‘needs to be fixed,’
civil liberties groups say
Report on investigation of Gregory Matters’ death
points to procedural errors
Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, Nov. 17, 2014
Greg Matters is shown in this family handout photo. He was shot and killed two years ago in
Prince George by a member of an RCMP emergency response team after erratic behaviour.
VANCOUVER — The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society say a civilian monitor’s report proves that reforms are needed after the Independent Investigations Office’s (IIO) investigation into the police shooting death of Gregory Matters two years ago.
“This report makes clear that serious errors were made by the IIO in the conduct of the Gregory Matters investigation, and that there is a cultural problem within the IIO that needs to be fixed,” said BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson in a statement Monday.
“The IIO must come forward with a comprehensive account as to how these problems have been fixed or will be fixed and not repeated in the future.”
Paterson was responding to Monday’s release of a report by civilian monitor Mark Jette into the IIO’s investigation of the Sept. 10, 2012 death of Matters, who was shot and killed in Prince George by a member of an RCMP emergency response team after erratic behaviour.
An investigation by the IIO, a civilian-based watchdog, cleared RCMP of any criminal wrongdoing in his death, after a jury concluded that Matters’ death was a homicide caused by two gunshot wounds to the back.
The IIO found that Matters pulled out a hatchet when an RCMP emergency response team attempted to arrest him on the family’s Pinko Road property. The member who fired the shots, Cpl. Collin Warwick, told the inquest he felt the life of another team member, Cst. Matthew Reddemen, was in danger after Reddemen failed to bring down Matters with a Taser and the ex-soldier had turned to face Reddemen with the hatchet.
During the inquest, however, Matters’ family lawyer Cameron Ward was highly critical of the IIO’s investigation, which relied almost exclusively on statements from the officers involved in Matters’ death.
Although Jette found in his report that there was no evidence the investigative process by IIO lacked integrity, he did conclude that the integrity of the investigation was impacted by the IIO chief civilian director’s decision to dispatch two investigators to the Prince George incident despite the fact that neither of them was eligible to be appointed as an investigator under the Police Act.
The Police Act states that investigators cannot be appointed if they’re either employed as police officers, or have been off the force for less than five years.
“I have not found evidence of any action, decision or direction by IIO staff … which betrayed a pro- or anti-police bias, or anything else which might cause me to find that the investigation or the investigative procedures followed lacked integrity,” concluded Jette.
But, he added that “the mere fact of their participation is inconsistent with the principles which underlie the creation of the IIO,” and that their deployment “had the effect of undermining the civilianization scheme in the Act, which in and of itself has had an impact on the integrity of the investigation.”
Pivot staff lawyer Doug King said he was disappointed with “the use of this sleight-of-hand manoeuvre to get around the requirement of the Police Act that no investigator be used who is currently or recently a member of a police force. The principle that the investigations be conducted by civilians is at the very core of the IIO’s reason for being.”
In a statement, the IIO’s chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal said the IIO was trying to ensure it had the most experienced people available.
“I would say that the situation will not arise again given the passage of time and the fact that all investigative staff now meet the legislative requirements. We now have a very experienced chief of investigations and our staff now has considerably more experience. It is my firm view that the concerns that were present on September 10, 2012, are no longer an issue. Given Mr. Jette’s thorough report, neither I nor my staff will have any further comment.”