On May 18, our government introduced much anticipated legislation that will see an independent, civilian-led office investigate all serious, police-involved incidents in British – ending the long-standing practice of “police investigating police.”
This historic change has the support of Justice Thomas Braidwood, whose commission into the death of Robert Dziekanski recommended creating an Independent Investigations Office (IIO). The new independent process is also supported by the most senior municipal police and RCMP leaders, many of who joined Premier Christy Clark and me for the announcement.
This support is the immediate result our government sought following months of careful drafting and working to get this legislation right.
But we have a much greater, long-term goal. In time, we believe that setting a new standard for civilian-led police investigation and accountability will strengthen the public’s faith in the dedicated officers working to keep them safe.
Our landmark legislation changes mean the investigative approach will be more transparent, accountable and fair – to citizens and to officers under investigation alike.
As the lead investigative agency in cases under its mandate, the IIO will conduct criminal investigations, interview witnesses and gather evidence. If, after an investigation is concluded, the chief civilian director considers that an officer may have committed a criminal offence, the director will report the matter to Crown counsel for review and charge assessment.
A fundamental difference in this process is the new IIO will be led by a civilian who has never served as a police officer.
Our mandate will be broad, just as Justice Braidwood envisioned. Under regulations that will be finalized shortly, the scope of its investigations will encompass not only police-related incidents involving death or serious harm, but also other offences against individuals and offences that undermine public confidence in policing.
That confidence is the goal of other groundbreaking aspects of our legislation. For example, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner will oversee the IIO’s investigators, who will be conducting criminal investigations.
We want to ensure these investigators will be subject to the high standard of conduct and investigative principles in our Police Act. The Police Complaints
Commissioner has the expertise to deal with such complaints and “investigate the investigators” as necessary.
For additional oversight, the IIO will also use a civilian monitor on an as-needed basis. The monitor will be free to raise concerns to the office’s director about the integrity of an investigation and submit a final report within 30 days. While this is another step beyond Justice Braidwood’s recommendations, it reflects the central goal of maximizing the independence of all facets of the IIO, in both perception and practice.
The significance of the change in approach represented by our IIO legislation cannot be overstated. Led and monitored by qualified civilians, and with its investigators’ conduct overseen by the independent Police Complaints Commissioner, this office will represent unprecedented steps toward investigations that are fair to, yet entirely removed from, the police forces under their scope.
Ultimately, individual police officers must earn and maintain the confidence of British Columbians – and our government is proud to support them in doing so. We look forward to announcing the first civilian leader of the IIO in the weeks ahead, and to seeing the office commence its important work by the end of this year.
Shirley Bond is the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.