Wednesday, August 12, 2009

RCMP watchdog: The force shouldn't investigate itself

"RCMP officers should not be allowed to investigate their fellow Mounties for serious offenses, because such a system fails to inspire confidence in the investigative process and raises conflict of interest questions, concludes a new report from the RCMP watchdog.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP [CPC] has concluded that the Mounties' current strategy of having police investigate police for cases involving sexual assault, serious injury, or death, is "flawed and inconsistent" and needs to be updated and improved. ...

In its investigation, the CPC reviewed 28 sample RCMP cases that took place over a five-year period between April 1, 2002 and March 31, 2007. Six of the cases involved deaths.

And while the CPC found "no instances of actual bias by actual members" and that the Mounties acted professionally in all the sample cases, there were some noteworthy problems."

"No instances of actual bias by actual members": Isn't that amazing! Colleagues investigating colleagues without any bias.

Who can believe that? Especially considering that:

"Twenty-five per cent of the primary investigators in the sample cases personally knew the officers they were investigating.
A lone investigator was assigned in 60 per cent of the sample cases.
In nearly one-third of the sample cases, the investigating officer was at the same rank or lower rank as the officer he was investigating, leaving open the possibility of intimidation.
There was a "significant disparity" in the level of qualifications of the investigating officers."

It would appear obvious to any intelligent 14 year old that this is a flawed system. The only question remaining in my mind is why did it take so long for the CPC to come to that conclusion given the history of RCMP wrongdoing. (Some links at that page do not work anymore but you can always check the accuracy of my contentions by using Google).

The RCMP has rejected a watchdog report that argues that Mounties have to stop investigating their own colleagues in every serious incident involving a killing.

Commissioner William Elliott said there can be further changes to the RCMP's internal investigations policy, but he insisted the situation is “not as bleak” as was laid out by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

Also, consider, for example, the case of Ian Bush, who was shot in the back of his head on October 29th, 2005 by RCMP officer Koester while in custody. Twenty minutes later he was dead. Assistant RCMP Commissioner Al Macintyre said the use of lethal force was necessary to ensure the officer's safety.

Officer Koester claimed that he was being choked from behind [!] to unconsciousness and acted in self defence. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Even if that is true,
how does one shoot somebody in the back of the head when that person is behind you?

Many shootings by RCMP officers violated RCMP policy and did not meet force's own standards for the use of deadly force, according to an internal RCMP report obtained by The Vancouver Sun. (July 28, 2008)

"According to the report, of the 30 RCMP shootings nationwide in 2006 (the most recent year for which data was available), only 10 met the RCMP's test for using lethal force -- namely, to protect someone from death or "grievous bodily harm." Another two were outside the officer's control, such as a gun going off in a struggle with a suspect.

Nine violated RCMP policy -- such as an officer firing at a car to try to stop it -- and another nine were accidental, resulting from a member handling a firearm in an unsafe manner.

The internal RCMP report, completed in early 2008 and obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the Access to Information Act, says the number of shootings that violate RCMP policy is troubling.

"If the number of [non-compliant] incidents does not significantly decrease in future years, this would be cause for concern and clearly point to the need for additional initiatives to ensure that members are complying with the law and with policy when they resort to lethal force," the report states.

According to the report, both accidental discharges and non-compliant shootings had tripled over the past two years -- there were just three of each in 2004 -- though it notes this may be a result of RCMP divisions doing a better job of reporting mistakes. The internal report also highlights some stark regional differences in how often officers use their guns. ... In B.C., the number of police shootings has dropped dramatically in recent years, from 27 in 2002 to just nine in 2006. In contrast to B.C., the report notes the number of shootings in Alberta has skyrocketed from just one in 2002 to eight in 2006 (peaking at 12 in 2005). ...Alberta now
[i.e. 2006] accounts for nearly one-third of all RCMP shootings, despite the fact fewer than 15 per cent of its members are stationed there. [That province] is still reporting almost twice as many incidents as would be projected based on member population. ...

B.C.'s relatively low rate of police shootings is in stark contrast to the province's record on in-custody deaths. A separate RCMP report made public earlier this year found that 56 per cent of RCMP in-custody deaths over the past five years occurred in B.C., even though only one-third of the force's officers are stationed here. ...

Some of the report's other findings include [that] less than one-quarter (23 per cent) of the bullets RCMP officers fired at suspects in 2006 actually hit their target."

Here is a list of some incidents from January 2006 to March 2007, which are definitely not the finest moments of the Mounties.

"An internal RCMP report obtained by CBC News shows 80 people died while in police custody between 2002 to 2006, the majority due to alcohol intoxication or drug overdoses, according to the RCMP."

Death in custody
Some examples:

Neil Stonechild, Kevin Geldart, Kevin St. Arnaud

Then there is the sad case of Robert Dziekanski, who
"armed with a stapler" [sic] could not be subdued by four RCMP officers - according to their testimony - without tasering him several times, which killed him. (These officers did not speak the truth - under oath - as they had decided beforehand to use the taser.)

A website with links to major Canadian newspapers about abuse by Mounties (among other things) is here.

There are many subject headings including, Mounties Investigating Mounties, Attempted Cover Up, Excessive use of Force, Mounties Charged.