For the first time, the provincial agency that investigates complaints against municipal police departments in B.C. will have the power to probe alleged misconduct by members of the RCMP as well.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) announced Thursday (Nov. 10) that it has reached an agreement with the federal police force to provide independent assessments of the evidence in cases concerning Mounties involving “death, serious harm, or a matter which raises significant concerns regarding the administration of justice.”
Under the terms of the three-page memorandum of agreement signed by Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe and the officer in charge of the RCMP in BC, Asst. Commissioner Craig Callen, the OPCC will only get involved after an outside police agency has reviewed the evidence against the Mounties and had decided against making a report to Crown prosecutors.
And the RCMP and outside police agency must both request the OPCC.
Once that happens, the complaint commissioner will have the power to order a further investigation.
While Lowe still doesn’t have the right to investigate less serious allegations against RCMP the way he can investigate municipal police, the announcement still represents a significant shift by the RCMP, which has been immune to provincial review until now even though it provides street-level policing to most B.C. communities.
The announcement of the deal comes one week after the OPCC and RCMP announced a one-time deal that would allow the commissioner to review the conduct of the Langley RCMP involved in the Aug. 6, 2010 shooting of 22-year-old Alvin Wright in Langley, who died the next day.
A Vancouver Police review found no basis for criminal charges against the Mounties involved.
At the time, Lowe said the agreement was limited to the Wright case.
Under the terms of the new deal, the OPCC will consider whether the available evidence discloses “a reasonable basis to consider that the conduct of an officer or former officer may constitute an offence under any Federal or Provincial legislation?”
If it does, the OPCC will submit an investigation report to the Criminal Justice Branch for charge assessment by Crown prosecutors.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has complained about the lack of RCMP accountability to the OPCC in a statement about the Wright case.
The same criticism has been leveled by the lawyer representing Wright’s widow.