BC demands RCMP submit to civilian oversight

February 05, 2010

VANCOUVER - Furious over the latest RCMP scandals, B.C.'s solicitor general says the national police service may have to submit to civilian oversight or face the consequences.

Kash Heed told the Vancouver Province he wasn't pleased he had to learn about one of the latest RCMP scandals through the media.

"I was watching Global TV news with my daughter when it came on," he said, referring to the RCMP officer on the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team who is now the subject of an internal investigation for allegedly having an affair with a potential witness in the Surrey Six multiple murder case.

"I had to immediately get on a conference call with my staff," said Heed. "No one in my ministry had been informed."

Heed said he wants the Mounties to submit to provincial civilian oversight as do municipal forces, through the B.C. Police Complaints Commission if the RCMP want to continue policing 70 per cent of the province.

That would mean the RCMP would have to surrender their controversial internal-disciplinary system in cases of Mountie misconduct in B.C.

"We're very firm as a government that, in this next contract, we want to deliver the most accountable, transparent and effective police services possible no matter what colour uniform they're wearing," said Heed.

The B.C. RCMP's assistant commissioner Al Macintyre agrees.

"We're for it," Macintyre said. "We've said it publicly."

And if the Mounties refuse? "Then we'll have to consider our options," Heed said.

Heed did not exclude as one of those options the costly idea of replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force, such as the Ontario Provincial Police or the Quebec provincial police.

Some critics feel even the Police Act doesn't go far enough.

Rob Gordon, director of criminology at Simon Fraser University, says it may be time for an independent anti-corruption task force.

"To deal with entrenched corruption, which can come very quickly, especially in jurisdictions where a lot of money is at stake, to deal with that you need dedicated units that are looking out for this."

The Mountie at the centre of the Surrey Six scandal, Sgt. Derek Brassington, was reassigned to desk duty in December after allegations surfaced of an "unprofessional relationship" with a potential witness in the mass murder case.

Brassington, who is married to a police officer, was one of the key investigators working on the probe into the October 2007 slaughter at a highrise in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey that left six people dead.

Meanwhile, another Mountie involved with the Surrey Six probe, Cst. Steve Perrault, has been charged with fraud for allegedly submitting bogus overtime claims while working on the unprecedented gangland murder case.

"Every time you hear about these incidents, you immediately become concerned... and I continue to be concerned about them," Heed said.

The incidents linked to the Surrey Six case are only the most recent embarrassments for the RCMP in B.C. The deaths of Robert Dziekanski who died after being Tasered by Mounties in 2007 and of Ian Bush a 22-year-old who succumbed to a gunshot wound to the back of the head following a struggle with Cst. Paul Koester at the Houston, B.C., RCMP detachment in 2005 have left a lingering cloud over the service's image in British Columbia.

The Alberta Conservative government recently quashed speculation it would scrap its RCMP contracts in favour of establishing a provincial police force but its right-wing rival, the Wildrose Alliance party, supports the idea.

(Vancouver Province, CTV)

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