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Premier picks new civilian head of group to police B.C.'s police officers


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VANCOUVER - This morning Premier Christy Clark announced that Richard Rosenthal has been hired to be the first Civilian Chief of the Independent Investigations Office, which will investigate all serious incidents involving B.C. police officers.

Rosenthal previously oversaw police complaints in Denver, Colorado. Rosenthal was also a former deputy district attorney in Los Angeles and started a police oversight agency in Portland.

"The men and women of our police services work hard every day to keep our communities safe and it is important that the police earn and maintain the public's respect."

The 8:30 a.m. announcement comes after Attorney General Shirley Bond promised this spring that the unit would be operational by the end of this year, that start date was later revised this October to next summer.

The location of the office, it's operating budget and its staff size are unknown. However, the new chief cannot have been a member of the RCMP or any other police force.

The office is set to investigate serious injuries or deaths and criminal allegations involving any police in B.C., that includes Mounties and members of city police forces.

The inquiry into the death of aboriginal man Frank Paul pushed the government to create the independent office. Paul was arrested in the winter of 1998 by two members of the Vancouver police for being intoxicated in a public place and taken to jail. However, he was removed from the cell and abandoned by officers in an east Vancouver alley, where he later died.

A B.C. Civil Liberties Association report found the province's rate of police-involved deaths was twice as high as Ontario's on a per-capita basis.

The BCCLA also raised its concern in September over two high-ranking B.C. Mounties advising the government on the new office's policies and regulations.

Similar civilian-led police investigations offices are operating in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Read it on Global News: Global BC | Premier picks new civilian head of group to police B.C.'s police officers


No connection RCMP or local police plus he is not a Canadian but a American.....so there should no bias or anything

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About one year late in getting things under way but better late than never. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is expected to be up and running by mid-2012. The original target date following the announcement that the BC government was adopting the recommendation for the IIO from Commissioner Braidwood originally set mid-2011 as the target date.

Here are Commissioner Braidwood's findings during the Robert Dziekanski Inquiry regarding police investigating themselves and recommendation to establish a civilian led and staffed agency to investigate police in BC titled "Part 10: Postscript — Police Investigating Themselves":


The good thing is that Rosenthal will not have any personal relationships to BC police officers so that should make for a more neutral office. Although he is an American trained lawyer, that training should be useful as under the proposed IIO model a Special Crown Prosecutor will be appointed for each case to make the charge assessment decisions and should, if charges are approved, assume conduct of the prosecution. As Rosenthal noted:

“My vision of the new office is one that conducts fair, impartial and timely investigations and ensures transparency in the process.”

One of my concerns has been that the police culture that will resist cooperating with the IIO. I have recommended in the past that the Code of Conduct for police officers in BC be amended to require full and open cooperation with the IIO and failure to do so would be considered professional misconduct. Apparently Rosenthal encountered similar problems in Denver when he implemeted a new discipline system that replaced one that largely relied on past discipline decisions to guide punishment for misbehaving officers. The new system reportedly resulted in 10 terminations of police officers since March 2011.


Media coverage of his resignation suggests police were happy to see him go, and Rosenthal acknowledges his time in Denver was controversial.

"My expectation is that officers will tell the truth and in Denver, I pushed and I reformed the disciplinary process so that [for] officers who lied to internal affairs, there would be presumptive termination," he said.

"So that was a change in the culture of the Denver Police Department and it was fairly controversial."


And Denver police officers were unhappy with his hard line approach that included recommending firing of police officers found guilty of misconduct:

Mayor Michael Hancock's office confirmed Tuesday that Rosenthal had taken a job outside the city, and that his letter of resignation is forthcoming.

In a statement sent out Wednesday morning, Rosenthal issued a statement.

"While my family and I will miss living in Colorado, I am excited about the prospect of taking on a new challenge in British Columbia and creating the third civilian police oversight program of my career," he said.

Over the past six years, Rosenthal reviewed police shootings and officer disciplinary cases. He has regularly criticized the department and has recommended the firings of several officers seen on video tape using force during arrests.

Earlier this year, Rosenthal released a report alleging that Denver police officers were letting fellow officers off the hook for DUIs, drawing the ire of the police union.

