BCCLA commends police for asking civilian agency to review “no charge” decisions in police-involved deaths

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The BCCLA is pleased that a complaint it lodged has led to reform of what municipal police
forces do when they investigate themselves but conclude that there isn’t enough evidence to
recommend charges to prosecutors in cases of police-involved deaths and other serious

A new memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) between the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (“OPCC”) and municipal police forces in B.C. says that where a police selfinvestigation leads them to a “no charge” decision, the OPCC can review the file and recommend further investigative steps or a different decision.

“Police forces in B.C. deserve credit for doing this. This is a step forward towards a system where the police don’t investigate themselves that shows that police are ready and willing to work with civilian entities,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “Sad to say, however, under current law the police have had to tie themselves up in legal knots and make this kind of side-deal with a Memorandum of Understanding to make this happen. It underscores the need for Solicitor General Mike de Jong to carry through on commitments to adopt a civilian investigative agency.”

Because the OPCC is a body set up to review police professional conduct issues, and not criminal law violations, the agreement says that the review will require a formal complaint about professional conduct to give the OPCC jurisdiction over the criminal investigation. No civilian body in B.C. currently does criminal investigations of police officers or reviews police criminal investigations of police officers. Two provincial commissions of inquiry have called for a civilian agency to do just that after studying the events around the police-related deaths of Frank Paul and Robert Dziekanski.

“This MOU is a good interim step. Procedurally, however, it is set in a legal quagmire. It asks the OPCC to do things that the existing Police Act didn’t explicitly provide for it to do,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “There are other problems as well. For example, under the MOU it is voluntary for the police to decide whether to pass things on for review by the OPCC. Also, the MOU doesn’t apply to the RCMP. The sooner the province fixes these things, the better.”

Read the BCCLA complaints and letters that led to the reform >>
Read the new Memorandum of Understanding >>

Robert Holmes, President, 604-838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, 778-865-7997