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Calgary Police professional standards report shows increasing trend of informal complaints

A newly released annual report from the Calgary Police Service is showing a growth trend in informal concerns, and formal complaints against officers.

The Professional Standards Section released their 2021 annual report on Thursday.

The service saw 374 formal complaints filed in 2021, versus 404 in 2020. However, citizen-led complaints were on the rise, with 331 in 2021 versus 298 in 2020. This continues an overall trend upwards over the past decade in the number of complaints made by citizens.

Complaints made internally by the service fell to 43 from 106 in 2020. The overall trend has been also been increasing over the past decade, rising from 21 and 23 complaints in 2013 and 2014, to between 36 and 106 in the past five years.

There has been a rise in some complaint areas, but there’s been a substantial increase in calls for service. In 2021, the CPS recorded more than 550,000 calls for service. In 2013, it was just over 295,000 calls. So there’s been an 86 per cent increase.

“We continue to work diligently to improve our processes to resolve complaints efficiently and effectively and to ensure pertinent information was shared with our stakeholders,” said Katherine Murphy, executive director for Legal and Regulatory Services at the Calgary Police Service.

Formal complaints are those that meet the standards outlined in section 45 of the Police Act, and cannot be informally resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The Professional Standards Section also closed 424 files in 2021, which was an increase over the 348 closed in 2020.

The average number of days it took the Calgary Police Service to resolve formally investigated complaints also fell. The service indicated that this fell to 555 days, or 18 months, in 2021. This was down from 658 days, or 21 months, in 2020. The five year average for resolution is 20 months.

The service’s alternative dispute resolution process took on average 47 days to resolve complaints in 2021.

The annual report indicated that police were developing a plan to increase the use of the alternative resolution process, and would be creating indicators for the public to better communicate the outcomes.

Among these, would be the percentage of professional standards investigations opened and closed within 12 months, the number of citizen complaints advanced to investigations within 60 days, and the per cent of complaints from racialized communities.

Informal complaints on the rise

Informal complaints, and requests for information from police rose for the third year. In 2021, Calgarians filed 976 requests, versus 888 in 2020, and 831 in 2019. The number of requests remain below the high of 1088 in 2016.

Police said in a statement that only a small portion of the more than 550,000 calls for service resulted in complaints from the public.

"This indicates that only a small portion—approximately 0.07 per cent of calls for service—gave rise to a complaint," they wrote.

The number of internal allegations of police misconduct fell from a high of 106 in 2020, to 43 in 2021. The number of allegations had generally been on the rise since the beginning of the 2010s.

Reporting of the number of criminal offences by officers was 34 last year. This was just slightly below the 5 year average of 37. The number of reported offences began increasing in 2015.

"We believe we are on the right track toward modernizing the complaints process and increasing our transparency when it comes to our interactions with citizens,” said Murphy.

The 2021 annual report is available from the City of Calgary now on Calgary.ca. The City of Calgary also publishes all of the professional conduct hearing dates, and information about the complaint process.