‘We are stuck’: B.C.’s civilian-led police watchdog reports staffing problems

Click to play video: 'B.C. independent police watchdog says its critically short-staffed' B.C. independent police watchdog says its critically short-staffed
With two new police-involved shootings in the past few days, the Independent Investigations Office says it's critically short-staffed, and is having trouble dealing with its workload. Rumina Daya reports – Apr 4, 2022

The head of B.C.’s civilian-led police watchdog says the agency is having “real issues” trying to fill positions.

Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, told Global News they are stretched to the limit right now, with only 24 investigators instead of the regular 30.

The office, which opened in 2012, investigates incidents of serious harm or death involving police in B.C.

MacDonald said the salary and benefits packages are not competitive with police agencies or private businesses that offer similar jobs.

“We are stuck within certain government restrictions for the salaries that we can offer,” he said. “It’s a challenge for us to both hire and retain investigators.

“I’ve made representations to government both for the need for increased funding and for a change in how our remuneration is determined.”

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Read more: Watchdog deployed to Campbell River after fatal police shooting

With six police-involved incidents in just the past few days, he said the office now has as many as 70 active files.

On Saturday, RCMP were called to a single-vehicle crash on Salt Spring Island where all occupants had reportedly been hurt, and that the driver had fled on foot. Officers found him not long after.

“He was detained by police and allegedly resisted officer’s attempts to take him into custody,” Salt Spring RCMP said.

The man was later transferred to a larger area hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

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IIO investigates police chase in which child under 12 was injured – Jun 7, 2021

Also on Saturday, investigators were deployed to Campbell River.

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Police there had responded to a reported theft, potentially of weapons, at a sporting goods store. When they arrived, there was “an interaction” between them and a suspect, “which did involve shots being fired,” MacDonald said at the time.

The suspect died on the way to hospital.

And on Friday, the watchdog was called to Surrey after a man was shot and killed by police, as Mounties were responding to an attempted armed robbery and carjacking.

Read more: Man dead in police shooting after alleged armed robbery, carjacking in Surrey

Attorney General David Eby told Global News Monday that many businesses in B.C. are struggling to find qualified people right now.

“This is not unique to the IIO, but what is unique to the IIO is that their hiring pool has shrunk even further because (their ability) to hire former police officers recently (expired),” he said.

“They have to hire civilians now with investigative experience, with knowledge of the criminal code and criminal investigations.”

MacDonald said it’s time the watchdog became an independent body of the legislature, which would allow for better pay and overtime.

Eby said his government is looking into allowing the watchdog to again hire former police officers to help with the staffing issues.

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