Police Governance and Oversight
Police officers are authorized to make arrests, lay charges, investigate crimes, carry weapons and use physical force. Since police officers have legal authority and powers that most citizens do not, police officers in Canada are subject to oversight to ensure those powers are used in the public interest.
There are laws, regulations and oversight agencies in place to direct police and ensure they conduct their duties lawfully and ethically. The Winnipeg Police Board is just one piece of this puzzle.
How ethical policing is defined and overseen in Canada
Laws are the primary tools for defining appropriate use of police powers. Police enforce the Criminal Code of Canada and other legislation. How police treat the people they encounter is governed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, other laws, and precedent-setting court decisions. How police operate in Canada can depend on the region, because of different provincial laws and municipal by-laws.
To hold police accountable, there are also agencies that monitor the police to ensure they operate lawfully and meet the highest ethical standards. The Winnipeg Police Service has its own Professional Standards Unit that investigates potential cases of police misconduct. In Manitoba, concerns about officer misconduct or unethical behaviour can be reported to the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA). For matters where police are involved in the death or serious injury of another person, a provincial agency called the Independent Investigations Unit (IIU) has the authority to investigate.
The Winnipeg Police Board’s role
The Winnipeg Police Board has a proactive, policy-level role to play in promoting ethical policing.The Board establishes policies for the effective management of the Winnipeg Police Service. Contained in these policies are the principles, values and expectations that the Police Chief applies within the Service. The Board has a mandate to monitor the Police Chief’s performance, and holds the Chief accountable for discipline and ethical conduct.
A summary of police oversight laws and structures
Below is a partial list of the laws and agencies that define and oversee the ethical conduct of members of the Winnipeg Police Service.
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Criminal Code of Canada
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Victims’ Bill of Rights
- Security of Information Act
- Law Enforcement Review Agency
- Independent Investigations Unit
- Police Services Act
- Human Rights Code
- Workplace Safety and Health Act
- Ombudsman Act
- Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
- Law Enforcement Review Act
- Highway Traffic Act
- Public Officers’ Act
- Fatality Inquiries Act
- Winnipeg Police Board
- City of Winnipeg Employee Code of Conduct
- City of Winnipeg Workplace Standards
- Winnipeg Police Service