MPCC-2000-038

Facts and Complaint

The complainant, who was in the process of making a delivery for his civilian job, was pulled over by the Military Police to discuss the possible involvement of his vehicle in a crime. A check revealed that the vehicle lacked proper registration. The Military Police told the complainant that his car would be impounded. They then proceeded to escort him while he completed his delivery, after which the complainant was taken to the Military Police detachment for questioning.

The complainant alleged that he was: 1) unlawfully arrested or detained and that he was not told the details of the offence until he asked, 2) that he was wrongly told he was charged with an offence and 3) that he was charged with multiple traffic violations because he had not confessed to the other offence.

Decision of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal

The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal ordered a Professional Standards investigation.

With regards to the allegation that the complainant was unlawfully arrested, the investigation determined that a reasonable person would not support the allegation. The complainant had volunteered to sit in the patrol car because it was raining and because he was not arrested.

With respect to the allegation that he was lied to, the investigation determined that there was a misunderstanding between the Military Police member and the complainant, who was provided with erroneous information but was not lied to.

With regards to the allegation of excessive issuance of traffic violation tickets, it was held that a reasonable person would support this allegation and that the Military Police member should have exercised more enforcement discretion. It was also held that the Military Police member's actions were questionable and would be brought to the attention of his superior for the necessary corrective action.

The complainant asked the Military Police Complaints Commission (“Complaints Commission”) to review his case.

Findings and Recommendations of the Chairperson of the Complaints Commission

A- Tasking Instructions

The issues and allegations raised by the complainant were misinterpreted and only partially addressed in the tasking instructions. As a result, the summary found in the investigation report and the letter of disposition is inaccurate and does not reflect the complainant's concerns.

Notwithstanding the imprecise tasking instructions, some of the issues raised by the complainant that were not in the tasking instructions, such as whether the complainant had been detained and whether he had been issued the traffic violation tickets for not confessing to another crime, were investigated. Unfortunately, the observations and recommendations that emerged in the investigation report were not included in the letter of disposition.

Recommendation

The issues raised by a complainant need to be adequately addressed in the tasking instructions and the complainant should be contacted to verify any uncertainties. If there are changes to the complaint after the verifications, they should be documented and then acknowledged by the complainant, in writing if possible. Complainants must be assisted in formulating their complaint.

B- Action Taken Following the Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards Investigation

The summary of action to be taken with respect to the Military Police member subject of the complaint was vague, deprived of the spirit and intent of the law, and did not satisfy the complainant's need to see that justice had been served.

Recommendation

A complainant should be notified of any action that has been taken or that will be taken with regards to the Military Police member who is the subject of a complaint.

Further, the complainant should be informed of any remedial action taken following the Complaints Commission's review. In this case, the supervisors of the Military Police member involved in this complaint should address the fact that the latter illegally detained the complainant and that he further issued minor violation tickets because he was unable to extract a confession.

C- Allegation 1- Unlawful Detention/Arrest & Not Being Told Details of Offence until Asked

i) Willingness to Get in the Patrol Car and Submit to an Interview

The Professional Standards investigation determined that the complainant had been detained but not arrested. However, the investigation failed to examine whether the detainment was illegal, which unfortunately keeps this allegation contentious. In addition, the Military Police member failed to take notes of the conversation with the complainant as to whether or not the latter had a choice of getting in the patrol car and if the use of handcuffs for non-compliance was discussed.

The conclusion that the complainant willingly complied with the Military Police member's demands to get in the patrol car and to answer questions regarding the other crime is unfounded. It appears that the complainant did not have any choice but to get in the patrol car and he was never told that he did not have to submit to the interview. This is also supported by the fact that the complainant was escorted to his delivery and by the fact that there was an altercation in the patrol car with the Military Police member. This does not appear to be the behaviour of a willing participant.

ii) Arrest

Regarding the allegation of illegal arrest, looking reasonably at all the circumstances of the case, it was not likely that the complainant was arrested or told that he was. According to the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Whitfield, [1970] S.C.R. 46, an “arrest” occurs when there is either an actual seizure or touching of a person's body with a view to his detention or, when there is a pronouncement of “words of arrest” to a person who submits to the arresting officer.

The Supreme Court of Canada also held that in order to make an arrest, there must be reasonable and probable grounds on which to base the arrest (R. v. Storrey, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 241 at 257). The allegation that the complainant was involved in another crime was not objectively justifiable, and had the complainant been arrested, his arrest would have been unlawful.

iii) Detention

The complainant was in fact detained by the Military Police member, who assumed control over his movements by asking him to get in the patrol car in order to issue the traffic violation tickets. Escorting the complainant while he completed his work was an unnecessary prolongation of the detention. Also, interviewing the complainant about the other crime could have been done at a more appropriate time. The complainant was never told that he did not have to submit to the interview at that particular moment. Police officers cannot constrain and oblige citizens to cooperate in a criminal investigation.

The issue of the complainant's willingness to enter the patrol car is also important. It has already been determined that the complainant did not feel he had a choice. Further, the fact that handcuffs were mentioned demonstrates the inequality of power between the parties. Furthermore, when he was taken to the interview room in the detachment and his rights were read to him, the complainant was still detained. Detaining a citizen for a short period of time for investigative purposes has been deemed reasonable. In this case, the complainant was held for a prolonged period; therefore, his detainment was unlawful. The investigation report and letter of disposition should have addressed this issue.

D- Allegation 2- the Complainant was Wrongly Told He Was Charged with an Offence

The Military Police member did not lay any charges against the complainant despite having intended to do so. A charge cannot be laid without sufficient evidence amounting to reasonable grounds to support the allegations. The complainant was mistaken when he believed that he had been charged. The Military Police member made an error, but did not lie to the complainant, when he told him that “he was being charged” before the investigation was completed.

E- Allegation 3- the Complainant was Charged with Multiple Traffic Violations Because He Had Not Confessed to a More Serious Offence

The complainant was excessively charged with multiple traffic violations and it appeared that the reason for this was because he would not confess to the other crime. This was validated by the fact that most of the driving violations were subsequently cancelled after the Military Police member learned that the complainant was not responsible for the other alleged crime.

The Military Police member did not use the threat of laying charges to intimidate the complainant into confessing. His decision to charge the complainant with the traffic violations was a discretionary one. However once formally issued, the judicial process must be followed.

Recommendation

There should be clear policies implemented regarding the issuance and cancellation of traffic violation tickets by Military Police members, highlighting the judicial process for their cancellation.

Chairperson's Reply following the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal Notice of Action

The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal accepted in principle all the findings and recommendations made by the Chairperson.

The Chairperson was pleased to note that, following the recommendation that was made, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal directed the Deputy Provost Marshal Professional Standards to provide to complainants a more descriptive summary of action taken with respect to a complaint.

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