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Outgoing commissioner wants P.E.I. public to bring police complaints directly to his office

P.E.I. Police Commissioner Gerard Mitchell welcomes what he calls pending legislation to broaden the powers of his office. Mitchell is set to retire from the job he has held since late 2009.
P.E.I. Police Commissioner Gerard Mitchell welcomes what he calls pending legislation to broaden the powers of his office. Mitchell is set to retire from the job he has held since late 2009. - Jim Day

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The outgoing police commissioner would like people to be able to bring complaints they have of police officers directly to his office.

That, notes Gerard Mitchell, is currently not the case.

Complaints against police initially go to the police department. Mitchell believes all complaints should come to the police commissioner first.

“The (current) set up keeps people from making the complaint,’’ says Mitchell.

“They (potential complainants) don’t want to go where the officer works.’’

Mitchell, 74, says he has been surprised with the low volume of complaints received by his office since he was appointed police commissioner in late 2009.

“It wasn’t nearly as busy a job as I thought it would be,’’ he says.

“We had very few complaints over the years – a lot of them we were able to resolve without too much difficulty.’’

“It wasn’t nearly as busy a job as I thought it would be ... We had very few complaints over the years – a lot of them we were able to resolve without too much difficulty.’’

Mitchell, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of P.E.I., says not a single complaint went to a hearing during his lengthy tenure as police commissioner.

He believes pending legislation will broaden the powers of the Office of the Police Commissioner.

“The P.E.I. Act is restrictive in what we have jurisdiction to deal with,’’ he says.

Mitchell was initially appointed to a five-year term before signing on to a three-year extension and a three-month extension that ends March 31.

However, he will remain in the job until a replacement is found.

The province is now accepting applications for the position.

Qualified lawyers with at least 10 years of experience who have knowledge of law enforcement issues and experience participating in hearings or experience as a former judge of the provincial court, Supreme Court or Court of Appeal are encouraged to express interest by March 30.

The Office of the Police Commissioner is mandated to ensure civilian oversight of police agencies on the Island, including the Atlantic Police Academy and UPEI Security Services.

The Office is independent and provides an appeal process for a complainant, or a police officer whose conduct is the subject of a complaint. It also provides independent investigations of serious incident reports.

The Office does not have jurisdiction over the RCMP, which has its own complaints procedure.

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