Affected person and family members
What is an Affected Person?
An Affected Person, or AP, in an IIO investigation is the person who suffered serious harm or died in a police-involved incident. In cases where a person has died as a result of the incident, their family is offered support and updates.
Many of the individuals involved in an IIO investigation are “suspects” in police concurrent investigations. Rather than use the terms suspect or victim, the IIO uses ‘Affected Person’ to maintain a neutrality that is consistent with the IIO mandate to conduct fair and unbiased investigations.
If I am a witness to an incident, am I considered an Affected Person?
While you would not be considered an Affected Person, you may be impacted by an incident and the IIO investigation. The IIO Affected Persons Liaison is available to speak with you and help you access services in your community. You can connect with the IIO using our contact form.
What does the Affected Persons Liaison do?
The Affected Persons Liaison (APL) provides support to those affected by incidents the IIO is investigating or their family if they have died.
The APL will:
- explain the role of the IIO and the investigative process;
- discuss how the various investigative agencies work together;
- facilitate access to support services in the community; and
- act as a liaison through the life of the file by providing updates and relaying questions to the investigative team.
Is an Affected Person required to cooperate with the IIO?
An Affected Person is not compelled to cooperate with an IIO investigation. However, the Affected Person’s account of what took place is important to the IIO’s investigation. In addition, the Affected Person’s medical records are often required to confirm serious harm and that the IIO mandate to investigate is met.
Can the information provided by an Affected Person be used against them?
An Affected Person may be the subject of a concurrent or parallel police investigation, and as a result, they may face jeopardy. When an IIO Investigator takes an Affected Person’s statement, the focus is on the Affected Person’s interaction with police, not the Affected Person’s possible criminal conduct. The Investigator will advise the Affected Person not to provide incriminating information in their IIO statement as IIO file material may be disclosed to the involved police agency.
Will the IIO seize an Affected Person’s personal belongings?
If the Affected Person’s personal belongings are considered evidence, they will be seized. The IIO will process the items as efficiently as possible and return them as soon as they are no longer required.
What should an Affected Person do if they are contacted by the media?
Media outlets may contact Affected Persons or their families regarding an incident under IIO investigation and request comment. It is up to the Affected Person or their family if they wish to speak to the media, but they are not obligated to do so even if media ask. Please refer to the media page in the IIO’s Information for Affected Persons and Families booklet for more information. This resource is also available in Traditional Chinese and Punjabi.
Will the IIO release the name of an Affected Person to the public?
In general, the IIO does not release the names of affected persons, as stated in the Canadian Civilian Oversight Agencies Joint Statement on the Release of Names. Only under exceptional circumstances will the IIO determine it necessary to release the name of an Affected Person, such as to secure essential evidence when there are no alternative means available to do so. If Crown Counsel approves a charge, the BC Prosecution Service will release the name of the Affected Person.
Will the BC Coroners Service release the name of an Affected Person to the public?
If an inquest is ordered into the death by the BC Coroners Service, they will release the name of an Affected Person.
What type of information may be provided to an affected person during an investigation?
The IIO recognizes that the wait for an investigation to conclude is challenging for Affected Persons and their families. The IIO places the highest importance on ensuring an unbiased, thorough investigation, and only information that does not jeopardize the integrity of the investigation will be provided until such a time as the investigation has concluded.
Updates provided to Affected Persons and families often include information regarding the status of the file and upcoming milestones. Upon conclusion, if an investigation is not being referred to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges, the IIO will provide as much information as possible to Affected Persons and families, while respecting relevant privacy laws.
Where an investigation is referred to Crown Counsel, the IIO is limited in what information that can be provided until a charge decision and any related court proceedings are concluded.
What is “embargoed information”?
Sometimes the IIO provides an Affected Person and/or their families with information that is considered “embargoed”. Usually this information is related to a decision made by the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) that is shared with the Affected Person and/or their family, along with other involved parties, before it is made public. For example, where the CCD is referring the file to Crown Counsel or is about to issue a public report, the Affected Person or their family will be notified in advance. When this occurs, the IIO requires that the information be kept confidential until it is made public. The Affected Person and/or their family may contact the Affected Persons Liaison if they have any questions.
How can I request an update on my file as an Affected Person?
