While the Office of Independent Police Review Director OIPRD may be in headlines because of its investigation into Toronto’s G20 Summit, Natalia Welniak was at council here to provide more information on what it actually does.
Welniak is the local OIPRD (it is based in Toronto) district regional outreach and education advisor. Her job is to let people know about the role of the organization and the public complaints process.
“We are an agency that oversees complaints about the police,” Welniak said.
She emphasized that the OIPRD “is a neutral body. It’s not for or against the police, nor is it for or against the public. Our role is to oversee public complaints about the police in a transparent and effective way.”
It was developed as a result of the Police Services Act.
Welniak said under that act, police officers are municipal police or Ontario Provincial Police – not First Nations Constables, special constables (such as university, college, railway or transit police), municipal law enforcement officers or auxiliary members.
The OIPRD began in 2009, and is an arms-length agency of the Ministry of the Attorney General. It is funded through that ministry and provides an annual report of its activities.
She said the director is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor on recommendation of the Attorney General. The director cannot be a police officer nor a former police officer.
Employees are appointed under the Public Services Act and cannot be police officers, although there are some former police officers, Welniak said.
“The independence of the OIPRD, as it carries out its role, is of great importance in ensuring the integrity of the public complaints system. Our goal is to make certain that all stakeholders can rely on the public system to be fair, transparent, efficient and effective.”
Welniak said the OIPRD has a mandate to educate stakeholders about the public complaints system. “We hope that awareness of the … system will help increase confidence in the system and enhance police and community relations.”
The chief of police retains the responsibility for disciplinary hearings and imposition of discipline.
The director is independent of the public, government, and the police.
“That’s how it serves as a neutral body,” she said.
Welniak said there are two ways to file complaints – through the local resolution process or through formal complaints.
“The local resolution is not a part of a formal OIPRD complaint process, but an option to file a complaint.”
Local resolution – may relate to matters of the conduct of a police officer or the policies and-or services of a police department.
In that process, the complaint must be filed in person.
The complaints are qualified as conduct, police, or service – it could be one, or a combination. Before accepting a complaint for local resolution, the police service must:
– provide the complainant with the information concerning the OIPRD;
– advise the complainant that they may make their complaint to the OIPRD; and
– they may be required to take the complaint to the OIPRD if it cannot be resolved locally.
She said the local resolution process is not for serious complaints and the local police chief may decide that the complaint cannot be dealt with under local resolution.
In the formal process, Welniak said there are several options to file complaints.
Those may be filed on the website, by mail, fax or in person at the OIPRD offices.
Welniak said complaints can also be filed at and municipal, regional, or provincial police service in Ontario. Police will then forward the complaint form to the OIPRD within three business days.
She noted the OIPRD must refer policy and service complaints back to the police service in question.
Conduct complaints are different, she explained.
All policy and service complaints will be the subject of a written report and complainants and the OIPRD will always be notified of disposition.
Generally, a complaint takes about 120 days to process once all the necessary documentation has been received.
More complex cases will often take longer.
After the investigation of a conduct complaint, it will be determined if the complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated. If substantiated, it would need to be determined if the matter is serious or less serious.
Where the OIPRD has investigated – directors will make the determination. Where the police service has investigated the chief of that service would make the decision.
Matters considered serious include harassment, discrimination, breach of confidentiality, or deceit.
Considered as less serious complaints are:
– failure to treat or protect a person equally, use of profane language, acting in a disorderly manner, neglect of duty, omitting to make any necessary entry into a record, improper dress, or appearance.
Police service boards have a role in the public complaints process. She said the OIPRD is based in Toronto, but is divided among several regional offices – the same as the court services map.
Mayor Lou Maieron quipped that it seems if the municipal bylaw officer gives a person a hard time, then this is not the venue to follow.
Councillor Barb Tocher spoke of the outreach to community groups and suggested Welniak might wish to contact the local COPs (Community Oriented Policing) committee.
That committee is still establishing itself in the Erin area.
Welniak appeared keen to make such a presentation.
“We don’t limit it to any group. We’re definitely welcome to new ideas and new groups,” Welniak said.
Maieron asked how the OIPRD was funded by the government if it was supposed to be an independent body.
Welniak said “We are independent in the sense of the day-to-day operations are independent.”