B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth says she will launch a special investigation into reports that some group home staff members are using police to help discipline children.
The decision follows her preliminary investigation into an RCMP officer's use of a Taser on an 11-year-old Prince George boy following the stabbing of a group home worker last month.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she finds it shocking and disturbing police would use a Taser on a child, but she cannot conduct a full investigation into the Prince George incident until police wrap up their own investigation.
In the meantime, she will look into why some group home staff members are calling police when they want help with other behaviour concerns.
Police acting in disciplinarian role
"In reviewing this particular incident, I became concerned about a wider issue of police being called by group home staff to attend and act as a disciplinarian of sorts," Turpel-Lafond said in a statement released Thursday morning.
"The incidents are numerous, and aren’t related to criminal activity by the child or youth. Instead, police would attend when staff wanted help with behaviour concerns, like children not wanting to come into the house, go to their bedrooms or be put in a ‘quiet room’ in a group home," she said
"When dealing with particularly vulnerable children in the care of government, serious issues arise if staff are not properly trained to deal with challenging behaviours and instead are using police to bring kids into line when criminal activity isn’t involved," she said.
"I’m aware this may be an issue not only in the Northern Region but possibly in other areas of B.C. as well, and this demands a thorough examination," she said.
Turpel-Lafond has been conducting an initial review of the Prince George incident to determine whether a formal investigation is required.
West Vancouver police are also investigating the incident, but have yet to release many details. Last week they did say the officer involved had not yet been interviewed.
Lack of information not in public interest
Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon said the public needs to know more about the incident, given how much time has passed since the West Vancouver police officers started their independent investigation.
"I don't think that's a terribly acceptable state of affairs," said Gordon.
"There's public interest in this and it is a public interest matter and I think it behooves those responsible for conducting the investigations to start to tell us what the outcome is likely to be," he said.
Rob Holmes, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association also said he doesn't think enough information has been released, considering the amount of time that has passed since the incident.
"They don't have to say what his name is, but I think they are obliged to provide a full account to the public as to why the officer concerned, why it was he thought that it was appropriate to use the Taser," said Holmes.