IIO complaints: B.C. government investigating bullying claims at civilian police watchdog
Deputy attorney general asked for investigation of police watchdog after complaints from employees
The civilian watchdog agency that investigates complaints against the police is itself being investigated itself.
The Public Service Agency of B.C. is investigating allegations of bullying and harassment within the province's police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., according to a government statement.
The allegations say the IIO has become dysfunctional, sparking low morale and high staff turnover.
Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe received complaints from employees of the IIO, and asked the Public Service Agency to investigate, said a statement from the Ministry of Justice.
Fyfe asked the agency "to conduct a fair and thorough investigation in order to ensure personnel practices in the IIO are in accordance with the law," said the statement.
The IIO has been operating since 2012 with a mandate to review cases in which people are killed or seriously injured by police officers. It was instigated after the infamous Robert Dziekanski Taser death in 2007 at the Vancouver International Airport, and the subsequent inquiry which was criticized for having police investigate its own officers.
The IIO is headed up by a chief civilian director, who has never been a police officer, and has 50 employees. Individual investigators must be five years removed from police work before joining. But while the IIO is a civilian body, it's had to employ many ex-police officers for their skills and some say that has led to a clash of cultures with almost two dozen firings and resignations in three years.
The Ministry of Justice won't comment on any firings, wrongful dismissal suits or severance packages.
Kash Heed helped push for the creation of the IIO when he was the province's Solicitor General and he says issues around governance and accountability were brought to the attention of elected officials and top bureaucrats in 2011.
He says the IIO should operate under a police board.
The office employs 32 investigators, but seven of those positions are currently vacant.
With files from Chad Pawson and Eric Rankin