Michelle Cyr-Whiting, Prince George, B.C. (Opinion 250) – Police investigating police. It occurs whenever a serious incident, like a shooting death, involves an on-duty officer.
The Vice-Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC) admits these cases pose a serious challenge in terms of public perception. He notes, specifically, cases like the police shooting deaths of Ian Bush in Houston and Kevin St. Arnaud in Vanderhoof.
During a visit to Prince George last week, Brooke McNabb spoke about the double-edge sword such cases present. “Number one, you have to have your really good investigators because these are serious cases involving shootings and so forth.”
“So, your pool of the people who have that skill set would be, usually, police officers — they’re the experts at that.” McNabb says the difficulty on the other side, “Is the public perception there is a conflict of interest — that if police are investigating themselves, they’re collecting the evidence and, is somehow that going to be done improperly?”
He says it’s that perception problem that the RCMP, other police services, and governments are trying to address across the country right now.
In B.C., the Commission and the RCMP’s ‘E’ Division are running an Observer Pilot Project — where, as soon as there’s a serious event, an independent observer from the CPC is called in immediately.
“A recent example is the tasering case at Vancouver Airport, we were there, literally, within 24-hours as an independent observer watching over the RCMP investigation and ensuring that the team they put in place was impartial.”
McNabb says the pilot project is approaching the one year mark and is up for review, but he says initial impressions are that it is bolstering public confidence. “If it’s working well here, we would continue it (in B.C.) and look at the possibility of rolling it out across the country.”