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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

RCMP foot-dragging blamed for complaints backlog

September 15, 2010
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The RCMP has been sitting on a pile of complaint findings for months, sparking concern about timely justice for those who have grievances against the national police force.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP says that as of last week it had been waiting 300 days or more for final signoff from the Mounties on 11 complaint investigations. Among them was a high-profile probe into the case of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned with a Taser at Vancouver airport in October 2007.

Another 11 reports have been on the RCMP's desk for between 180 and 300 days, while a further 22 were sent to the force between 30 and 180 days ago.

The Mounties say they've simply been too busy with the Olympics and international leaders' summits to keep up.

The commission aims to shepherd each complaint through the process -- from the initial lodging of the complaint through to its conclusion -- as swiftly as possible, and within one calendar year, said Jamie Robertson, a commission spokesman.

Before a final report is issued, the commission sends an interim report to RCMP Commissioner William Elliott for comments on findings and recommendations -- a phase of the process for which the commission allots 30 days.

Although the commission applies strict standards to its turnaround times for handling complaints, it can "only recommend that the RCMP does the same," Robertson said.

Among the other reports awaiting an RCMP response are the commission's probes of:

-- The RCMP arrest of Robert Knipstrom of Chilliwack, B.C., who died in hospital in November 2007 days after being Tasered, pepper sprayed and hit with a baton;

-- The Mounties' investigation into how a Conservative MP listened in on a 2008 conference call of the federal NDP caucus.

Sgt. Pat Flood, an RCMP spokeswoman, said the force is "cognizant of the backlog" of interim reports.

The force has been delayed in responding due to the "reallocation of resources in recent months to meet the security obligations of the Olympics and G8-G20 summits," she said.

In last year's annual report, the complaints commission had applauded the RCMP commissioner for delivering replies to all but two outstanding investigation files from 2007 and 2008 by the end of March 2009.

This year, however, the backlog has again mushroomed.

Robertson said while the complaints commission "acknowledges the significant strains that security obligations in connection with the Winter Olympics and G8-G20 placed on the RCMP, as stewards of the public complaints process (the commission) is concerned about the accumulation ... and the delays which result."

A Conservative government bill introduced in June to overhaul the complaints commission wouldn't remedy the problem.

Paul Kennedy, the former chairman of the commission, said in a recent interview the lack of legislated time limits for the RCMP to respond to interim complaint findings was "an intolerable situation."

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