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B.C. looks to tweak legislation governing civilian police watchdog service

The province is proposing two changes to the police act that would affect the B.C.'s civilian police watchdog.
The province is proposing two changes to the police act that would affect the B.C.'s civilian police watchdog. Global News

The B.C. government has proposed two changes to the Police Act meant to address concerns with the province’s civilian police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

The proposal comes amid growing concerns about the amount of trained civilian investigators and efficiency in the IIO’s investigations.

The first amendment plans to temporarily reduce hiring restrictions for two years, while the IIO continues to develop a civilian oversight investigative officer training program, the-first ever training and certification program of its kind in Canada.

READ MORE: IIO files report for consideration of charges against VPD officers

Under the Police Act the current hiring regulations prevent the IIO from adding an investigator who was a member of the B.C. police force five years prior.

The province says the change would increase the number of IIO investigators, while maintaining the balance of investigators with civilian and policing backgrounds.

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“Our goal is to preserve the long-term civilianization of oversight of police in B.C., while recognizing that the IIO has had difficulty identifying a sufficient pool of adequately trained and experienced candidates to hire as investigators,” said David Eby, Attorney General in a media release.

“Once fully implemented, the planned training program for civilian investigators will help solve this problem down the road. However, British Columbians immediately need the IIO to complete timely, comprehensive and high-quality investigations on extremely sensitive matters.”

READ MORE: Police watchdog files consideration of charges against VPD officers for pair of 2018 incidents

The second proposed amendment will raise the IIO’s referral standard to Crown counsel, ensuring only cases with a reasonable likelihood of charge approval are fowarded, thus bringing it to the same standard used by police in B.C.

The IIO says this change will help timely completion of IIO investigations and eliminate unnecessary reviews by B.C.’s independent prosecution service.