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Formal public complaints decrease for Calgary Police Service in 2022

Complaints made by the public about Calgary Police officers were down in 2022, according to the service’s annual Professional Standards Section (PSS) report released on Wednesday, prior to the September meeting of Police Commission.

According to statistics released by CPS’s PSS, the number of complaints made by the public were down 14 per cent from 2021, down to 331 formal complaints from 374 from the previous year.

Citizen complaints, a component of the formal complaints made that also includes internal allegations of police misconduct, fell from 331 in 2021 to 285 in 2022—also a 14 per cent decrease.

“I have to give credit to our members in that regard. We’ve seen significant drops in the number of complaints coming in around our police conduct, and if you look at the number of interactions we have it’s actually very small in the number that turned into a public complaint,” said Acting Chief Constable Chad Tawfik.

“To me that speaks to the professionalism of our members and their attention to doing a great job. On the other side of that, our professional standards section is so diligent about handling those investigations quickly and dealing with the people who have concerns in a very efficient way, which is I think the best-case scenario for the public and for our officers.”

Time to complete investigations decreasing

The 2022 annual report indicated that the time taken to address police complaints had dropped by 20 per cent, and increased the number of files closed within a year by 25 per cent.

“We have a number of things, whether it be from the investigative file management within the Professional Standards Section trying to resolve things earlier, but also body-worn cameras have helped us to determine whether there was or was not misconduct,” said A/Chief Tawfik.

Katherine Murphy, Executive Director for Legal and Regulatory Services at the Calgary Police Service, said that the service had been able to rely on body-worn cameras as a way to take away subjectivity in investigations.

She said that the use of body-worn cameras also assists the other aspect that is leading to decreased formal complaints being made: A more robust informal dispute resolution process.

“Sometimes people perceive an event, and maybe it didn’t actually happen that way. But often events are emotionally charged there. They can be traumatic, they can be chaotic. The video provides an objective lens on the event after the fact that is incredibly useful to us in a multitude of ways,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that over 90 per cent of the complaints that come into the Calgary Police Service regarding officer conduct are handled informally, and less than 200 files get transferred to formal investigations each year.

“That said, if we have a file that, for example, includes an allegation of excessive use of force or something serious of that nature, we always investigate those regardless of whether the complainant asks or insists that we proceed. We ensure that complaints of a certain nature, they do move forward and they’re thoroughly looked at in the investigation stage,” she said.

Services provided remains highest source of public complaints

A breakdown of the types of complaints made by the public towards police officer conduct saw that the highest category of complaint made, at 28 per cent, was duties and/or services provided, followed by professionalism at 21 per cent.

Use of force was pinpointed in nine per cent of complaints, which was approximately 26 of the 285 formal complaints made by the public.

A/Chief Tawfik said that there was a hope that the improvement on addressing professional standards complaints towards officers would improve both the public perception of the Calgary Police Service and the morale of officers.

Public trust in CPS declined in 2022, with a report tabled to Police Commission in June that indicated only 77 per cent of Calgarians trusted CPS—down from 85 per cent in 2020.

“We know that timely resolution of concerns that the public may have in their interaction with our members leads to increased confidence. So that’s an important priority for us, and you can see in the report that was released today that we’ve put a lot of effort into that and we’ll continue to do so,” Tawfik said.

The full 2022 Professional Service Standards report is available on the Calgary Police Commission website.