The BCCLA is calling on the bodies that investigate police misconduct in BC to establish standardized rules around independent “use of force experts” relied on in making decisions about police conduct. The use of force expert in the Paul Boyd shooting, Bill Lewinski, obtained his psychology degree from a correspondence school, runs a police officer training business, and has been reported as saying that although research he produces could be used to prosecute the police, he doesn’t have time for that. The BCCLA has been unable to find a case where he testified that use of force by a police officer was inappropriate.
“The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and the Independent Investigation Office need to set up rules for themselves and police departments, so that they don’t hire pro-police ‘experts’ who rely on good relations with police for a living,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “We’re surprised we have to say it, but the OPCC and IIO should only be hiring experts who have a track record of credibly testifying for prosecution and defence – public and police confidence demands it.”
The OPCC has explained that it was aware of the background of Bill Lewinski, the expert in the Paul Boyd shooting. Lewinski was originally hired by the Vancouver Police Department to review the shooting.
“These rules guiding who should be hired as a use of force expert should apply equally to police departments as to the oversight bodies that oversee them,” said Lyster. “Often police departments are as reliant on use of force experts as oversight bodies are, and there is no reason for British Columbia to retain experts around which there is public concern or controversy.”
The BCCLA has refrained from drafting a set of guidelines for the retention of experts, but says that basic principles that could be included are: professional and personal independence from police and police departments, qualifications from recognized educational institutions in areas the expert is asked to provide opinion on, and a demonstrated history of testimony for prosecution and defence on police use of force which has been accepted by courts.