Williams Lake city councillor Ivan Bonnell and Richard Rosenthal

Williams Lake city councillor Ivan Bonnell and Richard Rosenthal

Independent police investigation unit chief visits

B.C.'s Independent Investigative chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal visited Williams Lake last week.

So far 32 cases have fallen within the B.C.’s Independent Investigative Office’s mandate, said chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal while on tour in Williams Lake last week.

“I remember on Sept. 9, 2012, I asked one of my team directors, can we do this because we could have a fatal officer involved shooting in Prince George tomorrow,” Rosenthal recalled.

On Sept. 10, the IIO was called to a fatal officer-involved shooting in Prince George. Twelve people went up to investigate that night.

The IIO has a specific mandate to investigate officer-involved incidents that result in serious harm or death.

Officers are defined as police officers, special constables, conservation officers, and sheriffs who are operating as special provincial constables going code three and transporting prisoners.

“Anyone who uses force during the course of their employment we investigate,” Rosenthal said.

From the beginning three goals were determined by the IIO.

First off, the office promised thorough, complete and fair investigations, which Rosenthal suggested should be a “given.”

The second goal was timeliness because in the past it has taken one to two years to resolve similar cases.

“I basically said we’re going to do this in months, not years, in weeks not months.”

The third goal was transparency through public reporting.

Rosenthal said when he arrived in Canada, the media advertised him as a “hard-nosed” American prosecutor who had arrived to “police the police.”

“The problem was, that the first time that I exonerated officers in a controversial incident that would all go away and suddenly it would be, ‘oh he got in bed with the police’ or the government ‘ushered him into getting along.’”

Through public reporting, Rosenthal said he can explain his decisions thoroughly.

So far the IIO has closed 11 cases.

Eight were done by public report, while some have been closed without public report because if the case goes to Crown and Crown doesn’t lay charges, then it is up to Crown to issue a report.

“The idea behind that is once I review an investigation I have to review it to determine whether or not an officer has committed a criminal offence,” Rosenthal explained.

“If I believe that he or she may have, then I must refer it to Crown and Crown maintains its independence to determine its conclusion.”

If Rosenthal determines an officer has not committed a criminal offence, then he can close the report.

Initially the IIO struggled with this and Rosenthal asked what would happen if he determined that an officer did commit a criminal offence but Crown determined it was not enough to lay charges.

“We decided that’s Crown’s decision, not mine, and Crown will need to explain themselves,” he said.

To date Rosenthal has referred five cases to Crown. Two have been closed by Crown with no charges laid.

One was a bar fight out of Creston and another was a motor vehicle incident out of Campbell River.

The other three are pending and include an officer involved shooting from Cranbrook that was referred two months ago, an officer involved shooting from New Westminster, and a use of force case out of Port Alberni.

“Unlike the normal police referral standard where police refer a case if they believe the charges should be laid,” Rosenthal said. “Mine’s a lower standard than that — mine is only if I consider an officer may have committed an offence.”

Often the IIO only performs the first step. Even if an officer did not commit a criminal offence, he or she may not have followed policy and procedure which means the agency may have to examine conduct, training and tactical issues.

“So the investigation may not be over, that’s what happened in Prince George,” Rosenthal said.

“I determined the officers involved did not commit a criminal offence but there were questions about decision making so the RCMP opened up an investigation as well.”

Presently the office, located in Surrey, has four teams of seven investigators and 22 support staff.

Teams are on call 24 hours a day.

Each team is on primary call one week a month and secondary call another week a month.

“We had a day where we had two calls in one day so both teams were out and we had to set up a third team on call,” Rosenthal recalled.

The office also has an affected persons investigator who ensures affected family is treated appropriately and given the right resources and information.

She’s assigned to all the teams, and two more investigators have been trained as back up.

In every case where there’s a need, the affected persons investigator will help families walk through the process.

“It’s been very effective because in the past there has been lots of criticism from families who felt as though they are being treated like criminals too,” Rosenthal said.

He’s also had an officer on the integrated homicide team tell him before the IIO was established, he was spending 75 per cent of his work centred on critical incident investigations.

“He told me he goes back to this group today and they are doing cold homicide investigations that he never had a chance to look at because they now have the resources to put into those cases.”

Originally Rosenthal was drawn to the job because he saw there was a political will to make the IIO a success.

The police in B.C. were involved, civil rights groups showed support and the government was willing to put resources into the office, he said.

He had fought entrenched police bureaucracies in the U.S., found it took a decade to get anywhere.

“I looked and saw that everyone was supportive and thought, oh wow.”

 

Just Posted

Patricia Froberg (from left), Pat Mitchell and Dorothy Ouellette enjoy lunch prepared by members of the Old Age Pensioners Organization for St. Patrick’s Day Wednesday afternoon. Today, May 14, the Old Age Pensioners Organization Branch 93 and the Seniors Activity Centre are hosting an Old Fashioned Drive In lunch with car hop service at the SAC parking lot from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Old Fashioned Drive In Lunch on menu at seniors centre today, May 14

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., swing on by the SAC parking lot for an Old Fashioned Drive In lunch

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

(File photo)
Firearms investigation on Winger Road the result of increased gang activity: RCMP

When police attempted to stop a vehicle, it sped away

Shearwater is located in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast of B.C. (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association photo)
Heiltsuk Nation buys historic Shearwater Resort and Marina

Chief Marilyn Slett said Heiltsuk Nation has always valued its relationship with the company

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Most Read