Civilian investigators to watch B.C. RCMP

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has announced a new civilian office that will investigate serious misconduct claims against RCMP officers in the province.

The new office follows the recommendations of the inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. A special prosecutor announced last week that the four RCMP officers involved in the arrest and Tasering of Dziekanski have been charged with perjury in relation to their testimony at the inquiry.

The new police oversight office will work alongside the existing B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner, who investigates complaints about conduct of municipal police officers.

The new independent office was one of the recommendations of retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who led a public inquiry into the Dziekanski case in light of a video of the airport incident taken by a traveler.

Braidwood joined Premier Christy Clark, Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond, Attorney General Barry Penner and senior police representatives at a news conference to detail the plan. Braidwood said the B.C. government has carried through on his main recommendation to move away from police investigating their own conduct, in the Dziekanski case and that of Frank Paul, a homeless alcoholic who died after being dragged from police cells and left in a Vancouver alley in 1998.

“It is tragic that Frank Paul and Robert Dziekanski had to die before the practice of police investigating themselves was put to rest forever,” Braidwood said.

NDP public safety critic Kathy Corrigan said the new office is a long overdue step, delayed by a “revolving door” of public safety ministers in the B.C. Liberal government in recent years.

Clark said she spoke to Dziekanski’s mother Tuesday, and also to Linda Bush, whose son Ian was shot and killed at the RCMP detachment in Houston B.C. in 2005. Both were pleased that their loss at least led to change, Clark said.

The new office is expected to be operational by the end of this year. Bond said the goal is to staff it completely with investigators who have never worked for a police force. But initially the independent investigation office will have a civilian director and retired police investigators who have been outside B.C. for at least five years, she said.

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