Winnipeg lawyer calls for changes to Police Act following Eishia Hudson investigation

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg lawyer: police involved in serious incidents should be compelled to testify'
Winnipeg lawyer: police involved in serious incidents should be compelled to testify
A Winnipeg lawyer is calling for legislative changes to force officers to be interviewed by a police oversight group after they're involved in serious incidents. This, one day after the Independent Investigation Unit report into the shooting death of 16-year-old Eishia Hudson was released. Global's Brittany Greenslade reports – Jan 29, 2021

The officer involved in the deadly shooting of Eishia Hudson will not face any charges following an investigation by Manitoba’s police watchdog.

However, the officer who fired the fatal shot was never interviewed by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) and cannot be compelled to.

Read more: Manitoba watchdog clears Winnipeg police officer in shooting that killed Eishia Hudson

A Winnipeg lawyer would like to see that change.

“This was not a transparent process,” lawyer Corey Shefman told Global News.

“The entire process is opaque.”

Click to play video: '‘Systemic racism is alive’: Winnipeg father of teen shot by police responds to officer not facing charges'
‘Systemic racism is alive’: Winnipeg father of teen shot by police responds to officer not facing charges

Hudson, a 16-year-old Indigenous girl, was killed by an unnamed Winnipeg police officer last April after a chase in a stolen Jeep following an alleged robbery at a liquor store.

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At the time, Winnipeg police said Hudson was driving the SUV which ran into a police cruiser and a number of other cars near Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue.

A months-long investigation found no criminal charges be recommended against the officer.

Read more: Police shootings in 2020: The effect on officers and those they are sworn to protect

But Shefman said the investigation process is flawed.

“Why are police officers not held to as high a standard, let alone a higher standard, than the rest of us,” he said.

During an IIU investigation there can be dozens of interviews conducted with witnesses and officers. But there are two distinctions when it comes to police.

Click to play video: 'Teen girl, adult man killed in two officer-involved shootings: Winnipeg police'
Teen girl, adult man killed in two officer-involved shootings: Winnipeg police

Witness officers must turn over their notes and be interviewed by the IIU, but subject officers — in this case the one who shot Hudson — don’t.

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“He does not have to turn over anything,” defence lawyer Hymie Weinstein said. “He doesn’t have to turn over notes and certainly does not have to attend to an interview.”

According to the IIU, this is because an officer who becomes the focus of an investigation, and therefore faces potential criminal jeopardy, is granted the same rights as any citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protection from self-incrimination.

It’s similar to how an accused is not required to testify at their own trial.

Christie Zebrasky, whose daughter Eishia Hudson was shot dead by police on April 8, 2020, holds a photo of her daughter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Weinstein often represents officers in these cases and said in his experience the subject officers always turn over their notes but feel being interviewed isn’t necessary.

“The reason is they say to me ‘Mr. Weinstein they have everything. My notes, my narrative, reports on use of force… I’ve not hidden anything. I feel like I don’t have to attend for an interview because they have everything.'”

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However, Shefman said anyone involved in an incident similar to this, should be forced to undergo an interview, especially police.

“Police occupy a special position in society,” he said. “They are given tools the rest of us don’t have, they are given permissiveness the rest of us don’t have and with those extra privileges must come responsibilities.”

While the IIU investigation is over, and the use of lethal force was found to be appropriate there are still some changes that could happen.

Read more: Teen girl, adult man killed in two officer-involved shootings: Winnipeg police

A mandatory inquest will be held which will aim to show a more fulsome scope of the circumstances around Hudson’s death led by a team of civilians.

“They don’t have any power to order changes but they make recommendations,” Shefman said. “Those recommendations are powerful.  They can lead to really powerful change.”

But, it is up to the government to implement, or not implement, any or all of the recommendations that come out of an inquest.

However, in an inquest the officer that fired the fatal shot can be subpoenaed and forced to show up and give testimony.

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Click to play video: 'No charges recommended in police killing of teen'
No charges recommended in police killing of teen

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