Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Positive signs of change at the IIO

with 8 comments

This past month the new Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Ronald J. MacDonald released a report into an incident in which a man died of a self-inflicted pellet rifle shot during an encounter with Burnaby RCMP. The incident occurred on December 20, 2017. The report was released on  February 20, 2018 just two months after the event.

In the IIO’s five year history this has never occurred. They have been averaging 18 months from date of incident to investigation completion and report issued. This has certainly been a bone of contention with me and others critical of the organization.

Just a month ago at the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Tony Du, the IIO came under criticism for taking so long to complete that investigation. They said they were essentially done after 11 months but had to wait an additional 7 months for ballistics. Huh?

Why they would need ballistics testing in a VPD officer involved shooting in which only one officer fired his service weapon? He said it was him and gave a statement. This is not a stone-cold whodunnit. The IIO had the weapon, the brass and the remaining bullets in the magazine. What’s to test to examine the facts of the shooting?

Du was a distraught man swinging a 2X4 at police at 41st & Knight St. in traffic. VPD trying to deal with him fired multiple bean bags rounds at him but that didn’t stop him. As he advanced towards the police swinging the 2X4 he was shot and later died of his wounds.

The officer who fired the fatal shots didn’t hide anything and gave a statement outlining the circumstances outline why he fired.

The only questions to answer in this investigation were 1) Was the officer entitled to use force and 2) was the force used reasonable or excessive. That’s it. But the IIO in the past always tried to turn what should be relatively simple matters into convoluted investigations taking months and years for what should take a competent investigator weeks.

It was for these reasons that the Ministry announced the award of three contracts last August to have experienced police officers revamp and augment the training IIO investigators received.  I was optimistic this was a good sign.

Unfortunately, the first time the training was delivered at the Justice Institute one of the instructors, retired VPD Inspector Les Yeo, encountered resistance and condescension from the IIO participants. Comments like, “That’s not how we do things” were made. Well, Sparky that’s actually the point of giving training by someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Yeo spent years in Strike Force, Major Crimes and in the wake of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot he led a team of investigators putting together over 300 criminal prosecutions of riot participants. He was also board certified as a Team Commander in the Major Case Management model the IIO claims they follow but have no one with that same certification.

On the final Friday of Yeo’s course, he staged a mock coroner’s inquest with an actual coroner and an actual lawyer acting as counsel for the coroner. Yeo set up a set of circumstances for the inquest which mirrored an actual event in which Yeo himself was shot before he was able to return fire on the armed robbery suspect who later died as a result of police fire.

During the exercise the IIO investigator playing Yeo’s role in the shooting inquest essentially mocked the actions taken by Yeo and yes, he was offended and angry at the anti-police attitude displayed by the IIO investigators.

But it was more than just Yeo. At least half of the instructors were dismayed by the attitude displayed by the IIO attendees during the course of the month-long training. Yeo has since had a meeting with members of the JIBC and the IIO in which he informed the IIO that he was no longer interested in doing any training for their staff.

 I should note the new CCD had not yet taken office when this training occurred.

I contacted the IIO’s Director of Public Engagement and Policy, Marten Youssef for comment. To my surprise I received a reply from the new CCD. He acknowledged the problem saying, “The issues were addressed managerially with an emphasis on the sensitivities at play. In addition, discussions have been held between Gayle (Chief of Investigations), JIBC representatives and the instructor. I am advised that on behalf of the IIO, Gayle acknowledged the issues raised as perceived by the instructor and assured the Instructor and JIBC representatives the IIO does not tolerate inappropriate behaviour and attitude.”

“Further they were advised and I can confirm, the issues were dealt with managerially,” said McDonald. The CCD referred to the mocking incident as a “poor attempt at humour.”

Interesting.

In the past five years since the inception of the IIO and despite much criticism in this space I never heard a word from the previous CCD including when I called for his termination. He never admitted any fault nor attempted to explain the actions of the IIO.

