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Manitoba investigative agency called in, no decision yet on N.B. establishing own police watchdog

Manitoba police watchdog to investigate shooting in Moncton
WATCH: A police watchdog is being called to investigate an officer-involved shooting in Moncton over the weekend. As Callum Smith reports, the investigators are coming from Manitoba because New Brunswick doesn’t have a watchdog.

A police watchdog from Manitoba has been called to Moncton to investigate officer actions during an altercation between police and a suspect that led an RCMP officer to shoot the man.

RCMP allege the 27-year-old man drove towards police officers and hit several cruisers and other cars in the Miss Cue pool and billiard hall parking lot early Saturday morning.

The accused faces 16 charges.

Now, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) will investigate whether the police officer was justified in shooting at the man, who they say suffered a “minor gunshot injury,” because New Brunswick doesn’t have its own agency.

READ MORE: N.B. man facing 16 charges, accused of robbery and hitting RCMP officer with vehicle

Police watchdogs investigate officer-involved incidents, typically when an injury or death is involved, and release reports to determine whether proper protocol was followed.

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New Brunswick has called in Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team many times before, but Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, a New Brunswick RCMP spokesperson, says SIRT wasn’t available for this investigation.

“We have just four investigators,” says Pat Curran, the interim director of the civilian-led agency.

“Our obligation, our statutory obligation is to deal with matters that arise in Nova Scotia, so we can only deal with things elsewhere, including New Brunswick if we’ve got the wherewithal, if we’ve got the resources at the time.”

Pat Curran, Nova Scotia’s SIRT interim director, says along with his four investigators, their obligation is to deal with incidents in that province and says they’ve had to recently deny a New Brunswick request
Pat Curran, Nova Scotia’s SIRT interim director, says along with his four investigators, their obligation is to deal with incidents in that province and says they’ve had to recently deny a New Brunswick request Reynold Gregor / Global News

The minister responsible says all incidents are investigated. A review has been ongoing about whether New Brunswick should have its own watchdog, but there’s no timeline as to when that could happen.

“I’ve found timelines usually get me in trouble,” Carl Urquhart, the province’s public safety minister told Global News Wednesday.

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He previously told Global News the review would be done in the fall of 2019.

Bringing in exterior teams costs money for things such as overtime, accommodations and meals.

“There is a cost,” Urquhart says. “Sometimes it’s an in-kind cost or it is a direct cost.

“If that’s what the department or the police agency feels they do want brought in, it will. It does go to their budget.”

Carl Urquhart, New Brunswick’s public safety minister, says there’s no timeline as to when a decision could be made on establishing a police watchdog
Carl Urquhart, New Brunswick’s public safety minister, says there’s no timeline as to when a decision could be made on establishing a police watchdog Silas Brown / Global News

And in Nova Scotia, reports from SIRT need to be released to the public. However, that changes when they enter New Brunswick.

“In Nova Scotia, we operate under the Police Act,” Curran says. “If we happen to be dealing with a matter in New Brunswick, we don’t have any statutory authority or, for that matter, statutory obligations [to release findings].”

But when asked about an incident that SIRT investigated earlier this year in Dieppe, N.B., Cpl. Rogers-Marsh said it’s up to the agency to release a report.

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“The RCMP does not release the reports of an independent police review agency anywhere in the country,” she said in a phone interview.

“That is the responsibility of the independent agency.”

READ MORE: Review underway to determine if New Brunswick should establish police watchdog team

Urquhart says a broader review of the police act is coming.

“We are now preparing to have a much broader discussion with stakeholders within the context of the Police Act Review,” says Coreen Enos, a department spokesperson.