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IIO BC announces plan to release concluded IIO files back to the police departments they are tasked with investigating

Imagine you are falsely suspected of having committed a criminal offence at your workplace. A law enforcement agency diligently looks into the matter for six months (or longer).  During this time a shadow hangs over your professional reputation. At the conclusion of the investigation, you are cleared of any wrongdoing. But then, for “training purposes” and “self-improvement,” the constable decides to give your employer a copy of the police investigation.

It sounds like a lawsuit in the making, doesn’t it? Yet this is what the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia is now promising to do:

Surrey – The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) today announces that it accepts the jury’s recommendations in the B.C. Coroner Service’s inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of Phuong Na (Tony) Du in Vancouver, on November 22, 2014.

The first recommendation is that the IIO should automatically release its files to the involved police service agency at the conclusion of the IIO investigation. This will help the police agency determine whether any of its existing practices, procedures, or policies should be changed or improved.

The IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald is committed to releasing IIO investigative files to the appropriate agency at the conclusion of each matter, subject to potential privacy and other related issues.

The word trust gets thrown around a lot these days. But I do wonder if this new approach has the potential to undermine public trust in the IIO BC:

  1. What is the likelihood that some witnesses will refuse to talk to the IIO, knowing that the IIO investigation is going to be handed over to the police?
  2. Will a police officer still be candid and honest in an interview with the IIO, knowing that his boss is going to get a copy of the IIO’s investigation?
  3. How does the IIO ever hope to pursue criminal charges in old cases that develop fresh evidence, when they have already handed their investigative materials over to the police agency they were investigating?
  4. Who actually gets a copy of the IIO BC investigation? The police board? The police chief?  Professional standards?  The subject officer’s direct supervisor?  The subject officer? The witness officers?
  5. What kind of obligations does this place on the receiving police agency? Once the IIO investigation is handed over to the police agency, will they be subject to FIPPA requests? What about the discovery of documents in civil lawsuits? What about McNeil disclosure?
  6. Why is the IIO planning to reveal its investigative techniques to the police agencies that it investigates?
  7. Why does the IIO believe it is ok to criminally investigate someone for their actions and then hand a copy of the investigation to their employer?
  8. Given the above, will police agencies have the option of refusing to accept delivery of investigative files from the IIO?

This is new territory. Perhaps there is a way to make it work. Stay tuned for further developments.