Dr. Michelle Lawrence presents evidence to legislative committee

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

UVic Law professor Dr. Michelle Lawrence presented evidence and made recommendations to the Special Committee to Review the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) on Wednesday, October 29.

The committee has been tasked by the Legislative Assembly with reviewing the administration and general operations of the IIO – a civilian monitoring agency mandated to conduct investigations into officer-related incidents of death or serious harm.

Lawrence, who specializes in teaching and research in the areas of criminal law and the law of evidence, made two recommendations to the committee. Firstly, she advocated for the investiture to the chief civilian officer of the power to compel timely preparation and production of police notes by subject officers.

“The Police Act says that officers must cooperate with the chief civilian director and with the IIO investigators as they conduct their investigations,” said Lawrence. “Yet, curiously, this cooperation does not extend to the production of police notes.”

Secondly, Lawrence recommended that police officers be equipped with body-worn cameras for use in their dealings with persons in crisis.

“The time has come to require that police officers operating in British Columbia be equipped with body-mounted cameras for the recording of their dealings with persons in crisis,” said Lawrence. “I join in the chorus of voices resounding from every corner of this continent that support police use of audio and video recording devices.”

In addition to seeking input from experts like Lawrence, the committee also facilitated a public consultation process throughout the summer on the work of the IIO. British Columbians were invited to send in written submissions with their thoughts on the effectiveness of the IIO and how it might be improved.

By January 1, 2015, the committee members must have conducted a review of general operations and administration of the IIO. They must also have reviewed Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal’s progress towards having the IIO staffed entirely with employees and IIO investigators who have never served as officers or members of a police of law enforcement agency.

The review findings will culminate in a report to the Legislative Assembly by February 25, 2015.

Lawrence emphasized that her recommendations are simple and achievable and her presentation was met with praise by several members of the committee.

“For the committee as a whole, it raises the question or whether or not we have a certain obligation to seek a more comprehensive review of the law in order to make sure that we’re aware of all the most-up-to-date law in the area, so that we can be properly aware of what it is that we should be deciding on or recommendations that we should be making,” said committee member Kathy Corrigan, MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake.