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RCMP reject watchdog report on internal investigations

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.

In a report released yesterday morning, CPC chair Paul Kennedy said he found cases in which Mounties investigated colleagues whom they personally knew, or who were their superiors.

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The situations created a "perceived risk of bias or intimidation," Mr. Kennedy found.

While he said an independent body such as Ontario's Special Investigations Unit would be too expensive, Mr. Kennedy argued outside police forces should investigate all cases involving death, and said national guidelines are needed for all types of cases.

"We are not saying that the RCMP should never investigate itself. But we are saying that in certain circumstances, they should not," Mr. Kennedy said.

His report built on the outrage in some communities over RCMP internal investigations into controversies such as the 2005 in-custody death of Ian Bush, who was arrested for drinking beer in public.

The officer who killed Mr. Bush was investigated by the RCMP and cleared.

In an interview, Mr. Bush's mother, Linda, said she would prefer to see civilians investigating police officers, but added she is disappointed that the RCMP will not even call for outside police help in some cases.

"It's neither appropriate nor what we wanted to hear," Ms. Bush said.

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Mr. Elliott said it is simply impossible for his officers to stay away from an investigation in every situation. He said that in a perfect world, RCMP officers would never investigate their colleagues, but he argued it is impractical.

The RCMP Commissioner said that in a case involving a police shooting in one of Canada's remote communities, for example, there are no other police forces in place to handle the investigation.

"By the time another forensic expert or police officer arrives, there might not be any forensic evidence to gather," Mr. Elliott said.

In its report, the CPC said the national police force should always call on other bodies to investigate Mounties in cases involving death.

Mr. Kennedy said he disagrees with the RCMP policy that states that investigations into its members have to be handled like any other. "Police are held to a higher standard," he said.

The CPC reviewed 28 cases in which RCMP officers investigated incidents involving their colleagues, and found:

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in 25 per cent of the cases, the primary investigator personally knew the subject of the investigation;

in 32 per cent of the cases, the primary investigator was of the same or a lower rank than the subject of the investigation;

in 60 per cent of the cases, only one investigator was on the case and was alone to interview the subject of the investigation.

Mr. Kennedy said the good news was that the RCMP investigators acted "professionally and free from bias in 100 per cent of the cases." Still, he added that the structural problems could have hindered the investigations.

In a statement, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the report "will provide important input to our review concerning oversight of the RCMP."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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