Reading 7.doc

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22 Mar 2012

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Criminal Justice System
Pg 197-217
Strategies for Police Accountability and Community Empowerment
There is little in either current legislation or practices which broadens the notion of
police accountability beyond the assessment of the performance of individual
officers and its fit with either the criminal law or other policy and procedural
Many of the communities in which the police operate are characterized by high
levels of disorder, tension and conflict
The performance of the police in such contexts can have a significant impact on the
way a community evolves
The problem begins at the conceptual level with the failure to distinguish
adequately between the different potential operational meanings of the general
notion of involving the community (as either a client or a partner) in policing, and
of the more specific concern with relation of police accountability mechanisms to
this process
This concept of accountability should be conceived of as a continuum involving a
number of different options and approaches
The first possibility is to involve the public as complaints in accountability
It reflects the consensus that individual officers must work within the confines and
constraints of the criminal law and other relevant regulations
The result is a tendency to involve the public as victims or witnesses of public
abuse who may bring complaints to the attention of the relevant police authority
Neither the complainant nor the general public exercise any control over the
process beyond the point of the complaint, and many of these processes also fail the
test of transparency
This approach does little or nothing to address problems at the corporate level of a
police service
In addition, it neglects the broader structural factors responsible for current trends
in crime and disorder, and in the maintenance of the legitimacy of the police among
client groups and communities
The second possibility is to include the public as either an advisor to the police or
as a participant in the delivery of policing services
The benefit of this approach is that it goes part of the way towards opening up a
police service to public input
The participation of the public seems to have a beneficial impact on the quality of
the contacts and relations between the police and public
It is still the relatively autonomous police professionals who retain control over
what to do with the public’s input, and over the nature of the activities in which the
public is allowed to participate
The third possibility is to involve the community as a partner in the design and
delivery of policing of policing services
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The focus of accountability here shifts from the individual officer to the police
The concern is to develop structures and processes for addressing and redefining
the problem of the redistribution of power and control in what are supposed to be
partnerships between the police and the community in the co-production of social
Accountability involves giving mobilized community groups and their
representatives a real and significant role within these partnerships
It also places a responsibility on either the police or other levels of government to
assist in the mobilization of disadvantaged groups
4.2 Prosecutor/Defence
Prosecutorial Arrangements and Powers in Canada
There is a complex division of prosecutorial authority between federal and
provincial jurisdiction
Although Canada still has in principle a system of private prosecution in which any
individual can prosecute, in practice the vast majority of criminal prosecutions are
conducted by salaried Crown attorneys under the authority of provincial attorneys
The attorneys general are elected politicians who also serve in Cabinet
The authority for prosecution of criminal offences is but one of the responsibilities
of the attorney general
The majority of criminal prosecutions are conducted by individual Crown
prosecutors who act as agents for the attorney general
Crown prosecutors in Canada are appointed, not elected
The Canadian tradition is that prosecutors play a quasi judicial role in a special
relation to the court
Canadian legislatures and Parliament have repeatedly attempted over the years to
declare criteria on which police discretion is to be exercised in a wide variety of
contexts such as powers to search, arrest, and release prior to trial
Crown attorneys have virtually unfettered discretion as to when to charge, what to
charge and when the charge should be reduced or dropped
Common law powers such as the right to withdraw a charge, give discovery to
defence counsel, and accept a plea bargain have been largely unlimited by the
Statutory powers such as the right to take over a private prosecution, to enter a stay
of proceedings, or to decide in the case of dual offences to proceed by way of
indictment or by way of summary conviction are simply given to the attorney
general or the agents without any statutory guidelines
The prosecutor’s duty is not to seek a conviction, but to see that justice is done
Not all prosecutors succeed in resolving the conflict
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