The Dispatch | Vol. 5, No. 2, April 2023


Let’s Not Distort the Message in Recent Calls for Justice Reform

Norman E. Taylor
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being

It should come as no surprise to anyone that police, among other responders and service providers across the CSWB spectrum, are increasingly expressing their frustration with courtroom decisions that appear to undermine public safety and the personal safety of those professionals. It has been a tragic eight months in Canadian policing, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. However, it might be far too easy for some to interpret this recent call from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP a) too simply, as yet-another echo of failed ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric. It is so much more than that.

Amid valid attention on the reckless treatment of violent repeat offenders, and understandable pleas for more courageous advocacy and fairness for the policing profession, police leaders have shown wisdom in their inclusion of two additional demands:

▪ shared responsibility and accountability for the gaps and limitations in Canada’s public safety model by stakeholders other than the police; and,
▪ immediate investments in the health, social, judicial and public safety infrastructure to support community-engaged policing.
shared responsibility and accountability for the gaps and limitations in Canada’s public safety model by stakeholders other than the police; and,
immediate investments in the health, social, judicial and public safety infrastructure to support community-engaged policing.

The past decade has unfortunately shown us that these are the demands most likely to be ignored by senior policy makers. These are the most complex and challenging to pursue. They are the least likely to appeal to those who like to write about or hear about simplistic headline solutions. They also represent the only true and healthy pathways to community safety and well-being.

It is encouraging that the requested summit with the Council of the Federation took place on April 21. Even more encouraging is the following statement included in the CACP’s follow up messaging (CACP b):

“Premiers play a critical role in implementing a more integrated and balanced social infrastructure to appropriately address the demands for service that require the combined efforts and expertise of police, health, and community services in communities across the country.”

However, it still appears that the most decisive actions remain focused on detaining more people. One could easily surmise that the message for the public is that there are not enough people in our prisons. Having recently been part of a provincial Chief Coroner’s expert panel on deaths in custody, I can confirm that this is not the case. Our provincial custody facilities across Canada are for the most part bursting at the seams, and they are becoming truly dangerous places. They are not dangerous because of roving thugs. They are dangerous because the predominant profile of persons in custody is wrong: wrong from a public health perspective; wrong from a criminal justice perspective; wrong from a social equity perspective; and, wrong for the safe design and operation of almost all of our provincial-territorial custodial facilities.

Among a frightening number of deaths in custody over the past 8 years in Ontario, as just one example among other jurisdictions, the most common manner of death has been acute drug toxicity, and next after “natural” (a questionable commentary on in-custody health care), comes death by suicide. Notably, almost none of those who died were repeat violent offenders, and many might never have been convicted of the charges that put them there on remand. One of the most aggravating factors in their safety and well-being while in custody is the growing frequency of lockdown conditions, necessitated almost entirely by acute staffing and capacity shortages.

In the CACP statement following their summit with the Council, they also state:

“… too many individuals with mental disorders who pose a significant threat to public safety are not being held accountable for their actions and are being released back into the community without the appropriate care or restrictions required.”

While true on the face of it, let’s also remember there is a corollary to that sentiment. Too many individuals with mental disorders, alongside substance use conditions, inadequate housing, gripping poverty, and marginalization due to racial and post-colonial inequities, are being defaulted to the criminal justice system as a direct result of inadequate care and community support alternatives. As our panel wrote in our final report An Obligation to Prevent (OCC 2023), “the solutions range from simple to frustratingly complex.” Let’s not pretend otherwise, as policy makers continue to favour the former over the latter.

Shouldn’t they also be held accountable for their actions … or more to the point, for their inaction?


CACP April 3 (2023). Correspondence from Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to Premier Stefanson, MB. Retrieved April 23, 2023 from https://www.cacp.ca/index.html?asst_id=3362

CACP April 21 (2023). CACP Statement: Discussing public safety and policing with Canada’s provincial and territorial Premiers. Retrieved April 23, 2023 from https://cacp.ca/index.html?asst_id=3368

OCC (2023). An Obligation to Prevent: Report from the Ontario Chief Coroner’s Expert Panel on Deaths in Custody. Pending online publication. Please contact OCC.inquiries@ontario.ca


Police Operational Independence: Upholding the Rule of Law

Cal Corley, MBA
CEO, Community Safety Knowledge Alliance

During a recent conversation, a former police chief and friend of mine remarked, “Policing is not a political activity - but all policing activities are political”. The operational independence of the police from political influence is a matter of growing interest and importance in Canada.

The operational independence of the police is a quasi-constitutional principle established in Canadian law through a number of superior court decisions, most notably the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. vs Campbell (1999). It is an important feature of the Rule of Law. While governments (generally through police boards) decide important policy issues about policing, they must refrain from providing direction to the police on matters such as whether and whom to investigate, prosecute, or arrest. In our liberal democracy, such operational decisions rest solely with the police.

