The IIO is a civilian-led agency that conducts investigations into all officer-related incidents that result in death or “serious harm” as defined in Part 11 of the Police Act, within the province of British Columbia. The IIO has jurisdiction over officers employed by the RCMP, Municipal Police, Transit Police, Special Provincial Constables and Tribal Police. IIO jurisdiction includes critical incidents occurring both on and off duty.
An affected person is someone who is directly impacted by the incident. In cases where a person has died as a result of an officer-related incident, the next of kin and family are typically considered affected persons as well.
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.
Serious harm is defined by the Police Act and includes any 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.
At this point in time, the definition does not include emotional harm and is limited to physical injury.
Serious harm is ordinarily determined by reviewing an affected person’s medical records. Unless serious harm can be confirmed by the information reported to the IIO, an Investigator will likely meet with an affected person and request consent to the release of medical records. This is an important aspect of the IIO investigation.
The IIO website contains a full list of cases and details of referrals to Crown Counsel as well as those concluded by public report.
No. The IIO only has jurisdiction to investigate 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.
While you would not be considered an affected person, it is quite possible that 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.
This is a full-time dedicated IIO member who is the bridge between an affected person (and families) and the IIO investigative team. Typically, this person will have a background in social work and have experience working with vulnerable persons who come to the attention of the police.
The Liaison assists those involved in an incident by explaining the role of the IIO and the investigative process; interpreting legislation; discussing how the various investigative agencies work together; facilitating access to support services in the community; and, acting as a liaison through the life of the file.
The Liaison provides Next of Kin notifications when required including immediate crisis support to families in a police-involved fatality. They also provide community referrals for grief and loss.
The Liaison will provide updates on the status of the investigation as well as provide notification when the case decision has been made – either to send the file to Crown Counsel or to conclude with a public report.
An affected person is not compelled to cooperate; however, the IIO often depends on the information that at times only an affected person can provide.
An affected person sometimes is the subject of a concurrent or parallel investigation with the police. An affected person may face jeopardy. IIO investigators will advise an affected person of this prior to taking a statement. The focus on the statement is on what happened in the interaction with police NOT on any potential criminal conduct committed by an affected person. With this in mind, an affected person should be aware that IIO file material may be disclosed to the involved police agency and as such, their information may become available to the police.
The Chief Civilian Director (CCD) of the IIO reviews all investigations upon their conclusion, in order to determine whether “an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment, including an enactment of Canada or another province” per s.38.11 of the Police Act.
If the CCD concludes that an officer may have committed an offence, the matter is reported to Crown Counsel. If a report to Crown Counsel is not made, the CCD is permitted by s.38.121 of the Police Act to publicly report the reasoning underlying the decision.
Yes, it is possible that personal belongings will be considered evidence and will be seized. The IIO will process such evidence as efficiently as possible and return it as soon as it no longer has evidentiary value.
How does the CCD’s standard of referral compare to police agency standards of referral to the Criminal Justice Branch?
The CCD’s standard of referral to Crown Counsel is lower than the traditional referral standard for police agencies in British Columbia. This is because the CCD is required to send a file to Crown in every case that has concluded where the CCD considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment, including an enactment of Canada or another province.
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.
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).
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 unless exigent circumstances exist which require police involvement to ensure evidence is not lost and timely interviews are conducted.
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.
Whenever the IIO is notified of a critical incident, the IIO has jurisdiction. There are times when the IIO on-call Director may recommend that the Chief Civilian Director (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.
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. It is protocol for IIO media relations to consult with police agency media relations and vice versa prior to either party issuing new releases.
An affected person and/or their family will need to make a personal decision about contact with the media. Some families have found the following resource helpful:
No, the IIO typically does not release the name of an affected person. If Crown Counsel approves a charge, an affected person’s name will be released by the Criminal Justice Branch.
The Coroner may release the name of an affected person in the event of a fatal incident.
A police officer’s name will generally not be released to the public, except:
- If the police officer is criminally charged, the Criminal Justice Branch 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
- If the police officer’s name has been previously publicly released and keeping the officer’s name confidential would serve no useful purpose (after consultation with the Privacy Commissioner).
