Mom of B.C. man shot dead by cop says probing police
treated officer as victim

Camille Bains, Canadian Press, Sept. 26, 2009

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The mother of a British Columbia man who was shot in the head by an RCMP officer says it’s about time the province established an independent civilian unit to investigate police-involved deaths.

Linda Bush was reacting to a resolution by B.C.’s municipal police unit and the RCMP, who last week called on the government to establish an agency that would investigate in-custody deaths or serious injuries.

Bush has been pushing for such a unit since her 22-year-old son Ian Bush was killed in a scuffle with a young constable at the RCMP’s Houston, B.C., detachment in October 2005.

A coroner’s inquest later cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, but Bush has long argued that police shouldn’t investigate themselves.

“In Houston, right from the very first moments the person who killed Ian was treated as the victim by the RCMP that were around him,” Bush said.

“We’ve just been solid in saying we want it to be a civilian unit,” she said.

Last week, RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, said public confidence in police is so low that such an agency is needed “as soon as possible.”

Critics say the RCMP’s image has been seriously damaged since would-be Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver’s airport in October 2007.

Bush said she wants a civilian-led organization to take over investigations when police are involved to avoid the inherent bias when police probe incidents involving other officers.

“I just don’t think it’s possible for them not to be biased,” she said. “But people who don’t know (the officer involved), people who don’t work with them would have a whole different perspective on things.”

Bush said she’s an advocate of the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario, which was established in 1990 as a civilian-led body that takes over a scene immediately after police are involved in a death or serious incident.

But she said the B.C. government should consider models from around the world, including Britain, before deciding what kind of independent unit they want to create.

McKinnon said he considers the Alberta model appropriate for British Columbia .

However, Alberta’s government has been criticized for merely allowing a civilian to be part of investigations involving officers while police remain in control.

That’s something the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says won’t work for B.C. because there would still be a lack of credibility in probes that should be completely independent.

David Eby, the association’s executive director, said any agency that conducts investigations when police are part of a death or serious injury should be led by trained civilians.

He said they would handle all aspects of such investigations, including interviewing witnesses that could otherwise be tainted by police spin.

Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin has said that while that province’s independent unit is not perfect, it leaves B.C. in the dark ages when it comes to investigating police-involved incidents.

Manitoba is also considering an independent civilian-led agency to investigate police, and Marin has called on that province to build on Ontario’s example.

“Expect a lot of resistance to this from the police and their union reps,” Marin said last November in an opinion piece he wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press.

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