All complaints that are screened in will proceed to an investigation, unless the complainant and respondent officer have opted for Informal Resolution prior to an investigation. How a complaint is investigated depends on whether it is a conduct, policy or service complaint.
Conduct complaints will be either referred to back to the police service in question for an investigation or retained by the OIPRD for investigation.
In deciding to refer or retain a conduct complaint, the Director may consider:
- The effect of a decision to deal or not to deal with a complaint on public confidence in the accountability and integrity of the complaints system
- The number of complainants involved
- The seriousness of the complaint, including the seriousness of the harm alleged
- Whether the complaint relates to an incident or event that has already been the subject of an earlier complaint
- Whether there are issues of systemic importance or broader public interest at stake
- The likelihood of interfering with or compromising other proceedings
- Whether another venue, body or law can more appropriately address the substance of the complaint
When a complaint is referred to a police service, an officer in the service’s professional standards unit, or an officer designated by the police chief where a service does not have a professional standards unit, will conduct the investigation. The OIPRD continues to manage and oversee that complaint.
OIPRD case coordinators track the referred investigation as it progresses, and coordinate with police service liaison officers, as well as complainants, to ensure that all directions, timelines and notice requirements are met. Case coordinators also receive and review interim investigative updates from the police service and work together with our legal unit and Director if issues arise.
If the OIPRD does not agree with the way the investigation is handled, the Director can direct the chief to deal with a complaint in a specific manner, assign the investigation to another service, take over the investigation or take or impose any action necessary.
When a complaint is retained by the OIPRD, the investigation is conducted by OIPRD investigators. Complaints retained for investigation may be more complex or involve serious allegations.
If, during the course of the investigation, the Director discovers evidence that an officer may have committed a crime, the matter will be referred to the police for further investigation. The OIPRD does not have the authority to conduct criminal investigations.
The Police Services Act requires that respondent officers be given notice of a hearing within six months of the decision to retain or refer a complaint for investigation. To ensure this timeline is met, the OIPRD has set a performance measure of 120 days for a conduct complaint to be completed once a decision is made to retain or refer a complaint for investigation. More complex investigations often take longer than six months. In these cases, time extensions must be requested from the relevant police services board.
Regardless of whether the OIPRD or the police investigate a complaint, the investigator is expected to tell the complainant:
- How the complaint will be investigated
- What cooperation is required from the complainant
- How a decision will be reached
- What action will be taken at the end of the investigation
Investigative reports are standardized. OIPRD investigators and police investigators use the same format when reporting on conduct complaints. Investigative reports include:
- A summary of the complaint
- A summary of statements from those involved, including the complainant, respondent officer(s) and civilian and officer witnesses
- References to any information referred to or relied upon
- A description of the actual investigation
- Reference to code of conduct allegations, which are determined through investigation
- An analysis and conclusion of whether there are reasonable grounds to substantiate misconduct under the Police Services Act
The Police Services Act states that there must be reasonable grounds to believe that misconduct occurred in order for a complaint to be substantiated. Reasonable grounds in a police complaints context are facts or circumstances of a case that would lead an ordinary and cautious person to believe that misconduct occurred. This belief must be more than a suspicion or an opinion of misconduct and must be objectively based on factual evidence.
All complaints, whether investigated by a police service or by the OIPRD, will have one of three possible outcomes – unsubstantiated, substantiated less serious or substantiated serious.
In cases where a police service investigates, the chief determines whether the complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated according to the standards set out in the legislation. The complainant, the respondent officer and the OIPRD receive the same report. The OIPRD reviews the investigative report and if issues are identified, the Director instructs the police service appropriately. This may include directions such as answering questions, interviewing witnesses or gathering further evidence.
Where the OIPRD investigates, the Director determines whether there are reasonable grounds to substantiate the complaint. If the complaint is substantiated, the Director will also determine whether the matter is serious or less serious. If the Director determines there are no reasonable grounds, the complaint is unsubstantiated. A copy of the investigative report, along with the Director’s findings, is sent to the complainant and the chief of police. The chief is also provided with a copy for the respondent officer.
Complaints may also be found to be unsubstantiated if there are no reasonable grounds to conclude a violation of the police code of conduct occurred. The complaint is then considered closed, subject to a request for a review of the chief’s or OPP Commissioner’s decision. If the OIPRD investigated the complaint, the only means to review the decision is by a judicial review.
