The Charter protects the rights of criminals?
By J.S. Vijaya
The Special Investigation’s Unit (SIU) in theory is supposed to be an independent civilian investigatory body that investigates the police when there is a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault.
The objective is to determine if a criminal offence took place, and if charges are going to be laid.
There have been instances where some members of the SIU have been criticized for having a pro-police bias.
I have spoken to several community leaders who claim that many of the investigators in the SIU are typically former police officers themselves, and accordingly, they carry the same biases and prejudice coupled with tunnel vision that is entrenched within the Toronto Police force.
The Toronto Star recently published a story that claims that statistically only 38.2 per cent of police officers who are being investigated actually cooperate by choosing to be interviewed and turning over their notes to the SIU. In short, the police officers who are being investigated by the SIU overwhelmingly are choosing to exercise their constitutional right to stay silent. Read Toronto Star Story
An argument could be made that individuals who are authorized by the state to wear a badge and carry deadly weapons, drive souped-up cars, ignore traffic laws, and exercise absolute coercive powers of arrest in “at risk” neighbourhoods should be open to all levels of transparent scrutiny.
On the other hand, there are police officers who firmly believe that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not trumped by the kind of job we happen to hold. As a criminal lawyer who many times finds himself arguing that the police officers failed to advise my client of his right to silence, or got a confession by intimidation and repeatedly engaging in lengthy interrogations after hearing that he had “nothing to say,” I am pleased that many police officers seem to appreciate and endorse our constitutional infrastructure based around the right to silence and self-incrimination when it comes to protecting their own self interests.
Who would have thunk it?