Police shouldn’t be able to judge themselves

So the B.C. Liberals will finally create a new agency to investigate police. But will it be truly civilian and independent?

After his inquiry into Robert Dziekanski’s death, Thomas Braidwood recommended B.C. create an Independent Investigations Office modelled after Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit and answerable to the provincial Ombudsperson.

Braidwood probably knew that it took a lengthy investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman to keep the SIU from becoming an apologist for the police.

But B.C. isn’t following that recommendation. Instead, the IIO will answer to the Attorney General, leaving it open to political interference.

Unlike the SIU example, the IIO director can’t lay criminal charges. The IIO can only present evidence to Crown attorneys, who have been notoriously reluctant to charge police.

Without the Ombudsperson’s oversight, the IIO’s transparency is limited to the IIO monitor, who will be able to review its investigations. But the IIO monitor will be appointed by the IIO director.

Most disturbingly, B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will oversee the new agency. The OPCC is itself a product of police culture. Except for some very junior employees, it’s staffed by former police and people very close to the police.

It’s headed by Stan Lowe, a former Crown attorney who took part in the decision to exonerate the four RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death.

Now Lowe has authority over the police watchdog agency brought about by that death.

Meanwhile police will continue to investigate police accused of misconduct and “less serious” injuries. Their investigations will continue to be reviewed by Lowe and his staff of ex-cops.

Greg Klein