BCCLA report on RCMP in the North: overall, perception towards RCMP positive

The RCMP Northern Tour, conducted by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association late last year has revealed little positive feedback in Houston, however it was a very small sample size, the recently released Small Town Justince report reveals.

The RCMP Northern Tour, conducted by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association late last year has revealed little positive feedback in Houston, however it was a very small sample size, the recently released Small Town Justince report reveals.

Small Town Justice: A report on the RCMP in northern and rural B.C. was undertaken to garner British Columbian’s suggestions regarding the upcoming resigning of the BC RCMP contract, Executive Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and author of the report David Eby said.

The report was designed to see what people’s concerns were around policing today, as well as the positives.

“Overall the broad trend that was saw was that people really like beat level police officers,” Eby said.

Beat level officers are those who are out in the community, involved in the regular face-to-face interactions in the community who aren’t just behind a window. Liaison officers who work with the municipality and community groups were also highly favoured.

Problems identified include the aging RCMP cells are putting people at risk, Eby said. In some areas, RCMP were reported as having a strained relationship with those in the aboriginal communities they serve.

There was also a general concern around how police investigate incidents involving other members, Eby said.

“The system of police investigating police has to end,” Eby recommended. “When there is serious issues of misconduct involving their officers, that the RCMP should be removing those officers from service, not just moving them to the next town.”

Just three people attended the meeting in Houston. Houston was the smallest community chosen for a meeting as it was home of the “notorious” shooting of Ian Bush, the report states.

The small sample thereby makes it impossible to point to any trends, however one of the attendees, who is unnamed in the report, did point out to a concern of hers when it came to how her alleged rape was handled.

Officers, the attendee alleges, failed to assist her in obtaining a rape kit, failed to preserve her clothing for evidence, and misled her about the evidence they did collect, and how it was analyzed, the report states.

Houston/Granisle Sgt. Sean Wadelius said that without having a specific file or a name he was unable to confirm nor deny those allegations. Even the report stated that the Houston segment was unable to be analyzed due to its small sample size, Wadelius said.

The detachment has been rebuilding its relationship with the public of Houston, Wadelius said, especially after the Ian Bush case; a relationship he says has shown improvement.

“We’ve made some inroads since I’ve been here,” Wadelius said. “Our guys are out in the community, being involved.”

From here, they plan to continue that working relationship and community involvement, Wadelius said. The Houston detachment is currently undergoing cell block retrofits and technological upgrades that include 24 hour video surveillance; in fact, their detachment is now one of the test project for the closed circuit video surveillance systems.

Members continue to be involved in the community, in church groups, playing hockey.

“Guys are doing things, they’re back involved in the community again, it’s like anything else this is our community as well,” Wadelius said. “I’m pleased where we’re at.”

The report has already been sent to the Solicitor General for B.C, RCMP detachments throughout the province, as well as to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, Eby said. Their hope is that the report will influence in a positive way the contract negotiations to make sure that issues such as accountability and aboriginal relations are addressed at the beginning of the 20 year contract, rather than after.

“Our hope is that this would be a proactive approach to deal with problems that are going to come up down the road if they’re not dealt with soon,” Eby said.

On behalf of the RCMP in B.C., Inspector Tim Shields said that as a whole they welcome and encourage feedback from all individuals, however this report is “difficult to respond” to as all incidents identified are from anonymous complaints.

“It is disappointing that the BCCLA did not solicit input from Mayors and Council, community leaders and local Aborignal leaders, and that the RCMP was specifically asked not to take part in the process,” he said in a media statement. “The turnout to the town hall meetings in some communities was very low, and the sentiments expressed in the report do not reflect the sentiments of the community as a whole.”

Feedback that they do receive at detachments tends to be fairly positive, he added.

While they did raise some concerns over the methodology of the report there were some positives from the report, Shields said, in that the public does seem to realize that drug, alcohol and mental health issues remain the root cause of the the majority of RCMP calls.

MP Nathan Cullen also questioned how scientific the findings of the report were, citing the information as “anecdotal,” with only stories from a few people.

“It’s hard to call it investigative if someone spent a day in town to listen to people who have a problem with the RCMP,” Cullen said.

The government should be behind a report such as this, he added. That said, the Federal Government has been sitting on an RCMP oversight bill for quite some time, a bill that he’s indicated to the government three times that they want to work with them to get this bill through, to change the way the RCMP report on themselves.

“The RCMP are asking for this, the public are asking for this, the Conservatives have just been twiddling their thumbs,” Cullen said.

The full report is available on the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s website, at www.bccla.org.