A new pre-screening system that has already been implemented in other provinces is currently being rolled out in Alberta, and Staff Sergeant Troy Raddatz of the Drayton Valley RCMP Detachment thinks it will be beneficial.

Raddatz says the pre-screen system will allow members to be confident they have enough evidence before they make an arrest. 

He says previously, an RCMP member entered into an investigation and gathered their evidence, determining on their own if they had enough proof to arrest an individual.

“In the past that member would make that determination, perhaps with a supervisor, that they had met the pertinent proof and it was worth picking that person up,” says Raddatz. “If it’s a file that involves an ongoing threat to public safety, the standard is obviously very different.”

Once the officer felt there was enough evidence to convict, they would go ahead and arrest the individual. After the arrest, the officer then discloses the evidence to the Crown Prosecutor.

“We’re lucky with the Hinton Crown. We have a really good relationship. They are usually quite involved in our files and review our files prior to court,” says Raddatz. 

However, he says because the Crown Prosecutors are overworked, not every detachment or jurisdiction has the luxury of an office that’s been run so well. Raddatz says it’s not uncommon for the files to be reviewed shortly before the court date, and rather than allowing officers to make corrections, the Crown is dropping the files.

Raddatz says with the new system, RCMP will disclose their evidence package to Crown Prosecutors assigned to the pre-charge unit prior to an arrest for pre-screening. This will allow the Crown the opportunity to review the file and determine if there is enough information to result in a conviction.

“If there’s deficiencies in the file, such as an additional witness statement, or a fingerprint report, or something crucial is missing, they would send the package back to the member and point out the deficiencies,” says Raddatz.

At that point, the officer would then address the issues the Crown had found with the file before re-submitting it for review. Once the Crown has it again, they can move forward with the process.

Raddatz says in some cases, the Crown may review a file and say there is no reasonable expectation of a conviction in the file, even if the package was done well. At that point, they would tell the member not to make an arrest or lay charges.

He says B.C. has been operating with this system for a while, and the pilot projects in the province have proven successful. 

The new system won’t really change the amount of work a member has to do before presenting a file to the courts, he says. Instead, it changes the order in which the officers submit their proof to the Crown.

Raddatz says he believes that the conviction rates in the area will go up because they’ve already had a legal review of the evidence before they make the arrest. 

He says this will allow the Crown to take on some of the weight when it comes to charges and conviction rates. Raddatz says normally, that responsibility falls at the feet of the RCMP.

He says there will be some growing pains as they adapt to the new system. “On the back end, it’s going to make a better system and honestly it’s going to streamline things for the membership,” says Raddatz.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 16, 2023 at 09:59

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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