Jessica Barrett (North Shore News) – A District of North Vancouver councillor and retired police officer has some strong words for Canada’s national police force following a critical report from the RCMP’s watchdog earlier this week.
“The time for political double-talk is over,” said Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn, who served with the Vancouver Police Department for 30 years. “Accept the fact that there needs to be a change, thank the commission for their work and implement it.”
MacKay-Dunn’s comments follow a report released Tuesday by Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. In his report, Kennedy recommended serious changes to the RCMP’s internal investigations policy, which he said creates a “perceived risk of bias or intimidation.”
While Kennedy found investigators in all 28 cases he reviewed acted professionally and free of bias, he was troubled by 25 per cent of cases where lower-ranking officers investigated their superiors. Additionally, Kennedy found officers knew the subject of their investigation in 32 per cent of cases and in 60 per cent of cases only one officer was assigned to the case and interviewed subjects alone.
Those types of practices are lethal to the public’s trust, making it harder for frontline officers to do their job, said MacKay-Dunn.
“This is a shocking document to me. It took me completely by surprise,” he said.
MacKay-Dunn supported the report’s recommendation that Mounties under investigation in cases where death, serious injury or sexual assault has occurred should be investigated by outside police agencies. He also endorsed Kennedy’s call for a national policy on all scenarios where officers are subjects of criminal investigation.
“What you do is you simply make special constables by an order in cabinet, and it’s done. It can be set up in 15 minutes,” he said, calling for investigative powers over the RCMP to be added to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner in British Columbia, which currently only investigates complaints against municipal police officers.
A request for comment from the North Vancouver RCMP was referred to national headquarters where a spokeswoman pointed to a letter by RCMP Commissioner William Elliott dated July 29.
In the letter, Elliott states the RCMP will be implementing changes to its internal investigations policy that will “address a number of the concerns raised in the report.” However he defended the RCMP’s current practice of self-investigation, citing cases in smaller detachments where no other police force is available.
That argument was rejected by MacKay-Dunn. “Last time I checked, the RCMP has its own plane,” he said. “They can fly people in.” He added patrol officers on duty could still carry out primary investigations, including securing crime scenes and collecting evidence. “But the investigation, the examination of the evidence, the interviewing of witnesses, the taking of statements — all of that can be done by a professional body other than the RCMP.”
MacKay-Dunn said the ultimate price of the RCMP’s non-transparency is paid by the rank and file — including officers with the North Vancouver detachment. Frontline officers do an admirable job in 99.9 per cent of cases, he said, in spite of what he called a “leadership crisis.”
“We have a duty to support them and not embarrass them because of upper echelons’ lack of leadership. . . . It’s a terrible environment in which to be a police officer.”