Civilian led agency a good start

The recent announcement by the province of B.C. that says they will create a new, independent civilian led office to investigate incidents that involve the B.C. police was welcome news to Houston resident, Linda Bush.

Nathan Cullen

Nathan Cullen

The recent announcement by the province of B.C. that says they will create a new, independent civilian led office to investigate incidents that involve the B.C. police was welcome news to Houston resident, Linda Bush.

Her son, Ian, was fatally shot in 2005 in an incident with the RCMP.

When she first heard of the case, she remembers being shocked that they would be investigating themselves. Shortly thereafter, she became a strong advocate for a civilian led investigation agency, working with both the provincial and federal governments for such an agency.

“I’m very relieved and glad that the legislation is written and is going to move forward,” Bush said.

Known as Bill 12, it will create an agency led by someone who has never served as an police officer that will conduct criminal investigations into police related incidents involving death or serious harm.

It covers both the RCMP and other policing agencies in B.C., such as Vancouver City Police.

The bill, a central recommendation of the Braidwood Commission, is a critical one for B.C., Premier Christy Clark said.

“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,” she said.

There is still more work to be done, however, Bush says. Not all provinces have such an agency in place, so while this is great news for B.C., on the federal side more needs to be done.

“I want to make sure that these things actually do happen, otherwise we’ll keep pressuring the federal government to do something,” Bush said.

She’s also going to continue working with the government and the RCMP to get the RCMP act revised. There are a number of things that need to be updated, not just the civilian oversight agency for when things go seriously wrong, she said.

She would like to see all the recommendations made by David Brown, Q.C., who was appointed to head a task force to provide advice on strengthening the accountability and governance of the RCMP in 2007.Their recommendations include granting RCMP independence from government and separate employer status, a new board of management, a new complaints and oversight commission, and an implementation council to oversee the renewal process and provide public updates.

Bush said she’d like to see all recommendations turn into policy.

The one that most people are annoyed about, Bush said, is that when an officer is taken off duty, for whatever reason, he’s on paid leave. Sometimes, she adds, that can go for a long period of time.

“There’s very little in the act for discipline and for dismissal,” Bush said.

MP Nathan Cullen agreed with Bush when she said that this is a good move, but more needs to be done.

When it comes to restoring public trust in B.C. policing, he’s cautiously optimistic that this will work.

“But the devil is in the details and I’ll be watching closely to see how the job gets done,” Cullen said.

He is calling for a national standard, rather than the provincial standards that he called a “cumbersome patchwork quilt”.

Cullen said he will continue pushing Bill C-472 that he introduced in November 2009. If passed, the bill would create a civilian investigation service nation-wide.

Sgt. Sean Wadelius said that as long as it’s a competent agency with an appropriate level of understanding the law and policy, there shouldn’t be much of a change in how investigations involving police are handled.

“The perception that we’re not investigating ourselves is probably a good thing,” Wadelius said. “I don’t think we have anything to hide or anything to be worried about.”

 

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