CKNW News is reporting that the provincial government is poised to announce the appointment of the civilian director of the Independent Investigation Office, the new body created to investigate incidents of death or serious injury involving police.  The creation of the IIO was one of the recommendations made by William Davies, Q.C., the respected former judge appointed as Commissioner of the Frank Paul Inquiry.  

Frank Paul died of hypothermia in a Vancouver alley in December of 1998 after he was dragged out of the Vancouver Jail, inert and soaking wet, by police, who dumped him in the industrial laneway where his body was spotted a few hours later by a passer by who was looking for a lost cat.  The Vancouver Police Department conducted a “neutral investigation” into his death, the Criminal Justice Branch reviewed the case five times, but no charges were ever laid against those who caused the death.

The IIO is a welcome development, but it probably comes too late for the families of Frank Paul, Ian Bush, Jeff Berg, Kevin St. Arnaud, Robert Dziekanski, Kyle Tait, Majencio Camaso, Orion Hutchinson, Benny Matson, Roman Andreichikov, Paul Boyd, Alvin Wright  and the other BC. residents who have recently died at the hands of police.  The criminal justice system failed these families, for nobody faced charges in any of these homicides.  In my opinion, the new head of the IIO, whoever he or she may be, should make it a priority to review each and every one of these cases.

The IIO will be as effective as the people who run it.  Here’s hoping that the new IIO leader is a principled, independent and strong-willed individual who has a keen sense of social justice and is committed to making a real dfference.