In an attempt to answer “questions and concerns” in recent months about the Mission RCMP’s investigative process, their media officer posted a nearly 2,000 word explainer about the rules they follow in arresting, or releasing suspects.
Cpl. Jason Raaflaub said his explainer is not in response to any active file, but that he’s seen recurring misconceptions on social media that he wanted to address.
“The newest Criminal Code of Canada is over 2,100 pages and can be quite complex, depending on the topic, so there is no harm in acknowledging you don’t fully understand or maybe were wondering how come this didn’t happen,” he said.
Raaflaub summarized the general themes into three questions/comments:
This person (accused) needs to be punished and/or why aren’t
the Police arresting him/her?
Raaflaub said this sentiment confuses the role of the police, prosecutors, and judges and court system. When police receive emergency or non-emergency calls, a file is started and their job is to determine whether a criminal offence has taken place.
If they believe a crime has occurred, they gather evidence and information from all parties involved, and then forward recommendations to Crown Counsel who decide if the case is strong enough to go to trial.
“Members feel it fitting to make an arrest in some cases, and others not, this varies greatly on each case,” Raaflaub said, adding the first priority is public safety.
If an arrest is made, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom requires police to inform the person about what crime they are suspected of committing, that they don’t have to speak with investigators, and can speak to a lawyer immediately.
Raaflaub said more progress can sometimes be made by having a suspect come in for a “non-custodial” interview.
“Why do I mention all of this? There are investigations that may be handled far better by NOT arresting anyone,” he said. “Throwing handcuffs on every suspect we come across can be counter-productive at times to the greater good of the overall investigation.”
It’s been (weeks, months) since the file occurred, why aren’t criminal charges being sent to Crown Counsel? What’s
taking so long?
RCMP officers are required work within a strict framework when gathering evidence, which can take time and be subject to numerous delays and hurdles, according to Raaflaub.
He gave an example of a simple assault that takes place inside a fast-food parking lot.
If there is CCTV footage, investigations need to make an official request to obtain it from a business, and preferably take an audio recording from the person who burned it to a CD to verify the time and place is correct so no disparities can be argued in court.
If footage of a vehicle is obtained, police would need to run the plates and prove the identity of the suspect driving, which could involve serving ICBC with a production order to obtain a driver’s licence photo.
The image of the driver would then be presented to all witnesses in a photo pack to see if they could pick out the suspect.
Afterwards, a written narrative would need to be typed up by an investigator with every statement, disclosure and piece of evidence included, then proof-read before submission to prosecutors.
Prosecutors will review the file for disparities, and they often request further work before recommending a charge, Raaflaub said.
But numerous factors can complicate and slow the process: detail in victim and witness statements can be weak or inconsistent, for instance, or licence information can be outdated, he said.
More complicated files can involve forensic idents, DNA samples, lab analyses, expert opinions by varying fields, and getting around banking institutions and their privacy protocols.
“All this takes time on top of the member responding to other calls for service in their shift.”
What a joke, the Police released them when they should be in jail!
If an identified suspect is arrested without a warrant, Raaflaub said the criminal code requires their release if: there is no risk of evidence being destroyed, no risk of the crime continuing, no risk of to victim or witness safety, and no risk of the accused not appearing in court.
“We must release that person (usually by way of a promise to appear with an undertaking/conditions) if the above conditions are met,” he said. “It’s that simple. We can’t just arbitrarily hold a person in the Mission cells because we feel like it, there must be sufficient grounds to articulate why we are removing someone’s freedom.”
Raaflaub said exceptions can be made in some cases, such as those involving domestic violence, but that’s up to judges – not police – and typically involves heavier conditions.