Quebec watchdog group questioned for lack of transparency
One year after the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) was created as a police watchdog group, some advocacy organizations say it lacks transparency.
The bureau was created last June as a means to investigate situations where police are involved in injuring or shooting of a civilian. After years of delays, the watchdog group was started last year to ensure impartiality and independence in these investigations.
Although it reports to the Minister of Public Security, it is not subject to the control of the government or any Québec police force.
According to their website, the BEI investigation team gathers evidence at the scene of the event — searching for and interviewing witnesses, responding to special requests from the lead investigator in the case, and completes the examination of the scene.
The report is then released to the public when all evidence has been collected.
However, several organizations that have been critical of police interactions with the public, held a news conference Tuesday to outline measures they argue would correct the gaps in police investigations.
Alexandre Popovic, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Repression and Police Abuses, pointed out that other provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have investigative organizations that post detailed reports and summaries online so the public can see specifics in cases where police injure people.
Sometimes, Popovic said, these reports can be 10 to 15 pages long.
“When they complete an investigation you’re going to have a big [summary] of the evidence that was collected during the investigation,” Popovic said.
“So we are asking why in Quebec we don’t have that.”
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“The way the investigations are conducted right now, we don’t even know if the police are separated after the incident happened,” Will Prosper from the League of Rights and Freedoms said Tuesday.
According to Prosper, the current system in place for these types of investigations is lacking in depth.
“There is no way to reassure the public, there is no way to reassure the families,” he said.
“We do our work scrupulously respecting the legal framework and regulations that led to the development and function of the Bureau,” Madeleine Giauque, director of BEI, wrote in a press release on Tuesday.
The written statement cites laws about information access of public organizations and the protection of privacy.
“A police investigation report is not by nature public,” Giauque said.