Officers not charged in police probes shouldn't be named, union head says

Officers not charged in police probes shouldn't be named, union head says

The head of Toronto's police union says he agrees with a police oversight report recommendation that says officers should not be publicly named unless they are criminally charged following an interaction in which a civilian is killed or hurt. 

Mike McCormack, who heads the Toronto Police Association, said officers have Charter rights similar to civilians who become part of an investigation but are not criminally charged.

In an interview Tuesday, McCormack told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway that not naming subject officers who don't face charges is "something we strongly support."

"Officers shouldn't have to forgo their Charter rights," he said. "That's not what oversight is about."

McCormack spoke one week after Justice Michael Tulloch released his report on Ontario's three police watchdogs: the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). Tulloch's report includes 129 recommendations aimed at making the three bodies more transparent and accountable.

Recommendations include that all oversight agencies collect demographic data, including race and religion, and release detailed reports each time an officer is cleared of wrongdoing. 

Following the release of Tulloch's report, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced that the province will publish the details of every police-involved fatality dating back to 1990, when the SIU was established.

The report comes as police face increasing scrutiny into how their actions are investigated following incidents that result in death or serious injury to members of the public. Those investigations have been criticized for a lack of transparency. 

Representatives of Black Lives Matter Toronto — whose demonstrations helped lead to the review of police oversight — were disappointed with the decision to shield the identities of officers who aren't charged following SIU investigations.

McCormack said police accept and understand the need for oversight, but said naming officers who are not charged goes too far. He said the situation is similar to criminal investigations, where police must have a "high threshold" before publicly naming someone who becomes part of a police investigation but who does not face charges. 

"We don't go out and announce everybody we're investigating," said McCormack. "But if there's a public safety need or an investigative need to release the identity of somebody that we're looking at, then that identity is released. But there has to be clear criteria for that." 

Ian Scott, former director of the SIU, told Metro Morning on Monday that if the government implements all of the recommendations it will help boost public confidence in policing. Scott also said he agrees with Tulloch's recommendation that officers involved in an incident involving serious injury or death of a civilian not be named if they are not charged.

McCormack said Tulloch's report is part of a "work in progress" that touches on wider issues in improving policing.

Toronto police face many "serious frontline staffing issues" that are affecting morale and must also be addressed, he said.