Investigations into local officer-involved fatal shootings still incomplete
The Independent Investigations Office is responsible for investigating two officer-involved fatal shootings in the region in the past two years. In a second interview, conducted this week (the first was in March of 2015, to read that story, click here ) the Source again asked why the investigations were taking so long (to put that in context, IIO took over the DeGroot investigation on Oct. 13, 2014 and the Edey investigation on Jan. 29, 2015).
At this juncture, the IIO is indicating the DeGroot investigation is less than 75-per-cent complete (almost 450 days after the IIO taking it over) and the Edey one is only roughly 80-per-cent complete (almost 350 days after the IIO taking it over).
When asked why the investigations were taking so long, IIO spokesman Marten Youssef replied via email.
“As you can see from the graph on our website, these cases are near the end of the investigation phase. For both of these cases, we are relying on third-party reports,” Youssef wrote. “The next step after the investigation phase is completed will be for the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO to review each file and render a decision. “
He also said, when asked if the IIO acknowledges the tremendous harm these delays are potentially doing to the RCMP members in question, the loved ones of the deceased, and the public trust in general, that, “Conducting timely investigations is one of our missions. We realize the impact that uncertainty has on the affected persons, their families, the police officers and the community as a whole. It is for this reason that timeliness is a priority for us.”
TheSource also asked, “If backlogged third-party reports are slowing the process, why is the IIO not finding other, more speedy third parties? For example, should the IIO be subject to unreasonable waits for lab results, why not hire a different, faster lab?”
To which he responded, “We do rely on a number of different labs for our investigations. We use recognized, approved and accredited experts by the court. As with every other law enforcement agency and police oversight agency across Canada, we are bound by the protocols and standards of government.”
Finally, the Source asked what the X-factor was in speeding the process: What would be required to allow for more prompt and timely conclusions to investigations? Would an increase in funding be an adequate fix, or would other increased resources also be necessary?
To this, Yousseff said, “There are certainly issues of demand versus resources. Despite investigative resources, there are many factors affecting the ability to complete a timely investigation. The number and availability of witnesses, the complexity of the evidence that needs to be evaluated, the nature of the scene, the types of forensic tests that need to be conducted, the nature of the underlying facts: all of this can impact case timeliness. While some case investigations can be resolved promptly, others take more time. It is impossible to predict how long any particular investigation will take. Resourcing can be an issue when the IIO is faced with multiple fatalities that take place over a short period of time or when a particular file has to be prioritized due to any number of factors.
“We currently have 44 open investigations and 25 staff devoted to investigations. In 2015, there were 183 notifications, all of which require some investigative tasks to determine our jurisdiction.
“We do have an influx of new investigators coming onboard in the coming month and that will – overtime – hopefully affect our position. As mentioned above, timeliness is dependent on a number of factors.”
The Source also contacted the Ministry of Justice, the government agency responsible for the IIO, asking similar questions, and was answered in point form by spokesperson Elissa Carpenter via email.
“· Government created the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) to bring more transparency and accountability to policing in B.C. It has done this.
· The IIO ensures that all incidents of death or serious harm involving on- and off-duty police officers are dealt with promptly, appropriately and independently.
· It has an extremely challenging mandate and we have full confidence in the investigative work of the organization.
· Each investigation conducted by the IIO is competent, thorough and unbiased.”