Comment - Where do the OPP get their orders from?

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

November 11, 2009

Throughout the Douglas Creek Estates occupation that continues to this day, Ontario's provincial police force and government have maintained they are at arm's length of each other.

Former Haldimand OPP Insp. Brian Haggith was disappointed by the response from the force's senior officials when he suggested that his officers should start laying charges while crimes are being committed, instead of after the fact, which begs the questions: Exactly where do the OPP officers get their orders? What and who exactly holds them accountable?

Haggith took his orders from a senior superintendent.

Like any employee of any organization, OPP officers surely take direction from their superiors, as a reporter would from an assignment editor, as an assignment editor would from the managing editor and as a managing editor would from his or her publisher.

But once you get to the top dog - in the OPP's case, that would be the commissioner - who comes next in the chain of command?

Within any capacity, employees - especially those serving in a public capacity - are expected to have a sense of ethics.

A reporter shouldn't feel obligated to report untruths or manipulate facts to satisfy the mandate of his or her editor, despite the fact that his or her job may hang in the balance.

Yet a code of scruples is set in stone for some occupations, more than others.

Police officers are bound by legislation and take an oath to uphold duties set out by the Police Services Act.

According to the Act, police officers have the duty to keep the peace and perform the lawful duties that the chief of police assigns, but they are also responsible for preventing crimes, assisting the victims of crime and apprehending criminal and other offenders who may lawfully be taken into custody.

According to Gary McHale, who covered part of the Brown and Chatwell lawsuit trial last week, former OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface agreed that the Haldimand OPP Contract and the Ontario Police Service Act made it a duty to enforce laws on DCE. However, she also ordered Haggith to keep officers off the DCE property. This doesn't add up.

The lawsuit filed by Dave Brown, Dana Chatwell and their son Dax, that claims millions of dollars in damages as a result of misfeasance on the part of senior OPP officials and the Crown, doesn't only pertain to the plaintiffs as individuals, and will certainly be scrutinized not only by the townspeople of Caledonia, but the Province of Ontario and for that matter other jurisdictions across the country, who will surely be keeping a close eye on the outcome.

Originally reported as a $12 million lawsuit against the provincial police and government, the structure of the claim is important, because it essentially divides negligence and blame between the government and police.

As clarified by The Regional News in last week's edition, both sets of damages re not necessarily exclusive and plead different causes of action against different defendants for similar damages.

This point is important, because the claims against senior OPP officials and the government total $5 million respectively.

Both sets of defendants could be held responsible for the strife that Brown and Chatwell have endured. The judge could decided that neither is responsible, or he could very well place blame on one or the other - the police force or government as separate entities - or individual Crown servants and police officers.

The statement of claim says that former OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface and former Haldimand Insp. Brian Haggith "failed to coordinate their efforts with the RCMP during the raid on April 20, 2006, when approximately 100 RCMP officers were stationed at the Mount Hope airport in Hamilton." According to the statement Haggith and Boniface were entitled to utilize the RCMP, pursuant to not only the Police Services Act, but also the Haldimand Police Services Agreement.

Most are familiar with the lawless elements that prevail in Caledonia and know that the provincial government owns the DCE property on which provincial police and Canadian citizens are not allowed.

There is also much speculation that the Ontario government intervened and played a role in how the rule of law was upheld in Caledonia.

According to the statement of claim, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs made an agreement with protesters and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy council on or about April 21, 2006, a day folloowing the OPP's failed raid of DCE. The agreement was not to proceed with any further criminal charges stemming from the April 20 raid.

The plaintiffs argue that such an agreement is outside of authority and improperly interferes with the lawful duties of the OPP.

Even after the fact.