Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia

Posted: January 28, 2015 by sball in Uncategorized

For the purpose of this assignment, I chose to cover the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO). The IIO is an independent organization that was created strictly to conduct investigations into either deaths that are police related or serious harm. It is concerned with only deaths or serious harm that has occurred in the province of British Columbia. It conducts these investigations to conclude whether or not the officer has committed an offence. It deals strictly with deaths or serious harm and does not consider the more minor police accountability issues. This also brings into question what serious harm is even considered. According to the IIO, “incidents of serious harm include injury that may result in death, may cause serious disfigurement or may cause substantial loss or impairment of mobility of the body as a whole or of the function of any limb or organ” (Independent Investigations Office, 2014.)

This organization was created in 2012 in the month of September on the 10th day. It currently has about 56 employees. Half of these are corporate and support staff and the other half are the investigative personnel. They do hire past police officers but only if they have not served as a police officer in BC in the last five years. The long run goal of the IIO is to hire investigators that have never served as police officers. Presently, about 50 % of the staff are past police officers. However, the ones that are not past police officers have a fair deal of experience with investigative agencies. Its main office is in Surrey, B.C., but they will travel anywhere in B.C. for an investigation. The organization has four investigative teams and one specialized team. Each of these has its own director. It also has different departments such as legal services and corporate services. The investigative personnel are responsible for the general investigation operations whereas the specialized team is responsible for the forensic identification and collision analysis. The IIO investigators do not actually conduct the forensic work themselves. Instead, they just monitor the work that the police forensic teams are doing in order to verify that it is being done properly and according to the best practices (IIO, 2014). Below is a chart taken from the IIO’s website on the structure of their organization.

Photo retrieved from: http://iiobc.ca/agency/

It is up to the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) of the IIO to review the whole case when the IIO is done investigating to determine whether the officer has committed an offence or not. If he feels that an officer has in fact committed an offence, he then forwards the report to Crown counsel. If, for some reason he does not forward the report to Crown counsel, he is required, by section 38.121 of the Police Act which states in part 2 (d) that “a summary of the results of an investigation, if the matter has not been reported to Crown counsel”(Police Act, 1996, s 38) must be reported to the public explaining the reasoning behind the decision.

Once the matter is received and reviewed by the Crown counsel, it is up to them to determine whether or not the officer will be charged. The CCD does not determine or recommend what charges need to be laid or anything of that matter. The Crown counsel does this and in doing so, they will consider a two-part test:

  1. “there must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency; and
  2. a prosecution must be required in the public interest” (IIO, 2014).

The IIO is notified when death or serious harm incidents have occurred. It is their duty to automatically investigate these cases and no discretion can be applied on whether to investigate or not. They must show up to the crime scene and notify the police officers that they are the IIO and will be conducting an investigation on this case. Since the IIO is a fairly new organization, its relationship with the police agencies is probably still questionable. Personally, if I were a police officer and I saw the IIO attend a scene where serious harm had been caused, I would be afraid even if all steps were properly taken and all protocol was followed appropriately. In my opinion, to certain police officers, the agency could be a little intimidating. On the other hand, the public reputation of the IIO in my opinion is probably pretty good. I feel that since the IIO is automatically supposed to investigate the more serious issues, it increases public confidence in both the police and the over all system. They see it as a more justified approach.

The reason that the IIO initially was put into place is because of recommendations that arose out of public inquiries. It was meant to increase public confidence in the overall accountability of police. I do not think the model is in need of major reform, however, I would like to see it one day be entirely staffed by employees who were not past police officers. I feel this would help increase public confidence even more because it would be seen as more independent and unbiased. As far as whether the IIO is meeting its objectives or not, attached below is a chart taken from the IIO’s website illustrating the percentage of tasks completed as of January 16, 2015. Many of these cases are 100 % or close to 100% completed and many are making progress. However, these completions do not mean that an officer has been charged, it just shows the completion of an investigation. Overall, I feel that the model is one to be emulated because there is mandatory protocol they follow for all deaths and serious harm and each one is investigated and this is a new way of doing things in B.C.

Photo retrieved from: http://iiobc.ca/cases/

Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia. (2014). The Independent Investigations Office of BC is a civilian-led investigatory body. Retrieved from http://iiobc.ca/

The Police Act, (R.S.B.C., 1996) Retrieved from http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96367_01

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is an interesting and well-written post.

    You mention that “Personally, if I were a police officer and I saw the IIO attend a scene where serious harm had been caused, I would be afraid even if all steps were properly taken and all protocol was followed appropriately.”. This is an interesting comment. The IIO is, in many ways, an organization that ‘polices the police’. If you believe that police officers would be intimidated by the presence of the IIO, do you also believe that members of communities subject to policing (for example, by the RCMP or VPD) might also be justified in being afraid during their encounters with the police?

    Regarding the effectiveness of the IIO, aside from their investigation clearance rate, what measures do you think we could / should use to determine whether and to what extent they are fulfilling their mandate? I would be interested in hearing your opinion on this.

    If I could make one recommendation for future research and writing projects, it would be to ensure that your work is informed by a diversity of sources. This post provides a good summary of details found on the website of the BC Independent Investigations Office, but it does not draw on any external (non-IIO) sources. While we have yet to see much in the way of academic research on the IIO, you will find a wide selection of journalistic stories and commentary on the organization available online: For example – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/report-raises-concerns-about-bc-agency-that-investigates-police/article21633159/ .

    Civil Society organizations (for example, Pivot Legal Society and the BCCLA) have also provided commentary on the IIO: ex. https://bccla.org/news/2014/06/bccla-reacts-to-independent-investigations-office-appointing-civilian-review-of-matters-case/ .