Outside review of cellblock incidents common practice, experts
By Don Butler, Ottawa CitizenDecember 7, 2010
OTTAWA - Wednesday's decision by Ottawa Police to call in the
OPP to investigate two new cellblock incidents is not unusual, experts
"Whenever critical incidents arise, or things need to be looked
at by a fresh pair of eyes, police don't hesitate to use that," said Ron
Melchers, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa who has worked
closely with police.
Just this summer, a former Ottawa police chief, Vince Bevan,
conducted a review of the Victoria Police Department's cell operations
at the request of Chief Jamie Graham, who was dealing with persistent
allegations of excessive force.
Bevan's report, released in October, made 80 recommendations.
Among other things, it said Victoria police need to do a better job
choosing jail guards and its jail should not house chronic alcoholics
and prisoners from other agencies.
Insp. Dave Ross of the OPP's corporate communications bureau
said other police agencies regularly ask the OPP to investigate internal
incidents, and vice versa.
"We've requested agencies to conduct investigations into the
conduct of our officers before," he said.
Some question whether police investigations of another service
can ever be credible, said Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto
"Critics will argue that police, regardless of what department
they're from, will protect each other's backs," he said.
However, he added, "I think you could make the argument that
the OPP potentially could be more objective in analysing these
situations than the Ottawa police would themselves. It definitely
provides those optics."