Complaints Against the RCMP
The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 220 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script explains how to make a complaint against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP serves most BC municipalities, towns, districts, and outlying areas. But the following 11 cities have their own police force: Vancouver, Victoria (including Esquimalt), New Westminster, West Vancouver, Delta, Port Moody, Central Saanich, Abbotsford, Nelson, Oak Bay, and Saanich. If you have a complaint about the police in any of these places, or against the Organized Crime Agency of BC or the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police, check script 221, called “Complaints against municipal police.”
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone, including a non-citizen, concerned about the conduct of an RCMP member can make a complaint against that member. You do not have to be directly involved in an incident – you can make a complaint for someone else, or if you witness an incident.
How do you make a complaint against the RCMP?
You make a complaint through the National Intake Office of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (the Commission), or at an RCMP office. The Commission is an independent federal agency that handles complaints about the conduct of RCMP members in performing their duties. The Commission is not part of the RCMP. It is neutral and does not take sides in a dispute. The Commission works in English and French. It also has interpretation services for other languages.
You can make a complaint by phone, in writing, or in person. The Commission phone number is 604.501.4080; its toll-free number is 1.800.665.6878. And its TTY toll-free number is 1.866.432.5837.The office is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific time. To complain in writing, you can use the form on the Commission website (www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca) and email it to email@example.com. Or you can fax it to 604.501.4095. You can also mail the completed form, or your own letter with details of your complaint, to the Commission, at PO Box 88689, Surrey BC, V3W 0X1. If you want to complain in person, phone the office first to make an appointment.
You should make your complaint as soon as possible after an incident, while memories are fresh and evidence is still available.
Normally, the Commission sends a complaint to the RCMP for investigation. You can ask for early resolution of your complaint. In this case, a Commission analyst tries to help you and the RCMP agree on a solution. Even if you don’t ask, the RCMP may try to resolve the complaint informally (an “informal disposition”). Both you and the RCMP member have to agree to the solution for this to work. If the RCMP resolves your complaint informally, it makes a summary of the complaint and the solution, and then asks you to sign it.
If the RCMP formally investigates your complaint, it reports the results to you, the RCMP member, and the Commission.
What if you are not satisfied with the RCMP report on your complaint?
You can ask the Commission for an independent civilian review of your complaint. The Commission will review the RCMP investigation report and may then investigate further, or ask the RCMP to do a further investigation of your complaint.
After the review, if the Commission is satisfied with how the RCMP handled your complaint, it sends you a report with its reasons. It also sends its report to the Minister of Public Safety Canada (the Minister) and the RCMP Commissioner.
If the Commission is not satisfied with how the RCMP handled the complaint, it sends an interim report, with its concerns, to the RCMP Commissioner and the Minister. The RCMP Commissioner considers the interim report and informs the Commission Chair and the Minister of any action the RCMP will take in response to the Commission’s interim report. Alternatively, the Commissioner explains why the RCMP won’t take any further action. The Commission then prepares a final report, including the RCMP Commissioner’s response and the Commission’s final recommendations. This final report goes to you, the Minister, the RCMP Commissioner, and the RCMP member involved.
The Commission Chair can hold a public hearing at any time and issue a report based on the results. The report may recommend how to improve operations or correct deficiencies that led to a complaint. The report goes to the Minister and the RCMP Commissioner, as well as to you and any other people involved. The RCMP Commissioner has to respond to the report and then the Chair will issue a final report.
Two other possibilities – besides filing a complaint with the Commission
Suing the police
If an RCMP officer injured you, caused you property damage, or violated your rights, you may be able to sue the officer or the RCMP (or both) in civil court. Normally actions are commenced in the BC Supreme Court. You should get legal advice promptly in this case – there will probably be a time limit for suing.
If you say that an RCMP officer committed a crime or broke a law, the RCMP will investigate. The result of the investigation may go to the Regional Crown Counsel – the senior prosecutor for the area – to decide whether to charge the officer with a crime. If the police don’t send a report to the prosecutor, or the prosecutor decides not to charge the officer, you can still go to a Justice of the Peace and ask that the officer be charged. For more information, check script 215, called “Charging Someone with a Criminal Offence”.
[updated October 2013]
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