The principle was most recently examined by both the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) and the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission (MCC). In the POEC report, Justice Rouleau pointed to an overall general lack of understanding of this important principle: to one extent or another, various senior government officials, police leaders and police boards lacked the relevant understanding and knowledge concerning this important principle and its practical application. This negatively impacted police-government and police-police board communications, information sharing, and ultimately affected problem solving and decision making concerning the protest-related events in early 2022.

Our own research also concluded that police operational independence is generally not well understood by many within, in what we refer to as the police governance and accountability ecosystem, which is comprised of the police (all levels), police boards and elected/senior government officials. The principle is not absolute, and interpretations of jurisprudence have evolved over time, but improving our individual and collective understanding - and how to recognize and deal with political interference when it does happen - is key to ensuring we maintain the Rule of Law and enhance public confidence in the police and other government institutions.

As Justice Rouleau noted, the police must carefully balance being accountable to government, while at the same time ensuring that operational decisions are completely independent of government. This is important because in the absence of appropriate independence, there is a real risk of politicizing community safety and the front end of the criminal justice system. Alternatively, too much independence on the part of the police can alienate the police from the communities they serve, and risk bringing about unwanted police excesses.

The MCC report (Volume 5) made three key recommendations to clarify roles and responsibilities and ensure transparency of political direction to the police. While provided in an RCMP-specific context, the recommendations should resonate across Canadian policing. The report can be found here: https://masscasualtycommission.ca/files/documents/Turning-the-Tide-Together-Volume-5-Policing.pdf.

Here at the CSKA, we are close to finishing a months-long research project on this topic. Our forthcoming report will pick up on many of these same themes while building on some of the findings and recommendations outlined above and provide additional insight and practical recommendations that we hope will contribute to the national discourse and the improvements to the status quo that are so necessary.

I agree with my friend’s aphorism - that policing is not a political activity, but all policing activities are political. Bottom line is that whether you are a front-line constable, a chief of police, a member of a police board, or an elected/senior government official who interacts with the police, there is probably no better time to take stock of your understanding of the principle of police operational independence. This knowledge is central to your effectiveness in the increasingly complex and multi-dimensional theatre of policing and community safety. Our democracy, our communities and upholding the Rule of Law depend on it! More to follow…stay tuned.


JCSWB Website Upgraded

We are pleased to announce that we have upgraded the Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being’s website and peer-review platform through Open Journal Systems (OJS).

OJS is an open source journal management and publishing system that was originally developed by the Public Knowledge Project through its federally funded efforts to expand and improve access to research. With over 10,000 journals on the platform, it is the most widely used open source journal system worldwide.

The Journal has been upgraded to OJS version 3.3, which has a simplified dashboard navigation menu and new features related to submission management and communicating with users.

Some of the features of OJS 3.3 include:
• Modernized look and feel including an enhanced mobile site
• A cleaner interface and simplified navigation for our Authors, Editors and Reviewers
• Quicker submission process for Authors - Authors can now upload multiple files at once as well as drag-and-drop files. Once all files are uploaded, Authors can easily select the appropriate file type (ie. manuscript file, figure, cover letter, etc.)
• Enhanced editorial tools to assist with peer review management

We look forward to your next visit to the JCSWB website and hope you enjoy the system enhancements and new features! And be sure to follow along on Twitter for helpful system tips and tools for Authors and Readers.


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Trusted Scholarly Publisher

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Dr. Vivien Lee, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Contributing Editor, JCSWB

Dr. Vivien Lee is the Chief Psychologist for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Bureau Commander of the OPP Healthy Workplace Team. In this role, she oversees a Bureau with a mandate to support OPP members, families, retirees, and auxiliary officers. Dr. Lee is the clinical advisor for Boots on the Ground, which provides 24/7 telephone peer support to first responders and a Board Director for Toronto Beyond the Blue, which provides support to families of Toronto Police Service members.

Dr. Lee serves on the Psychological Services Committee of the Canadian Association Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Service Provider Reference Group with the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, and the Service Delivery Working Group for the 988 mental health crisis and suicide prevention line in Canada, She is a member of the Academic, Research, and Clinician (ARC) Network with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) and a graduate of the Police Executive Leadership Program at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

Dr. Lee previously served as a Board Director on the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) and as an ex-officio member of the Traumatic Stress Section of the Canadian Psychological Association. Particular interests include: early intervention; evidence-based return-to-work practices; and family, peer, and organizational support.


Have you had the chance to read our March issue? To view the Table of Contents and articles from this issue, please visit:


Highlights from this issue include:

Our flock of young seagulls
Michael DeValve

Decriminalization of the possession of illicit substances for personal use: A proposed theory of change to improve community safety and well-being outcomes in Canada
[Original Research]
Janos Botschner, Julian M. Somers, Cal Corley

Sex buyers’ attitudes: A study of Toronto’s online "Escort Review Board"
[Original Research]
Rock Leung, Mikhaela Gray-Beerman

Defunding the police: Reflecting on the US experience and lessons learned for Canada
[Social Innovation Narrative]
Cal Corley, Mark Reber

Ethical images and storytelling amidst differing expectations
[Social Innovation Narrative]
Oluchi G. Ogbu

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