Just yesterday the IIO announced there would be no charges in the case of an RCMP officer who stopped a car for erratic driving on Hwy 1. The driver, while the officer was in his patrol vehicle writing tickets for the incident, got out of his vehicle and leapt into the path of oncoming traffic sustaining significant injuries. The incident occurred on February 5th, 2018. Yes, you read that right. Just a month ago.

The new CCD even went as far in his report to say the officer involved was “professional in his dealings” with the affected person. Those words would never have been uttered by the former CCD, Richard Rosenthal, who displayed nothing but contempt for the police.

This is unprecedented in the history of the IIO and I truly hope a positive sign of change with the new management of the police oversight agency. But we shall see.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

March 7, 2018 at 12:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. Leo, a very good read and hopefully we will see positive change with that organization. I know Les from way back, a very intelligent and complete professional in every role he held during his career. It’s unfortunate that the so called “investigators” that took the training were so disrespectful and mocking, I would imaging that they will eventually be before the courts or a inquest and during the examination or cross examination phase they will be wishing the paid more attention to what Les had to offer.

    I have also noted that the new CCD has been more willing to resolve these matter in a more timely manner, as well he is releasing a public report that is much more direct and to the point. Like you say maybe a sign of positive change, of course considering the low bar set by Rosenthal it does not take much to make an improvement.

    I wish Mr. McDonald all the success, all he has to do is ensure competent and timely investigations and that he (his organization) remain fair and impartial to all the participants. The goal is, as always, the truth and only the truth.

    Rob

    March 7, 2018 at 1:34 am

  2. That should be the goal always, but too often in the past five years it was not.
    -Leo

    Leo Knight

    March 7, 2018 at 1:37 am

  3. > Begin forwarded message:

    Thanks Leo, I am so pleased to hear that minor cases are being resolved quicker than in the past, and I am sure your work pushing the IIO has stirred the pot in the right direction! Cheers and do have a great day! Dan K. > > From: Crime & Punishment > Subject: [New post] Positive signs of change at the IIO > Date: March 6, 2018 at 4:48:32 PM PST > To: kristjanson@shaw.ca > Reply-To: Crime & Punishment > >

    kristjanson

    March 7, 2018 at 2:40 am

    • Indeed, but the true test will be with more complicated (to the IIO). Look at the Canadian Tire OIS. Should be cut and dried given the circumstances. But still not closed.

      Leo Knight

      March 7, 2018 at 2:48 am

  4. Thanks for the great article Leo!!. We could have used this new outlook from the IIO here in Cranbrook with our own Cst Drought.

    Lets hope this is the way all cases are handled in the future

    Aux Cst Smith

    bruce smith

    March 7, 2018 at 2:42 am

  5. Wow!

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    Ian WHITTINGTON

    March 7, 2018 at 2:45 am

  6. Yes, the speed of investigation – and significantly the tone of report writing – has changed noticeably.

    Yet the IIO still have 3 open cases more than 3 years old! Their excuse previously for such delays has been externalities – particularly waiting for RCMP forensics results, which I’m told get deprioritized where the case is not ongoing. The IIO have claimed these have been taking more than a year a piece, though I have no way of personally validating this. Anyone out there have info?

    It will be interesting to see how complicated cases genuinely dependent on such third parties will be managed going forward. The Tony Du inquest highlighted the need for the IIO to be more communicative. Frankly their effective communication with families in my experience has been close to zero, even with regard to absolute basics that have no relevance to the legal process. It’s the worst of bureaucracy and just amplifies the anguish of those affected.

    And there is no reason why they can’t provide high level individual case milestone tracking on their website, this would be completely consistent with their mandate of accountability and openness. Here’s hoping.

    Peter

    March 8, 2018 at 1:13 am

  7. Well done Leo & good for you for keeping the pressure on and bringing about some positive (& long overdue) change. As I said to Les at the time, the mindset displayed by these students reflects a toxic culture in a very dysfunctional organization. Had they been police recruits they’d have been fired on the spot.

    Bob Cooper

    March 8, 2018 at 12:48 pm


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