a formal misconduct investigation last year. Just over one quarter of those were started after conduct concerns were raised internally by other officers or partner agencies.

“We know that Calgarians see it as a priority for us to improve how police conduct concerns are addressed, including shortening the time it takes for investigations,” said Superintendent Scott Boyd, with the Calgary Police Service Professional Standards Section.

“We also have heard that we need to do a better job of showing the public how we are accountable for our actions. Lost trust takes time to rebuild and we remain committed to gaining the trust of our whole community by being transparent, building relationships and enhancing understanding.”

Other reforms also helped us improve how we handle conduct issues. A new program is better training and empowering frontline managers to address conduct concerns on their teams. The Chief is also now more directly involved in overseeing the progress of investigations and work is underway to try prevent misconduct through internal education on expectations and the complaints process.

As part of our September 2020 promise to Calgarians, our Professional Standards Section has also started collecting data on the race of people reporting conduct concerns to see if there are any patterns that may impact some communities more than others.

In 2020, there were 144 more reported concerns than in 2019. There were also 15 more cases where minor misconduct warranted formal discipline than in the previous year. However, the number of incidents serious enough to require a disciplinary hearing and incidents where criminal activity was alleged did not increase.

Eighty-six per cent of all conduct concerns and complaints in 2020 were resolved informally, withdrawn by the person who reported it, or found not to be valid after an investigation.

There was also a seven per cent increase in compliments submitted, with 326 people submitting a compliment to formally thank officers who went above and beyond.

“We never like to see an increase in people concerned a police officer acted inappropriately, but it is good to see that the vast majority of concerns can be resolved informally or turn out to be situations where officers did, in fact, act appropriately,” adds Supt. Boyd. “We are also hopeful that the focus on police accountability this past year has made people feel more comfortable raising their concerns with us, which would be a good thing.”

Information on conduct concerns in 2020 is contained in both the Professional Standards Annual Report and the Body-worn Camera Evaluation Report. Calgarians can learn more about how misconduct is addressed by visiting the new Community Accountability webpage where we provide a variety of information on the actions of our Service.