The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) recently reviewed an arrest made in Penticton in 2018 after a driver alleged he was seriously injured during an unlawful arrest. The man alleged he was “slammed” to the ground by the officer when he went to pick his wallet off of the ground, but footage from the officer’s dash cam tells a different story of the situation. (File Photo)

‘Totally unacceptable:’ Most independent investigators white, former officers

B.C. only province not to provide number of investigators who identify as a visible minority, person of colour

The majority of independent investigators delving into alleged police misconduct in Canada are white men who are former police officers.

Seven provincial independent investigation units currently look into incidents involving police.

The Canadian Press has found that of the 167 members involved in these units, 111 are former officers or have had a working relationship with police, and 118 of them are men.

Every province but B.C. also provided the number of investigators in their units who identify as a visible minority or person of colour. There are 20.

“It’s very, very biased,” says Ghislain Picard, regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. “How can you expect any trust from those cultural minorities and Indigenous Peoples?

“The interaction between the independent bureau and our communities it’s practically non-existent.”

Indigenous people don’t have hope for justice when police investigate themselves, Picard adds, especially after what happened in Val d’Or, Que., more than 500 kilometres north of Montreal.

In 2015, there were 38 cases involving complaints by multiple women there against Sûreté du Québec officers. Some women claimed they were drugged and sexually assaulted. Montreal police investigated.

In the end, two retired police officers were charged. Both died before their cases finished in court.

At the time, some 2,500 police officers wore red bands while on duty to support their accused colleagues. First Nations members who testified during a commission said it was clearly an intimidation tactic.

In the wake of the scandal, Quebec’s Bureau of Independent Investigations was created. Picard says creation of a largely white investigative unit made up of former officers has done nothing to repair the relationship.

More than half the unit’s 44 investigators had previous police employment. Four are people of colour but none are Indigenous. It does have an Indigenous liaison.

“It’s again the police investigating their own,” Picard says. “That’s totally unacceptable for many people. There is no faith, no trust coming from women.”

The agency declined to comment on Picard’s remarks.

The unit was recently tasked with investigating two recent police shootings of Indigenous people in New Brunswick, which doesn’t have its own independent investigative unit.

Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut also don’t have independent units and outside forces are generally called in to investigate cases there.

Independent units in Nova Scotia and Newfound and Labrador have no people of colour working as investigators. Manitoba has three of 11. Ontario has the most, with 9 of its 52 investigators.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, says because investigative units are comprised largely of former officers, there is the perception of an allegiance to the policing world.

Officers also can bring systemic biases or racism that exist in law enforcement, he says.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has permanent investigators, as well as seconded members from police forces. All 25 members are former law enforcement.

Susan Hughson, the executive director, said in an email “that experience is invaluable.”

But Owusu-Bempah questions what independence there can be when active police officers are seconded to a unit. He says civilians should instead be educated and trained to work in these units.

“We’ve got issues related to trust and confidence in law enforcement in this country, especially amongst marginalized populations,” he says.

Civil rights groups and families have also criticized a lack of charges, and even less convictions, stemming from investigations by independent units.

In Manitoba, there have been a handful of convictions against on-duty police officers since its unit began in 2015. The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba was created after criticism of a probe into an off-duty officer who drove into another vehicle after a night of partying, and killed a mother behind the wheel.

Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Queen’s University and a member of the Kingston Police board, says he would caution against people assuming more women, Black or Indigenous people in these units would lead to different outcomes.

And in many cases, he says former officers have the best skills to investigate.

“I think we have yet to see a case where somebody challenged the findings of an independent investigation unit on the grounds that the findings were biased.”

Black Lives Matter demonstrations have helped people see that the public has a role in deciding how police are funded and held accountable, Leuprecht adds. That includes independent investigative units.

“In a democracy, it’s ultimately up to us to make decisions,” he says.

“And if we don’t like what’s happening, it shouldn’t be up to police to decide how to run things. It should be up to the public.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Potential designs for 85 Station St. were presented last month to the City of Duncan by the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture. (Courtesy of Communitecture)
City of Duncan considers applying for grant for Station Street project

New provincial program offers grants of up to $1 million

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, left, joined Rob Douglas, right, NDP candidate for the Cowichan Valley in the upcoming provincial election, on a tour to meet people in Lake Cowichan on Oct. 16 and discuss local issues. (Robert Barron/Citizen) Douglas’s campaign continued to pull out all the stops with a visit on Sunday from Premier John Horgan for some spearfishing in Duncan. (Submitted)
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visits Lake Cowichan

Rob Douglas, NDP’s candidate for Cowichan Valley, joins him

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast a ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Most Read