IIO Clears Vancouver Police Officer in Fatal Shooting (IIO 2015-000061)

Posted August 31, 2016

News Release
Independent Investigations Office
For Immediate Posting

Surrey – The Independent Investigations Office is issuing a public report today regarding a Vancouver Police Department fatal officer-involved shooting in the Downtown Eastside on April 9, 2015. The Chief Civilian Director of the IIO does not consider that any police officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Evidence examined in this investigation included statements made by 18 civilian witnesses, three witness officers; medical evidence; firearms evidence; dispatch records; police radio-to-radio communications and other forensic evidence collected from the scene.

The full public report can be found here.

Case Synopsis

On April 9, 2015 VPD officers responded to a complaint in the area of Gore and East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside.  According to police, there was a male with a knife who had stabbed a number of people near the First United Church.

Officers located the male at the scene and attempted to take him into custody. During this interaction, the male was shot by an officer. The male did not survive his injuries and died at the scene.

The IIO was notified by the VPD and investigated the incident as the death of the affected person is within the mandate of the IIO. The purpose of the IIO investigation was to determine whether an officer may have committed any offence during the course of their contact with the affected person.

Further Review & Officer’s Duty-to-Account

All firearm discharges resulting in death or serious harm are the subject of an automatic administrative review by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. As such, this incident is subject to review by that office. In addition to this, the CCD will be forwarding a complaint to the OPCC regarding the failure of two of the involved officers to write any duty-to-account report relating to this incident.

This case appears to be an example of a pattern of problems with respect to subject officers involved in critical incidents in British Columbia failing to prepare timely duty to accounts or notes of their involvement in incidents. These problems have been identified with respect to multiple files involving not just the Vancouver Police Department, but also the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and two other municipal police agencies. The IIO is following up with the Association of B.C. Chiefs of Police and the Director of Police Services to ensure that all subject officers in British Columbia are required to complete timely and comprehensive duty-to-account reports. Such reports are essential to ensure the integrity of criminal and administrative investigations and reviews of officer decisions to use deadly force or force likely to cause significant injury.

The importance of timely and comprehensive written reports, completed by both subject and witness officers, cannot be overstated. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has specifically noted that “police officers do have a duty to prepare accurate, detailed and comprehensive notes as soon as practicable after an investigation,” Wood v. Schaeffer, 2013 SCC 71 [2013] at paragraph 67 (in this context, the word “investigation” is referring to the police incident).

The IIO public report states: any police report written days, weeks or months after the fact would be subject to legitimate criticism and vigorous cross-examination in court and would likely be less accurate than a report prepared shortly after an event. In IIO investigations, reports prepared by witness and subject officers are often submitted to the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) as evidence in support of any lawful defences to potential offences committed by officers. In addition, the CCD reviews such reports, at the conclusion of IIO investigations, in order to ensure no offences have been committed with respect to the reporting of the incident.

Finally, police administrators would be expected to review such reports to ensure that officers are acting in accord with their policies, practices and expectations, which would inform appropriate administrative action in that regard. If reports are not prepared in a timely fashion, they become subject to legitimate challenge and become less reliable for these important purposes.

Marten Youssef
Acting Director, Public Engagement & Policy
Marten.Youssef@iiobc.ca

Aidan Buckley
Communications & Stakeholder Relations Liaison
Aidan.Buckley@iiobc.ca