Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Legal veteran appointed to lead police watchdog

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HE started his legal career as a criminal lawyer, then switched to become a star Crown prosecutor and has now been picked to be the first executive director of Manitoba's new Independent Investigation Unit -- the unit responsible for investigating serious allegations against police.

Zane Tessler's first job will be to make the IIU operational by putting in place its policies and regulations and then hiring investigators, Justice Minister Andrew Swan announced Tuesday.

"A civilian-led investigation unit is a cornerstone of the Police Services Act and the IIU needs an experienced and respected leader," Swan said in a statement.

"Zane Tessler has dedicated his career to the law, and with more than three decades of service as a Crown attorney and defence counsel, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience that will aid him tremendously as he sets up the new unit."

Tessler was called to the Manitoba bar in 1980 and spent his first 18 years as a criminal defence lawyer.

He joined Manitoba Justice's Prosecution Service in 1998 and has conducted cases of serious and complex matters across the province.

Most recently, he held the position of supervising senior Crown attorney responsible for the management and development of new prosecutors.

"The IIU will play an important part in reinforcing the confidence of Manitobans in our police services," Tessler said.

The IIU, under Manitoba's Police Services Act, created in 2009 by the NDP, deals with incidents involving police both on and off duty, Swan said.

It will also have provincewide jurisdiction over police, including First Nations police forces, RCMP and municipal police.

Investigations will be mandatory when lethal force or serious-injury incidents occur and the unit will be able to take over any other investigation it deems advisable.

The Police Services Act was drafted following the recommendations of the Taman inquiry, which examined the police handling of the February 2005 death of Crystal Taman.

-- staff

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 A4

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