The officer who shotIan Bushin an RCMP station in Houston, B.C., acted in self-defence, and the police investigation into the shooting was conducted fairly and without conflict of interest, the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMPhas concluded.
Commission chair Paul Kennedy's final reportreleased Thursday morning in Vancouverhastwo major conclusions — that Const. Paul Koester was justified in using lethal force, and that the police investigation was both adequate and timely.
"I concluded that Const. Koester had a reasonable apprehension of death and believed that he could not otherwise preserve himself from death other than to use lethal force," Kennedy wrote.
"Accordingly, Const. Koester acted in self-defence. In addition, given Const. Koester had tried lesser forms of intervention that were not successful, Const. Koester was authorized under the RCMP's use of force policy to use lethal force."
As for the police investigation, Kennedy wrote: "I concluded that the North District major crime unit conducted a highly professional investigation into Mr. Bush's death and exemplified the best practices for major crime investigations … in a timely manner and free from any manner of conflict of interest, bias or partiality."
The report also includednine recommendations for the RCMP, including:
- The installation of closed-circuit television cameras in all RCMP stations.
- That all prisoners be dealt with and released from the cellblock in all RCMP detachments.
- That the RCMP retrofit RCMP detachments that do not have a separate area in the cell block in which to deal with prisoners and from which to release them.
- The development of a more open media and communication policy in similar incidents.
- The development of better guidelines for when the RCMP investigates itself.
- That officers in training who areunder investigation for serious incidents not be promoted until the investigation is complete.
'No justice for Ian,' says mother
Ian Bush's mother, Linda Bush, who has launched a lawsuit against the RCMP over the shooting death of her son, was not surprised by the report's conclusions.
"We are never going to find answers," she said after the news conference in Vancouver. "We were perfectly aware of that from the beginning."
Linda Bush disagreed with thecommission chair's conclusion that the RCMP's own investigation was adequate.
"There is no justice for Ian," she said, "I think there is a need for a civilian body to investigate police."
Linda Bush also questioned the effectiveness of the recommendations.
"I think they very clearly know that they don't have to act on any of these recommendations,"she said.
RCMP responds to report
In statement included in the report, the RCMP's commissioner, WilliamElliott, said he agreed with some of the findings and recommendations, but did not agree with others.
In particular, the head of the RCMP disagreed thatthere was a problem with the public perception of the RCMP's integrity when it investigates itself, and that all stations should be retrofitted with closed-circuit televisions and separate cellblock areas for releasing prisoners.
Bush, a 22-year-old sawmill worker, was arrested in Houston on Oct. 29, 2005, for having an open beer outside a hockey game and for giving a false name to police. He was taken to the local RCMP detachment where 20 minutes later he was dead.
Bush was in custody when he was shot in the back of the head by Koester. The two were alone in the RCMP detachment at the time, and Koester maintained he shot Bush in self-defence.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is not part of the RCMP and is responsible for investigating public concerns about the conduct of the force.
The commission chair's report followsa coroner's inquest in Houston thatbegan on May 22 and probed the circumstances surrounding the death.
On July 6, the five-person jury recommended that the RCMP change its policy so that no officer is left alone with a suspect until that person has been placed in a cell.
The jury also recommended the use of audio-video recording equipment be made mandatory in interview rooms. There was no equipment in place the night Bush was shot.
As well, the jury said there should be a review process and a continuing education program for officers.
The RCMP agreed to consider the jury's recommendations.