During the recent search process for a new police chief, Hancock solicited anonymous suggestions from rank-and-file officers, some of whom urged the mayor to "Fire Rosenthal."


High profile civil liberties lawyer Cameron Ward who has been highly critical of the police investigating themselves in the past says Rosenthal has a hard-as-nails reputation when it comes to dealing with police officers accused of misconduct.

"I feel it will be important to have a strong will, a sense of independence, and a desire to do the right thing. By all accounts, Mr. Rosenthal has those qualifications," he says.

"It is long overdue," he argues. "It is overdue for the families of people who have died at the hands of British Columbia police officers. People like Ian Bush and Robert Dziekanski."


Rosenthal's next task is to set up the office and select good investigators who can implement his vision. Hopefully he will be given an adequate budget which Premier Christy has promised.

My concern is the announcement that the IIO will only be looking at new cases and will not be examining past cases. This was mentioned by the BCCLA as well:

David Eby, speaking for the BC Civil Liberties Association, said he was pleased to see Mr. Rosenthal arrive.

He said the association feared the province was losing its motivation.

“We’re very pleased to see they have found someone experienced,” he said.

However, he said he hoped Mr. Rosenthal would reconsider his aversion to cold cases.

“We hope he keeps an open mind about that. We think there are a lot of files worth looking at,” he said, referring to 15 to 20 “high-profile” files dating back to the 1970s.


The police pursue cold cases - the IIO should do the same.

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I will give credit to Premier Clark for her hiring of Rosenthal.

After learning about his work in Portland and Colorado, i'm encouraged that this man may be a great fit for the job. He seems to be a tough guy....and it's about time someone was tough in the oversight of serious allegations and conduct of all provincial police.

I think B.C. could certainly become a model for other jurisdictions with a civilian led oversight agency.

Well done Christy....I hate your party a little less.

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Good issue to bring up.

I would think that if a complaint was relaunched, they may be able to....but that's just a hope on my part.

They may not get the funding required to be as effective as they could be.....i'm waiting to see how serious the Liberals are in the resources they provide this new 'office'.

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And yet another example of why the IIO is needed. Two years of a CYA investigation by brothers in blue and no charges.

A Police Act investigation has found no wrongdoing on the part of the Victoria police officer captured on video kicking two men.

A report by New Westminster police Chief David Jones, released Wednesday, found Const. Chris Bowser did not abuse his authority by kicking 24-year-old Harpinder Kang and 20-year-old Tyler Archer, who were both on the ground at the time following a drunken brawl outside a downtown nightclub on March 21, 2010.

The 57-second YouTube video of the incident went viral and sparked widespread criticism of the officer delivering powerful kicks to Archer's side while another officer, Const. Brendan Robinson, was trying to handcuff him.

Jones also found Robinson did nothing wrong in trying to restrain Archer.

Jones scrutinized the video, read the statements of the officers involved and witness officers to come to his decision. He said Kang and Archer were uncooperative in providing statements on their version of events.

"It is clear that both of these members have described the scenario and their actions consistent to what has been captured on the available video footage," he said. "Both members have described that Mr. Archer was attempting to crawl away, and that he had clenched his fists and arms in a restraining manner, requiring officers to escalate their levels of force in order to bring Mr. Archer under control."

Jones released his decision to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner on Nov. 29 but they only released it publicly Wednesday. The police complaint commissioner will review the decision. If they disagree with the finding, they can order a review on the record or call a public hearing.

In February, Crown counsel announced they would not be pressing criminal charges because Bowser did not use excessive force. The criminal investigation was led by the Vancouver police department.

Bowser, who has been with the department for nine years, has returned to regular duties.

Richard Neary, the lawyer representing both men, said the fact that the Police Act investigation took almost two years to complete speaks to its ineffectiveness.

"It speaks to how convoluted the process is and how little it accomplished," he said.

Neary said had the new civilian-led police oversight body been up and running when this incident happened, the outcome might have been very different.

He said Archer and Kang are continuing with their civil suit against the Victoria Police Department.


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If I was a corrupt cop I would be ****ing my pants over this.

It should make for quite the storm when he decides he doesn't care if they don't want to co-operate and starts naming names or doing whatever it takes to get to the bottom of things, as he has done in the past.

