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.
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Well put Leo, hey maybe they could hire some top notch talent from CATSA? They’re used to theatre.
Since incidents requiring the IIO are apt to occur any time of the day or night I’d be interested in knowing if they maintain a Standby Crew to ensure a full & timely response after duty hours & on weekends? If not, it speaks volumes (in addition to what we already know) about both competence & commitment to their mission.
Do they even have in-house Ident. capabilities or in-house accident investigators or re-constructionists or are they still relying on the police after almost 5 years? As I predicted in 2011, https://www.primetimecrime.com/contributing/2011/20110523cooper.htm, ‘Independence’ comes with a cost and I’m betting that the lion’s share of the blame for this dysfunctional outfit rests squarely with the Provincial Government who likely fund it the same way they do the rest of the Justice System.
Bob, they at one time had a number of former police officers that had a background in Forensic (Ident) and traffic reconstruction. However as skilled as they were they were not all that current with modern technology and techniques. In fact one of the initial purchases for the traffic guys was tape measures, sure they work but really? In the day of GPS and computer mapping. The traffic and forensic investigators don’t do the actual work, they conduct a “peer review” of the work done by the police.
In relation to the structure of the “teams”, it is apparent with the recent hiring of 8 investigators (this represents approximately 40% of their approved strength for the investigative teams) the ongoing issue of retention is still a major factor. Throw in the fact that these new investigators have to go through training, supposedly, before they are utilized in a significant role, this would leave maybe 12 investigators to be available to respond province wide, 24 X 7 to incidents that occur and are reported to the IIO. And I know that the IIO does not pay overtime or call out.
The Provincial Government wears this, the issue with this organization and it’s “leadership” were made known to them at a very early stage but they chose to ignore this, even after three so call investigations into the complaints made about the leadership and management practices of the organization. But as Leo points out the current government is unlikely to step up and deal with it as they lack the “balls” – same as the previous government.
My advice to any police officer in this province that is designated as a “subject officer” in an IIO investigation is to exercise their charter rights and not say anything to anyone in this organization, once you receive this designation get up and walk away. These people are not looking for the truth of what happened, they are looking for a reason to justify their existence. This advice comes from someone who spent over 2 years with this organization, and is very happy not to be associated with them any longer.
Leo, in this article you seem to be quick to point out flaws, however, offer no suggestion of how it could be better. Which in my view is not helping the issue. I do know the police agencies certainly do not want to take it back! Perhaps we should cut them some slack and give them an opportunity to grow and become the agency you expect them to be.
Grow? Seriously? You think an agency who is in charge of investigating some of the most politically charged and controversial deaths needs time to grow? Tell that to the police officers being investigated or the families of those who died during the incidences.
Maybe we should think the same thing about homicide investigstions conducted by the police. Its ok if they mess up… they need time to grow.
The government, the police and the public have asked for years for this independant body so investigations are conducted fairly, thoroughly and without bias. The iio is failing these expecations and will continue to do so until they are held to the same standard police investigations are.
Grow? Well, I think four years and ten months has been enough time to have grown. Instead they are getting worse as I have pointed out. The problem there Dale is an absence of leadership. It has been the problem since day one. Richard Rosenthal was a poor choice for the first CCD. He had never managed a staff larger than 4 and was an American lawyer with zero experience in Canadian law. Yet he was hired to launch an organization of 50, something he had no experience doing then overseeing investigations based in Canadian law not American. What could possibly go wrong? Well, it did and in spades.
Offer suggestions? Well, I’m not being paid to offer suggestions, but if I were, it’s not a hard fix. People will follow a leader. As a leader on day one I would call all the staff together and tell them the way things have been done is over. From this point forward the mandate is to follow the evidence and find the truth wherever that may lead and to keep the public and affected family and officers and agencies informed in a timely manner. Rosenthal and Larkin’s nonsense would cease to exist on day one.
Then I would conduct interviews with all staff and get them to justify why they should remain on the team and identify areas where they are weak and determine what training they need to be effective. After assessing what I had to work with, I would go to the responsible minister and explain the shortcomings and provide a timetable to get the existing and needed staff hired and trained and when I anticipated to be fully operational. I would then put in place an appropriate call-out system with the existing staff so there was always a team available.
I would then explain to the minister how the legislation is flawed and what the government needs to do amend the legislation so that the organization can be effective.
Leadership isn’t hard, but it is needed at that organization in a big way. Leadership needs to be clear-eyed on what the mission is and to communicate that effectively to the team so that everyone understands what the mission is, where the team is going and why. The IIO has never had that.
Leo’s observations are bang on. The IIO has been dysfunctional from the beginning, and the BC government ought to be embarrassed that they are such an abysmal failure. The function of oversight to provide for public confidence is critically important, yet it has been left to spoil on the back burner from it’s earliest days.
Looks like the problem has been solved, the IIO has hired 8 more investigators.
Funny, they don’t mention if they are “new’ positions or if they are filling in the vacancies in the organization that exist due to the toxic and oppressive environment in that organization.
Rosenthal used to talk about the organization as being a plane being built while in flight, and later about under going a “sea change”…either way find a landing strip or safe port and end this comedy of errors.
You should ask who is doing the training in the IIO, training person had no experience training investigators before coming to the IIO.