Let’s hope we haven’t heard
the last of Richard Rosenthal

The former IIO director’s our best hope for
a prominent advocate. Meanwhile cop interests
might fill the IIO vacancy with a cop lapdog

October 1, 2016


British Columbia’s Independent Investigations Office was created with cynicism, began operations with a blunder and struggled with legislated weaknesses, insufficient resources and some vaguely reported internal dissension. But overall Richard Rosenthal should be commended for his leadership of the agency’s first four years. It’s heartening to know the establishment outsider intends to stay in B.C. to pursue PhD studies in police accountability.

He’s our best hope (actually our only hope) for a prominent advocate on the issue. That role has been spurned by the establishment wannabes at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society.

Even so, one of the recommendations he made in a Black Press op-ed seems worrisome. While emphasizing his support for the IIO becoming completely civilian, he suggests temporarily loosening the restriction on hiring former B.C. cops. That could be dangerous, given the strength of police bonds.

He could have been more emphatic in his call for greater resources to finish investigations with reasonable promptness. Several cases have dragged out well over a year, possibly because of unco-operative police forensics labs. This urgent issue has been covered in smaller media, especially White Rock’s Peace Arch News, but it’s generally ignored by bigger papers and broadcast outlets.

In fact most media criticism directed at the IIO comes from police interests.

Rosenthal credits one of his agency’s early successes as the publication of reasonably thorough reports on each case. That contrasts with B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which acts in near secrecy, not to mention with zero accountability. The OPCC releases almost nothing outside of quarterly reports with very brief, vague outlines of selected cases involving anonymous cops.

That’s just one of the glaring contrasts between the two agencies. Rosenthal himself demonstrates another—he showed dedication to police accountability. Quite the opposite holds true for corrupt OPCC boss Stan Lowe, his staff and his predecessors.

The current danger, of course, is that the BC Liberal government will appoint a Lowe-like lapdog to take over the IIO. That would happen without a squeak of protest from the opposition NDP, the BCCLA or Pivot.

Let’s just hope we haven’t heard the last of Rosenthal.

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