Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RCMP Training Postponed Amid Racial Profiling and Abuse Findings

On January 27, the RCMP scrapped a program to send hundreds of police officers to Arizona for drug recognition training after learning that a recent U.S. Department of Justice Report found “reasonable cause to believe” that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had engaged in a practice of misconduct that violated the U.S. Constitution and Civil Rights Act, 1964. The Report, at page 2, also indicates that the violations are to such an extent that the DOJ is prepared to commence civil proceedings against the Sheriff’s Office if it does not comply with a federal judicial process to reform the detachment’s practices immediately.

The DOJ found cause to believe that violations occurred in the following areas: 1. Discriminatory practices including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos; 2. Unlawful retaliation against individuals exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, including but not limited to practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and 3. Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by punishing them and denying them critical services.  

The Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:  1. Failure to implement policies guiding deputies on lawful policing practices; 2. Allowing specialized units to engage in unconstitutional practices; 3. Inadequate training and supervision; 4. An ineffective disciplinary, oversight and accountability system; and 5. A lack of sufficient external oversight and accountability.   

In addition to these formal pattern or practice findings, the investigation uncovered additional areas of serious concern, including:  1. Use of excessive force; 2. Police practices that have the effect of significantly compromising MCSO’s ability to adequately protect Latino residents; and 3. Failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.  

The Report is drawing concern in Canada because the Maricopa County police detachment has partnered with the RCMP for years, with Maricopa officers instructing in Canada and RCMP officers doing “field certification” at the county’s jail. That field work has included having RCMP officers, from both municipal and provincial forces, practice drug recognition training on individuals arrested for allegedly driving while impaired. Although Deputy Commissioner Doug Lang cancelled the partnership with Maricopa within days of being alerted to the Report by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, noting that it brings “into question” certain police practices in Maricopa County.

But some are speculating that the implications span wider than Maricopa County and may impact criminal investigations and cases that are already before Canadian courts, as the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office is said to be responsible for training upwards of 85 percent of all drug-recognition experts in North America. As a result, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Executive Director David Eby has called on the RCMP to conduct a retroactive review to determine if the training RCMP officers have received over the years is reliable and complies with Canadian societal norms and constitutional standards.

According to the Montreal Gazette, RCMP Inspector Allan Lucier responded by saying that although the drug recognition materials the RCMP uses were developed in the United States, they have been modified to ensure they conform to Canadian laws.

Mericopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has called the investigation and attempted reforms politically orchestrated and an “invitation to illegals”. Arpaio is also currently under fire for his office’s failure to properly investigate more than 400 sex crimes, which has also prompted calls for his resignation. The Justice Department has given Arpaio 60 days to reach a court enforceable agreement to reform policing practices and systemic deficiencies at the Mericopa detachment.

Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law III)

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