The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has decided that a call for an investigation into the treatment of a former RNC officer by the Public Complaints Commissioner was outside the commissionerâs jurisdiction.
Former RNC chief Robert Johnston. â Telegram file photo
The issue was brought before the Supreme Court when former RNC chief, Robert Johnston, objected to the ruling of the Public Complaints Commissioner, John Rorke. Rorke had called for an investigation into the treatment of former RNC Const. Christopher Dicks.
Dicks alleged that between November 2010, just two months after he joined the force, until he took sick leave in March 2012, he suffered severe and overwhelming stress due to his relationships with his five supervisors. During his sick leave he was ordered back to work and was informed failure to do so would result in dismissal. Dicks said he wanted to return to work, but to be with another unit with different supervisors. The force refused to accommodate him, he contended, so he resigned in July of 2013.
After he was no longer employed with the RNC, Dicks made a complaint to Rorkeâs office, which was accepted, and an investigation into the matter was called for by Rorke. Court documents show Johnston took exception to the complaint being accepted because Dicks was an officer at the time and the matter of the complaint concerned events affecting his employment relationship with his superiors in the RNC and his ability to do his job properly.
Johnstonâs argument was that since the complaint dealt with Dicksâ employment as an officer it was outside the jurisdiction of the Public Complaints Commissioner, even though Dicks wasnât employed with the RNC when the complaint was made. Since the complaint dealt with Dicksâ employment as an officer, the complaint should be handled by the chief. Rorkeâs response: âThe status of the individual who makes the complaint at the time it is filed is paramount; since as a former officer he is now a member of the public, the complaint is a valid one.â
In other words, the complaint stood as far as Rorke was concerned and he wanted an investigation.
However, the Supreme Court agreed with Johnston.
Judge Alphonsus Faour writes in court documents that, âThe issue of whether a complaint is made by a police officer or a former police officer is not relevant. What is relevant is the substance of the complaint: does it fit the kind of conduct which the legislation contemplates should be dealt with by the Commissioner?â
In this case, the answer was no as far as Faour was concerned. Faour also says that legislation gives Rorke jurisdiction to examine police conduct which is directed towards a member of the public. Internal matters, however, are a different story. They are outside Rorkeâs jurisdiction. The Supreme Court therefore quashed Rorkeâs decision to accept Dicksâ complaint and call for an investigation into the matter.
This story has been edited to correct information identifying the court that heard this case.