Nathan Cullen’s
inadequate proposal

His private member’s bill could
inhibit real accountability for the RCMP


At first glance, the private member’s bill from NDP MP Nathan Cullen seems promising. But take a closer look and at least two serious flaws show up.

Cullen proposes civilian investigation into RCMP-related deaths and serious injuries. But why that limitation? Under his proposal, a great many serious infractions by police would continue to be investigated by other police. Some of those infractions could involve ongoing problems with individual officers or illegal procedures.

Another part of Cullen’s proposal could undermine the entire effort. Cullen wants at least some of the investigative work conducted by ex-cops — not former Mounties, but former cops just the same.

That’s a very serious flaw, as can be seen by the example of Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops at B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commission. The OPCC’s ex-cops don’t necessarily work on files involving former colleagues (although they might). But the bonds of police culture are strong enough to account for the OPCC’s overwhelming bias in favour of police. Andre Marin, former head of the group that investigates police complaints in Ontario, says it’s naive to think that ex-cops can be impartial when investigating police.

(The OPCC, which is concerned with B.C.’s municipal police, doesn’t investigate police complaints. It simply reviews police self-investigations. There are strong reasons to believe that the review usually amounts to a rubber stamp, except for cases that get advance publicity or support from an influential organization.)

Former Crown prosecutors, like B.C. police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, may also have a strong bond with police.

That being the case, it’s not surprising that the RCMP support Cullen’s bill. It sounds fairly similar to the pre-emptive strike proposed last September by the RCMP and B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police.

Meanwhile, the provincial NDP actually supports the BC Liberals’ plan to preserve a seriously flawed system. With police accountability such a prominent issue, it would be interesting to learn why two warring parties can agree on this, of all things.

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