*** Parliamentary level oversight is the only solution. CSIS does it, others do it, why leave the RCMP at a disadvantage by denying them similar accountability? These people need tools to get the job done - let's help them do so. MS ***
OTTAWA–The RCMP says it will start using outside experts to investigate serious incidents involving Mounties in response to longstanding concerns about conflict of interest.
Commissioner William Elliott said Thursday that cases in which officers are linked to death, serious injury or criminal behaviour will be referred to federal or provincial organizations – such as Ontario's Special Investigations Unit – for review.
Where no such agencies exist, the new policy allows the national force to ask an "external law-enforcement agency or other duly authorized investigative agency" to conduct the probe. In cases where that's not possible, the RCMP may appoint at least two Mounties from another province, along with independent observers to review their findings.
Any officers assigned to investigate their own will be screened for possible conflict and, where possible, the primary investigator should outrank the subject of the probe.
Elliott said the RCMP "must strive to be as open and transparent as possible and fully accountable" for its actions.
"We would prefer the RCMP never to be called upon to conduct investigations of our employees."
Until now, the national police force has had discretion to decide how such investigations unfold.
Several recent incidents have highlighted the contentious subject of police investigating police. They include the headline-making case of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver airport in 2007 after being hit with an RCMP Taser, and that of Ian Bush, shot and killed by a Mountie in B.C. five years ago.
The government welcomed the RCMP announcement. But New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen said the RCMP plan doesn't go far enough because it won't ensure the impartiality of a fully independent, civilian investigative unit.
"That's the gold standard, that's the measure that the RCMP ought to go to," Cullen said, citing Ontario's unit as a workable model.
"It's going to take Parliament to get this thing right. The RCMP can make these half-measures, but it's going to be up to the politicians.
Last August, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP said the Mounties should not investigate their own members in the most serious cases – especially when someone has died – in order to avoid conflict of interest.
Kevin Brosseau, senior director of operations for the commission, said Thursday the RCMP's plan "is an excellent first step." But he noted that very few provinces have – or plan to create – investigative units to conduct independent probes of alleged offences involving law enforcement, meaning police will still be probing police in some cases.
Brosseau said it's up to the remaining jurisdictions to "step up and close the gap" with legislation.
Calling the new policy an interim measure, Elliott said the RCMP encourages adoption of independent investigative bodies for all jurisdictions. "It is not a complete solution, and we don't pretend that it is."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said: "This demonstrates the RCMP's commitment to becoming stronger, more accountable."
In its report last August, the RCMP complaints commission identified several "inappropriate" patterns in a sampling of case files:
One-quarter of primary investigators personally knew the member under scrutiny.
In 60 per cent of cases, a single investigator was assigned, placing the probe at risk for potential conflict of interest or perception of bias.
In almost one-third of cases, the primary investigator was of the same or lower rank as the subject member, creating potential for intimidation.