The IIO is committed to ensuring fair, unbiased investigations relating to each case falling within its jurisdiction. As such, the IIO will not, during the course of an investigation, make any public statement about the investigation unless such statement is aimed at preserving the integrity of the investigation or is required to ensure public confidence in police oversight. The IIO is committed to ensuring that, at the completion of any investigation, the public has the information necessary to determine whether the IIO investigation was thorough and complete, and the CCD’s decision relating to any case that is not forwarded to Crown Counsel for prosecution is reasonable. As such, the IIO will issue public reports, at the earliest available opportunity upon the conclusion of an investigation, to ensure transparency in investigations. Until an IIO investigation is complete, however, information specific to any case investigation will be limited in its production to the public or the media.
An affected person may receive updates that include the status of the file; however, nothing will be disclosed that could impact the integrity of the investigation.
There will be times when the IIO provides an affected person and/or their families with information considered “embargoed”. Most often this information will be related to a decision that has been made by the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) and that is shared with parties before it is made public. This could include notice that the CCD is making a report to Crown Counsel or when an affected person is provided with an advanced copy of a public report.
In those cases, the IIO will ask that the information not be shared prior to the public release. If an affected person and/or their families have any questions about this, they should contact the Affected Persons Liaison.
Crown Counsel makes charge approval decisions in British Columbia.
What is the difference between Crown Counsel’s charging standard and the IIO’s statutory referral standard?
- a prosecution must be required in the public interest.
There is no specific time frame that can be established for any investigation. 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 other witnesses; the need for and dependence on specialized reports; and, the need for opinions from subject matter experts.
At any point during an investigation, affected persons’ should be encouraged to contact the IIO to obtain an update on their file.
Once an investigation is complete and if it is forwarded to Crown Counsel for further consideration, it can take some time for Crown Counsel to make a charging decision.
If Crown Counsel decides not to approve charges, the Criminal Justice Branch will issue a “Clear Statement” that provides a brief chronology of the evidence and the rationale for the decision.
If the CCD does not send the file to Crown, a public report is typically prepared and issued within 30 days of that decision being made.
An affected person and/or their family should discuss any concerns with the Affected Persons Liaison. If that does not satisfy the questions or concerns, an affected person may request a meeting with the Chief Civilian Director. A final decision made by the Chief Civilian Director is potentially subject to judicial review.
The IIO does not have the authority to provide financial support to an affected person during an IIO investigation. The Affected Persons Liaison may be able to assist an affected person with access to other resources and act as an advocate for services.
Each police department will make the decision on what happens to the officer during an IIO investigation. The IIO has no authority over and does not make public comments on the assignment status of any officers.
The IIO is a civilian-led investigatory body established in response to recommendations arising out of public inquiries led by Justices Braidwood and Davies. These inquiries highlighted the need for increased public confidence in police oversight, accountability and transparency in BC policing.
The IIO is responsible for conducting investigations into all officer-related incidents that result in death or “serious harm” as defined in Part 11 of the Police Act, within the province of British Columbia. The Chief Civilian Director (CCD) of the IIO is required to review all investigations upon their conclusion, in order to determine whether he “considers that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment, including an enactment of Canada or another province” per s.38.11 of the Police Act.
The CCD is responsible for the management, administration and operation of the IIO. On June 1, 2019 amendments were made to the Police Act. Before this date the Chief could only employ investigators who had not served as a police officer within the past five years. The amendment is as follows:
- The “Five Year Rule” will be suspended for two years (effective June 1, 2019). This means that for the next two years thereafter the IIO will not be restricted from hiring persons who have been a member of a police force within BC in the past five years.
The IIO officially became operational on September 10, 2012.
The IIO currently employs 65 employees.
As of June 1, 2017:
Of the 28 investigative positions that are filled; 14 are former police officers (50%)
The IIO conducts investigations into on and off duty police related 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. https://opcc.bc.ca Complaints made against members of the RCMP are the responsibility of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission: http://www.crcc-ccetp.gc.ca
The IIO office is located in Surrey, however IIO Investigators will travel to any location in BC to complete an investigation. It is expected that witnesses will be interviewed by IIO Investigators.
