Former deputy premier Aldéa Landry will investigate a complaint filed against the Fredericton Police Force about the way two officers responded to a request for service in French during a traffic stop.
Steve Roberge, executive director and CEO of the New Brunswick Police Commission, said Landry was chosen from a list of commission members to investigate the conduct of the officers because she is fluently bilingual and perceived to be unbiased.
"And also someone who was not a police officer but did have a strong investigational background and had previous experience investigating police officers," he said.
Wouldn't speak French
The complaint was filed by two women who said they received unprofessional and intimidating treatment after their car was pulled over by police on Smythe Street on June 11.
In an earlier interview, one of the women, a passenger, said the driver told police she did not speak English and would need to be addressed in French, which was her right.
But the first two police officers who came to the car would speak only in English, she said, and one of them told the passenger he was sure she, too, spoke English.
The identity of the two officers has not been released, and CBC News has decided not to identify the woman interviewed about the complaint.
Eventually, a third officer, who was bilingual, arrived to handle the traffic stop. The driver was issued tickets for an expired registration and failure to produce proof of insurance.
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The complaint was filed June 13 and will be investigated as a service complaint and a conduct complaint under two sections of the New Brunswick Police Act.
Roberge stressed that the investigation is not just looking at whether the officers refused to speak French but "specifically how they went about not providing that service."
Mandate to examine policing issues
On July 7, the City of Fredericton said in a news release that it asked the New Brunswick Police Commission to handle the complaint.
Roberge said it was called in to ensure an independent investigation, but added it's not often the commission investigates service complaints against police, despite having a mandate to examine issues related to policing in the province.
The only other such request in recent years came from police commissioners in Saint John, who asked for a review of the investigation into the Richard Oland murder, he said.
Roberge said a conduct complaint can result in a range of corrective measures, from a verbal reprimand to dismissal.
With respect to the service complaint, he said, he expects the commission will make a series of recommendations if the allegations are sustained.
These will be reported to the minister of justice and public safety.
Roberge said the commission will discuss with legal counsel whether that document can be made public.
"It would be our preference that it be made public," he said.
Landry has six months to complete her investigation into the officers' conduct. There is no time limit for her investigation into the service complaint, said Roberge.
"But we expect that the investigations will be conducted concurrently," he said.