The recommendation seems eminently sensible but we now must wait to see if the Harper government acts quickly to rectify the situation. Self-investigation has always involved a clear conflict of interest plus the public perception will often be that investigations that clear officers are a whitewash. For once the watchdog is actually acting like a watchdog!
RCMP shouldn't probe itself in serious cases: watchdog
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Canadian Press
Paul Kennedy CBC
The RCMP watchdog says the Mounties should not investigate their own members in the most serious cases — especially when someone has died — due to conflict of interest.
In a new report, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP recommends sexual assault and serious injury cases involving Mounties sometimes be turned over to outside investigators to ensure independence.
The commission, which spent 19 months studying the controversial issue of the RCMP investigating itself, calls for several policy and legislative changes to avoid actual or perceived conflicts.
Currently, the national police force has discretion to decide how such investigations will unfold.
"Overall, it is the CPC's contention that criminal investigations into members should not be treated the same way as any other criminal investigation," says the commission's report released Tuesday.
"As the seriousness of the offence alleged against a member rises, the discretion for the RCMP to respond as it deems appropriate must be removed and mandatory requirements should be inserted in its place."
Taser case highlights issue
Several recent incidents have highlighted the thorny subject of police investigating police, including the case of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver Airport in 2007 after being hit with an RCMP Taser, and that of Ian Bush, shot and killed by a Mountie in B.C. four years ago.
In November 2007, complaints commission chairman Paul Kennedy began looking into the practice of the RCMP investigating itself in cases involving serious injury or death.
He examined 28 cases from a five-year period, including six deaths.
"We sought to answer the following question: Can the current process of the RCMP investigating itself legitimately engender confidence in the transparency and integrity of the criminal investigation and its outcome?
"Based on the results of our research and analysis, the informed commission answer is that it cannot."
He told reporters the force does not track investigations against its own and has no understanding of the scope of the problem.
"There is currently no national, centralized co-ordination of member investigations," he said. "That means that no member of the RCMP, including the RCMP commissioner, can tell you how many criminal investigations have been undertaken into its own members.
"More serious is that no one can tell you how many members have been investigated for serious injury, sexual assault or death nor can they identify how many charges have been laid against their members nor what the outcome was."
© The Canadian Press, 2009