B.C. RCMP to get civilian oversight

The B.C. government has announced a new civilian office that will investigate serious misconduct claims against RCMP officers in the province.

The B.C. government has announced a new civilian office that will investigate serious misconduct claims against RCMP officers in the province.

The new office follows the recommendations of the inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. A special prosecutor announced last week that the four RCMP officers involved in the arrest and Tasering of Dziekanski have been charged with perjury in relation to their testimony at the inquiry.

The new police oversight office will work alongside the existing B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner, who investigates complaints about conduct of municipal police officers.

The new independent office was one of the recommendations of retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who led a public inquiry into the Dziekanski case in light of a video of the airport incident taken by a traveller.

Braidwood joined Premier Christy Clark, Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond, Attorney General Barry Penner and senior police representatives at a news conference to detail the plan.

Braidwood said the B.C. government has carried through on his main recommendation to move away from police investigating their own conduct, in the Dziekanski case and that of Frank Paul, a homeless alcoholic who died after being dragged from police cells and left in a Vancouver alley in 1998.

Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog, the party’s Attorney General  critic, said the police oversight office is a step in the right direction, but he’s concerned how the government is implementing it.

“The first is that the government clearly did not adopt Justice Braidwood’s  recommendation to have a special prosecutor appointed to each case,” Krog said. “That’s still going to be done by the Criminal Justice Branch. I think that is, candidly, a mistake on the government’s part. They should have gone for a special prosecutor.”

Krog also said the person appointed to the oversight office should be an independent officer of the legislature instead of being required to report directly to the attorney general.

“The other thing they could have considered is merging the office with the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner,” Krog said. “That could have provided something that could have been quite streamlined and something that could have been extremely effective.”

NDP public safety critic Kathy Corrigan said the new office is a long overdue step, delayed by a “revolving door” of public safety ministers in the B.C. Liberal government in recent years.

The biggest obstacle to creating the new office was negotiating to allow the investigations, since the RCMP reports only to the federal government.

Bond said the goal is to staff the new office completely with investigators who have never worked for a police force. But initially the independent investigation office will use retired police investigators who have been outside B.C. for at least five years, she said.

“From my perspective, I think it’s great,” said Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman. “It just makes everybody happier. We wanted to be seen as independent and we want people to have confidence in the police and if an independent body is going to do that then that’s great.”

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