Thursday, August 13, 2009

RCMP rejects CPC's recommendation that internal RCMP investigations cease in cases involving death

On Tuesday, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC) released a report concluding that the RCMP’s internal investigation process is inadequate. Referring to the RCMP’s current process as “Police investigating Police,” the CPC concluded that such practice “does not engender confidence in the transparency and integrity of an investigation and its outcomes.” Further, the research done by the CPC revealed some troubling statistics. First, that 25% of investigators knew the member they were investigating. CPC Chair Paul Kennedy noted that this can result in bias, or in situations where the investigating member is of a lower rank than the member being investigated, intimidation. The report also revealed that internal investigations are conducted by members with significantly different levels of experience and qualification.

The CPC made several recommendations to help remedy the internal investigation process until a more permanent solution is created. Among these recommendations were that all member investigations involving death be referred to an external police force or provincial body. The CPC rejected the current RCMP policy that internal investigations be handled like any other investigation because “[p]olice are held to higher account by the very nature of the work they do.”

The response from RCMP Commissioner William Elliot that it was business as usual was very disappointing and likely did little to satisfy the public anticipation that the CPC's recommendations would be implemented. Elliot argued that there are specific situations where it is impossible for the RCMP not to investigate itself, for example, in remote communities where waiting for outside police forces to arrive and begin an investigation could threaten the credibility of forensic evidence. Elliot seemed to believe the investigative process within the RCMP was not as flawed as the CPC found.

Yet to a scrutinizing public eye, or perhaps the families of people such as Robert Dziekanski or Ian Bush who were killed at the hands of RCMP officers, Elliot’s underwhelming response may not be enough. Unfortunately, his response may actually contribute to a lack of transparency and accountability within the RCMP, which implementation of the recommendations was meant to restore. Further, offering exceptional situations where it may be difficult to implement the recommendations (such as in extremely remote communities) appears to be an excuse as to why the recommendations will not work. In short, Elliot has done nothing to restore public confidence regarding internal RCMP investigations, if anything, he has made the situation worse by attempting to protect a method that is clearly flawed.

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


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