B.C.’s civilian police watchdog has added its voice to the chorus calling for police to wear body cameras.
In its annual report, published last week, the Independent Investiagtions Office says it reviewed 71 cases which were either open or had been referred to Crown Counsel and found 93% of them would have been aided if police had been wearing cameras.
The agency says cameras would be particularly effective in cases involving K9 units, Emergency Response Teams, and taser incidents.
Spokesperson Aidan Buckley says the cameras would reduce the agency’s dependence on bystander footage.
“It’s interesting to note that other video evidence to the likes of CCTV video and cell phone video recorded by witnesses was actually only available in 25% of the cases that had been reviewed,” he said.
The call for police body cameras was recently renewed by the Pivot Legal Society, after an innocent bystander had his ear chewed off by a police dog during a takedown in New Westminster in September.
The report, released earlier this week, also raises concerns about suspects taking their own lives after being investigated for serious sex offences by the RCMP.
The IIO says between January 2014 and October of 2015, there were six cases where a suspect committed suicide after arrest by or contact with Mounties.
It says while it could not find evidence to establish a connection between police and the suicides, the numbers are disturbing, and highlight a lack of policy within the BC RCMP around minimizing suicide risk under the circumstances.
Buckley says the force has agreed to review procedures.
“In this case the RCMP E Division Command Staff, they have responded with the commitment to review existing training policies and protocols and that may relate potentially to an officer’s identification of suspects who may be at risk of suicide upon release from custody,” he said.
Duty to account
The IIO says it has filed letters with four police agencies around the province, raising concerns about officers failing to file reports on their part in officer involved shootings or in-custody deaths on time. It says it even found one case in which an officer was allowed to defer writing his report because he hadn’t yet seen a video of the incident.
“The IIO identified multiple instances wherein subject officers appeared to have failed to write timely duty to account reports and supervisors may have failed to enforce this requirement,” states the report.
It says it is still waiting for a response from the police agencies.
By the numbers
Overall, the report says the IIO was notified of 191 officer involved incidents in the 2015/2016 year, down 14% from the previous year.
Fifty-nine per cent of those cases involved the RCMP, while 36% involved municipal police and 5% other policing agencies.
It says it released jurisdiction in all but 48 of those instances.
The report says police agencies reported incidents to the IIO within 24 hours 83% of the time, however notes in one case the watchdog wasn’t notified about a case for 14 months – an incident over which a formal complaint is pending.
With files from Shelby Thom