The IIO does not have the stand-alone forensic capability necessary to process a significant scene and maintain the integrity of evidence collected by forensic personnel. Instead, the IIO has created a team of forensic experts who monitor and review the work of police forensic personnel to ensure that scene processing and evidence collection is according to best practices and will be in accord with expectations of Crown counsel and the courts. IIO investigators take possession of evidence that is relevant to an IIO investigation and is capable of being stored in the IIO exhibit room. Evidence that is wet or of a prohibitive size may be stored in secure locations by the involved agency at the request of the IIO.
Although the IIO recognizes the need to ensure the public is aware that it is independent from all other police services in the province, there are times in which IIO investigators will make use of police facilities in order to ensure a timely, competent investigation. Specifically, the IIO may use a police facility to interview police witnesses when that facility is readily available and convenient for interview purposes. The IIO will always seek to interview civilian witnesses at a neutral location, however, if there is no objection by a witness to an interview being conducted at a police facility and that facility is convenient, and readily available at no cost, such facility may be used to conduct the interview. The IIO office, located in Surrey, is often not a convenient location for civilian witnesses. Police facilities, which are located throughout the province, tend to be more readily available and convenient to conduct interviews in particular, those that take place outside of normal business hours.
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.
The IIO is committed to ensuring fair, unbiased investigations and appropriate decision-making relating to each case falling within its jurisdiction. As such, the IIO will not, during the course of an investigation, make any public statement about the investigation unless such statement is aimed at preserving the integrity of the investigation. The IIO is committed to ensuring that at the completion of any investigation, the public has the information necessary to determine whether the IIO investigation was thorough and complete and the Chief Civilian Director’s decision relating to any case that is not forwarded to Crown Counsel for prosecution is reasonable. As such, the IIO will issue public reports, at the earliest available opportunity upon the conclusion of an investigation, to ensure transparency in investigations. Until an IIO investigation is complete, however, information specific to any case investigation will be limited in its production to the public or the media.
If the CCD concludes that an officer may have committed an offence, he is required to report the matter to Crown counsel. If he does not make a report to Crown counsel, he is permitted by s.38.121 of the Police Act to publicly report the reasoning underlying his decision.
In his public report, the CCD may include a summary of circumstances that led to the IIO asserting jurisdiction; a description of the resources that the IIO deployed; a statement indicating that the IIO, after concluding the investigation, has reported the matter to Crown counsel; or a summary of the results of the investigation if the matter has not been reported to Crown.
He is only permitted to disclose personal information about an officer, an affected person, a witness or any other person who may have been involved if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interests of the person. Prior to disclosing any personal information, he is required, if practicable, to notify the person to whom the information relates, and further, notify and consider any comments provided by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The IIO generally does not release the names of the individuals involved in our investigations. The IIO consults with and takes advice from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner regarding the release of identifying information contained within our Public Reports.
The law that governs us with respect to the privacy of our Affected Persons, involved officers and civilian witnesses is contained within the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA). Further, the civilian oversight agencies in Canada (IIU, IIO, SIRT, ASIRT and SIU) agreed upon a joint standard across Canada in 2015 regarding the release of names. An excerpt of that joint statement follows:
“Society is entitled to be fully informed when someone is killed by police, which is why we will continue to provide the media and public with a detailed account of our investigations. At the same time, we will continue to err on the side of compassion and human decency by empowering complainants and their families with the decision to release or not to release, while at the same time ensuring we are able to conduct effective investigations. We feel this is a reasonable compromise.” (See Joint Statement on Release of Names in the Publications section for the full text).
BC is one of two provinces where Crown counsel assesses information and decides whether or not to lay a charge.
What is the difference between Crown counsel’s charging standard and the Chief Civilian Director’s statutory referral standard?
- a prosecution must be required in the public interest.
Given the provisions of the Police Act, it is unlikely that historical cases will be re-investigated by the IIO.
People affected by an IIO investigation can expect to receive support and information from the investigators assigned to the case. In addition, the IIO has a specially trained Affected Persons Liaison who is responsible for services to affected persons. This could include referral for counseling, mediation, linkages to community resources and assessment.
Additional information may be found on the IIO website at www.iiobc.ca. All employment opportunities for the IIO are posted to the BC Employment website. Please check back regularly.
