CHIEF WELCOMES REVIEW
Legislation guiding Independent Investigation Unit needs ‘clarity’
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.