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LETTER: Is there a benefit to revealing police discipline stats?

There may be a right to know this information, but we need to question our need to know that information
20180803-Police building exterior summer-DT
Sault Ste. Marie Police Service building. Darren Taylor/SooToday

The following letter was submitted by Selva Rasaiah on a recent story about access to information on disciplinary actions at the Sault Police Services:

A decision to highlight disciplinary actions taken against officers in the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service (SSMPS) should be evaluated on the benefit to the community.

There may be a right to know this information, but we need to question our need to know that information.

There has been no obvious indication that the performance and effectiveness of the SSMPS has been hindered by officers who have been disciplined or there is apparent problem with the number of officers requiring discipline. 

The information requested is more likely to draw criticism at a time when police are portrayed negatively in the mainstream media as using poor judgement and frequently using excessive force.

Policing is a fulfilling career, but it is physically and mentally demanding.

Daily duties often involve intense situations or dangerous conditions that challenge the most senior officers. It is important to recognize the stress associated with the job that may lead to an officer failing to act or respond appropriately.

There will be situations where excessive force was used or there was a lapse in personal judgment by an officer, but they are not the norm or “status quo.”  

Within the last five years, many communities like the Sault are seeing an increase in drugs crimes and a worsening opioid crisis that burdens local agencies like our police department.

Our local police have been working hard with other agencies to meet these challenges and have been successful at taking many dangerous drugs and firearms off our streets.

It is complex issue, and some residents are frustrated pointing to increasing local crime rates as poor policing.

The rise in crime rates is often a result of repeat offenders in a legal system described as “catch and release” that is beyond the control of any local police force. Also, the budget constraints to deal effectively with increasing crime rates and social issues have increased the burden on local police departments.  

As a society, we emphasize forgiveness and reform of those who commit criminal acts and their right to fair treatment after they have satisfied the conditions of their sentence.

As a community, we need to appreciate and feel confident that officers who require discipline are accepting the faults of their actions and internal processes are administering an appropriate punishment.

It is important to remember the great work of our police force to foster a relationship of trust and appreciation while working together to make our community safe. 

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