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Report recommends creation of independent police watchdog in New Brunswick

New Brunswick currently has no investigative body that investigates incidents of death or serious injury involving police officers.
New Brunswick currently has no investigative body that investigates incidents of death or serious injury involving police officers. File/ Global News

A review of the operations of the New Brunswick Police Commission recommends the creation of an independent civilian-operated police watchdog.

The province currently has no investigative body that looks into incidents of death or serious injury involving police officers.

New Brunswick has normally relied on the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) to assist with serious police matters. But that may change with the release of a new report on Thursday.

READ MORE: New Brunswick Police Commission launches review into how it conducts investigations

The report, prepared by consultant Alphonse MacNeil, recommends that the provincial government consider developing its own SiRT team in New Brunswick.

“[Nova Scotia’s] SIRT has legislated authorities in the province of Nova Scotia that do not exist when they work in New Brunswick,” reads the report.

“The reality is they do not have adequate resources at this time to ensure they would be available if called upon by New Brunswick or any of the other Atlantic Provinces.”

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The report said police chiefs in New Brunswick are supportive of a model that is similar to Nova Scotia’s, where SiRT is responsible for serious incidents and the Office of Police Complaints Commissioner handles all other allegations of police misconduct.

New Brunswick police commission ‘out of control,’ says police association
New Brunswick police commission ‘out of control,’ says police association

A possibility proposed in the report is to create a two-person SiRT team in New Brunswick that works under the direction of the Nova Scotia director of SiRT. This option is proposed as an alternative to New Brunswick creating its own team.

The provincial government made no promises after the report was released but said it will look at creating a SiRT team in the province.

“We accept [MacNeil’s] recommendations and will take steps to address those made directly to the Department of Public Safety,” Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart said in a press release, which said that the province will work to bring groups together to “to discuss revisions to the Police Act.”
Manitoba police watchdog to investigate shooting in Moncton
Manitoba police watchdog to investigate shooting in Moncton

There are an additional 21 recommendations in the report.

They include a recommendation to refine the New Brunswick Police Commission’s handbook to ensure members of the commission know the roles and responsibilities, that the New Brunswick Police Commission be provided with an electronic records management system, and various procedures around the commission’s members and their requirements.

MacNeil was hired by the provincial government after the commission faced criticism about its handling of a probe into a senior officer’s conduct following millionaire businessman Richard Oland‘s murder.

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READ MORE: N.B. Police Association to speak out on probe into police’s handling of Oland investigation

At the time, Lynn Chaplin, chairwoman of the commission, said the review would help to ensure the commission fulfilled its role of “safeguarding the public interest in policing in New Brunswick.”

Her comments come after the New Brunswick Police Association accused the police oversight body of being “out of control” and alleged the commission is being run in an “abusive, authoritarian fashion” after Glen McCloskey – a former deputy chief of the Saint John Police Force — came under scrutiny during the first murder trial of Dennis Oland.

McCloskey was alleged to have made a comment suggesting that a fellow officer did not have to acknowledge his presence at the Oland murder scene.

McCloskey has denied the allegations and has since retired from his position with the Saint John police.