The head of the agency that investigates police-involved deaths and injures in B.C. said it will now collect data on the ethnicity of “affected persons.”
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) needs to understand the communities they are working with, including people of colour and Indigenous Canadians, said chief civilian director Ron MacDonald.
The IIO investigates all injuries and deaths that involve the police in B.C., whether RCMP or municipal officers. They look at incidents as diverse as police shootings, car crashes, drug overdoses, and medical incidents. The agency looked into whether Langley RCMP officers responded properly to 911 calls about Carson Crimeni, prior to the teen’s death in Walnut Grove last year.
But until now, they have not collected detailed data about ethnic origins of the people at the centre of the investigations.
In the first IIO annual report, for 2012/13, ethnicity of affected persons was tracked simply as “not an ethnic minority,” “visible minority,” or “Aboriginal, First Nations, or Métis,” without further distinctions. In the 2013/14 annual report, ethnicity data was not included.
More recent annual reports have included breakdowns by age and gender, but not ethnicity.
The issue of how police deal with Indigenous and visible minority citizens is in the spotlight again as the Black Lives Matter protests continue here and in the U.S.
READ MORE: Former B.C. MP calls for more RCMP oversight
Another new initiative allows the IIO to hire community liaisons who can assist with local knowledge, on a case-by-case basis.
That program was created before the death of George Floyd in Minnesota was the spark for the current wave of Black Lives Matter protests, MacDonald noted.
Having the IIO reflect the broader community it serves is important, MacDonald said, including in its personnel.
“We have a way to go on that, I won’t deny that,” he said.
IIO investigators have mandatory training to help them interact with Indigenous communities, MacDonald said.
“We are always interested in hiring people that are representative of the people of B.C.,” he said.
IIO investigators must have investigative experience, but slightly more than half have never been police officers. Some are lawyers or private investigators.
The IIO is an arms-length civilian-run body set up in 2012 to investigate all incidents where a person was killed or seriously injured during an interaction with police.
Last year, the IIO investigated 193 incidents and recommended charges against an officer or officers in six of them.
Six of the cases involved shootings by officers, three of them fatal.
There were 33 automobile crashes, five of those fatal.