Overlapping Oversight and Arrested Accountability: Coordination among Adversaries through Judicial Reviews of Administrative Police Oversight

The simultaneous existence of judicial and non-judicial, internal and external, as well as preventative and reactive mechanisms is a common reality in today’s police oversight. Conducting a sociolegal analysis of judicial reviews of the Ontario police complaints system, I explain why the staggering degree of public dissatisfaction and perception of police impunity persist despite constant efforts to improve accountability. I challenge Kagan and Bourdieu's perspectives by demonstrating how jurisdictional boundary drawing occurs among actors as an attempt to reach equilibrium, rather than to compete with one another. In doing so, these institutions that were meant to provide checks and balances end up coordinating amongst themselves – with the help of the judiciary – to reorganize and hierarchize themselves in the field of police oversight. The fragmentation ultimately becomes more about the division of labour among the oversight agencies and actors than the extension of accountability.