At any point during an investigation, Affected Persons are welcome to contact the IIO to obtain an update on their file. The Affected Persons Liaison will be the primary point of contact.
Once an investigation is complete, if it is forwarded to Crown Counsel with the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) and Crown does not approve charges, they will issue a Clear Statement that provides a brief chronology of the evidence and the rationale for the decision. Clear Statements can be found on the BCPS website.
If the Chief Civilian Director does not refer the file to Crown Counsel, they may choose to publish a public report or media release explaining the decision on the IIO website where it is in the public interest to do so.
What can an Affected Person do if they disagree with the Chief Civilian Director’s decision?
If, after discussing their concerns with the Affected Persons Liaison, an Affected Person and/or their family still has questions, they may request a meeting with the Chief Civilian Director.
Does the IIO provide any financial assistance during an IIO investigation?
The IIO does not have the authority to provide financial support to an Affected Person or their family during an IIO investigation. The Affected Persons Liaison may be able to assist an Affected Person with referrals to community resources and services.
General FAQs about the IIO
When did the IIO open?
The IIO officially became operational on September 10, 2012.
When does the IIO use police forensic services?
The IIO has a team of forensic experts who conduct forensic investigations for the IIO, as well as being responsible for engaging with, monitoring, and reviewing the work of police forensic personnel to ensure that scene processing and evidence collection is according to best practices and meets the expectations of Crown Counsel and the courts. IIO Investigators take possession of relevant evidence and secure it in IIO facilities.
When will the IIO use police facilities to during an investigation?
There are some circumstances under which IIO Investigators will use police facilities in order to ensure a timely, competent investigation. The IIO will seek to interview civilian witnesses at a neutral location; however, if there is no objection by the witness, for the sake of convenience the interview may be conducted at a police facility. The IIO also makes regular use of provincial government offices when required.
Under what circumstances will the IIO use police transportation?
The IIO is committed to a timely response to all incident scenes given the resources available to its investigators. As such, the IIO, upon notification of an incident, will determine the means of transportation that will ensure the timeliest response possible. If an incident takes place outside of the Lower Mainland, the IIO may use transportation available from the RCMP or another police agency, to include airplanes and boats that are readily available at no cost.
Will the IIO ever take on historical cases?
The IIO investigates incidents that occurred after the office became operational on September 10, 2012. Given the provisions of the Police Act, it is unlikely that incidents that occurred before this date will be investigated by the IIO.
Where can I learn about career opportunities with the IIO?
All employment opportunities for the IIO are posted to the careers page. Please check back regularly.
What is the IIO and what does it investigate?
The IIO is a civilian-led investigatory body mandated to investigate incidents where serious harm or death has occurred, and there is a connection to police action or inaction. Initial investigative steps will seek to confirm that the level of injury and connection are met, and if they are not, the IIO will usually discontinue its investigation. This occurs in approximately 75-85% of investigations.
Where both serious harm or death are confirmed to have occurred, and a connection to police action or inaction exists, the investigation will continue and culminate in a file review where all evidence is examined to determine if reasonable grounds to believe an officer may have committed an offence exist.
The Chief Civilian Director (CCD) considers all evidence collected during the investigation to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe any officers may have committed an offence. The IIO derives its authority from the Police Act.
The IIO was established in 2012 in response to recommendations arising from public inquiries led by Justices Braidwood and Davies. These inquiries highlighted the need for independent police oversight to increase public confidence, accountability and transparency in policing in British Columbia.
What does serious harm mean?
Serious harm, as defined in Part 11 of the Police Act, means injury that may result in death, may cause serious disfigurement, or may cause substantial loss or impairment of mobility of the body as a whole or of the function of any limb or organ.
Does serious harm include emotional harm, psychological harm, or sexual assault?
The definition of serious harm is limited to physical injury and does not include emotional or psychological harm. The IIO mandate does not extend to investigating allegations of sexual offences at this time.
How do you establish serious harm?
Serious harm is determined by reviewing an Affected Person’s medical records. An IIO Investigator or Affected Persons Liaison will usually request the Affected Person’s consent to the release of their medical records. This is an important aspect of the IIO investigation.
How many cases have been investigated so far?
See our cases page for a full list of both ongoing and concluded investigations.
Does the IIO investigate members of the public?
