Incident occurring in the Kamloops, British Columbia, Cells – Chair's Final Report after Commissioner's Notice
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, subsection 45.46(3)
File No.: 2010-3263
In the early morning hours of August 18, 2010, two womenFootnote 1 were separately arrested by members of the Kamloops RCMP Detachment in British Columbia. Both women were obviously intoxicated. The women were lodged together in the Detachment's cell block, in the cell colloquially known as the drunk tank.
Shortly after the women were lodged in the cell, they engaged in sexual activity. The cell was equipped with closed-circuit video equipment (CCVE), and the women were visible on the television monitors in the cell block guardroom. Their activity was noted by four RCMP members, and two guards who were municipal employees, none of whom intervened. The women were released later that day.
The Officer in Charge of the Kamloops Detachment learned of the incident on August 23, 2010. An investigation was immediately commenced into the incident and the members involved were suspended from duty. The investigation was led by a member of the Kamloops Detachment Serious Crime Unit. A Report to Crown Counsel was submitted on October 13, 2010, and charges of breach of trust by a public officer were approved by Crown counsel on May 13, 2011, against three of the four RCMP members and one of the two municipal employees involved.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) received a complaint from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (Society) regarding the incident on September 20, 2010. The Society stated in its complaint that, based upon what had been reported in the media regarding the incident in the Kamloops Detachment: "Senior Staff failed to manage personnel responsibly and were complacent in the care & custody of inmates."
Given the complaint and the expressions of public concern related to the incident, in particular the manner it was dealt with by the RCMP, the Commission was satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. The Interim Chair of the Commission appointed an independent civilian investigator to conduct the Commission's public interest investigation.
The Public Interest Investigation
On September 23, 2010, the Commission notified the Minister of Public Safety and the RCMP Commissioner that it would conduct a public interest investigation into the Society's complaint, pursuant to the authority granted to it under subsection 45.43(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act).
The Commission issued its Interim Report in respect of this matter to the RCMP Commissioner and the Minister of Public Safety on March 22, 2012, in which it made eight findings and four recommendations.
The Commission found that it was unreasonable for the RCMP members involved to have permitted the physical contact between Ms. X and Ms. Y to continue, and that their conduct demonstrated a lack of professionalism and respect. Nonetheless, the Commission found that the initial RCMP response to the incident was reasonable, and that the decision not to engage another police agency to conduct the ensuing criminal investigation was reasonable in the circumstances. While the Commission noted that the choice of investigator raised a perception of bias that should reasonably have been identified, it found that the criminal investigation was both reasonable and timely.
The Commission recommended that the RCMP consider amending its External Investigation or Review Policy to provide guidance as to when circumstances are "serious or sensitive," and that the RCMP identify in that policy the need for consistent documentation of decisions. The Commission also recommended that operational guidance be provided to two of the subject members in respect of their conduct.
The RCMP Commissioner's Notice
Pursuant to subsection 45.46(2) of the RCMP Act, the RCMP 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 Public Interest Investigation Report.
On June 11, 2012, the Commission received the RCMP Commissioner's Notice of the same date. The RCMP Commissioner agreed with all of the Commission's findings save that regarding the relationship between the investigator and one of the subject members.
In respect of that finding, the Commission had identified a "perception of bias" being raised. The Commissioner instead identified the creation of "the potential for a perception of bias." However, the Commission considers the meaning of the phrases to be indistinguishable in effect.
With respect to the Commission's recommendations, the Commissioner agreed with all save that which recommended that the RCMP consider amending its External Investigation or Review Policy in order to provide guidance in respect of when circumstances are "serious or sensitive." In his response, the Commissioner explained why such a change would not be consistent with the deliberately equivocal wording of the policy in question. While the Commission maintains that the provision of further guidance to managers in this respect would be of benefit, the Commissioner's response nevertheless satisfied the recommendation, which was that the RCMP consider amending its policy.
The Commission's Findings and Recommendations
In light of the foregoing, I reiterate my findings and recommendations.
Finding No. 1: It was unreasonable for Corporal Brown and Constables Elgee, Zaharia and Fieghen to have permitted the physical contact between Ms. X and Ms. Y to continue.
Finding No. 2: The members' conduct in this instance was unreasonable in that it demonstrated a lack of professionalism and respect.
Finding No. 3: Inspector Lacasse and RCMP "E" Division management responded in a timely and appropriate manner to the allegations.
Finding No. 4: Chief Superintendent Callens' interpretation that the Kamloops cell block incident did not meet the threshold of "serious or sensitive" was reasonable in the circumstances.
Finding No. 5: The relationship between Sergeant Roenspies and Corporal Brown raised a perception of bias.
Finding No. 6: Inspector Lacasse had sufficient information to identify the perception of bias but failed to do so.
Finding No. 7: The RCMP's investigation of the incident was reasonable and all appropriate investigative steps appear to have been taken.
Finding No. 8: The RCMP's investigation of the incident occurred in a timely manner.
Recommendation No. 1: That Corporal Brown receive operational guidance concerning the importance of appropriate leadership and supervision.
Recommendation No. 2: That the RCMP consider amending the External Investigation or Review Policy to provide additional guidance on how to determine when circumstances are "serious or sensitive."
Recommendation No. 3: That the RCMP amend its External Investigation or Review Policy to reflect a requirement to require consistent documentation of decisions pursuant to that policy.
Recommendation No. 4: That Inspector Lacasse receive operational guidance regarding the proper identification of issues involving the impartiality of RCMP member-involved investigations.
Pursuant to subsection 45.46(3) of the RCMP Act, the Commission's mandate in this matter is ended.
Ian McPhail, Q.C.
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