Special Investigations Unit

Special Investigations Unit

infobox Organization
name = Special Investigations Unit

image_border =
size = 162px
caption = The SIU Logo

msize = 250px
mcaption = SIU Headquarters, Mississauga, Ontario
abbreviation = SIU
motto = One Law
formation = 1990
type = Civilian Oversight
purpose = Increase the confidence of the people of Ontario in their police services by conducting professional and independent investigations of incidents involving the police that have resulted in serious injury, including sexual assault, or death.
headquarters = 5090 Commerce Boulevard, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 5M4
region_served = Ontario
language = English and French
leader_title = Director of the SIU
leader_name = James Cornish - outgoing
affiliations = CACOLE
website = [http://www.siu.on.ca SIU]
Telephone = 1-416-622-0748
Facsimile = 416-622-2455
Toll Free = 1-800-787-8529
E-Mail = inquiries@siu.on.ca
remarks =

The Special Investigations Unit (“SIU” or the “Unit”) of Ontario, Canada, is a civilian agency responsible for investigating circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault. The SIU is dedicated to maintaining one law, ensuring equal justice before the law among both the police and the public. [ [http://www.cnw.ca/en/releases/archive/April2008/06/c3014.html CNW Telbec | SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT | SIU Investigating Incident in Brant County ] ] Their goal is to ensure that the criminal law is applied appropriately to police conduct, as determined through independent investigations, increasing public confidence in the police services. [Annual Report 2005/2006] Complaints involving police conduct that do not result in a serious injury or death must be referred to the appropriate police service or to another oversight agency, such as the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. [ [http://www.occps.ca Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services ] ]


As a civilian law enforcement agency, the SIU has the power and authority to investigate and charge police officers with criminal offences. The SIU is a unique investigative provincial body, representing approximately 23,000 police officers from municipal, regional, and provincial services. [2006/2007 SIU Annual Report] However, the SIU does not have the authority to investigate First Nations constables or Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers.Ontario is the first and only province to have such a civilian oversight agency in place, and one of the few jurisdictions worldwide with an independent civilian agency. As a result, the SIU has become a model of civilian oversight for other jurisdictions in the light of the international movement towards greater civilian accountability of the police [ [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/adams/background.asp Ministry of the Attorney General - Background ] ] . Civilian oversight of police services has become an important accountability mechanism to police powers. The role of the SIU is not necessarily to lay charges against police officers but to investigate and to assure the community that the conduct of the police is subject to independent scrutiny. [2006/2007 Annual Report] The SIU strives to maintain community confidence in Ontario’s police services by assuring the public that the actions of the police are subject to independent investigations. They are completely independent of the police and have an arms-length relationship with the government. This means that although the SIU Director reports to the Attorney General, the decision-making on cases and their day-to-day activities are independent of the government [ [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca Ministry of the Attorney General / Ministère du Procureur général ] ] .


We are always striving for understanding of
SIU by community and police throughout Ontario;
We strive for stability through shared leadership and
individual empowerment in a continually changing environment;
We believe in open, respectful communication
in all directions to promote common understanding;
We inspire excellence through teamwork;
We invest where it matters: in our talent, tools and training;
We are committed to being a great place to work. [Annual Report 2006/2007]


We are a skilled team of civilians
dedicated to serving Ontario’s diverse communities.
We conduct thorough and unbiased investigations where someone is
seriously injured, alleges sexual assault or dies when involved
with the police.
Our independence in seeking and assessing all the evidence
ensures police accountability, inspiring the confidence of all in
the work of the SIU.
[Annual Report 2006/2007]


*Dedicated [Annual Report 2006/2007]


Before the SIU, police services investigated themselves or in some instances, another police service was assigned to conduct the investigation. In 1988, the Ontario government established the Task Force on Race Relations and Policing as a result of a fatal shooting by police of two black men. During the hearings conducted by the Task Force, there was public concern about the integrity of the process in which police officers investigated other police officers, particularly of police shootings where a member of the public had been wounded or killed. There was a lack of public confidence in a system where police policed themselves. [The Report of the Race Relations and Policing Task Force. Toronto, Ont.: Ontario Race Relations and Policing Task Force.] The Task Force’s report recommended changes in the law on the use of force by the police. As a result, the SIU was formed in 1990 under a new "Ontario Police Services Act" [ [http://www.canlii.org/on/laws/sta/p-15/20040503/whole.html Police Services Act ] ] . Initially, the SIU was headquartered in Toronto, but in 2000 it moved to the current location at 5090 Commerce Boulevard, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 5M4.


There are two ways that the SIU becomes notified: by police officers or by public request. The police are legally obligated to notify the SIU to report any incidents that may fall within the SIU’s jurisdiction, which is set out in section 113 of the Police Services Act [ [http://www.canlii.org/on/laws/sta/p-15/20040503/whole.html Police Services Act ] ] . Also, the SIU receives and acts on many requests from members of the media, lawyers, coroners, medical professionals, and people who feel the police have injured them. Once the SIU is notified, an Investigative Supervisor gathers information to determine whether the complaint/incident falls within their mandate. If so, they will begin investigating. [ [http://www.siu.on.ca Special Investigations Unit ] ]

The Investigation

The objective of every SIU investigation is to determine whether there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police. Although the circumstances of every case are unique, the approach to most investigations is the same. The investigative process begins by assigning a lead investigator and as many investigators, forensic identification technicians, and resources as necessary. [Annual Report 2006/2007]

Investigations typically involve:
* Examining the scene and securing all physical evidence;
* Seeking out and obtaining the cooperation of witnesses and taking their statements;
* Monitoring the medical condition of those who have been injured, notifying the families in death cases and keeping them informed on the progress of the investigation;
* Consulting with the coroner if there has been a death;
* Securing potentially relevant police equipment for forensic examination; and
* Submitting an investigation brief, which is reviewed by the Investigative Supervisor, the Executive Officer and finally, the Director. [Annual Report 2006/2007]

Once all of the facts are gathered, the Director then makes a decision whether there are reasonable grounds to lay a criminal charge against a police officer.