No. The IIO only has jurisdiction to investigate on- or off-duty police officers and on-duty Special Provincial Constables. Local police retain responsibility for any investigation into the alleged actions of the person who was injured during the incident with police. This individual is referred to as the Affected Person in the IIO investigation.
What happens at the end of an IIO investigation?
At the conclusion of an investigation, if the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) has reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence, the CCD may refer the matter to Crown Counsel with the BC Prosecution Service for consideration of charges. The IIO will then release an information bulletin stating that the IIO has filed a report to Crown Counsel, including a brief summary of the incident. If Crown Counsel does not approve charges. the BC Prosecution Service will issue a Clear Statement which includes a more detailed narrative of the incident, as well as their rationale for the decision not to approve charges. If Crown Counsel does approve charges, they will issue a brief statement indicating the offence(s) charged. The IIO will not comment on a case when it is with Crown.
If the CCD determines the evidence does not support a referral to Crown Counsel, they may issue a public report summarizing the investigation and explaining the decision where it is in the public interest to do so. Where the matter is the subject of a concurrent investigation or court case, the IIO may be unable to release a full report until that case is concluded. A concluding information bulletin may be published in lieu of a public report where the privacy interests of the involved parties outweighs the public interest. These releases contain less detailed information to protect the privacy of the parties involved while still providing the public some accounting of the event.
Personal information about an officer, an Affected Person, a witness, or any other person who may have been involved will not be included in any IIO-issued statements or reports, except in rare cases where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interests of the person. For more information regarding the decision to anonymize IIO reporting, please refer to the Canadian Civilian Oversight Agencies Joint Statement on Release of Names.
What is the IIO's referral standard to submit an investigation to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges?
The IIO’s referral standard is similar to the traditional referral standard for police agencies in British Columbia. The Chief Civilian Director may forward an investigation to Crown Counsel where reasonable grounds to believe an offence may have been committed exist. To lay charges, Crown Counsel must be satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on evidence gathered by the IIO, and that the prosecution is in the public interest.
How many IIO Investigators are former police officers?
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.
What is the difference between the IIO and other agencies that investigate police?
The IIO conducts investigations into on- and off- duty police-related incidents of serious harm and death. The IIO does not investigate complaints of misconduct. Investigation and review of complaints made against the conduct of municipal police officers remain the responsibility of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC). Complaints made against the conduct of members of the RCMP are the responsibility of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC).
Does the IIO attend the scene of an incident?
Where required, IIO Investigators will travel anywhere within BC to conduct an investigation, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Witnesses are interviewed directly by IIO Investigators wherever possible, and experts are engaged where necessary.
At scenes where the IIO is the only or primary investigative body, the IIO sets priorities to ensure evidential opportunities are maximized. Where there are concurrent or parallel investigations, such as a police or BC Coroners Service investigation, all agencies work together to achieve maximum effectiveness.
When will IIO release information on a particular incident?
The IIO is committed to ensuring fair, unbiased investigations and to being as transparent as practicable. If it is in the public interest to do so, the IIO may make basic, preliminary information regarding the incident public with a media release at the outset of an investigation, as well as information regarding the outcomes of investigations. The level of detail provided regarding the outcome depends on the circumstances of each file, but at a minimum the status of each investigation and basic facts such as date, location, and status, is provided on the IIO’s cases page. If the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) finds there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer has committed an offence, the IIO may issue a media release with a brief summary of the investigation findings or a public report which provides greater detail regarding the incident and rationale behind the CCD’s decision not to refer a file to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges.
If the CCD determines that there are reasonable grounds to believe an officer may have committed an offence and has determined that the matter should be referred to the Crown, the IIO will publish a media release to advise the public that the investigation has been referred for consideration of charges.
Who determines if an officer will be charged?
Crown Counsel with the BC Prosecution Service makes charge approval decisions in British Columbia. The IIO refers investigations where the Chief Civilian Director finds that there may be reasonable grounds to believe an officer may have committed an offence to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges.
What is the difference between Crown Counsel’s charging standard and the IIO’s statutory referral standard?
Under section 38.11 of the Police Act, the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) may refer a matter to Crown Counsel if, after an investigation, the CCD finds there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence.
