PAJ Issue 3 NA

Vol.3

Issue link: http://digital.imedianorthside.com/i/607521

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 47 of 49

O ne of the most important issues in policy development is to make sure that the subject being scrutinized is accurately identified so that the right questions can be asked to help get the most effective answers. This is critical because the converse is true: ask the wrong questions and you will get the wrong answers. Nowhere is this reality more critical than in the ongoing debate regarding what has been called the economics of policing. It appears that the point of the exercise is for all levels of government to figure out how they can cope with the reported increased costs of policing, especially at a time when fiscal restraint is looming due in large measure to their unrestrained spending in other less urgent sectors. Not surprisingly, the superficial answers abound like that there too many police officers or that their salaries are too high. While these are legitimate issues of inquiry, even a cursory analysis reveals that per capita police ratios are not significantly different and rates of wage increases are not much different for other public groups including the lawmakers themselves. So if it's not bloated overpaid police services, then what is the problem? To properly answer that question we need to start by recognizing that policing is not a stand-alone function immune to influence from the multiple environments in which it operates. Policing is, in fact, a critical, but not exclusive, component of our criminal justice system which actually has multiple (hopefully) interacting institutions. Additionally, it is an undeniable reality that what happens, or doesn't happen, in one component of the justice system has significant impact on the others. So let's look at the environment(s) in which modern day policing works and see what changes have occurred that might be relevant to the costs being incurred. The first place to examine, of course, is the criminal court process itself. Since the introduction the Charter some 30 years ago, our court process has evolved (devolved?) into one whose primary function is not to determine innocence or guilt or even find the truth about what happened in a particular incident into one where the dominant issue is…is the evidence admissible? This change of focus has been gradual but ours is now unquestionably a process focused system. Forget the incriminating nature of what was found after the search or heard on the wiretap, the issue has become did the cops fill out the right forms and comply with every nuance known or suggestible because if they didn't the evidence will almost certainly be inadmissible and without evidence a not guilty verdict is inevitable. And when you're in the well paid business of helping people avoid criminal responsibility for their actions, that's what counts. A process focused system is also one inherently prone to delay as evidence takes a back seat to admissibility. It also doesn't help that we've developed a legal aid system where the amount paid to lawyers is based on how long it takes to complete the case. Throw in an antiquated duplicative hearing process and you can begin to understand why more cops spend their day filling out paperwork and cooling their heels waiting to testify than doing foot patrols or solving B&Es. The good news is that if we ask the right questions there are improvements that can be made like increasing mandatory provincial court jurisdiction, using the Contraventions Act for minor offences, defining content (in des- ignated Forms) for judicial authorizations to obtain evidence and moving to a full time salaried Legal Aid system rather than one that rewards delay. Let's also make sure that we do everything we can at our border (and between ports of entry), including with analytical surveillance technol- ogy, to stop the illegal entry of guns, drugs and people because what gets through at the border ends up on our streets and all too often as a police responsibility. Police officers are also involved in crime prevention through participation in mental health, addiction, housing and education partnerships which are incredibly effective but which take time and police resources. It's also worth noting that vast bureaucracies existed in these areas previously but results only seem to materialize when the cops get involved. How about providing funding from those sectors to support the police involvement rather than just complain about increased policing costs. The economics of the justice system is an important and complex issue where we need to ask the right questions to ensure we get the right answers. If we do, real progress is possible. - Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer to the Canadian Police Association, Director of Opera- tions to the Washington D.C. based Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada. Mr. Newark is a regular contributor to the Police Advocates Journal. 44 w w w . p o l i c e a d v o c a t e s j o u r n a l . c o m THE ECONOMICS OF POLICING Ask the right questions if you want the right answers BY SCOTT NEWARK The economics of the justice system is an important and complex issue where we need to ask the right questions to ensure we get the right answers. PHOTO: Stéphane Brunet

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of PAJ Issue 3 NA - Vol.3