The appointment of the province’s first director to head civilian investigations into serious incidents involving the RCMP and municipal police officers in B.C. is being welcomed by local members of the national police force.
Staff-Sgt. Terry McLachlan, acting operations officer at the Kelowna RCMP detachment, called the creation of the new Independent Investigations Office, and the appointment of Richard Rosenthal as its first chief civilian director, a “win-win” for both the pubic and the force.
“I only see it as a win-win situation,” said McLachan. “Overall, it’s a good thing.”
McLachlan, who was filling in for Kelowna’s top cop, Supt. Bill McKinnon Wednesday, said the RCMP in B.C. has been calling for such a move for the last four years.
He said during McKinnon’s term as the head of the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs a few tears ago, creation of such a civilian oversight office was one of his main focuses.
“(The creation of the offcie) is all about clarity and accountability,” said McLachlan.
The creation of the new Independent Investigations Office was recommended by Judge Thomas Braidwood in his report about the Tazer death of Robert Dziekanski and was also prompted by other high-profile police related deaths including the shooting of Ian Bush while in police custody during a struggle with a mountie in Houston in 2005
Local MLA Norm Letnick also welcomed the announcement of Rosenthal’s appointment, noting his work in a similar capacity in Denver. Rosenthal also helped establish civilian oversight bodies to look at police incidents in Portland, Oregon and before than worked with the District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
The Independent Investigations Office is expected to be up and running by mid-2012 and its director, who cannot be a former cop, will have the discretion to hire former police officers as investigators, as long as they have not served in B.C. or, in the case of members of the RCMP, within the past five years.
The Independent Investigations Office will conduct criminal investigations regarding police-related incidents that result in severe injury or death.
The existing Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, an independent office of the B.C. Legislature, will continue to examines conduct issues in municipal police departments. It does not have a mandate to engage in criminal investigations.
Conduct issues involving the RCMP will still be dealt with by the federal Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.