Substantiated Less Serious Complaints
If a complaint is substantiated it is further determined whether the complaint is less serious or serious in nature. Less serious complaints may be resolved informally if everyone agrees, or if Informal Resolution fails, the chief can resolve the matter through a disposition without a hearing.
If a complainant disagrees with an investigation by the police where the complaint is found to be unsubstantiated or less serious, the complainant may ask the OIPRD to review the decision. If a complainant disagrees with an investigation by the OIPRD, the only means to review the decision is by a judicial review.
Less serious complaints include matters dealing with:
- Personal property, other than money or a firearm
- Failure to treat or protect a person equally
- The use of profane, abusive or insulting language
- Contraventions of the act or regulations
- Acting in a disorderly manner
- Neglect of duty
- Failure to work in accordance with orders
- Failure to report a matter
- Omitting to make any necessary entry in a record
- Improper dress or appearance
- Conspiring and abetting any misconduct listed above
Substantiated Serious Complaints
Where the conduct is determined to be serious, the chief must hold a disciplinary hearing.
Matters considered to be serious may include:
- Breach of confidentiality
- Unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority
- Misconduct or conduct that might result in a criminal charge
- Discreditable conduct
- Neglect of Duty
Screening Complaints about Police Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs
Complaints about municipal and regional police chiefs and deputy chiefs are handled differently as these officers are employed by a police services board. When the OIPRD receives a complaint about a police chief or a deputy chief, the complaint is screened in the same way as any other complaint. However, the Police Services Act
states that the OIPRD must send the complaint and the screening decision to the appropriate police services board for review, as chiefs and deputy chiefs are employed directly by the boards. The police services board must then determine whether the alleged conduct may constitute a criminal offence, misconduct or unsatisfactory work performance and report its determination to the OIPRD.
If the board is of the opinion that the conduct of the police chief or deputy chief is not a criminal offence or misconduct, the board takes no action in response to the complaint and notifies the complainant, the chief or deputy chief and the OIPRD of the decision in writing, with reasons. The complainant cannot appeal the board’s decision but may file a request for a judicial review.
If the police services board decides that there may be misconduct, the board must send the complaint back to the OIPRD for investigation. Following an investigation, the OIPRD provides a written report to the police services board indicating whether the complaint is substantiated – serious or less serious – or unsubstantiated. If the complaint is unsubstantiated, the board takes no action in response to the complaint and notifies the complainant and the chief or deputy chief of the decision.
If the complaint is substantiated as less serious, the complaint may be informally resolved if the chief or deputy chief and the complainant agree. If either party does not agree, the board can impose a penalty. If the chief or deputy chief disagrees with the penalty, the complaint must go to a hearing.
If the complaint is substantiated as serious, the board must either hold a hearing into the matter or refer the matter to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to hold the hearing.
Complaints about the OPP Commissioner or Deputy Commissioners
As required by the Police Services Act, complaints received about the OPP Commissioner and deputy commissioners are referred to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to be dealt with. While the OIPRD may receive complaints about the OPP Commissioner and deputy commissioners, the OIPRD does not investigate or oversee these complaints.
Policy and Service Complaints
The OIPRD screens complaints about policies and services of a police organization and oversees each complaint, but we cannot investigate them. The Police Services Act
requires that all policy and service complaints be sent to the appropriate police chief or the OPP Commissioner for a response. The chief or Commissioner has 60 days to provide a written report on all policy and service complaints to the complainant, the OIPRD and the police services board outlining their decision to take action or to take no action, with reasons.
Decisions made by the Commissioner regarding provincial OPP policies cannot be appealed.
In the case of municipal and regional services, the complainant may appeal the chief’s decision to the appropriate police services board within 30 days of receiving the decision.
The OPP has both local and provincial policies. Local OPP policies are developed by a police services board to guide an OPP detachment providing municipal or regional services. A decision regarding local OPP policies may be appealed to the local police services board.
When a board receives a request for a review, it must:
- Advise the chief of police of the request
- Review the complaint and take any action, or no action, in response to the complaint as it considers appropriate
- Notify the chief of police, the complainant and the OIPRD in writing of its disposition of the complaint with reasons
If the board has more than three members, it also has the following options:
- Appoint a committee of at least three members (two of whom constitute a quorum) to review the complaint and make recommendations to the board after the review is complete
- While conducting a review, the board or committee of the board may hold a public meeting with respect to the complaint but it is not mandatory
- Consider the recommendations of the committee and take any action, or no action, in response to the complaint as it considers appropriate
- Notify the complainant, chief of police and the OIPRD in writing of its disposition of the complaint with reasons