In a sharply worded submission to Josiah Wood, Q.C., the former Court of Appeal justice who is conducting a review of how public complaints against municipal police officers are handled, we have called the current system “an unmitigated failure” and have recommended urgent reform.

At least 22 people have died in police detention or custody in British Columbia in the last four years, yet no police officer has been charged or even disciplined in any of those serious cases. We feel the reason for inaction is that police are permitted to investigate themselves in this province, thereby compromising any further decision-making processes.

The problem is especially acute in Vancouver, which has had 10 police involved deaths since May of 2002. In our submission, we cite our direct experience with corrupt investigations conducted by VPD investigators in the Hyatt, Berg, Bagnell and Stevenson cases in support of our position that the police should no longer be allowed to investigate themselves in cases of serious injury or death.

This view is hardly earth-shattering, yet successive governments refuse to modernize the system. As a result, the families of those who die at the hands of the police feel cheated by the justice system and the complaint process, and come away feeling frustrated, disillusioned and bitter. Our politicians must find the political will to radically change the process, before the public loses faith in the legal system as a whole.

Read our letter to Mr. Wood