November 12, 2016 – Research on the Ottawa Police Service’s Professional Standards Section



What are the Roles and responsibilities of Ottawa Police Service ‘s Professional Standards Section (PSS) ?

  • Investigate public complaints at the direction of the OIPRD (conduct and policy / service)
  • Investigate Chief’s complaints and internal complaints (civilian members)
  • Liaise with the SIU
  • Field calls to the section’s ‘must answer line’
  • Conduct training for new recruits, supervisor course, patrol shift briefings

What are the Types of complaints?

A. Conduct complaint:

Involves an allegation(s) that a member of the Service acted inappropriately either on or off duty.

B. Policy / Service complaint:

Involves a complaint about a specific policy of the Service or the manner in which policing services are delivered

Conduct complaints:

  • Police officers in the Province of Ontario are governed by the Police Services Act, a statute which prescribes how police agencies are to provide policing services and includes a Code of Conduct.
  • When an allegation is made against a police officer, the subsequent investigation must determine if misconduct can be substantiated based on the Code of Conduct.
  • If misconduct is substantiated, the police officer is subjected to the appropriate discipline.

Policy / Service complaints

  • Police services create policies within their organizations to ensure they are compliant with the PSA but also with provincial Adequacy Standards on policing.
  • When a complaint about a policy of the Service or the manner policing services are delivered is made, an investigation is initiated to determine if the Service’s policies are in-line with the PSA and provincial Adequacy Standards.
  • The findings of these investigations are reported to the Ottawa Police Services Board.

How a complaint is initiated

Public complaint:

  • Since 2009, anyone wishing to file a complaint about the conduct of a police officer or the policies / service of a police agency must do so through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).
  • When someone submits a complaint to the OIPRD, the OIPRD decides whether or not the complaint will be investigated.
  • If the complaint is screened in for investigation it is usually referred back to the police service for investigation by the Chief.
  • The Chief delegates the investigation to his/her PSS.

Chief’s complaint:

  • In some circumstances the service becomes self-aware of misconduct on the part of its members either through reporting from within the service or from outside the service.
  • The Chief is briefed and can decide to initiate an investigation into the allegation(s).
  • If misconduct is substantiated the police officer is subjected to the appropriate discipline.

How an investigation works

  • The file is assigned to a sergeant in the Professional Standards Section
  • Respondent officer(s) (who the complaint is about) and witness officer(s) are identified, notified of the complaint and ordered to provide a written response to the allegation(s).
  • In some cases respondent and witness officers are interviewed instead of ,or in addition to, providing written responses.
  • Reports and duty books notes are reviewed.
  • Civilian witnesses (including the complainant) are identified and interviewed (if willing).
  • Other evidence is gathered and analyzed (video, GPS data, etc).
  • The investigator determines if the allegation(s) can be substantiated, if yes, then determination made if serious or less serious.

Main differences between public and Chief’s complaint investigations

  • Upon completion of a public complaint investigation, the report is submitted to OIPRD and the public complainant.
  • The public complainant can request that the OIPRD review the investigation if they are not satisfied with the decision.
  • If the OIPRD conducts a review and determines the investigation was not done properly it can direct the Chief to re-investigate all or part of the file or it can take over the investigation and re-investigate itself.
  • If misconduct is substantiated, the public complainant is consulted about the disciplinary process and should a PSA hearing be held, the public complainant has standing throughout the process.
  • The OIPRD mandates that investigations be completed within 120 days.
  • When a Chief’s complaint investigation is completed, the report is provided to the Chief for his review and approval.
  • The report is considered confidential and is not shared outside of the Service.
  • The discipline process is the same however complainant(s) are not consulted on the disciplinary process and do not have standing at any PSA hearings.
  • There is no mandated timeline for the completion of a Chief’s complaint investigation.
  • The PSA does stipulate that a police service must lay misconduct charges within 6 months of learning of the alleged misconduct (if exceeds 6 months, needs PSB approval).


  • If misconduct is substantiated, a determination must be made as to whether it is serious misconduct or less serious misconduct.
  • If the misconduct is deemed to be serious, the police officer is issued with a Notice of Hearing form which sets out the charges they face under the PSA.
  • If the misconduct is deemed to be less serious, the police officer is offered Informal Discipline (forfeiture of pay, counseling, training) in lieu of a formal hearing process.
  • If the officer refuses to accept the Informal Discipline the matter is dealt with through the formal hearing process.

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