Two weeks ago, on June 18, Coquitlam RCMP received reports of shots fired by a distraught man at an address on Audrey Drive in what is normally a quiet residential neighbourhood.
Police attended which ultimately resulted in an exchange of gunfire. The distraught man retreated to cover behind a vehicle and a stand-off ensued. The Integrated Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team were called and ultimately secured the male using flash bangs and stun grenades. The man was discovered dead.
The RCMP initially issued a press release saying they thought he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Specifically, they said this: “The male was later located deceased by ERT members behind a vehicle with what is believed at this time to be a self-inflicted injury.” Note the use of the words “believed” and “at this time.”
That is a preliminary statement and hardly definitive. Nor could they be definitive without conducting an investigation which, in BC, is the responsibility of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).
Yet, following an autopsy, Marten Youssef, spokesman for the IIO, was quick to put out a follow up media release saying the RCMP’s initial information was incorrect and the death was not self-inflicted. There was a tone that implied the RCMP tried to mislead but clearly that was not the case. The Mounties release was based on preliminary information and said as much.
Youssef went on to say, “The IIO has interviewed approximately 30 witnesses and six police officers.” Now, that statement was patently misleading.
How so? Well, the reality is that the IIO couldn’t field a full team of investigators and requested assistance from the New Westminster Police Department. For the first two days the NWPD supplied 4 detectives and three for the third day. Much of which time was covered on overtime. And they were the ones doing the interviewing, not the IIO.
So, the IIO’s raison d’être is to provide civilian oversight of any incidents involving serious injuries or death involving the police, ostensibly, to remove any questions of confidence in the police investigating the police.
Yet, here we are more than four years since their launch and the IIO couldn’t field a full team of investigators and had to call the police to investigate the police.
So much for the much vaunted transparency they claim as a stated goal on their website.
I have written much about the various issues this troubled organization has had, but this is really over the top. Out of the gate this has been a badly managed organization which has resulted in sky-high turnover. At any given time they seem to be about 25% short that they will admit. And they are constantly hiring and training new investigators with little or no investigative experience. They claim to follow the Major Case Management system yet they have no board certified investigators to do that.
Initially, they hired former police officers along with a mix of civilians with a goal to being completely civilianized after five years. Well, five years is in less than two months time and they can’t even field a full investigative team for a fatal incident?
The IIO is fundamentally broken as an organization and the legislation that formed them is, in itself, fundamentally flawed. They lack the investigative expertise to handle investigations such as these and now it seems they even lack the people to at least maintain the charade. This is also one of the reasons their investigations take so long which puts paid to another one of their stated goals which is to do investigations in a timely manner.
On the website page describing their “Mandate” it says this:
The CCD has announced three important goals for the organization:
•To conduct competent, thorough and unbiased investigations;
•To complete these investigations in a timely manner; and,
•To ensure transparency through public reporting.
Well, strike one, two and three. They are neither competent, timely nor transparent.
Sadly, this is a creation of government and BC is about to undergo a change of government. It seems highly improbable that fixing the IIO will be very high on the priority list for a minority NDP government which is one case of diarrhea away from an election when the Leg is in session. No, if new Premier John Horgan is smart, he will govern to make the NDP seem palatable to most British Columbians so they have a shot at a majority in the next election. Which means don’t do anything controversial or earth-shattering.
It seems we are stuck with this dysfunctional organization to provide civilian oversight of serious incidents involving the police for the foreseeable future. One fails to see how the public or the police can have any confidence in them.