In its Memorandum of Understanding with BC police agencies the IIO has agreed, in accordance with constitutional principles, that it will not require subject officers to submit to interview. This is because a subject officer is an officer believed to have caused serious harm or death, and potentially faces criminal charges if his actions were not justified. While a subject officer is required by his legal duties to produce notes and reports about an incident, he is not required to answer further, possibly self-incriminating questions from investigators, unless he does so voluntarily.
The focus of an IIO investigation is about the actions of police, and, whether an officer may have committed an offence. Evidence of the background, character or behaviour of an Affected Person can also be significant context for the incident under investigation, or if it explains, corroborates or contradicts accounts by officers or others. Thus, the IIO will conduct what inquiries are relevant and necessary for each investigation, including relevant activity of the Affected Person.
All officers are required by law (section 38.101 of the BC Police Act) to cooperate fully with IIO investigators in the execution of their duty. This statutory duty has been interpreted expansively by the BC Supreme Court, with only minimal limits on the discretion of investigators to require compliance from police officers. The IIO currently waives some aspects of the duty for a subject officer, because of constitutional considerations.
All media interview requests should be directed to the media line 778 988 1041 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All enquiries will be responded to in a timely manner. Please let us know if your story has a deadline.
The IIO has a Twitter and Facebook account. All media releases and public reports are posted on both social media accounts at the same time as the website. Follow us at Twitter @iiobc or Facebook Independent Investigations Office
The IIO is bound by the laws surrounding privacy to protect the identity of persons involved in our investigations. Both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Police Act contain provisions relevant to the IIO. As a result, the IIO will only release the names of person involved in an investigation where to do so is clearly in the public interest. This usually means there is a strong investigative necessity to release the name, or there are issues of public safety which require the release of a name. On some occasions, names will be released if the person impacted or their family has consented to such release.
While the investigation is ongoing, IIO investigators are in the process of gathering and assessing all the facts surrounding the incident. Our practice is not release significant information until such time as the investigation is complete to ensure we have all the facts and have reached our conclusions. This ensures that the facts released are accurate. It also protects the integrity of the investigation, in particular by not impacting potential witnesses who may not have spoken to the IIO. In addition, given the potential for charges in each case, facts are not released as to do so may impact the fair trial interests of the person who may be charged.
Each year, the IIO is required to release an annual report. Each annual report is completed on a fiscal year basis. This means that the report captures the work of the IIO and statistical information from April 1st of the previous year, to March 31st in any given year.
The annual report provides information about the work of the IIO and the investigation process, discussion of our public education and outreach activities and discloses any recommendations the IIO made to police boards and/or government. We also release statistical information about caseload statistics, budgets and organizational developments. Read our latest Annual Report.
The CCD’s standard of referral to Crown Counsel is similar to the traditional referral standard for police agencies in British Columbia. The CCD will recommend charges to the Crown in cases where he finds there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed. However, no charges are laid unless approved of by the Crown. In approving charges, the B.C. Prosecution Service must be satisfied there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the IIO and that the prosecution is in the public interest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A police officer’s name will generally not be released to the public, except:
Yes. The IIO does not have the stand-alone forensic capability necessary to process a significant scene and maintain the integrity of evidence collected by forensic personnel. Instead, the IIO has a team of specialists (forensic investigators and collision reconstructionists) who monitor and review the work of police forensic personnel to ensure that scene processing and evidence collection is according to best practices.
Investigators from the IIO speciality team will attend scenes of critical incidents and ensure that IIO priorities are achieved. This will involve working with police resources where there is a concurrent investigation. The importance of maintaining independence and impartiality is at the forefront of their scene deployments.
Crown Counsel makes charge approval decisions in British Columbia.
- a prosecution must be required in the public interest.
If the CCD determines that a file must be referred to Crown Counsel, the IIO must obtain the dates of birth of any Subject Officers to populate within the JUSTIN database.
The Appeals and Special Prosecutions Section of Crown Counsel reviews all IIO files in order to determine whether charges should be laid.
There is no specific time frame that can be established for any investigation. 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 other witnesses; the need for and dependence on specialized reports; and, third party expert opinion.
At any point during an investigation, officers should be encouraged to contact the IIO to obtain an update on their file.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.