Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs says it’s about time the province has developed a police watchdog.
This after he and Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson sat down with the head of the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO), which is mandated to conduct investigations into officer-related incidents of death or serious harm.
Bogs hopes that the unbiased look into such cases will provide closure to both police officers and families in B.C. and help restore confidence in law enforcement.
“It adds a significant cost element, but in my opinion it’s long overdue and it’s well worth the extra cost (to the province),” he said. “The image of the iconic RCMP has suffered significantly in the past couple of years from our society’s perspective.”
Richard Rosenthal, BC’s first Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, and his colleague stopped in Trail recently on a trip across the province to extend a handshake to city leaders as part of a community engagement strategy.
The IIO started up last year due to a few incidents, one in particular being the Robert Dziekanski Tasering at the Vancouver International Airport in 2007. A final inquiry report released in 2010 concluded the RCMP were not justified in using a Taser against the Polish immigrant and that the officers later deliberately misrepresented their actions to investigators.
Bogs said though the IIO is fairly new, the office has already carried out 28 investigations.
Of this, 22 reports have been closed and six have been referred to Crown, which resulted in one charge, one pending case and four cleared.
Locally, Bogs is only aware of a Columbia River drowning that was put under the microscope.
Andrew Evans, a 28-year-old Fruitvale resident entered the river July 10 this year to avoid the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment Crime Reduction Unit and members from the Trail and Greater District RCMP, who attended a home in Glenmerry to arrest Evans for several unendorsed arrest warrants.
From the shoreline, officers watched as Evans swam back toward the shore, where he remained in the water holding onto a tree branch while he spoke to officers at the river’s edge and eventually let go of the branch and floated downstream.
Considering Evans’ state, the family considered this a dangerous pursuit that should have been aborted but an investigation by the IIO found the officers not at blame.
Trail RCMP Sgt. Rob Hawton confirmed the Evans case was reviewed and as a result no recommendations were made.
“I won’t comment publicly on the IIOBC, as I don’t wish any inferences to be made,” he added.
If the IIO asserts jurisdiction over a case, it will complete an investigation of any potential offence by an officer under any federal or provincial statute so that the Chief Civilian Director is able to decide whether or not to make a report to Crown counsel. Under the Police Act, police services of BC are required to cooperate with IIO investigations.
At the present time, the majority of IIO investigators are retired police officers and the remaining are those without policing backgrounds who have experience in other investigative agencies.