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EDITORIAL: Increased police oversight should help

A stack of newspapers
A stack of newspapers - 123RF Stock Photo

There’s nothing wrong with an extra level of oversight. If it means we’re getting it right, it’s worth it. If it means curbing a subculture of untouchables, it’s worth it. If it means accountability for those people seen as having none, it’s worth it. If it means improving public perception, it’s worth it.

The province announced funding to set up its own serious incident response team this week. It will dole out $250,000 to get the project going, and committed to $500,000 annually. According to the province, the team will “investigate all matters involving death, serious injury, sexual offence, and domestic violence as well as other matters of significant public interest that involve police.” Minister Andrew Parsons is also promising increased levels of transparency and trust in the justice system.

Let’s hope this team delivers on that mandate and these promises are made with the intentions of full delivery, far from the ditches of rhetoric.

Increased oversight puts an extra stake in the game for officers of the law. It re-enforces the notion that someone will be watching, and heightens the awareness around professional and law-abiding conduct for those often pegged for ignoring the laws they are tasked with enforcing.

We’ve all heard the news of officers facing serious charges through the court system, and that bitter pill of irony they must swallow as they grapple with the idea they’ve arrested others for those same crimes.

For some officers, the idea the justice system should be delivered with an even hand is foreign. These are the people who need to know an extra level of oversight is needed.

There are more police officers — hopefully most — that will look at this news as irrelevant. To them, the job of enforcement is a serious one, one that is met with sound ethics and thoughtful integrity. They won’t care about civilian oversight because they won’t ever be in a position to have to face any serious incident team. Those are the officers we need, and the ones we rely on.

There are currently five incidents in the province being examined by other teams in the province as well as two in the court system.

Let’s hope this number is high and the new oversight team will have limited work — not because people are not reporting injustices, but because officers are abiding by the very laws they’ve sworn to uphold.

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