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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Independent, civilian office to investigate B.C. police officers accused of wrongdoing

May 17, 2011
The Canadian Press

VICTORIA — RCMP officers in British Columbia accused of serious wrongdoing will have their cases examined by an independent investigations office under legislation tabled Tuesday by the B.C. government.

The new office will be led by a civilian who has never worked as a police officer and will be responsible for investigating serious criminal allegations against officers in municipal forces as well as the RCMP.

"B.C.'s office will investigate a broader range of police-involved incidents than Ontario's model and be more independent than Alberta's, reporting to the attorney general rather than the minister responsible for policing," Solicitor General Shirley Bond told the legislature in introducing the bill.

Bond said the legislation is the fulfillment of the key recommendation from retired judge Thomas Braidwood's report into the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport.

Braidwood and RCMP officials were in the legislature's public gallery to witness the tabling of the bill.

Investigators with the Independent Investigation Office will have the same status and powers as police to conduct criminal investigations into death or serious harm or other incidents involving officers.

The office's director will have the ability to appoint a civilian monitor with access to all the information on an investigation and with the ability to raise concerns to the director about the integrity of an investigation, the government said in background information.

Those who work as investigators for the office will be appointed by the office's director. In the early going, ex-police officers can be hired, but they can't have actively worked as a B.C. police officer in the previous five years.

Long-term, the goal is to progress to a fully civilian investigative staff and the Independent Investigation Office will face a review before Jan. 1, 2015, to determine whether it is on the road to meeting that goal.

"It is critical that British Columbians have confidence in our police and that the police are accountable to them," said Premier Christy Clark.

"This legislation is an historic step for policing in B.C. and will strengthen public faith in the dedicated officers who work so hard to keep our families safe."

Introduction of the legislation, which has been anticipated for months, was welcomed by critics who have long complained about police investigating themselves in such incidents.

Robert Holmes, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties, said he was "very pleased" to hear the government was acting on Braidwood's "critically important recommendations."

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