Police watchdog group makes presence known

The new Ministry of Justice watchdog organization was in Invermere two weeks ago, giving a presentation to council.

The new Ministry of Justice watchdog organization — the Independent Investigation Office (IIO) — was in Invermere two weeks ago, giving a presentation to council.

At the Tuesday, September 8th council meeting, IIO senior investigator Ralph Krenz outlined the organization’s aim to provide oversight of the province’s RCMP and its mandate to investigate on-duty and off-duty police incidents that involved serious harm or death.

The program began in 2012, and has since been making introductory presentations to local councils across the province.

“Serious harm constitutes anything from a broken limb up to death,” said Krenz, adding that that harm must comes as result of police action (instead of the police simply being on scene while harm happened) for the Independent Investigation Office to have jurisdiction.

The office is composed of former border services officers, former coroners, former lawyers, former police officers, former conservation officers and and former Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) officers.

Previously, such “serious harm” incidents had been investigated by outside police forces (the Vancouver RCMP would investigate “serious harm” incidents in Kelowna, for instance), but the Justice Ministry felt a more independent organization was an even better option.

“A major goal for us has been to improve the timeliness of the investigations of serious harm incidents. Previously they had taken up to two years to complete, which was far too long,” said Krenz. “We aim for a six-month timeframe from when the incident occurs to us issuing a report and then the Crown deciding whether or not to recommend charges.”

Since the IIO began in September 2012, it has had 697 notifications of serious harm incidents and, in six cases that it has investigated, charges have been issued.

“In the vast majority of the 697 cases, the police were doing their job correctly,” said Krenz, adding that the average amount of time between a “serious harm” incident occuring and the Independent Investigation Office being notified is nine minutes.

In terms of average response time in rural outlying areas of B.C. such as the East Kooteany, the office is usually on the scene beginning its investigation within four hours of a serious harm incident.

The office is still relatively new and is relatively unknown in outlying parts of the province, such as Invermere, although it is quickly becoming familiar to residents of B.C.’s larger cities, according to Mr. Krenz.

The Independent Investigation Office can be contacted at 604-586-5668 or infor@iiobc.ca.