Police board meetings need transparency


Advertise with us

“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

We need your support!
Local journalism needs your support!

As we navigate through unprecedented times, our journalists are working harder than ever to bring you the latest local updates to keep you safe and informed.

Now, more than ever, we need your support.

Starting at $14.99 plus taxes every four weeks you can access your Brandon Sun online and full access to all content as it appears on our website.

Subscribe Now

or call circulation directly at (204) 727-0527.

Your pledge helps to ensure we provide the news that matters most to your community!


“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”

— Franz Kafka

The Brandon Police Board, like similar boards throughout the province, was established under the Manitoba Police Services Act as a means to add greater transparency and accountability to police oversight on the local level while keeping city council at arms length to a greater or lesser extent.

To date, the Brandon Police Board has a questionable record on transparency and accountability. There are some signs this is changing, though they are easy to miss.

One such sign is that after more than 10 years, the Brandon Police Board has finally adopted its own set of operating policies. These policies lay out, among other things, the duties and obligations the board recognizes apply to them and serve as some small measure of accountability.

Of slightly more concern is the continued reliance of the board on in-camera discussions and “special meetings.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “in-camera” means the public is excluded from attendance at the discussions and no public record is kept or available. Typically, a body meets in-camera to discuss specific personnel matters, sensitive financial material and, in this case, matters of public security.

Historically, the Brandon Police Board has interpreted those terms so loosely as to cover literally anything they wanted it to, but now there are specific criteria that must be met before a topic can be moved in-camera. This is a meaningful, albeit easy to miss, change for the better.

Equally easy to miss is the inclusion of subsection (b), Section 6 “Meeting Schedule.” Subsection (a) is just an acknowledgment that the board will meet at least four times a year and publish a yearly schedule on the city website. Subsection (b) gives the chair the unqualified, defined or restricted right to call “special meetings as required.” This is the only time special meetings are mentioned and, as such, there is no need for notice or even minutes.

It is telling, maybe just to me, that the same document that takes a whole paragraph to explicitly, and in detail, define unacceptable public behaviour doesn’t see fit to at least layout a template for when “special meetings” would be required and how they would be recorded. But I remind you that I wouldn’t be able to point out this glaring difference in emphasis if they hadn’t finally developed, and made available, their policies.

If the police board is interested in making somewhat swifter, harder to miss progress, I have a couple of easy-to-implement suggestions. The first and easiest would be to implement a mechanism whereby the public can ask questions at meetings. This would be different than a presentation in that natural questions arising from material presented can’t be predicted but sometimes ought to be asked. An example occurred at the latest meeting during the police cadet program’s education session.

In the package that came with the minutes — and confirmed during the presentation — the hiring criteria for cadet candidates is included. The third point under “requirements” reads, “Grade 12 equivalent; however, for this hiring round, Phase A or Public Safety/Police Studies Certificate required.”

As I understand it, that means the hiring criteria for all but the initial intake will have no education or training requirement beyond a Grade 12 or equivalent. So the question arising, to me at least, from the material is why are the standards being lowered for future rounds of hiring? There are other questions as well, but for the sake of ease, I’ll stick to this one.

If there were a public question period, this could have been asked and we would all know, but now we’re stuck with me asking rhetorically in a column.

Putting such a thing in place would be as easy as including a couple of lines in Part 2, Section 15 and, given typical attendance at police board meetings, would rarely, if ever, be used. It is a win-win, really; the board can have the appearance of greater accountability while almost never having to see it exercised.

There are other tweaks to the policies and practices of the Brandon Police Board that I think would reinforce public confidence in it as a body and the police service as a whole, but openness is a new and scary thing for this board and we have to encourage its every motion, however halting, toward the light rather than overwhelm it with expectations.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us