[This seems to be the only print media coverage of a legislative committee’s inquiry into B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office. Unfortunately it comes from Times Colonist reporter Katie DeRosa, an especially inept journalist known for writing pro-police puff pieces about cops, ex-cops and police accountability.]
B.C.’s police watchdog snarled
by high turnover
Katie DeRosa, Times Colonist, Oct. 29, 2014
Richard Rosenthal, civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office.
Photo: Nick Procaylo, Vancouver Province
The province’s independent police-oversight body has been dogged by high turnover, questions about the integrity of investigations and complaints about the leadership style of its civilian director, a special legislative committee heard Wednesday.
The Independent Investigations Office was set up in September 2012 to investigate police-involved deaths or serious injuries. But of its 32 investigators, 12 have left since the unit opened its doors.
The office is now the subject of two reviews, both of which were submitted Wednesday. One was a labour review prompted by formal complaints by two former employees against IIO director Richard Rosenthal.
The other review, by Vancouver lawyer Mark Jette, looks into how the IIO handled the RCMP shooting of Canadian Forces veteran Greg Matters near Prince George.
The legislative committee is trying to determine what steps are needed to ensure the organization is fully staffed by civilian investigators, rather than the current mix of retired police officers and civilian investigators.
But it has also heard testimony about Rosenthal’s leadership style and about investigators who were either forced to resign or fired when they brought up issues regarding how investigations are handled.
Robert Creasser of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada testified on Wednesday that high turnover among investigators could be a major obstacle to a fully civilian investigative team, because of the need to constantly train new staff and get them up to speed on investigations.
“I do think it’s possible … [but] in what I’m reading right now, I think they’re moving way too quickly,” Creasser said. “Again, the turnover of the employees to date is of concern.”
Both the Justice Ministry and legislative committee are reviewing employee surveys that raised concerns about poor morale among staff and a division between civilian investigators and former police officers.
The committee previously heard from Rosenthal, who said “there had been a clash between police cultures and civilian investigators, and that was a challenge and somebody was brought in from the outside [to deal with that],” said NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, deputy chairman.
The committee wants some investigators who have left the IIO to testify about the work environment, but chairman Mike Morris, Prince George-Mackenzie MLA, said former investigators might be hesitant to comment publicly. Morris said one possibility is to hear some testimony in camera.
The human resources report that went to the Justice Ministry on Wednesday was submitted by Vancouver-based labour-relations consultant Tony Belcher, who was asked to review the work environment within the IIO.
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said she’s aware of issues surrounding staff turnover, but added that’s “fairly common in a new organization.”
Anton said she will look closely at the two reviews of the IIO.
“I’m aware that complaints have been made around the organization. That’s why these two reviews are underway.”
The IIO has been criticized for its investigation into the death of Matters, a 40-year-old ex-soldier who was shot by a member of the Prince George RCMP emergency-response team after he allegedly threatened another Mountie with a hatchet after a 30-hour standoff on Sept. 10, 2012. The shooting happened the day the IIO opened its doors.
In May 2013, Rosenthal concluded the officers should not face criminal charges, saying Matters was shot twice, with two bullets to the chest. But that October, a coroner’s inquest heard from a pathologist who testified that the bullets struck Matters in the back.
In June 2014, Rosenthal agreed to appoint Jette to look into its handling of the investigation.
An IIO spokesman said Rosenthal was out of town and not available for comment.