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Dan LeBlanc on transforming justice

Police officers are given discretion in how they do their jobs. When they use their discretion wisely, everyone benefits.

Officers are given discretion as to who to charge with offences, and when to do so. Many charges are dropped once entered into the system. There is some focus on “diverting” charges from going through the entire criminal process; this practice has financial and societal benefits.

The Government’s Justice Innovation Division has suggested the idea of “pre-charge diversion”: tasking officers with exercising their discretion wisely at the front end of the system. It is among the Division’s best ideas.

Officers are tasked as guardians of public safety, as well as the public purse. When they fail to appreciate the extent of their discretion, and uncritically lay charges, they do little to increase public safety, while significantly increasing costs.

Saskatchewan could save substantial money and increase people’s “access to justice” by focusing on “pre-charge diversion”. The idea is not complex, and could be implemented immediately.