New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen has tabled legislation in the Canadian parliament that would prevent the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from investigating its own in situations where there are concerns about officer misconduct. The legislation comes on the back of a report by a parliamentary RCMP watchdog that concluded that there was a need for an independent body to investigate incidents resulting in deaths and serious injuries of people in police custody. The RCMP currently conducts its own internal investigations when there are suspicions that a Mountie has acted inappropriately in the course of her or his duties.
The review was commissioned on the back of numerous complaints about internal investigations that found no wrongdoing on the part of officers despite evidence to the contrary. Such incidents include the 2005 death of Ian Bush, 22, who was arrested on a minor offence and shot in the back of the head after being transported to the police detachment; an incident in Manitoba where an RCMP member was accused of sexually assaulting an inmate in a detachment cell block; and numerous instances of assault, bodily harm and the improper use of force. In the majority of such cases, no charges were recommended by the RCMP’s internal investigatory body nor were any charges laid.
The incident that has drawn the sharpest criticism of the RCMP amongst the general public was the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, a disoriented Polish traveler who became agitated upon his arrival at Vancouver International Airport. RCMP officers at the scene tasered him to death, saying that he had been acting in a threatening manner. Video evidence later emerged showing that the RCMP spokesman had lied about the incident to the media: