Growing pains for police investigation unit

Richard Rosenthal has fired ex-cops from Independent Investigations Office in a move to all-civilian oversight of police-involved shootings

Richard Rosenthal is three years into a five-year term as chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office. He is eligible to be reappointed to one more term.

B.C. police forces have undergone a “sea change” in the two years since a civilian-led unit was put in charge of investigating police-involved deaths and serious injuries, says the man in charge of the Independent Investigations Office.

But the road to a new system that is moving away from police investigating other police has not been smooth, former U.S. prosecutor Richard Rosenthal acknowledged in his report to a committee of B.C. MLAs Thursday.

The office started up in the fall of 2012 with 36 investigators, about half and half civilians and former police officers. Its mandate was to move to all-civilian investigations, and Rosenthal said progress has been made, with two thirds of staff in the two investigative teams being people who have never worked as police officers.

This year four former officers were fired from the IIO, and five more resigned, Rosenthal told the committee. Two civilian staff also quit this year after three civilians resigned in 2013. Another former officer was “separated from the organization” in 2012, Rosenthal said.

He cited three reasons for the high turnover: “cultural conflicts,” the struggles of a new organization and evolution of jobs that causes people to look for something new.

A one-time Los Angeles deputy district attorney who worked on the 1999 Rampart case involving violence and drug dealing in the city’s police force, Rosenthal set up independent police oversight in Portland and Denver before coming to B.C.

He was asked about a survey of his operation that referred to a lower-than expected case load. Rosenthal said that was done before the office dealt with four fatal officer-involved shootings in less than three months.

“I don’t believe there is a single person in the office who would say that today,” he said.

Rosenthal said video cameras for police dog handlers, general-duty officers and police Tasers would help in some cases, but that is a decision for police services due to cost and privacy concerns.

The B.C. government committed to a civilian-led agency after a string of incidents involving RCMP and city police forces. The office was recommended by inquiries into the 2007 deaths of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport, and Frank Paul, who was removed from the Vancouver Police drunk tank in 1998 and left unconscious in an alley.

The 2005 gunshot death of Ian Bush at the RCMP detachment in Houston, B.C. was another case that pushed the B.C. government to end the practice of police incidents being investigated by other police forces. The independent office also brought B.C. RCMP officers under civilian oversight.

The B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner is continuing to handle public complaints against police forces in the province.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Summerland taxes expected to rise by 4.0%

Increase to add an estimated $77.73 to typical tax bill

Four things NOT to do if you run into Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Like many in British Columbia, you may be worried about running into… Continue reading

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

NHL prospects returning to Penticton for Young Stars Classic

After a one-year absence the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is returning… Continue reading

Summerland Steam earn two weekend wins

Junior B team defeats Osoyoos Coyotes and Kelowna Chiefs

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Jagmeet Singh says NDP caucus will discuss whether to support new NAFTA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said steps to ratify the new NAFTA are top of mind

Handmade shelters help house Salmon Arm’s large feral feline population

Shuswap Paws Rescue Society fixed and adopted out about 500 cats in 2019

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

University of Victoria tells stories of Holocaust survivors with graphic novels

International storytelling initiative launched first meetings this winter

Tourism visits to the Thompson/Okanagan up 18 per cent year-over-year

In 2019, almost 11.4 million people spent at least one night visiting the region

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

Most Read