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Report finds perception of police bias to First Nations in the North

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

There is a perception of RCMP bias against Indigenous people, and a lack of trust in the RCMP in communities throughout the North, according to a report released yesterday.

The report comes from Ian McPhail, Chairperson of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

“The commission’s investigation did not result in findings of systemic misconduct by RCMP members in northern British Columbia,” said McPhail, in a press release. “It did, however, find several policy and reporting weaknesses, issues with policy compliance by members, and the need for more robust training and supervision.”

Launched as a result of concerns raised by individuals and various human rights and civil liberties organizations, the investigation examined RCMP member conduct relating to the policing of public intoxication; the incidence of cross gender police searches; the use of force; the handling of files involving youth; and the handling of missing persons reports and domestic violence reports.

Commission investigators reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documentation, including RCMP occurrence reports, policies and procedures. Numerous interviews were also conducted with community members, human rights and civil liberties organizations, and RCMP members, in 21 communities in northern British Columbia.

“These problems are not insignificant, as they directly affect RCMP accountability,” said McPhail.

The community engagement carried out by the commission, a key element of its investigation, revealed a perception of RCMP bias against Indigenous people, and a lack of trust in the RCMP in communities throughout the region. Engagement activities also highlighted a lack of public awareness of the commission, its role and the public complaint process.

The investigation identified deficiencies or lack of clarity in policies related to personal searches, policing of public intoxication, and missing persons. In addition, the commission found room for improvement in domestic violence and use of force reporting policies. Generally, the commission’s findings noted the following issues in all lines of inquiry: inadequate supervision; inadequate training; unclear, inconsistent, unreasonable and/or inadequate RCMP policies; and insufficient reporting.

The commission’s report makes 45 findings and 31 recommendations aimed at enhancing RCMP transparency and accountability through improved policies, procedures, and training, enhanced supervisory review, and better reporting.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens

Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., says the force has accepted each of the report’s 45 findings, and has implemented 26 of the 31 recommendations, with the remaining five recommendations will be fully implemented by May 2017.

With much of the focus in the North on missing persons, the commission found that “nearly half (46 per cent) of the occurrence reports failed to show that the RCMP in the North District investigated missing persons cases promptly and thoroughly contrary to policy.

“Nearly half (49.4 per cent) of the occurrence reports from 2008 to 2012 for missing persons cases identified by the RCMP in the North District as ‘high-risk’ failed to show that the cases had been investigated promptly and thoroughly.

“Missing persons cases involving youth identified by the RCMP in the North District as habitual, repeat or chronic were more likely than other cases to have deficiencies in the documented investigative actions, including unexplained gaps in the investigative timelines and failures to document risk assessments or missing persons debriefs on file.”

Callens said the RCMP’s responses to missing persons are now up to police standards.

“With respect to missing persons investigations, all enhancements are consistent with the recommendations arising from the Oppal Inquiry,” said Callens in a statement. “The RCMP were active participants in the development, and have fully adopted, the British Columbia Provincial Policing Standard for Missing Person Investigations. The BC Police Missing Persons Centre has been enhanced and continues to provide an appropriate level of oversight to missing person investigations across the province consistent with the provincial standard.”

Callens also stated that the RCMP’s relationships with First Nations has been improving.

“While the (commission’s) final report references possible perceptions of bias towards First Nations persons, our work and direct interactions with local First Nations leaders and stakeholders has seen a continued increase in satisfaction with the RCMP in British Columbia since the dated analysis completed by the (commission),” he said. “The report found that the general perception of the RCMP in smaller or rural communities was positive but that we have more work to do with First Nations populations in the larger urban centres. I would like to note that we have implemented and are actively engaged in an urban-based First Nations policing strategy.”

He said a 2016 survey of First Nations leaders indicated an “upward trend in the alignment of policing priorities with First Nations community priorities.” He said there is a higher engagement with First Nations youth; greater understanding of First Nations culture; and, an increase in the quality of two-way communication.

He added First Nations Policing is an important priority for the RCMP.

“Policing by its nature is a very fluid and evolving environment,” said Callens. “The BC RCMP is committed to continually assess our policing practices, including all areas covered by the report, and we look forward to continuing to work with the community on further changes and improvements.”

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP has recognized the need to build more effective relationships with communities served by the RCMP. In an effort to do so, it has opened an office in British Columbia.

A closer relationship with communities will assist the commission in detecting trends and systemic problems.

“By raising awareness of the commission and its mandate, and taking a more direct involvement in the investigation of public complaints, we hope to improve public confidence in both the RCMP and the public complaint process,” said Mr. McPhail.

The commission is an independent agency, distinct and independent from the RCMP, created by Parliament to ensure that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members are examined fairly and impartially.

Read the full report here.

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