Under the Police Act, Witness Officers are compelled to cooperate with an IIO investigation. This will generally include participating in an interview and submitting notes, documents, etc. for review by the IIO in the course of its investigation. A Witness Officer may also be required to assist in a reconstruction of the incident. No information provided by a witness officer can be used against that officer in criminal or civil court.
Subject Officers are officers who face jeopardy as a result of a critical incident and the subsequent IIO investigation. Like any other person in Canada who faces jeopardy, Subject Officers have rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that includes the right to silence.
IIO investigators will communicate any requests of Subject Officers either verbally or in writing. Where represented by legal counsel, the request will be provided to the lawyer.
Whenever the IIO is notified of a critical incident, the IIO has jurisdiction. There are times when the IIO on-call Director may recommend the CCD decline jurisdiction based on the information received by the police agency. In other circumstances, the IIO may conduct a preliminary investigation to confirm if the incident meets the two part test for sustaining jurisdiction – confirmed death or serious harm as defined AND a connection or relationship between the injury and an officer’s actions.
If the preliminary investigation confirms death/serious harm and connection, the IIO will sustain jurisdiction. If not, the CCD will release jurisdiction and will take no further action.
After the IIO asserts jurisdiction over an incident, the involved police service will designate an officer, who is not an involved officer, to act as liaison with the IIO. The LO is expected to be a supervisor who has immediate access to the scene and to all officers whose cooperation may be needed during the course of the IIO investigation.
If you are identified as a Subject Officer (an officer whose presence, action or decision is reasonably believed to have caused death or “serious harm” (as defined in the Police Act), you will be required to surrender any police-issued equipment that may have been in your possession at the time of the incident. You may be asked to allow yourself to be photographed in order to establish your appearance at the time of and immediately subsequent to the incident.
Witness Officers (an officer involved in or present during the incident, who is not a Subject Officer) are required to cooperate with the IIO and may also be required to surrender items in possession at the time of the incident. This may include personal property where there is potential evidence, particularly in fatal incidents. Any personal property will be processed efficiently and returned as soon as practicable.
Pursuant to the Police Act (Part 7.1, Section 38.09), “officers at the scene must take any lawful measures that appear to the officers to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of obtaining and preserving evidence relating to the matter.” As such, officers at the scene are required to collect evidence that would otherwise be lost prior to the IIO’s arrival at the scene. Any such acts must be documented and communicated to the IIO at the earliest possible time.
IIO Investigators will travel to any location in BC to complete an investigation. In most cases, the general scene examination will be done by the involved police service but will be monitored by the IIO. It is expected that witnesses will be interviewed by IIO Investigators.
At scenes where the IIO are the only or primary investigative body, they will set priorities and direction to ensure maximizing of evidential opportunities. In circumstances where there are concurrent or parallel investigations, both agencies will consult on priorities to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Once an IIO investigation is complete and a decision whether or not to forward the file to Crown Counsel has been made, affected persons, Subject Officers, police command staff and other relevant stakeholders (for example, the Coroner’s Service, the OPCC and/or the CRCC) are notified, in writing, prior to the findings being made public.
The IIO will use a similar protocol for communicating other important decisions such as when a public report will be issued; when Crown has made the charge approval decision and when a Clear Statement (prepared by the Criminal Justice Branch) is being released to the public.
The IIO conducts investigations into on and off duty police related critical incidents of death and serious harm. The IIO does not investigate complaints of misconduct. Investigation and review of complaints made against municipal police officers remain the responsibility of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC). Complaints made against members of the RCMP are the responsibility of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC).
As June 1, 2017, approximately 50 percent of IIO investigators are former police officers. Those without policing backgrounds have significant experience in a wide variety of investigative, regulatory and enforcement agencies. The IIO is under a government mandated goal to have an “office that is staffed entirely with employees and IIO investigators who have never served as officers or members of a police or law enforcement agency.” (See Part 7.1, Section 38.13 of the Police Act). No specific goals have been mandated as to the timing of the civilianization of the IIO.