Ralph Krenz of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC visited Fort St. James last week to educate people on the organization.
The IIO was established to provide a civilian group to investigate when the RCMP or municipal police (on or off-duty) are involved in incidents where a civilian was seriously harmed or killed.
While Ontario has had an independent investigator for these kinds of cases for much longer, B.C. only recently came out with their own, after incidents such as the 1998 death of Frank Paul and the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver International Airport.
The Braidwood Commission report laid out how the IIO would work, and in september of 2012, the IIO office opened their doors.
While the head office is in Surrey while the organization gets esablished, Krenz said there are plans to eventually have satellite offices across the province.
Krenz laid out the jurisdiction of the organization, and how the definition of “serious harm,” which comes from the insurance definition, does limit their oversight on certain matters.
For example, an alleged sexual assault by a police officer would not fall under their jurisdiction because the definition of serious harm they use only includes injuries which may result in death, cause serious disfigurement or may cause substantial loss or impairment of mobility of the body as a whole or of the function of any limb or organ.
Krenz said “morally and ethically” sexual assault likely should be looked at by an outside investigator, however at this time those investigations are still done by the police force themselves.
There will be a legislative review in 2015 which could potentially address some of the problems with the definition of serious harm being used.
Krenz also explained some of the requirements of working for the IIO, which will make the organization more and more independent from police influence as time goes on.
While at this point there are around two-thirds of IIO investigators have experience as former police investigators, over time he said this will decrease as the organization can train people from within their organization. The investigators can not have been a police officer in B.C. during the five years before taking the position, so already there is some separation from their previous affiliation with a police force.
The goals of the IIO are to complete fair, thorough investigations of incidents, to improve the timeliness of the investigations and to provide transparency and accountability in each case. Krenz also discussed some of the obligations of the police officers at an incident when it does occur and how initially, preservation of the scene and evidence does fall to the local police force, but is then handed over to IIO investigators or overseen by experienced IIO forensic experts.
The IIO was called to investigate an incident in Vanderhoof on March 10, when a truck was stunt driving but an officer did not pursue the vehicle when it left the scene.
The officer later discovered the vehicle crashed into a post near Burrard Street and Highway 16. The officer reportedly spoke to the driver, who later fled the scene.
Three passengers were also in the vehicle, two of which were seriously injured in the crash.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.