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Thursday, February 04, 2010

RCMP to seek outside help when investigating its own

February 4, 2010

The RCMP will ask an outside party to investigate Mounties in cases where death, serious injury, suspected criminal behaviour or "matters of public confidence" are involved.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliot announced the new policy at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"We consider this measure an interim step to provide further independence and assurances of impartiality whenever employees of the RCMP are under investigation," he said.

Alberta and Ontario have created agencies that would allow Mounties to be investigated independently, Elliot added. Similar agencies are being set up in Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Where no such organization exists, another police force would be asked to take on the investigation. And if that's not possible due to a lack or resources, for example, the commissioner said Mounties would lead the investigation themselves and take additional precautions.

Those precautions include bringing in RCMP officers from out of province to conduct the probe, and appointing outside observers to provide "independent review."

A team of at least two officers would be assigned to conduct the investigation after being screened for conflicts of interest in the case. The senior officer would outrank whoever is under investigation, where possible.

"The RCMP must strive to be as open and transparent as possible, and fully accountable for our actions," Elliot said. "We would prefer the RCMP never to be called upon to conduct investigations of our own employees."

The long-term goal, Elliot added, is for the organization to work with all levels of government to encourage more independent investigations, where an RCMP officer is the focus.

"I believe that the RCMP has in the past conducted impartial and thorough investigations of our members," Elliot said. "However, I'm convinced we collectively need to raise the bar."

The new rules are intended to guide the decisions of the police force, which has the authority to choose how its officers are investigated.

In recent years there have been a number of controversial cases in which the RCMP investigated its own.

In one case, Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver airport in 2007, after he was struck by an RCMP Taser. In another instance, Ian Bush was shot and killed by a Mountie in British Columbia in 2005.

In a statement, Public Safety minister Vic Toews welcomed the change in policy.

"Our government's position continues to be that effective review should be external to the force," Toews said. "This announcement demonstrates the RCMP's commitment to becoming a stronger, more accountable and modern organization."

With files from The Canadian Press

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