Growing pains for police investigation unit

Richard Rosenthal has fired ex-cops from Independent Investigations Office in a move to all-civilian oversight of police-involved shootings

Richard Rosenthal is three years into a five-year term as chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office. He is eligible to be reappointed to one more term.

Richard Rosenthal is three years into a five-year term as chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office. He is eligible to be reappointed to one more term.

B.C. police forces have undergone a “sea change” in the two years since a civilian-led unit was put in charge of investigating police-involved deaths and serious injuries, says the man in charge of the Independent Investigations Office.

But the road to a new system that is moving away from police investigating other police has not been smooth, former U.S. prosecutor Richard Rosenthal acknowledged in his report to a committee of B.C. MLAs Thursday.

The office started up in the fall of 2012 with 36 investigators, about half and half civilians and former police officers. Its mandate was to move to all-civilian investigations, and Rosenthal said progress has been made, with two thirds of staff in the two investigative teams being people who have never worked as police officers.

This year four former officers were fired from the IIO, and five more resigned, Rosenthal told the committee. Two civilian staff also quit this year after three civilians resigned in 2013. Another former officer was “separated from the organization” in 2012, Rosenthal said.

He cited three reasons for the high turnover: “cultural conflicts,” the struggles of a new organization and evolution of jobs that causes people to look for something new.

A one-time Los Angeles deputy district attorney who worked on the 1999 Rampart case involving violence and drug dealing in the city’s police force, Rosenthal set up independent police oversight in Portland and Denver before coming to B.C.

He was asked about a survey of his operation that referred to a lower-than expected case load. Rosenthal said that was done before the office dealt with four fatal officer-involved shootings in less than three months.

“I don’t believe there is a single person in the office who would say that today,” he said.

Rosenthal said video cameras for police dog handlers, general-duty officers and police Tasers would help in some cases, but that is a decision for police services due to cost and privacy concerns.

The B.C. government committed to a civilian-led agency after a string of incidents involving RCMP and city police forces. The office was recommended by inquiries into the 2007 deaths of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport, and Frank Paul, who was removed from the Vancouver Police drunk tank in 1998 and left unconscious in an alley.

The 2005 gunshot death of Ian Bush at the RCMP detachment in Houston, B.C. was another case that pushed the B.C. government to end the practice of police incidents being investigated by other police forces. The independent office also brought B.C. RCMP officers under civilian oversight.

The B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner is continuing to handle public complaints against police forces in the province.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Santa’s Forest tree sale has taken place in the Braefoot Park lacrosse box every holiday season since 1996. (Photo courtesy Torsten Schulz)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Masks are mandatory for passengers on board BC Transit buses and for those waiting at covered bus stops. (BC Transit/Facebook)
Masks now mandatory on BC Transit buses, at covered bus stops

Face shields no longer meet face-covering requirements per updated policy

Rose Ellis, 93, and her Shih Tzu, Zoey, have been clients of ElderDog Victoria since last summer. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria ElderDog program seeking more seniors, pups to support

Service helps elderly people to care for their canine companions

Mona Strelaeff, a Metchosin resident, is the first non-terminally ill person in Canada to be allowed to use psilocybin assisted therapy. (Provided by Spencer Hawkswell)
Metchosin woman’s trauma treatment could be trendsetting

Experts say this could signal the broadening of who can access psilocybin therapy

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Most Read