Crown Counsel has jurisdiction over the charge assessment and charge approval process. In making this assessment, Crown Counsel will apply a two-part test:
- there must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency; and,
- a prosecution must be required in the public interest.
How long does it take to investigate (or resolve) an IIO incident?
Each incident is unique and the amount of time it will take to complete an investigation will depend on many factors including the size and location of the scene, the number of involved officers, the number of civilian witnesses, and the need for and dependence on specialized reports, including third party expert opinions.
Do officers stay on active duty while the IIO investigation is ongoing?
The IIO has no authority over the assignment status of officers. Each police department continues to be responsible for the assignment of their officers during an IIO investigation.
Why doesn't the IIO interview Subject Officers?
In the Memorandum of Understanding between BC police agencies and the IIO, the IIO has agreed that it will not require a Subject Officer to submit to an interview in accordance with constitutional principles. This is because a Subject Officer’s actions are connected to the serious harm or death of the Affected Person(s), and Subject Officers therefore potentially face criminal charges if their actions were not justified. While a Subject Officer is legally required to produce notes and reports about an incident, they are not required to make them available to the IIO, nor are they required to answer possible self-incriminating questions from investigators. A Subject Officer may choose to voluntarily provide their notes, reports, or a statement to the IIO.
Does the IIO investigate the criminal activity of an Affected Person?
The focus of an IIO investigation is the actions of police, and whether an officer may have committed an offence. The IIO will conduct any inquiries which are relevant and necessary for each investigation, including relevant activity of the Affected Person. While determining any criminal liability on the part of the Affected Person is not the focus of the IIO investigation, Affected Persons should be aware that information provided to the IIO may be disclosable to police. Affected Persons are therefore cautioned when they are interviewed that what they say may be disclosed to police in a concurrent police investigation.
What legal powers and authority do IIO investigators have?
What are the legal duties of police officers in IIO investigations?
All police officers are required by law (section 38.101 of the Police Act) to cooperate fully with an IIO investigation. The statutory duty on a Witness Officer to fully cooperate has been interpreted expansively by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, including the determination that a Witness Officer is duty-bound to attend IIO interviews as and when the IIO directs, that the attendance of a Witness Officer’s counsel and union representatives at IIO interviews is at the IIO’s discretion, and that the production of pre-interview disclosure to a Witness Officer is at the discretion of the IIO.
How do I get an interview with the Chief Civilian Director?
All media interview requests should be directed to the IIO’s Media and Communications Liaison via the media line 778 988 1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests will be responded to in as timely a manner as possible. Please indicate if your story has a deadline when requesting an interview or other information.
Is the IIO on social media?
The IIO has both Twitter and Facebook accounts. All media releases and public reports are posted on both social media accounts at the same time as on the IIO website. Follow us at Twitter @iiobc and Facebook Independent Investigations Office
Why is the IIO so limited in what it can say while an investigation is ongoing?
While the investigation is ongoing, IIO investigators are in the process of gathering and assessing evidence, including the interview of key witnesses. It is best practice to interview witnesses as soon as practicable to obtain an untainted statement. In order to avoid contaminating witness accounts, the IIO is careful not to release information that may influence a witness’s perception of an event. In addition, the IIO provides only minimal information at the outset of an investigation as the available details have not yet been subject to independent investigation. The IIO is committed to transparency to the public and conducting fair and unbiased investigations. We seek to balance these interests when deciding if and when a media release will be issued, and what information it will contain.
Where can I find information about investigation trends?
The IIO releases an annual report capturing statistical data for each fiscal year, which runs from April 1 to March 31 every year. The annual report provides information about the IIO’s investigative process, and discussion of our public education and outreach activities. We also release statistical information about caseload statistics, budgets and organizational developments. The IIO’s annual reports can be found on the publications page.
Why use the term affected person?
Many of the individuals involved in an IIO investigation are “suspects” in police concurrent investigations. Rather than use the terms suspect or victim, the IIO believes that more neutral language is consistent with its mandate to conduct fair and unbiased investigations.
If I am investigated by the IIO as a Subject Officer, how and when will I know the results of the investigation?
Once an IIO investigation is complete and a decision has been made whether to forward the file to Crown Counsel, Affected Persons, Subject Officers, police agency command and other relevant stakeholders (for example, the BC Coroners Service, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and/or the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP) are notified in writing prior to the decision being made public. Subject Officers specifically are often notified via their counsel, agency command or liaison officer.
