Organized Crime—Hearing Directly from Canada’s Policing Stakeholders

Organized Crime—Hearing Directly from Canada’s Policing Stakeholders

The recent four-part series on organized crime and national security series in The Voice Magazine profiled the various policing stakeholders including police agencies as well as police leadership associations, and how they functioned in the grand scheme of things.  However, how things function in theory might not always be how they function in practice, so the only way to get an idea of what current processes looked like was to connect with those policing stakeholders and hear from them directly.

The Federal level of policing

Although the RCMP identified terrorist criminal activity as Canada’s greatest threat, it seemed like a low prevalence issue considering how few stories made headlines that had to do with terrorism, unlike organized crime,.  but it could also be the result of policing done right.  As there is no bigger stakeholder than the RCMP when it comes to national security, so my questions for them were far more comprehensive than the other stakeholders.

The RCMP responded stating that the role of federal policing is to address the greatest domestic and international threats to our country, highlighting their national security program that has a mandate to investigate criminal offence acts arising from terrorism, espionage, cyber attacks, nuclear security risk, ideologically motivated extremism (IMVE), foreign influenced activities, incidents involving the security of an Internationally Protected Person, the unlawful release of national security information, and terrorist financing.  Furthermore, the RCMP clarified that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) were the only ones with a national security mandate.  In other words, there was no true equivalent at the provincial level.  Although the RCMP’s national security and intelligence activities are subject to review by the NSICOP and the NSIRA, the RCMP coordinates with these two external review bodies by the way of the RCMP’s External Review Committee.

The RCMP also made it clear that it has a multifaceted cooperation strategy that involves domestic and international law enforcement partners, and they specifically highlighted the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG).  The relationships developed through FELEG are described as being fundamental to their ability to ensure that Canada responds to globalized threats from terrorism, transnational crime, and other threats to our national security.  This international effort is crucial in the fight against criminal activity and illicit drugs, but the relationships that come from effort are fundamental to the RCMP’s ability to ensure that they can respond to the globalized threats from terrorism, transnational crime, and other threats to our national security.  There is also a newly created role within the RCMP called “civilian criminal investigators”, which focuses on recruiting individuals with experience in information technology and finance and accounting, and they will be investigating cybercrimes like online fraud, internet drug-based trafficking, crimes against national security, and financial crimes including anti-corruption, fraud, and money laundering.

With respect to the integrity of major operations and serious investigations, these matters are subject to extensive planning, review, monitoring, and approval processes.  Furthermore, the use of various tools is governed by the Charter and subject to appropriate judicial processes.  Transparency and accountability are important aspects for the RCMP, and they are bound by Canada’s Charter and the Criminal Code, and that there were law enforcement justification provisions requiring that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness publicly release an annual report on the use of specific potions of the law enforcement justification provisions by members of the RCMP.

That operational disagreements were making it to the news cycle was enough to tell all the policing stakeholders that there needed to be changes.  These changes centered around the Operational Improvement Review that resulted in 76 recommendations, and that a majority of which have already been actioned or resolved.  Some of the areas that were identified in the review included enhanced collaboration and information sharing in national security investigations, additional training for national security personnel, improved handling and disclosure of sensitive and classified information, and enhanced deconfliction within the national security area of focus.

One of the more recent successes of CIROC was a large-scale takedown of a crime group in Quebec that was 3D-printing guns, and which involved the Sûreté du Québec, the CBSA, the RCMP, and municipal police services in a nationwide attempt to crackdown on the manufacturing and trafficking of privately made firearms.  The searches and investigations carried out across Canada resulted in the seizure of 440 firearms, 52 3D printers, and the arrest of 45 individuals.  Overall, CIROC’s priorities were best described as adapting to the landscape, with some of their past areas of priority focus being fentanyl, outlaw motorcycle gangs, money laundering, and meth, which resulted in a National Methamphetamine Strategy in 2021.

All in all, it would be fair to say that the RCMP is one of the best-positioned federal police forces in world when it comes to dealing with the dynamic threats of the 21st century.  The proof of this can be seen in the leadership roles that were assigned to senior RCMP personnel by their international partners on international working groups including The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, Christchurch Call to Action, G7 Law Enforcement Working Group, 5 Eyes Law Enforcement Working Group, and G8 Roma-Lyon Working Groups on Terrorism and Organized Crime.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) seems to resemble a thinktank on federal policing matters, but includes geographic representation and all levels of policing as well as non-policing partners.  Additionally, the CACP is comprised of individuals with diverse skillsets, and it has the ability to quickly put together a group of subject matter experts should they be required for any initiatives or planning matters.

The two committees that seemed to be the most relevant to this investigation were the Counter-Terrorism and National Security Committee and the Organized Crime Committee.  So the questions for them came down to two things: the checks and balances in place to contain harms of major police investigations from spreading to unsuspecting Canadians and the decision-making process behind pulling the plug on investigations that were no longer contained.

