Friday, November 02, 2012

Justice for rotten cops?

Last week, the Dominion-Post's Vernon Small highlighted the staggering lack of official response to the saga of our rotten cops. There was no suggestion of disciplinary action by police, of the Commissioner taking responsibility, or of the Minister or even the Opposition demanding answers. Now we know why: because those rotten cops are being investigated and may be prosecuted:

Justice Forrest Miller revealed the police were conducting an internal investigation in a decision which barred media from unfettered access to the court file. He said the possible prosecution of officers involved in the case meant access to the court file needed to be restricted.

He said officers who had testified, which included a detective superintendent, might challenge evidence previously given in the case "were they to be prosecuted themselves".

"An internal police investigation is being held. The Crown assumes that disciplinary action or even criminal proceedings cannot be excluded at this stage."

Presumably the possible charges are those suggested by Justice France in his ruling [PDF]: Swearing a false oath and forgery, which carry penalties of 5 and 10 years respectively.

I'd like to think this will result in accountability for this fiasco, but I'm not going to kid myself. I have no faith in the ability or desire of the police to robustly police their own; after a suitable period, they will decide that there was a lack of criminal intent in their deception of the court, or no public interest in prosecuting the officers who did so. As for internal disciplinary proceedings, again I don't really expect them to amount to anything. Greg O'Connor has made it clear that the police believe these officers were just doing their jobs by committing a fraud on the court, and that the real blame lies with the judge who objected to their unlawful conduct, and police management - assuming they even have any appetite to enforce standards - will probably fold. The result will be that no-one is held accountable for serious (and potentially criminal) misconduct. Which in turn will encourage the police to do it again. As for the underlying problem - a police culture which sees the law as an impediment, not something to be respected and upheld - nothing seems to be being done about that at all.

Maybe I'll be wrong. But really, I doubt it. Our police are a law unto themselves, a gang with a fancier uniform. And they will remain so until we start holding them accountable for their misconduct.