The term “oversight” refers to the ongoing monitoring of police activities with a view toward holding each police service accountable for the services it provides, the policies it operates under, and the conduct of its members. The term “governance” refers to the processes and structure used to provide direction to an organization’s operations and activities. It defines the division of power within an organization and establishes mechanisms to achieve accountability between stakeholders, the oversight bodies and police service management.
Civilian oversight of law enforcement is an essential component of our democratic society. Effective civilian oversight and governance of police is essential to ensure that the police service uses its powers and authority in a manner reflecting respect for law and individual rights and freedoms. Ultimately the essential task is to strike a balance between police independence to conduct investigations and maintain order without undue political or other influences, with the need for accountability to the public.
In Alberta civilian oversight of law enforcement begins with Justice and Solicitor General through legislated authority in the Police Act. In Alberta, the police complaints, discipline and appeal process is stipulated through legislation found in the Police Act and Regulation.
Under the Police Act the primary bodies providing oversight and governance are the police commissions, appointed by the local municipal council. For municipalities who engage the RCMP as their municipal police service, official policing committees when established perform a similar mandate.
Police commissions and policing committees provide a vital link between the community and the police, with their role being to balance the requirements of public accountability and those of police independence, and provide an interface between the police service and elected officials. The Police Act of Alberta gives a Commission responsibility for appointing the Chief of Police, and a role in selecting a detachment commander. Both work in establishing policing priorities, allocating funds provided by City Council and establishing policing policies. The day-to-day operation of the police service is the responsibility of the Chief of Police or Detachment Commander and the commission or committee does not become involved operationally.
Civilian Oversight Committee and Commission Resources
The following are resources identified by the Manager of Civilian Oversight and the Provincial Public Complaint Director to assist members of commissions and committees in performing the duties of governance and oversight effectively.
This information identifies commissions and committees throughout the province. It provides contact information at a minimum for the Chair, the Public Complaint Director in each organization. Links to web sites are provided where available. Also included is information regarding the provincial association, the Alberta Association of Police Governance whose mandate is to “support excellence in civilian governance of police services in Alberta”.
A list is available here.
Being a Commission or Committee Member
Our network is based on the hard work of volunteers from communities throughout the province, and each community has its own specific way of selecting members.
Dealing with Complaints – Public Complaint Director (PCD)
The Public Complaint Director’s role is intended to provide an additional avenue for the public to file a complaint about the service or policies of a police service and/or the conduct of police members and otherwise voice concerns they may have about policing in their community. The Public Complaint Director function is a key component in the oversight of law enforcement model in Alberta. This role is continually evolving to meet the needs of the public and challenges of policing stakeholders. Resources listed here will assist in learning about and performing the tasks of this position.
Provincial Public Complaint Director
Policing and Community Safety Branch
Public Security Division
Justice and Solicitor General
10th Flr., J.E. Brownlee Building
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3W7