*A previous version of this article was posted on the GoldstreamGazette.com on Feb. 2. This is an extended version of that article with more details surrounding the Independent Investigations Office’s report and their procress.
Charges are being considered against a West Shore RCMP officer as part of the investigation into the fatal crash that led to the death of Const. Sarah Beckett.
B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) recently filed a report to Crown counsel for consideration of charges in connection to the fatal crash that took place on April 5, 2016 in Langford.
Prior to the crash, another RCMP officer, who is the subject of the IIO’s investigation, attempted to pull over a civilian vehicle, believed to be driven by Kenneth Jacob Fenton. The vehicle did not stop and collided with Beckett’s police cruiser at the Peatt Road and Goldstream Avenue intersection.
The IIO’s investigation focused on the earlier actions of the first RCMP officer and includes the circumstances around the collision, as well as subsequent information provided by that officer to the RCMP.
In general, a report is forwarded to Crown counsel for consideration of charges when the IIO’s chief civilian director concludes that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment. However, the IIO does not make a recommendation on whether charges should be approved and their threshold for referral to Crown is lower than for law enforcement agencies in the province.
Since its inception in September 2012, the IIO has completed 131 investigations into cases and of those, 61 were referred to Crown for consideration of charges. Ultimately, nine of those investigations resulted in formal charges.
During the other 70 investigations it was determined that subject officers had not broken any laws and were cleared of any wrongdoing. When that is the outcome, the IIO publishes an in-depth public report on its website, highlighting all evidence reviewed.
Due to the fact Crown is considering whether to proceed with charges in the Langford case, no public report will be issued by the IIO and they will not be providing any further information.
Fenton’s lawyer said in court last month that his client won’t be entering a plea to charges relating to the crash until the IIO’s report is complete and they have full disclosure. Fenton’s arraignment has been pushed four times in the last several months and he is next due to appear in court tomorrow (Feb. 9).
When Crown counsel opts not to file charges, it publishes a document called a clear statement that outlines the rationale for its decision. The IIO provides links to those statements on their website in relation to any case they have investigated.
Aidan Buckley, the IIO’s communications and stakeholder relations liaison, reiterated that the IIO’s chief civilian director refers an investigation to Crown for consideration of charges any time an officer may have committed a crime but the Crown has to satisfy a number of strict criteria before charges are filed.
“Their charge standard is way higher than the referral standard,” Buckley said. While he added many people believe more investigations should result in formal charges, he noted, “that’s not really how we measure our success.”
The IIO is a civilian-led agency that investigates all officer-related incidents that result in death or serious harm, as defined in Part 11 of the Police Act. The civilian-led investigatory body was established after public inquiries highlighted a need for increased public confidence in police oversight, accountability and transparency in B.C. policing.
Buckley said the IIO is more focused on the transparency of the process. “We’ve published 70 public reports and we’ve never had the public come back and question one.”
While the IIO was originally notified when the Langford crash occurred, it did not begin investigating until it was determined that police attempted to stop the civilian vehicle prior to the crash.
The Police Act requires police to notify the IIO of any incidents that may fall within their jurisdiction. Buckley noted since 2012, the IIO has been notified about more than 1,150 incidents provincewide and roughly 20 per cent of those have resulted in an investigation.
For more information on the IIO, visit iiobc.ca.