Friday, August 30, 1991

Jack Lakey

Watchdog entitled to complaints files Eng concedes

Ontario's public complaints commissioner is entitled to review 192 police internal affairs files he has demanded, the chairperson of Metro's Police Services Board says. "If Clare Lewis' interpretation is correct -- that those files properly should have been reported all along -- then we have no option but to turn them over," Susan Eng said in an interview yesterday.

But if Lewis chooses to reopen some files, guidelines are needed to deal with "the administrative burden and the impact on matters that were closed and behind people," Eng added.

"Maybe they have changed their lives and to have (the files) reopened would be problematic for them, and I can understand that," Eng said. "So we have to ask (Lewis) to be mindful of that when he chooses which ones to reopen."

Lewis requested the files, which contain internal affairs investigations into complaints against police, in a letter he sent to police Chief William McCormack. He learned of the files from a report prepared for the attorney general's ministry by retired Ontario Supreme Court justice Richard Holland, who reviewed them.

Holland concluded that 138 of the cases -- some of which date back five years -- should have been refered to the public complaints commission for investigation, but were not.

Complaints commission lawyer Susan Watt has said Lewis wants to see the 138 files, as well as 54 others Holland categorized differently, but is still waiting for Metro police to respond.

Eng said Lewis' request to see the files is now being considered by the police force's legal advisers. But she said she hasn't heard any legal argument that could be used to turn him down.

The issue will be added to the agenda of the next Police Services Board meeting Eng said, so that board members can reach a consensus on Lewis' request.

However, unless an agreement is reached on which files should be reopened, instead of just reviewed, "it would be a tremendous burden for our force as well as the (public complaints commission) to deal with," Eng said.

Board member Norm Gardner said he has no problem with releasing the files to Lewis, providing the confidentiality of both the complainant and the officers involved is maintained.

"I would suggest that some sort of protocol be developed. ... if it is decided that Lewis can have (the files)," Gardner said. "The confidentiality has to be there if police officers are going to have any confidence in Lewis."

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Created: April 14, 1998
Last modified: April 14, 1998

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