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Manitoba Eyes New Standards for Police, More Time for People to File Complaints

March 18, 2022 7:00 AM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Kelvin Goertzen

Kelvin Goertzen speaks to the media at the legislative building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government has promised new standards and rules of conduct for police, but the Opposition New Democrats say little will change unless there are more consequences for officers who misbehave.

A bill introduced in the legislature Thursday would allow the province’s director of policing to set down a provincewide code of conduct for officers. It would require chiefs of police to tell the director every time an officer contravenes the code.

The bill would also give people more time to file complaints with the Law Enforcement Review Agency, which investigates non-criminal allegations against municipal police forces. The deadline for filing a complaint would increase to 180 days from 30 days.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said setting out clear rules will give everyone a better picture of what is and is not proper.

“It sets down the rules of the game. It brings transparency,” Goertzen said.

The bill would also see the Justice Department set standards for police operations, such as training and the handling of informants, he said.

NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine said the government still needs to ensure officers who misbehave suffer real consequences. Many complaints to the Law Enforcement Review Agency do not result in any discipline or sanctions, she said.

“You can put all the codes of conduct that you want, but if there are no teeth to it — if there are no consequences — then what’s the point,” she said.

The Law Enforcement Review Agency normally fields over 100 complaints a year, including allegations of excessive force or of making an arrest without reasonable grounds. According to the agency’s 2019 annual report, many were dropped or dismissed.

“Of the 153 files opened in 2019, 66 were resolved at intake or following preliminary inquiries, while others were abandoned by the complainant or closed as there was insufficient evidence to justify referral to a hearing,” the report states.

The new government bill, if passed into law, would also create a new criminal intelligence centre that would help police agencies share information, Goertzen said.

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