Growing pains for police investigation unit

Richard Rosenthal has fired ex-cops from Independent Investigations Office in a move to all-civilian oversight of police-involved shootings

Richard Rosenthal is three years into a five-year term as chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office. He is eligible to be reappointed to one more term.

B.C. police forces have undergone a “sea change” in the two years since a civilian-led unit was put in charge of investigating police-involved deaths and serious injuries, says the man in charge of the Independent Investigations Office.

But the road to a new system that is moving away from police investigating other police has not been smooth, former U.S. prosecutor Richard Rosenthal acknowledged in his report to a committee of B.C. MLAs Thursday.

The office started up in the fall of 2012 with 36 investigators, about half and half civilians and former police officers. Its mandate was to move to all-civilian investigations, and Rosenthal said progress has been made, with two thirds of staff in the two investigative teams being people who have never worked as police officers.

This year four former officers were fired from the IIO, and five more resigned, Rosenthal told the committee. Two civilian staff also quit this year after three civilians resigned in 2013. Another former officer was “separated from the organization” in 2012, Rosenthal said.

He cited three reasons for the high turnover: “cultural conflicts,” the struggles of a new organization and evolution of jobs that causes people to look for something new.

A one-time Los Angeles deputy district attorney who worked on the 1999 Rampart case involving violence and drug dealing in the city’s police force, Rosenthal set up independent police oversight in Portland and Denver before coming to B.C.

He was asked about a survey of his operation that referred to a lower-than expected case load. Rosenthal said that was done before the office dealt with four fatal officer-involved shootings in less than three months.

“I don’t believe there is a single person in the office who would say that today,” he said.

Rosenthal said video cameras for police dog handlers, general-duty officers and police Tasers would help in some cases, but that is a decision for police services due to cost and privacy concerns.

The B.C. government committed to a civilian-led agency after a string of incidents involving RCMP and city police forces. The office was recommended by inquiries into the 2007 deaths of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport, and Frank Paul, who was removed from the Vancouver Police drunk tank in 1998 and left unconscious in an alley.

The 2005 gunshot death of Ian Bush at the RCMP detachment in Houston, B.C. was another case that pushed the B.C. government to end the practice of police incidents being investigated by other police forces. The independent office also brought B.C. RCMP officers under civilian oversight.

The B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner is continuing to handle public complaints against police forces in the province.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Racism wasn’t dealt with properly by school, says Chilliwack graduate

Woman tells story of being verbally assaulted at school for being black

Investigators comb through Chilliwack house following standoff

RCMP say investigation involves report of an early morning shooting

Fraser Valley Health Foundation annouces fifth annual golf tourney

Proceeds will benefit medical facilites across the Valley

No need to get out of your car at food truck festival in Abbotsford and Langley

Annual event takes drive-thru approach during COVID-19 pandemic

Chilliwack dad rescues his two young daughters after truck plunges into Cultus Lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Stray dog with duct tape around muzzle spotted in Abbotsford

Pooch has been spotted over two days, but has escaped capture so far

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read