Leg­is­la­tion guid­ing In­de­pen­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit needs ‘clar­ity’

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN THORPE [email protected]­ Twit­ter: @rk_thorpe

Win­nipeg po­lice Chief Danny Smyth ex­pects the prov­ince’s re­view of the Po­lice Ser­vices Act to in­clude Man­i­toba’s In­de­pen­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit, say­ing clar­ity is needed on some is­sues that have caused dis­putes be­tween the force and the law en­force­ment watch­dog /

WIN­NIPEG po­lice Chief Danny Smyth says he has been in talks with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment about its pend­ing re­view of the Po­lice Ser­vices Act and ex­pects it to take a look at re­vamp­ing the rules gov­ern­ing the In­de­pen­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit of Man­i­toba.

Smyth, who has led the Win­nipeg Po­lice Ser­vice since Novem­ber 2016, said he would wel­come the re­view.

He ex­pressed hope Fri­day it could lead to clar­ity on some is­sues that have cre­ated ten­sions and dis­putes be­tween the city force and the po­lice watch­dog.

“One of the things I talked about was just hav­ing some greater clar­ity in the (Po­lice Ser­vices Act). Right now, par­tic­u­larly with the IIU reg­u­la­tions, it’s very fo­cused on po­lice of­fi­cers, and it didn’t ex­pand on that to in­clude peace of­fi­cers, which would in­clude peo­ple like our cadets,” Smyth said.

The Po­lice Ser­vices Act is the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing both the po­lice ser­vice and the IIU. Smyth’s com­ments came in the wake of an eight-month Free Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two agen­cies.

A se­ries of free­dom-of-in­for­ma­tion re­quests pro­duced hun­dreds of pages of IIU doc­u­ments and cor­re­spon­dence that served as the back­bone for the project.

The doc­u­ments re­vealed nu­mer­ous road­blocks thrown up by po­lice, both in­di­vid­u­ally and in­sti­tu­tion­ally, that have un­der­mined the IIU’s ef­fec­tive­ness, in­clud­ing re­peated dis­putes over ju­ris­dic­tion.

One ex­am­ple, among many, in­volved Smyth block­ing a re­quest to in­ter­view a WPS cadet for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a po­lice-in­volved shooting.

IIU civil­ian direc­tor Zane Tessler wanted to in­ter­view the cadet dur­ing the watch­dog’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Smyth as­serted cadets fall out­side the scope of the Po­lice Ser­vices Act, and there­fore the IIU has no right to in­volve them in its probes — even when they’re eye­wit­nesses to pos­si­ble crim­i­nal mis­con­duct.

“I’m cer­tainly open to (cadets) be­ing in­cluded in that, but right now, it’s not clear to me whether (they were left out of the leg­is­la­tion) de­lib­er­ately or if it was an over­sight,” Smyth said Fri­day.

“One of the things (the leg­is­la­tion) pro­vided for them, was they rec­og­nized there would be gaps and a re­view would be nec­es­sary... We’re ac­tu­ally a bit over five years now. I’m en­cour­aged the prov­ince is com­mit­ted to re­view­ing that and maybe ad­dress­ing some of these.”

As a re­sult of the Free Press se­ries, some politi­cians, such as Man­i­toba Lib­eral Leader Dougald La­mont, called for an over­haul to the Po­lice Ser­vices Act in or­der to sharpen the IIU’s teeth.

Dur­ing its throne speech last month, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment an­nounced it plans to re­view the act, although no specifics were given on whether that would in­clude a closer look at the IIU.

In an in­ter­nal memo sent to all WPS of­fi­cers fol­low­ing the Free Press se­ries, Smyth re­peat­edly took is­sue with the re­port­ing, claim­ing it sought to “un­der­mine trust in the po­lice.”

None­the­less, he also high­lighted the need for cer­tain re­forms to the leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing the WPS and the IIU that had been brought to light.

“I rec­og­nize that there are gaps in the Po­lice Ser­vices Act that re­quire amend­ments... Per­haps (Man­i­toba) Jus­tice of­fi­cials will now be mo­ti­vated to con­sider changes to the act to ad­dress these gaps,” Smyth wrote.


Win­nipeg Po­lice Ser­vice Chief Danny Smyth speaks to re­porters af­ter the po­lice board meet­ing Fri­day. Smyth says it’s not clear to him that po­lice cadets can be in­ter­viewed by the watch­dog.

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