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Here is one person who is extremely unhappy that the new IIO will not be examining past cases and he has made his concerns known directly to the incoming head of the IIO.

Father of slain son angry case won’t be examined by new police investigation office

The father of Alvin Wright, the 22-year-old Langley man shot by three Mounties in August 2010, is outraged that B.C.’s new independent investigation office will not look at old police incidents that have resulted in serious harm or death.

In an open letter to Richard Rosenthal, the civilian director of the new independent investigation office, Al Wright said the decision not to investigate old cases — including the death of his son Alvin — is “unacceptable.”

“In other words, you are saying that we will have to wait for another person to be killed or sexually assaulted by the police before you will begin work,” wrote Wright, a 48-year-old longshoreman.

“Officers convicted of criminal conduct are still working as police officers,” he wrote. “Your job is to protect the public from problem police officers, because the police have failed to protect us from problem officers.”

Wright’s son Alvin was shot by a Mountie on Aug. 6, 2010 after three Langley RCMP officers came to his home in response to a domestic dispute call. Vancouver police probed the shooting and, to Wright’s shock, concluded the Mountie involved did not break the law.

A coroner’s inquest is scheduled for next March.

“We still don’t know what happened,” Wright wrote in the letter. “We don’t know the officers involved. We don’t know how many times [Alvin] was shot. We don’t know what his last words were.”

Most of all, Wright is angry that Rosenthal appeared to be on a “first-name basis” with the heads of other police detachments during a press conference on Wednesday, where his appointment was announced by Premier Christy Clark.

Wright, who watched the announcement in the evening news, called it “a slap in the face.”

“The first people [Rosenthal] should be contacting in this province are the victims and the people he’s supposed to be investigating for, not the people he’s supposed to be investigating,” he told The Province.

“On top of that, they’re calling him by his first name, and making comments like they can’t wait to work closely with him. That, to me, is a blatant conflict of interest.”

Rosenthal could not be reached for comment.


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  • 9 months later...

It finally up and running now!

Independent police watchdog officially launched by B.C. AG

CBC News

Posted: Sep 10, 2012 1:46 PM PT

Last Updated: Sep 10, 2012 7:50 PM PT

B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond unveiled the province’s first ever independent police review agency at a news conference Monday morning.

The much-anticipated Independent Investigations Office (IIO) will be responsible for reviewing police incidents involving fatalities or serious injury.

Bond was joined by chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal in what the attorney general called “an historic day for the province of British Columbia.”

The office will oversee RCMP and municipal forces, as well as transit police forces.

“Our mandate is to provide British Columbians with fair, thorough, competent investigation, conducted in a timely manner with a spirit of transparency and openness,” said Rosenthal.

He says the goal is to restore public confidence and ensure police are treated the same way civilians are.

“It used to be that officer witnesses were not interviewed for hours, if not days or weeks,” he said. “The expectation now is they will be interviewed before the end of their shift or within 24 hours."

B.C. 4th province to launch independent watchdog

The civilian-led oversight agency was set up after complaints about police investigating themselves in cases of civilian deaths or injuries, including the shooting death of Ian Bush in 2005 and the 2007 stun gun death of Robert Dziekanksi.

A similar agency in Ontario, the Special Investigations Unit, has been in place since 1990 but has fallen under public criticism for its ineffectiveness due to what some say is a conflicting relationship with police.

B.C. is the fourth province to launch such an independent investigative body and promises to provide greater civilian presence than anywhere in Canada.

The IIO will consist of roughly 36 investigators as well as dozens of support staff and legal counsel with an equal split between experienced civilian investigators and former police officers, none of whom have served in the past five years.

“We felt it was important for British Columbians to see this office as being civilian-led, while maintaining the level of experience and competence needed to conduct these sensitive investigations,” said Bond.

The IIO has the ability to review incidents on a case-by-case basis and recommend charges to the Crown when warranted.

Rosenthal said his office will also publicly exonerate any officer found innocent of wrongdoing and release the details behind such a decision in the spirit of transparency.

The office expects to handle about 100 cases every year.

The IIO’s budget is set at $9.3 million for the first year, and will rise to $10.1 million in the years following.


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