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An independent body now has the ability to investigate complaints against police in Nova Scotia. (The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia is now the third province to have an independent body to investigate serious accusations against police.

The Serious Incident Response Team is fully staffed and ready to take calls from the public, the province announced today.

The unit was created in response to concerns about police departments investigating each other.

Ron MacDonald, a former Crown prosecutor, is director of the unit. He has police officers and retired police on his team.

"It's no use to have an independent body that can't do a good investigation," MacDonald said Thursday.

"The way to do excellent investigations into what can be essentially criminal investigations is to have people who are very good at that job, and to have those people you have to hire former police officers to do that job."

Justice Minister Ross Landry expressed confidence in the team members.

"There is absolutely no question in my mind that they answer to the director of SIRT and to the people of Nova Scotia ultimately," he said.

SIRT can launch an investigation on its own or take on a case referred by a chief of police, head of the Nova Scotia RCMP or the minister of justice. It has an annual budget of about $800,000.

Ontario and Alberta already have independent bodies similar to SIRT.