The provincial government on Tuesday announced legislation that would create a civilian-led office to conduct criminal investigation into incidents involving police.
“It is critical that British Columbians have confidence in our police and that the police are accountable to them,” said Premier Christy Clark. “This legislation is an historic step for policing in B.C. and will strengthen public faith in the dedicated officers who work so hard to keep our families safe.”
The move was welcomed by the BC Civil Liberties Association, which has long been advocating for the end of police self investigation.
The issue has been a contentious one in recent years, in particular following the 2007 tasering death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.
More recently, the issue was raised locally, after RCMP Const. Geoffrey Mantler was caught on video kicking a suspect in the face earlier this year.
The idea of a civilian investigation office was recommended by Justice Thomas Braidwood a year ago, following a commission that looked into Dziekanski’s death.
According to the province, the newly announced investigations office finds its roots in that recommendation and will have its powers entrenched in legislation.
Its mandate will include criminal investigations into police-related incidents involving death or serious harm, as well as other serious incidents.
It is to be the lead investigative agency for such cases, and its members will gather evidence and interview witnesses.
It will be led by a civilian who has never been a police officer and will look into incidents both within the RCMP and independent municipal departments.
The office will report to the Ministry of Attorney General, rather than the Solicitor General, which is responsible for policing.
“The establishment of this new office should help build public confidence that allegations against police are investigated in an impartial way,” said Attorney General Barry Penner.
It is expected the office will be operational by the end of this year.