The IIO will use a similar protocol for communicating other important decisions such as when a public report is issued. If a file has been forwarded to Crown Counsel for charge assessment, Crown become the leading agency to notify the public; however, the IIO may assist in notifying parties.
What are my responsibilities at the scene of an IIO investigation?
Pursuant to section 38.09 of the Police Act, “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.” Officers are required to collect evidence that would otherwise be lost prior to the IIO’s arrival at the scene; this must be documented and communicated to the IIO at the earliest possible time.
What evidence will be seized?
If you are identified as a Subject Officer, you will be required to surrender any items in your possession at the time of the incident that may have evidentiary value. You may be asked to be photographed in order to establish your appearance at the time of and immediately subsequent to the incident.
As a Witness Officer, you are required to cooperate with the IIO and may also be required to surrender items in your possession at the time of the incident.
All property will be processed and returned as soon as practicable.
What is a Liaison Officer (LO)?
After the IIO asserts jurisdiction over an incident, the involved police service will designate an officer who was not involved in the incident to act as the Liaison Officer (LO). The LO becomes the Subject and Witness Officer’s point of contact with IIO Investigators. 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 IIO investigation.
When does the IIO have jurisdiction?
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 Chief Civilian Director (CCD) decide not to investigate based on the information received which would appear to suggest there is no serious harm or no connection to police action. In other circumstances, the IIO may conduct a preliminary investigation to confirm whether the incident meets the two-part test for sustaining jurisdiction: confirmed death or serious harm, as defined, and a nexus or relationship between the injury and an officer’s actions. If the preliminary investigation confirms death or serious harm and a nexus, the IIO will continue to investigate. If not, the CCD may decide to discontinue the investigation and will take no further action.
What are my rights as a Subject Officer?
A Subject Officer is an officer who faces jeopardy as a result of their actions or inactions during an incident that resulted in serious harm or death. Like any person in Canada who faces jeopardy, a Subject Officer’s rights are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to silence.
IIO investigators will communicate any requests to a Subject Officer either verbally or in writing, typically via the Liaison Officer. Where the Subject Officer is represented by legal counsel, the request will be directed to the lawyer.
What are my rights as a Witness Officer?
Under the Police Act, a Witness Officer is compelled to cooperate with an IIO investigation. This will generally include participating in an interview and submitting materials, including notes and documents, 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. Information provided by a Witness Officer cannot be used against that Officer in criminal or civil court.
When will the IIO require my personal information, such as my date of birth?
If the CCD determines that a file must be referred to Crown Counsel, the IIO must obtain the birth dates of any Subject Officers to enter into the JUSTIN database.
Who at Crown Counsel is responsible for IIO files?
The Appeals and Special Prosecutions Section of the BC Prosecution Service reviews all IIO files in order to determine whether charges should be laid.
How can I request an update on my file as a Subject Officer?
At any point during an investigation, Subject Officers are welcome to contact the IIO to obtain an update on their file via their Liaison Officer.
Once an investigation is complete, if it is forwarded to Crown Counsel with the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) and Crown does not approve charges, they will issue a Clear Statement that provides a brief chronology of the evidence and the rationale for the decision. Clear statements can be found on the BCPS website.
If the Chief Civilian Director does not refer the file to Crown Counsel, they may choose to publish a public report or media release explaining the decision on the IIO website where it is in the public interest to do so.
Does the IIO handle media relations?
Yes. A police agency may advise the media that an incident has occurred and that the IIO has been notified. Only the IIO may address the media about IIO investigations. Before issuing new media releases, it is protocol for IIO media relations and police agency media relations to consult and ensure neither agency’s release unduly prejudices any investigation underway.
Does the IIO release the names of police officers it investigates?
A police officer’s name will not generally be released to the public, except:
- if the police officer is criminally charged, Crown Counsel will release the name of the police officer;
- if the police officer is involved in a fatality which is brought to a coroner’s inquest, the police officer’s name will be made public during that process; or
- if the police officer’s name has been previously publicly released and if, after consultation with the Privacy Commissioner, it is determined that keeping the officer’s name confidential would serve no useful purpose.
What is a Subject Officer?
