British Columbias provincial government has called in a veteran American prosecutor to set up and lead a civilian police oversight commission, to be known as the Independent Investigations Office, or IIO.
Richard Rosenthal spent 15 years as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, prosecuting violent crimes, white-collar crimes, and charges filed against public officials, judges and police officers. In 2001, he was hired as the first director of Portlands police review division and went on to a similar post in Denver in 2005. He has also held a variety of teaching posts and helped author a set of national standards for police oversight agencies.
I am very excited at the prospect of being involved in the creation of the new Independent Investigations Office for the province of British Columbia, said Rosenthal in a written statement. This office will be fundamental in increasing public confidence in the investigation and review of police uses of force in B.C. My vision for the new office is one that conducts fair, impartial and timely investigations and ensures transparency in that process. I very much look forward to this great challenge and opportunity.
The new office will conduct criminal investigations into incidents that result in serious injury or death involving municipal police or RCMP officers. Allegations of less severe misconduct will still be handled by the Police Complaints Commissioner or the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
Under the legislation, Rosenthal will be allowed to hire former police investigators to his staff, provided they have not served within the province. His new title, chief civilian director, cannot be held by any current or former police officer.
The creation of the Independent Investigations Office follows recommendations from the inquiries into the 1998 death of Frank Paul, who died of hypothermia after being ejected from Vancouver police custody, and the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, who perished after being repeatedly tasered and restrained by RCMP officers at Vancouver Airport. No officers faced charges in connection with either death.
Peter Lepine, chief constable of the West Vancouver Police Department and president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, welcomed the news.
Over the last three years, he said in a statement, the BCACP's support for the IIO has been unwavering, because we believe that independent civilian oversight of investigations into police-involved incidents is a critical ingredient in restoring public confidence in the integrity of B.C.'s police officers and agencies. . . . My colleagues and I look forward to working with Mr. Rosenthal and the team he puts together to make this program a success.
Speaking of behalf of the North Vancouver RCMP detachment, Sgt. Peter DeVries echoed Lepines comments.
We fully support the new office. Its time that we move to this, he said. DeVries said he and his colleagues were quite comfortable having an American brought in to the lead the body.
Their selection process would go through a very vigorous set of steps, and we certainly feel confident theyve selected the right person to do the job, he said.
The Independent Investigations Office is expected to be operational by mid-2012.
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