Civilian-led watchdog could keep cops honest

Photo by 2010 Legal Observers on flickr.

After a steady stream of controversial, police-led investigations into civilian injuries and deaths caused by cops, Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King is happy the province's new civilian-led police watchdog will start conducting its own investigations into police incidents this fall. 


Led by a chief civilian director, Richard Rosenthal, and composed of both civilians and retired police officers, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of British Columbia has the authority to investigate deaths or injuries requiring emergency services that were caused by police. The organization starts September 10. 


The IIO will cover Royal Canadian Mounted Police in B.C., all local police departments, and any police visiting who have been designated a special provincial constable. 


King says he's hopeful Rosenthal, who served a similar role in Denver, Colorado, will be strict with officers who break protocol—or laws—and instill more public confidence in the police.


"I think one of the things he's already brought in is pushing the idea that if an officer is found guilty of deceit or lying the consequence of that should actually be dismissal," King told Megaphone. 


"The only way you can get it engrained in an officer’s mind that they have to be truthful in everything they do is to make sure that the consequence is that severe. If we can't believe what the police are saying, that's where the fundamental mistrust comes from."


But for King, it's not just the big cases like in-custody deaths that need independent investigation. He says smaller issues where cops are accused of assault and the only evidence is the victim's word are just as important for keeping police honest.


"The only thing you have to go by is which one is credible and which one is believable. And when those ones are investigated by police, the police officer wins 100 percent of the time," he says. 


"There's just no way that can be evaluated by another police officer fairly."

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