A Subject Officer is an officer whose presence, action or decision is reasonably believed to be connected to the death or serious harm that occurred during a police-involved incident. In the Memorandum of Understanding between BC police agencies and the IIO, the IIO has agreed that, in accordance with constitutional principles, it will not require a Subject Officer to submit to an interview. This is because a Subject Officer potentially faces criminal charges if their actions were not justified. While a Subject Officer is legally required to produce notes and reports about an incident, they are not required to make those available to the IIO, nor can they be compelled to answer possibly self-incriminating questions from investigators. A Subject Officer may voluntarily chose to provide notes, reports, or a statement to the IIO.
What is a Witness Officer?
A Witness Officer is an officer involved in or present during the incident who is not a Subject Officer. Under the Police Act, a Witness Officer is compelled to cooperate with an IIO investigation. This will generally include participating in an interview and submitting materials including notes and documents 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.
The statutory duty on a Witness Officer to fully cooperate has been interpreted expansively by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, including the duty of a Witness Officer to attend IIO interviews as and when the IIO directs, that the attendance of Witness Officer’s counsel and union representatives at IIO interviews is at the IIO’s discretion, and that the production of pre-interview disclosure to a Witness Officer is at the discretion of the IIO.
Information provided by a Witness Officer is inadmissible in evidence in court in a civil proceeding for remedies against that officer in relation to the matter under investigation.
Q&A with the Chief Civilian Director
Since your appointment on October 24, 2017, what do you see as the biggest improvement or change in how the IIO provides police oversight in British Columbia?
There have been many! I think the most important ones are as follows:
- Timeliness: In 2018/19, we have been able to cut our time to complete our investigative work on files in half, from 73 days in 2017/18 to 37 days in 2018/19. This is a marked improvement, benefiting Affected Persons (the civilian or civilians involved in the incident) and their families, as well as the police and the community in general.
- Relationships: Since I came onboard in October 2017, we have worked to improve relationships with all of our stakeholders. We work hard to engage with the community, Affected Persons and their families, the police and police unions, the media and Government. This is a priority for each person at the IIO.We have held hundreds of meetings with stakeholders over that time period. The IIO must be objective and independent, but we must also be able to engage with everyone impacted by our work in a respectful and professional way. It is my understanding – from a range of feedback – that it is felt that relationships between the IIO and all stakeholders have improved greatly.
- Transparency: A key to the success of an oversight body is how well it is able to explain to the community what it is doing and the rationale for its decisions. In the 18 months prior to my arrival, the IIO had published 18 public reports. Since that time, we have published over 60, and are working on being even more transparent. In this way, the public can see for themselves why we have not referred a matter to the Crown. This helps to minimize any misunderstandings or mistrust about what may have occurred within the process.
- Referrals to the Crown: In the past, the IIO interpreted the standard for referral of a file to the Crown for the consideration of charges very broadly. This led to a high number of referrals where charges were not approved, additional delays and added stress for Affected Persons and involved police officers.The IIO now applies a standard for the referral of a file that is consistent with the standard used by police agencies. While this has greatly reduced the number of overall referrals, the number of charge approvals has not decreased.
- Increase in Investigator Resources: The IIO has been able to obtain additional funding from Government to allow for increased investigator resources. We now have three teams, each designed to have 10 investigators. While, to date, we have not been able to fill the teams with qualified investigators, the expectation is that this will occur soon. This increased capacity not only allows for more timely completions of files, but also greatly improves work conditions for each of the investigators on a daily basis.
Why is police oversight important to the people of B.C.?
Police serve a vital function in our society, helping to uphold the rule of law, to ensure a peaceful and successful community. Maintaining the public’s faith in the police is therefore very important.
When police interact with a member of the community and it leads to serious harm or death, the public’s confidence in the police can be negatively affected if they do not have confidence in the way such matters are investigated. The IIO offers the public of B.C. an independent, objective and expert investigation of all incidents of serious harm or death. If we do not refer the matter to the Crown for a consideration of charges, in all matters of significance, we tell the public about all of the relevant facts and conclusions in the investigation. That way, the people of British Columbia can see the results for themselves. This greatly assists in maintaining the public’s confidence in the police.
The IIO Investigative Team is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That takes a great deal of dedication from the people who come to work at the organization. What is it that drives the team to give up evenings and weekends, taking time away from family to do their jobs (which can often be a thankless one)?
