Chair's Final Report After Commissioner's Notice Regarding the Shooting Death of Mr. Christopher Klim, Vernon, B.C., December 27, 2007
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act
File: PC 2008-0171
On December 27, 2007, Mr. Christopher Klim, who suffered from a mental illness, was shot and killed by members of the RCMP in Vernon, British Columbia. A mental health warrant had been issued to apprehend and return Mr. Klim to the hospital for psychiatric treatment. Mistakenly believing that Mr. Klim was in the process of fatally harming himself, the RCMP members breached the door to Mr. Klim's apartment and entered with their guns drawn, planning to apprehend Mr. Klim at gunpoint. Mr. Klim was not acting rationally and engaged the RCMP members with two knives in his hands. A conducted energy weapon (CEW)Footnote 1 was applied to Mr. Klim, but one of its probes did not make contact. Mr. Klim advanced towards the RCMP members and was shot.
On January 21, 2008, the then Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) initiated a complaint and public interest investigation into the conduct of the RCMP members involved in the shooting death of Mr. Klim pursuant to subsection 45.37(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act). The complaint focused on the conduct of the members involved in the events of December 27, 2007, as well as matters of general practice applicable to situations in which RCMP members respond to individuals who are in a state of mental health crisis. Specifically:
- whether the RCMP officers involved in the events of December 27, 2007, from the moment of initial deployment until Mr. Klim's death, complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements relating to persons being apprehended under the Mental Health ActFootnote 2 and taken into custody;
- whether the RCMP officers involved in the events of December 27, 2007, from the moment of initial deployment until Mr. Klim's death, complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements relating to the use of force;
- whether the RCMP national, divisional and detachment-level policies, procedures and guidelines relating to persons in a state of mental health crisis, and/or being apprehended under mental health legislation are adequate; and
- whether the RCMP officers involved in the criminal investigation of the members involved in the events of December 27, 2007, complied with the RCMP training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements for the conduct of such an investigation, and whether such policies, procedures and guidelines are adequate, and, further, whether such investigation was carried out in an adequate and timely fashion.
The RCMP's Final Report
As required by the RCMP Act, the RCMP investigated the complaint. The RCMP issued its Final Report into this matter in May 2010.
The Commission's Review and Interim Report
On July 14, 2011, the Commission concluded its Interim Report, making 23 findings and 5 recommendations. Overall, the Commission determined that while initial action to apprehend Mr. Klim pursuant to a mental health warrant was appropriate, it was followed by eight days of inaction in that respect. Once the decision was made to move forward with the apprehension, the members involved demonstrated a failure to adequately assess the risk presented by Mr. Klim, and the plan for his apprehension lacked appropriate clarity and direction. The Commission further found that the tactical entry to Mr. Klim's apartment was excessive and inappropriate in the circumstances, but that once presented with the evolving situation, the members' use of a CEW and, subsequently, lethal force, were reasonable and consistent with the relevant law and RCMP policy. The Commission also found that while the RCMP had made many positive steps to address the issue of interacting with persons with mental illness, the generalized RCMP training at that time was not sufficient to equip RCMP members with the necessary tools to interact with persons with mental illness at an acceptable level.
With respect to the subsequent investigation of the incident by the RCMP, the Commission found that it was deficient in numerous respects but was adequate to conclude that the shooting of Mr. Klim was lawful in the circumstances. The Commission also found that the RCMP's Independent Officer Review, which failed to note any investigative deficiencies, was poor and lacked thoroughness.
The Commission recommended that certain subject members receive training in appropriate risk assessment and in critical planning and management, further training be developed in respect of dealing with persons with mental illness, policies regarding document retention be amended as necessary, the appointment process for use of force experts be streamlined and its transparency increased, and the investigational deficiencies in respect of this incident be reviewed by the relevant members.
The Commissioner's Notice
Pursuant to subsection 45.46(2) of the RCMP Act, the Commissioner is required to provide written notification of any further action that has been or will be taken in light of the findings and recommendations contained in the Interim Report.
On February 26, 2013, the Commission received the Commissioner's Notice. The Commissioner agreed with 19 of the Commission's findings. Those with which he did not agree included that relating to efforts directed to Mr. Klim's apprehension: while the Commission had found that there was insufficient information to determine whether sufficient efforts were made, the Commissioner instead found that the failure to take any meaningful action towards apprehending Mr. Klim was improper.
The Commissioner further disagreed that the members failed to reasonably employ de‑escalation techniques upon engaging Mr. Klim, noting that circumstances precluded such attempts. While the Commission reiterates its finding, it considers that the Commissioner's acknowledgment of findings relating to the entry to the apartment and the lack of meaningful direction are sufficient to address this issue.
The Commissioner also disagreed with the Commission's findings and recommendations relating to training in respect of dealing with persons with mental health issues and member interactions with Staff Relations Representatives following a serious incident. He considered that the issues had been adequately addressed through policy and training initiatives in place following the incident. The Commission will continue to monitor the effectiveness of such initiatives, and reiterates its findings and recommendations.
Finally, the Commissioner disagreed with the Commission's recommendation that RCMP policy reflect the need to ensure that documentation is retained on file. The Commissioner noted that certain file entries are not intended to be contemporaneous accounts, but rather to be synopses of current file status. While this may be the case, later amendments to such synopses without preservation of contemporaneous recordings runs the risk of an incomplete account of file progress being maintained. As the Commissioner has noted, policy regarding contemporaneous note taking should be sufficient to address such situations if consistently applied; however, the Commission reiterates its recommendation with the goal of addressing instances when such contemporaneous note taking may not occur.
The Commission's Findings and Recommendations
In light of the foregoing, the Commission reiterates its findings and recommendations.
Finding No. 1: The RCMP initially responded to the warrant for Mr. Klim's apprehension in an appropriate and timely manner.
Finding No. 2: The RCMP did not take any meaningful action to apprehend Mr. Klim between December 19 and 27, 2007.
Finding No. 3: There is insufficient information to determine whether or not the failure to take any meaningful action to apprehend Mr. Klim between December 19 and 27, 2007, was improper.
Finding No. 4: The RCMP's risk assessment was based on inaccurate and exaggerated information regarding Mr. Klim's prior involvement with the police.
Finding No. 5: The conclusion that Mr. Klim was in the process of committing fatal or serious bodily harm to himself is not supported by the available information, and the risk assessment that relied on this conclusion was flawed.
Finding No. 6: The plan to apprehend Mr. Klim lacked appropriate clarity and direction.
Finding No. 7: Constable Anderson and Inspector McVarnock should have recognized that the plan to apprehend Mr. Klim lacked appropriate direction.
Finding No. 8: The tactical entry into Mr. Klim's apartment was excessive and inappropriate in the circumstances.
Finding No. 9: The RCMP should have considered calling Emergency Health Services to attend Mr. Klim's apartment to be on standby.
Finding No. 11: Constable Curtis' use of the CEW was reasonable and consistent with RCMP policy.
Finding No. 12: Inspector McVarnock, who was not in uniform, unreasonably remained in close proximity to Mr. Klim as Mr. Klim advanced towards the RCMP members with knives in his hands. This action jeopardized his safety and impacted the ability of the other RCMP members to control the situation.
Finding No. 13: Constables Veller and Forslund reasonably believed that their lives were in jeopardy, and accordingly, their use of lethal force was reasonable and consistent with the relevant law and RCMP policy.
Finding No. 14: While the RCMP has made many positive steps recently to address the issue of interacting with persons with mental illness, current generalized RCMP training is not sufficient to equip RCMP members with the necessary tools to interact with persons with mental illness at an acceptable level in today's society.
Finding No. 15: It was improper for Constable Curtis to remain at the scene to provide scene security.
Finding No. 16: Inspector McVarnock should have removed Constable Curtis from the scene at the earliest opportunity, given that he was involved in the circumstances that resulted in Mr. Klim's death.
Finding No. 17: It was improper for the RCMP members involved in the death of Mr. Klim to meet alone together before being interviewed by investigators.
Finding No. 18: It was improper for the RCMP members involved in the death of Mr. Klim to meet alone with the SRR before reporting on their actions.
Finding No. 19: The RCMP appointed a use of force expert with close ties, real or perceived, to the Vernon RCMP Detachment.
Finding No. 20: The RCMP's investigation into Mr. Klim's death was deficient in numerous respects but was adequate to conclude that the shooting of Mr. Klim was lawful in the circumstances.
Finding No. 21: The RCMP's Independent Officer Review, which failed to note any investigative deficiencies, was poor and lacked thoroughness.
Finding No. 22: The RCMP's investigation of Mr. Klim's death was conducted in a timely manner.
Finding No. 23: The RCMP did not treat the Chair-initiated complaint investigation with an appropriate degree of priority.
Recommendation No. 1: Constable Anderson and Inspector McVarnock should receive training in appropriate risk assessment and in critical planning and management.
Recommendation No. 2: The RCMP should develop comprehensive training in regard to interacting with persons with mental illness and this training should include ongoing refresher training.
Recommendation No. 3: The RCMP should examine its documentation policy and amend it as necessary to ensure that original documentation in major cases is retained.
Recommendation No. 4: I reiterate the recommendation from the CPC's report regarding the police-involved shooting death of Kevin St. Arnaud that "[t]he RCMP should streamline its appointment process for use of force experts and ensure transparency by establishing a set protocol for appointments."
Recommendation No. 5: The "E" Division Criminal Operations Officer should review with the Major Case Management Team as well as Staff Sergeant Allemekinders the investigational deficiencies noted.
Pursuant to subsection 45.46(3) of the RCMP Act, I respectfully submit my Final Report and, accordingly, the Commission's mandate in this matter is ended.
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