Military Police watchdog investigates whether investigators tampered with report, interfered in case – National

The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating whether the military police tampered with information and threatened subordinates during an investigation of a “misconduct” incident involving one of their own.

President Hilary McCormack decided on August 3 to open an investigation into complaints received by her office regarding the handling of an incident involving an allegedly intoxicated military police member and his children in March 2021.

“These complaints allege that the leadership of the MP unit attempted to cover up the alleged misconduct of an officer in this unit and to improperly accord special treatment to the MP officer involved,” said a statement released Wednesday announcing the investigation.

“The allegations contained in these complaints go to the very heart of police values ​​and ethics. They have the potential to undermine public confidence in the military police and their adherence to the basic tenets of the rule of law, namely the principle of equality before the law.

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According to the statement, the civilian watchdog’s decision to investigate comes after its office received complaints in July and April this year alleging military police interference in the case.

Details are slim, but the statement said the incident at the heart of the complaints occurred on March 10, 2021, at an unknown location. A military police officer, who appeared to be intoxicated, put her children in his car and allegedly tried to drive them home after leaving a restaurant.

Passers-by intervened and prevented her from getting into the car, the statement said.

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Local police arrived at the scene and called the military police after learning that the individual was an officer and ultimately relinquished the jurisdiction of the military.

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Still, the watchdog’s summary of what is happening notes that members of the military police quickly became concerned about how the commander of the military police unit and his sergeant major were handling the case.

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Specifically, the complaints alleged that the military police investigator’s electronic report had been tampered with without that person’s knowledge or consent, and that the unit commander and the sergeant-major “informed to repeatedly the investigator that no charges would be laid regarding the incident ”.

The incident was never reported to the competent Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the statement said, adding that no report has been made to the Professional Standards Office of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal.

In addition, “subordinate members of the MP unit were ordered not to report the incident and threatened those who did with reprimand and / or be assigned to a MP unit. in another region of the country ”.

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Members of the military police unit lodged complaints with the commission in late April 2021.

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Then, in July 2021, another complaint was filed alleging military police interference in a child protection investigation involving the same military police officer involved in the March 10 incident.

Under the National Defense Act, the chairman of the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) has the power to invoke what is called a public interest investigation, which may result in the publication of the report on the case and the holding of possible public hearings.

Such inquiries are conducted when the President has reason to believe that “public confidence would be better served by a more independent and transparent process”.

In an explanatory note attached to the statement, McCormack explained his decision and said the allegations were of a “deliberate attempt” by military police officials to cover up professional misconduct “and to attribute to this officer special treatment because of his status “.

McCormack wrote that the allegations suggest that military police officials “went to great lengths to pressure and intimidate their members to cooperate with the alleged cover-up.”

“Such allegations of concealment and special treatment based on personal status are at the heart of public confidence in the military police,” she wrote in her reasoning.

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“As such, this complaint must be considered quite serious. “

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The Canadian military has been gripped over the past eight months by high-profile allegations of sexual misconduct and a culture that military leaders and military police do not take allegations of misconduct seriously, following an exclusive report from Global News.

Experts described the situation as an institutional “crisis” for the military.

At the heart of the matter, military police dealt with serious allegations against people in leadership positions or prominent ranks, and a culture that was identified in a landmark 2015 report as sweeping allegations involving the chain of command. under the carpet.

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David Perry, defense expert and vice president of the Canadian Institute of World Affairs, said similar allegations have been seen in many civilian police forces and although there is little reason to expect Keeping the military police safe, the allegations come at a particularly difficult time.

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“The timing is certainly not very advantageous for armed forces trying to restore some general and specific credibility in how they can handle investigations, as well as to restore credibility in the conduct of members of the forces. armed forces, ”he added. he said.

“Even the people in these positions in other jurisdictions don’t always behave in a totally flawless or entirely proper manner, but damn it, the timing is not too good.”

Perry noted that the claims will make it clear that “these issues need a little sunshine and they need external involvement.”

“Because what happened inside National Defense just did not live up to expectations outside National Defense,” he said.

Stu Kellock, a retired military police officer, called the allegations “very concerning”.

“It is a very unusual circumstance when members of a particular unit complain about their chain of command to an outside organization which has jurisdiction over such investigations,” he said.

“How can you trust the military police to do the right thing objectively and in accordance with the law when in fact there are allegations of covering up wrongdoing between them? “

Global News contacted the military police to ask if the unit commander and the sergeant major involved in the complaints were still allowed to work on other cases during the investigation.

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Lt.-Cmdr. James Bresolin, spokesman for the military police, said no one has been suspended but that “the professional standards section of the military police is monitoring this file” and is communicating with the complaints committee.

“The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) is cooperating fully with the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), including providing all requested documents, and will continue to do so throughout this investigation of interest. public, ”Bresolin told Global News.

“The Military Police remain committed to supporting the work of the MPCC and fulfilling its accountability to the Canadian public. Given that the MPCC’s investigation is currently ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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