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SIU not so toothless

October 2008
As a serving police officer, I can tell you that even a “toothless SIU” still scares many police officers, especially the honest ones. Even though many of their staff are ex-cops, has no one heard on the Professional Standards Branch (Internal Affaris to American cop-show watchers). The job of these officers is to investigate wrong-doing by cops, and many of them relish the though of charging cops, whether  they are corrupt or just did a stupid thing.

What scares me, as an honest cop, is how sometimes things you say or do can be blown out of proportion and wind up biting you in the rear. I have been investigated for incidents where my intentions were honest and in the belief that I was doing my job properly. In all cases I was either completely cleared or found guilty of minor infractions (forgetting to submit one report out of numerous ones before going off duty after a VERY busy day). Even honest cops have a fear that their acitons will be misinterpreted or judged from the comfort of an office when you had seconds to react out on the street. Remember, in our legal (not justice) system, it doesn’t matter what the truth is; it only matters what you can prove. Thus, even if you are ultimately exhonerated, you still have to endure the stress of an investigation and the second-guessing by everyone, including yourself (maybe I should have gotten a coffee instead of driving down Main Street).

This is another reason why cops shouldn’t be compelled to speak to the SIU at the scene of an incident. When a civilian is investigated or arrested for an offence, they have the right to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions (even Paul Bernardo had the right not to speak to the police without his lawyer present). Cops have the same rights and some police supervisors will even go out of their way not to ask questions of a “subject officer”. This action is not part of a cover-up operation; it just respects a cop’s right to a fair and inpartial investigation, just like anyone else.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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