Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP reports on inadequate RCMP investigation

Last Wednesday, May 27, 2009, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP released a report showing that the British Columbia RCMP made significant errors in their investigation of the death of Kevin St. Arnaud.

St. Arnaud was killed by Constable Ryan Sheremetta on December 19, 2004. St. Arnaud broke into a pharmacy that night, causing Sheremetta to respond to the call. Constable Colleen Erickson also responded to the call in a separate police car. Sheremetta saw St. Arnaud running from the mall where the pharmacy was located and pursued him in his police car. Ultimately, Sheremetta continued the pursuit on foot. Then, when Sheremetta was yelling for St. Arnaud to stop running, St Arnaud turned around and came back towards Sheremetta. Sheremetta says that he then fell on his back, from which position he shot St. Arnaud 3 times in the chest. Constable Erickson’s story is different, however. She says that she observed Sheremetta, while standing in a police shooting stance and not on his back as he reported, shoot twice at St. Arnaud from a distance of approximately ten feet. The autopsy showed that St. Arnaud was shot 3 times.

On March 15, 2006, the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, Paul Kennedy, initiated a complaint regarding the St. Arnaud case. The complaint addressed whether members of the RCMP improperly entered into a situation with St. Arnaud that resulted in his death and whether a member of the RCMP improperly discharged his firearm in the incident. The complaint was later amended to question whether members of the RCMP failed to conduct an adequate investigation into the death of St. Arnaud.

Eventually, the RCMP began an investigation as a result of the complaint. The results of the investigation were reported in the Commissioner’s Final Report dated June 26, 2008. This report stated that RCMP members properly responded to the break-in; that Constable Sheremetta’s actions were reasonable because he believed he would suffer grievous bodily harm or death, and that generally the RCMP conducted an adequate investigation into St. Arnaud’s death.

On October 29, 2008 the Commission concluded generally in its interim report that some elements of the RCMP investigation in St. Arnaud’s death were inadequate, some elements of the RCMP investigation into St. Arnaud’s death lacked impartiality, and that the investigative team failed to follow the Major Case Management Model.

The Commission’s findings and recommendations stated, among other things, that “it is imperative that the RCMP foster the confidence of the Canadian public by demonstrating that it embraces the best practices of a policing organization…it is not helpful for the RCMP to engage in rationalization and minimization…A frank acknowledgement of deficiencies or errors, where they exist, would serve not only to establish that the RCMP is accountable for its actions but that it is a principled organization worthy of the public trust.”

Posted by Ashley Paterson (Law II) (LEAP Summer Intern)

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