Hit-and-run will be the biggest test yet of police watchdog’s independence: Robert Taman

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The family of Cody Severight will need strength to deal with the "circus" that awaits them in the justice system, warned the husband of Crystal Taman, who lost his wife when an intoxicated police officer rear-ended her car in 2005.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/10/2017 (1883 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The family of Cody Severight will need strength to deal with the “circus” that awaits them in the justice system, warned the husband of Crystal Taman, who lost his wife when an intoxicated police officer rear-ended her car in 2005.

Robert Taman said there will also be difficult days ahead “because of everything they’re going to deal with, whether its the police, the justice department,” he said.

Severight, 23, was killed at about 8 p.m. Tuesday while crossing Main Street in front of the Sutherland Hotel.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Robert Taman

The vehicle didn’t stop but off duty police constable Justin Holz was arrested shortly after at Main and Red River Boulevard. Holz is charged with impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

“Stay vigilant” in seeking justice,” would be his advice to them. “If you’re not aware of everything going on, (the police) are not going to reach out and make you aware of it. You’re going to have to go out and find it,” he said.

The Severights “are going to have to do a lot of work to get through this,” he maintained.

Taman traveled to the collision site Wednesday evening for a vigil to offer his condolences to Severight’s friends and family. “I know what they’re going to be going through and it isn’t nice,” he said.

He described it as “eerie, a deja vu feeling” when he first learned of Severight’s death, then heard police make the same declarations as after his wife’s death.

“Things said up front about the investigation and justice and all those good things to the family that would make them feel good for the moment, they were not entirely accurate down the road” in his family’s experience.

But Taman emphasized this is not about reliving his wife’s case.

“This isn’t the Taman case opening up again. I want the focus to remain on this family and what it’s going through. They lost someone they love.”

Taman also questions the police culture which had led to excess drinking after their shifts. “The Winnipeg police, all police, should know better than this. There’s certainly been enough trauma in the past for them to understand that what they’re doing is wrong.”

The case is being handled by the Independent Investigation Unit that Taman’s push back against the system helped create. The IIU investigates all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Police investigate a fatal crash that killed a pedestrian on Main Street Tuesday.

Taman quit his position as a civilian board member of the Manitoba Police Commission when a police officer moved to the IIU on a secondment. He believes that moves the IIU closer to police officers investigating themselves.

Taman said Severight’s death may be the IIU’s biggest test so far to see whether it can act independently.

“This case, for me, is the reason I was so involved, to make sure that cases were investigated properly, and there would be transparency.”

Crystal Taman was killed when an off-duty officer, returning from an all-night party with fellow officers, rammed his truck into the back of her car at a red light.

The driver, Derek Harvey-Zenk, had his most serious charges stayed and was sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home in a controversial plea bargain.

One of the biggest obstacles after his wife’s death was police trying to help a fellow member in trouble, said Taman. “Police were protecting themselves right from the day of the accident.”

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, October 12, 2017 2:53 PM CDT: Clarifies description of IIU

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