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Chief for police probes sought

New unit in works to review incidents

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The search is on for the head of Manitoba's new Independent Investigation Unit, which would investigate serious incidents involving police, including fatal shootings.

The province's Justice Department is looking for an executive director for the unit, or the IIU, as it'll be referred to once it's up and running.

By law the person -- paid up to $139,957 a year -- cannot be a current or former police officer, but has to be well-versed in criminal law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and be familiar with policing and First Nations justice issues.

The provincial cabinet will make the final call on who's hired. The closing date is Oct. 19.

The creation of the IIU is one of the final pieces of the NDP's Police Services Act. It was introduced March 3, 2009 after the inquiry into the 2005 death of Crystal Taman -- killed in a car crash involving an off-duty city police officer -- that examined how police botched the subsequent investigation.

Former attorney general Dave Chomiak said at the time the new act was a way to modernize policing standards in the province and to remove the perception of bias when police investigate themselves.

How soon the IIU is up and running depends on the timing of both the hiring of the civilian executive director and the creation of a process in which working police officers will be assigned to the unit.

The hiring of the IIU head comes as Winnipeg and other municipalities with their own police forces prepare to appoint civilian police boards by Dec. 1. They include Brandon, Ste. Anne, Winkler, Morden, Altona, Victoria Beach, Whitehead, Cornwallis, Rivers and Springfield.

The boards are to give more civilian input into policing -- excluding operational decisions such as investigations or arrests -- and bring more accountability. The new police boards will also have the authority to hire and fire police chiefs.

The job of creating these boards falls on the nine-member Manitoba Police Commission, which was struck in February 2011.

The commission, at its last meeting Sept. 15, approved the policy and procedure framework of how police board members are to be trained, commission chairman Rick Linden said Wednesday.

"We're sorting out what training they'll get," he said. "We'll work the local boards and if they find stuff in there that they don't think is practical we're certainly open to changing it."

The commission also has to appoint civilian monitors to investigations carried out by the IIU.

"There's a lot of anticipation about getting some civilian oversight into policing," commission executive director Brian Cyncora said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

The IIU's mandate

WHAT the Independent Investigation Unit will do:

 

It will be much the same as creating a new police agency in Manitoba.

It will investigate all incidents where someone dies or is seriously injured following contact with a police officer, or where it appears a police officer is accused of breaking the law.

The IIU must also be notified of all other allegations against a police officer both on duty and off duty.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2012 B3

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