All of us who work at the IIO are strongly dedicated to the independent oversight of police. We recognize the important role we play in B.C.’s justice system and how our work supports the rule of law in our society.
We take great satisfaction in being able to do this work on behalf of all British Columbians. We also know that this will mean that there will be personal sacrifices at times, including long hours and nights and weekends away from home and family. Those sacrifices are worth it when we are able to answer the questions the public may have about serious incidents involving a police officer or officers. We come to work each day to serve the public, and we feel privileged to be able to do so.
As the CCD, you are highly engaged and involved in ensuring that the organization delivers on its promise of practical transparency. What does this mean to you?
The whole point behind civilian oversight is to ensure the public that cases of serious harm and death are investigated by the independent oversight body. But it isn’t good enough to just have the IIO do the investigations. In order to maintain the public’s faith in what we do, we need to communicate with them about the steps taken and the outcome when we are involved in a case.
When we conclude our investigation, it is important that we share our decision publicly, including why we reached the conclusion and the relevant facts behind it. Oversight done in secret is no oversight at all.
I believe in what I call “practical transparency” – which is to provide as much information as is practicable, without compromising privacy interests or the integrity of an investigation. This transparency means that the people of this province can see the results and process for themselves. This helps to build confidence from all stakeholders in the work that we do.
The IIO reaches out and engages with the people of British Columbia on a regular basis. What are some of the highlights of your community engagement? Why do you undertake this?
The IIO exists to serve the people of British Columbia. Every file involves them and their communities. They deserve to know who we are and what we do – to help them understand that incidents of serious harm and death involving police will be independently and thoroughly investigated. We want to reach out to the public to facilitate the sharing of this information. We do this with social media and our website – and with our media presence.
We also endeavor to meet with communities throughout the province when we can. This not only allows us to share information about the IIO, but even more importantly, it allows us to learn about the communities that we work in. This helps us to do our jobs even better.
The IIO has communicated a commitment of respect for and care of Affected Persons (individuals involved in an incident being investigated by the IIO). What does this mean to you? Why is this a priority for you and the organization?
The IIO works to treat all of the people we come into contact with in undertaking our work with respect and professionalism. Affected Persons are often dealing with a challenging situation in their lives. It is important to us, as professionals and as human beings, that we treat all Affected Persons and their families in a respectful, considerate and caring manner.
To assist us with this, we have two full-time Affected Persons Liaisons, who are specifically tasked with maintaining contact with Affected Persons, ensuring that they are kept up to date and that they are made aware of all relevant services that might be available.
What do you wish more people knew or understood about the role and responsibilities of the IIO?
First of all, I wish that more people were simply aware of the IIO and what we do. We still have work to do to ensure that the public of B.C. knows about us. Secondly, I want everyone to understand that the IIO is independent and works to investigate all serious harm or death incidents involving police with one goal in mind: To find out the truth about what happened.
We start every file from zero – that is, without any preconceptions. Our purpose is to gather all of the relevant evidence and to use that, along with the law, to make a decision about whether a matter should be referred to the Crown for consideration of charges.
What was your biggest challenge in the 2018/2019 fiscal year?
The IIO is intended to have three investigative teams staffed with 10 investigators each. We have not been able to fill those positions as of yet. It has been challenging to deal with a large caseload with our current staffing level of investigators. However, everyone at the IIO has stepped up and done their best to ensure that the investigations are all done in a timely and thorough manner.
What do you see as your biggest achievement in the 2018/2019 fiscal year?
Improved timeliness has been a great accomplishment, but equal to this is that the IIO has been able to build respectful, professional relationships with all of our stakeholders. My hope is that we will continue to be successful in that regard in the coming years.
What are you working on for the 2019/2020 fiscal year?
In general, we want to keep on doing what we have been doing – but to do it even better. Our challenge is to always improve upon our Strategic Plan objectives: Investigative Excellence, Timeliness, Relationships and Organizational Health. In particular though, we will be focusing on working toward full certification for our training program, moving to a full complement of investigators, and building our internal resources to support the people who work at the IIO.
As we do this work, we will always be guided in all that we do by our organizational values: Professionalism, Excellence, Collaboration, Trust and Courage.