Quebec police watchdog slammed for 'culture of secrecy'
Public is still in the dark about how the BEI investigates, according to social activists
Nearly a year after Quebec's bureau of independent investigations (BEI) was established, social activists are calling on the police watchdog to be more transparent.
The bureau was launched last June, after years of delays, to investigate when police are involved in an incident where someone is hurt or killed.
Before that, another police body was appointed to lead those investigations.
But Alexandre Popovic, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Repression and Police Abuse, says the public is still in the dark about how the BEI investigates.
"The BEI seems to have the same culture of secrecy that we have with other police forces," he said, adding there doesn't appear to be anything in its mandate compelling police officers to cooperate with BEI investigators.
In a Tuesday morning news conference, Popovic and other advocates demanded the watchdog implement measures to "address the remaining gaps in the police investigation process."
One of the key changes they would to see is for the BEI to publish the findings of its investigations.
"We're worried these investigations don't meet the standard of independence and impartiality we've been asking for," said Nicole Filion, co-ordinator of the Ligue des droits et libertés, a human rights group.
The investigation bureau is made up of former police officers and civilians with relevant backgrounds like criminology and law, but Popovic says civilians should be leading the investigations.
"Everyone — police, the BEI, victims and the public — everyone wins with more transparency," he said.
The BEI responded with a statement from its director Madeleine Giauque Tuesday afternoon, saying "a police investigation report is not of a public nature."
"There is an obligation to protect sensitive information and all the elements that would help reveal the identity of the persons involved or witnesses, both civilians and police officers," the release said.
With files from Jay Turnbull, Steve Rukavina and Salim Valji