IU Investigators

SIU investigators come from both civilian and police backgrounds. In the 2006-07 fiscal year, the majority of the full-time investigators came from civilian backgrounds. All of the Unit’s investigators have extensive experience investigating serious incidents, such as deaths, sexual assault allegations, serious assaults, shootings, and motor vehicle incidents. The average investigative experience among over 40 investigators and forensic identification technicians is 29 years. [Annual Report 2005/2006] SIU investigators now have state-of-the-art audio video rooms, secure evidence and file storage facilities and project rooms. [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/adams/recommendations1to8.asp Ministry of the Attorney General Report on the SIU Recommendations]

IU Forensics Identification Team

In the beginning, due to a shortage of resources, the SIU often relied on the OPP for forensic investigation assistance and would involve the police services for interviewing witnesses. Similarly, there were also many cases where the SIU would allow the police service involved in the investigation to investigate the entire incident, while the SIU oversaw that investigation. This was a problem because the public still saw the police being policed by the police. As a result, the SIU's budget was increased to $4.7 million in the 1999-2000 fiscal year. [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/adams/recommendations1to8.asp Ministry of the Attorney General Report on the SIU Recommendations]

Currently, the SIU is equipped with their own in-house forensic identification team, staffed entirely by civilians. They are now well equipped with tools and personnel [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/adams/recommendations1to8.asp Ministry of the Attorney General Report on the SIU Recommendations] . The in-house forensic identification team is an important part of most investigations. It is managed by two supervisors and staffed by a handful of forensic identification technicians and includes a fully equipped laboratory. They are not equipped with enough scene examination and evidence gathering supplies to investigate effectively [http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/adams/recommendations1to8.asp Ministry of the Attorney General Report on the SIU Recommendations] The forensics identification team is responsible for protecting, collecting, preserving, and analyzing the physical evidence. Their duties include: the interpretation of trace evidence and recording of the autopsy process. The team has particular expertise in several areas of forensics, including; collision reconstructions, scene mapping, and bloodstain pattern analysis. They will also liaise with scientists at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Ontario and other external experts for DNA analysis and ballistics. [Annual Report 2005/2006]

The Director

Most SIU investigations lead to a decision by the Director about whether she or he has reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence has occurred. If the director does not feel that a criminal offence has occurred, the Attorney General is notified in a written report and the case is closed. If the director believes that a criminal offence has occurred, a charge is laid and the SIU refers the matter to the Justice of Prosecutions of the Criminal Law Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General. The charge is then prosecuted through the courts. [Annual Report 2006/2007]

List of directors:

* Ian D. Scott QC 2008-
* James Cornish 2004-2008
* John Sutherland LLB 2003-2004 - former provincial Crown Attorney
* Peter A. Tinsley LLB 1999-2002 - now Chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission
* Andre Marin 1996-1998
* James M. Stewart QC 1996 - acting director
* Mr. Justice John Osler 1990-5

The Affected Persons Coordinator (APC)

Dealing in a compassionate and respectful manner with injured persons and families of those whose deaths are subject of an investigation is a top priority. To highlight this commitment, an Affected Persons Coordinator (APC) position was developed in 2005, contributing to the ability of the Unit to respond meaningfully to the social needs of those persons impacted by the SIU investigations. The APC takes the lead in liaising with affected individuals and/or families. The primary function of the APC is to do a very specific kind of outreach by helping persons impacted by the SIU investigations access required support services, such as professional counselling, financial assistance or admission into rehabilitation programs.The APC also sends condolences to families that experience a death as a result of the police action that the SIU is investigating, and follows up to offer further assistance. The Coordinator’s services are available on a 24/7 basis and can be offered over the telephone or in person. [Annual Report 2006/2007]

Reporting Cases

The SIU typically investigates incidents that are painful for those involved. People want to know what happened and why it happened. While this information is often confidential and subject to privacy laws, the SIU will communicate its decisions and information regarding the investigation to the affected parties and to the chief of the involved police service, to the extent possible. The results of investigations are also made public in the SIU news releases, or via the SIU website (www.siu.on.ca). [ [http://www.SIU.on.ca Special Investigations Unit ] ]


There were 238 occurrences in the 2006-07 fiscal year. The most the SIU has had in a given year. [Annual Report 2006/2007]

Accusations of Bias

Some have criticized the SIU for the amount of cases in which police have been cleared. However, the attorney general states that;

Civilian oversight in the form of the SIU was intended to assist chiefs of police in shouldering their daunting duties, not to be an irritant. The fact that the SIU overwhelmingly clears officers should be seen by the [public] as an endorsement of good policing.


* CACOLE – The Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement
* First Nations Liaison Program – to foster a constructive growth in the SIU’s relationship with First Nations communities.
* The SIU also runs several presentations and lectures at academic institutions, community centres, trade shows, jobs of professional associations. This is a positive interaction with the community, police officers and young people to educate them about the role and responsibility of the SIU.


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