Officers’ co-operation with probes questioned
The B.C. Police Act requires officers to co-operate with independent investigators, though whether it is effective in doing so is up for debate.
Earlier this week, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court seeking an order for a Vancouver police officer to cooperate fully with the office’s investigation into the death of 33-year-old Myles Gray.
The IIO alleges that Const. Harder Sahota, who witnessed the event, has refused requests for a second interview. Its petition is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the IIO and police over what constitutes co-operation in an investigation.
In another case, the IIO is taking Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer and seven officers to court over what it claims is a lack of co-operation with an investigation into the fatal shooting of 38-year-old Daniel Peter Rintou last year outside a Canadian Tire store.
IIO spokesman Martin Youssef said Wednesday that the main issue for his office is whether a witness officer is entitled to place conditions on “their duty to cooperate with an IIO investigation.”
In April, Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis said he believed the dispute could be resolved if the two sides sat down and had an open discussion about their issues. “Up to this point, there’s been no willingness on the part of the IIO to do this,” he said.
Neither Stamatakis or Youssef were available for further comment Thursday.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, another independent civilian oversight agency, has found that language around co-operation specifically related to the commission has been “satisfactory,” said Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner.
“It’s a little bit more precise than the duty of co-operation with the IIO,” Woods said.
The IIO has a mandate to investigate police-related incidents of death or serious harm, whereas the OPCC handles allegations of police misconduct. However, both require investigation into police actions and that police co-operate with investigators.
Section 101 of the B.C. Police Act, related to misconduct, requires officers to co-operate fully with an investigator. They must meet at a place specified by the investigator to answer questions relevant to the investigation, provide a written statement to the investigator and maintain confidentiality about the investigation.
They must confirm in writing that their answers and written statements are true and complete, and need to comply with requests related to answering questions, written statements and confidentiality within five business days.
However section 38.101 of the act, related to co-operation with the IIO, says only that “An officer must cooperate fully with ... the chief civilian director in the chief civilian director’s exercise of powers or performance of duties under this Act, and ... an IIO investigator in the IIO investigator’s exercise of powers or performance of duties under this Act.”
“It’s just two brief sentences,” Woods said.