By Robert P. Johnston
This letter is in response to a recent letter to the editor written by Terry Loder regarding comments made by RNC Sgt. Tim Buckle.
Loder’s letter posed several questions and expressed opinions respecting comments purportedly made by Buckle to the media in December of 2012. He provided details in his letter of those comments purportedly made by Buckle to the media and asked whether I believe Buckle’s comments were “appropriate” or “justified.”
My response will address the questions and comments in Loder’s letter which appear to be addressed to me specifically as chief of police of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, however, I think it is important that I first shed some light on the RNC public complaints process.
As a member of the public, Loder had the right to file a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission in relation to the concerns expressed in his recent letter to the editor. There is a six-month limitation period for filing a public complaint against an RNC officer, however, in some circumstances in accordance with Section 22(8) of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act (S.N.L. 1992, c. R-17), the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commissioner can extend that deadline.
It is significant that immediately following receipt of a public complaint, an investigation is conducted by a specifically appointed police officer or an investigator on behalf of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission. Following such an investigation, the RNC chief of police or the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commissioner will make a determination with regard to whether there is any merit to the complaint, and if so, whether the officer who is the subject of the complaint has committed any offence under the RNC Act, or regulations made thereunder.
In the absence of an investigation pursuant to the provisions in the RNC Act, it would not be appropriate for me to offer an opinion regarding whether Buckle’s purported comments were “appropriate” or “justified.” There are many factors which would be explored in the course of a formal investigation that I would need to consider in order to form any opinion regarding the appropriateness of comments attributed to Buckle by the media in this case.
I would note that Loder’s letter omitted some of the comments attributed to Buckle in the media report that it seems he has referenced, such as:
“The current process is more than 20 years old, ties up valuable resources and it is not serving those it was set up for,” and “all of the people involved, at the end of the day, the lawyers get rich and the victim continues to suffer.” (Reference: CBC News, posted Dec. 5, 2012).
Though I have declined to provide an opinion respecting whether Buckle’s purported comments are “appropriate” or “justified,” in the absence of an investigation, I can say that the above-noted comments attributed to Buckle in the media report, which were not included in the summary Loder provided in his letter, appear to be directed at the “process” of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission, as opposed to being a criticism of a citizen’s complaint as Loder has characterized the purported comments.
In his letter, Loder has also expressed concern that my lack of public comment in relation to this matter, is “threatening the integrity of the judicial system.” In response to his concern in this regard, I would note that the case Buckle’s purported comments apparently referenced is still ongoing before an adjudicator appointed by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission. I do not believe it would be consistent with the interests of justice for me, given my role as chief of police of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, to comment publicly on the merits of an ongoing legal matter, so, I will not be doing so in this case.
As chief, however, I am prepared to state that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission provides a vital service to the justice system and to the citizens of this province. The values of our community are enhanced when members of the public can register complaints regarding the conduct of police officers with an independent review authority such as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission, which is tasked with ensuring that police officers use proper restraint in the exercise of their powers and authority and that they do not violate the rights and liberties of members of the public.
I therefore strongly support the work of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission and confirm my belief in the vital importance of this independent review authority to the citizens of this province and to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
Robert P. Johnston is chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.