The CACP was direct with their response, stating that conducting investigations was an operational matter with standards, process, and procedures that were determined by each individual police service and that decisions related to a particular investigation were made based on a unique assessment of that case’s circumstances.  Additionally, the CACP explained how it was a professional association, and that they were only able to make recommendations, not impose best practices.  The recommendations are developed by the CACP’s general and special purpose committees, and sometimes in collaboration with external partners in the policing or public safety sector. Once they are finalized, they are shared with the CACP’s members to be adopted or adapted as each police service saw fit.  Additionally, the CACP identified that they had a specific working group on undercover operations and had developed a unique checklist in 2020, exclusively for police personnel meant to serve as a reference guide to assist agencies and personnel on operations, but they also stated that they had not issued any recommendations or guidelines related to the management of undercover operations.

When it came to the CACP’s advocacy work and greatest achievements, there were many.  Their advocacy work includes calling for the urgent replacement of the Automated Criminal Intelligence System (ACIIS) for law enforcement in Canada, and had previously requested the creation of a common framework for national security matters.  The CACP highlighted that, despite ACIIS being Canada’s only national databank for information and intelligence, it was now over 40 years old, and no longer the effective platform for the collection, analysis, and sharing of the large volumes of information that was generated by today’s law enforcement community, and that they have been urging all levels of government to support the urgent replacement of ACIIS as a top public safety priority.

The CACP was also proud of its record on advocacy efforts aimed at advancing legislative and policy reform to prevent and investigate crime, support victims, and solve problems in the interest of building health and safe communities in Canada.  Describing itself as an active participant in the legislative process, and actively involved in liaising with parliamentary committees on legislation, policies, and procedures.  With regard to organized crime, the CACP explained that it touched on several of their national strategic priorities and monitored issues, and that their Organized Crime Committee had worked with different stakeholders to create a resource guide for international cross-border operations that accounted for international cross-border operations.  Furthermore, the CACP was the Canadian license holder behind the If you see something, Say Something® public awareness campaign, which exists to raise awareness of suspicious activity that may constitute a national security threat and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement or security officials.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) specializes in provincial matters, and their committee of significance was the Intelligence and Organized Crime Committee.  The OACP stated that the names of the members were intentionally left blank, but they ranged from Staff Sergeants to Chiefs and Commissioners.  These committees were recruited for by general calls for specific skills.  The benefits of this approach were illustrated with the Trucker Convoy incident in Ottawa.  Once a specific problem arose, the committee would bring together subject matter experts and become a shared resource for police services.

When it came to specific operations, the OACP made it clear that they were not involved and that this was the responsibility of Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, who would facilitate and analyse joint force operations.  The OACP do not direct police services, but reportto the Ministry of the Solicitor General and produce reports related to monitoring and tracking data from policing services, explaining how those results connected, providing public education, and raising awareness.  One of the challenges mentioned by the OACP had to do with the influence that popular culture has on policing, ranging from TV shows to music.  The challenges that come by the way of TV shows stem from unrealistic expectations that these shows create for people unfamiliar with all the processes involved in an investigation, such as police being able to solve all crimes in a matter of a few days.  And music often celebrates the outlaw lifestyle, with the specific example discussed being outlaw motorcycle groups and how they were often misperceived as solely bike enthusiasts with a disregard for their criminal enterprise components.

When it came to answering what the OACP was most proud of and recent success, the emphasis was on the OACP’s Out of the Shadows resource document, described as being created for their ultimate audience, the people of Ontario and not the government or other police services.  Their goal is to treat ordinary people as the most important audience that they could have.  Additionally, the OACP was also proud of their member, Barrie Police Chief Kimberly Greenwood, for her efforts on developing framework and guidelines around intimate partner violence and sexual violence that changed how Canadian police organizations approach some of these most difficult investigations and support vulnerable victims.  Once Chief Greenwood’s work was complete, the OACP took it to the CACP, which is where it was shared across Canada.  The work resulted in Chief Greenwood being awarded with some of the highest awards for individuals in policing.

What about municipal policing?

The uniqueness of municipal police services is that they are society’s first line of defence, the ones that respond to 911 calls, and the ones most likely to uncover various forms of crimes, like those operating unbeknownst to anyone.  They were also the first responders to the 2022 Trucker Convoy, which might be best described as a national security crisis, and an incident that offers the perfect case study to analyze how effectively different police stakeholders cooperated with one another.  Revisiting the police response to the chaos that ensued as a result of the trucker convoy is evidence that law and order can quickly turn into chaos and disorder, and a policy analysis of those strategic failures, as well as the Ottawa Police Service’s response to our national security questions is something that readers will be able to read in the next installment of our look at organized crime.

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