Serious harm is defined in the Police Act as 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.
When a notification from police is received, the Chief Civilian Director or his delegate will determine whether a case is within the jurisdiction of the IIO or not. The IIO will only investigate those cases that meet the definition of serious harm.
When the IIO undertakes an investigation, normal investigative processes include activities such as ensuring the scene is secured, preserving and obtaining evidence, identifying affected persons, locating witnesses, conducting interviews, confirming the nature of police officers’ involvement; designating subject and witness officers; conducting neighbourhood canvasses, analyzing evidence and seeking expert forensic assistance when required.
IIO investigations are often conducted concurrently with other agencies, such as the BC Coroners Service, in the case of a fatality, or a police agency when the affected person is facing criminal charges.
What happens when an investigation is complete?
At the conclusion of an investigation, the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) decides, based on the evidence, whether to refer the matter to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges. This is only done if there is a reasonable likelihood that charges will be approved. It is Crown Counsel’s responsibility to decide if charges will be laid. If the CCD determines the evidence does not support a referral to Crown Counsel, a public report will be issued outlining all of the relevant facts and reasons for the decision not to refer the matter to the Crown. This allows the public to understand the basis for the decision.
Under some circumstances, such as the ongoing criminal prosecution of a member of the public involved in the incident, the IIO may choose to delay the release of the full public report until such matters are concluded. In these situations, an information bulletin will usually be issued to indicate that the file has been concluded and a public report will be released at a later date.
For more information on investigative best practices, refer to the IIO’s Manual of Investigations.