Manitoba

Manitoba launches unit to investigate serious incidents involving police

Manitoba has created a special unit to take over investigations of serious incidents involving police officers.

Police forces will no longer investigate serious incidents involving officers, says Gord Mackintosh

Manitoba launches unit to investigate serious incidents involving police

7 years ago
Duration 2:24
Manitoba has created a special unit to take over investigations of serious incidents involving police officers.

Manitoba has created a special unit to take over investigations of serious incidents involving police officers.

Investigations by the new unit will be mandatory when deaths or serious incidents causing injury occur involving on-duty or off-duty police officers, Attorney General Gord Mackintosh announced Friday at the Manitoba legislative building.

The unit will have jurisdiction over all police officers in Manitoba — including First Nations, RCMP and municipal — and be able to take over any police investigation it considers to be in the public interest.

The IIU's mandate is the broadest in the country, with the most comprehensive model to deal with incidents involving police- Gord Mackintosh

The unit may also assign its director, an investigator or a civilian monitor to have oversight of a police investigation. Civilian monitors, will be trained by the Manitoba Police Commission, will also provide additional oversight when the IIU is investigating fatalities and serious incidents.

"The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) is an accountable and independent organization that will work on behalf of Manitobans," Mackintosh said.

"The IIU's mandate is the broadest in the country, with the most comprehensive model to deal with incidents involving police."

Mackintosh made the announcement alongside Zane Tessler, who has been named as IIU director, Brandon police Chief Ian Grant (vice-president of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police), Nahanni Fontaine, the province's special adviser on aboriginal women's issues, and Robert Taman.

Unit recommended by Taman inquiry

Taman's wife, Crystal, a mother of three, was killed in February 2005 when her car was struck from behind.

The car that caused the crash was driven by then-Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk, who was off-duty at the time and had spent the night partying with other officers.

An inquiry was held by the province to look at the way the justice system handled the case after Harvey-Zenk received a sentence of two years of house arrest.

One of the recommendations from the inquiry was establishing an independent investigations unit to look into alleged criminal activity by a member of a police service.

At Friday's announcement, Robert Taman said the creation of the unit brings comfort to him and his three children.

"It has been over 10 years and they see this … as being somewhat of a legacy that they can now tell the grandkids about. So, they're happy. Everybody's doing well," he said.

"We can look back and say, 'Ok, well, there's some progress, and significant progress.' So I'm happy today."

Taman said the independent unit will bring transparency and accountability to the justice system — two things that he said the system lacked before, when police were investigating police.

Investigators with vast experience

Seven investigators have been hired at the IIU and they have received four weeks of extensive and specialized training, according to Mackintosh.

They bring a broad range of investigative experience nationally and internationally including:

  • Border policing.
  • International criminal tribunals.
  • Major crimes investigation.
  • Project DEVOTE, missing women investigations.
  • Working in northern, remote and indigenous communities.

The unit is led by Tessler, whose experience includes more than three decades of service as a Crown attorney and defence counsel.

A director of investigations and a team commander are also in place, with experience in professional standards and major crimes investigations. In total, the IIU currently has 13 staff.

Review in five years

Mackintosh said the work of the IIU will be complemented by assigning a prosecuting lawyer who has no connection to the police office from where the charges arose.

Depending on the case, the matter will be assigned to independent counsel (either in Manitoba or outside of the province) or to a Crown attorney located in a different region of the province.

In both instances, it will be ensured the prosecuting lawyer does not have an association to the officer who is under investigation, any eyewitness officers and does not have recent or ongoing contact with that police office.

The IIU will operate on a budget of about $2.5 million annually and its effectiveness will be reviewed in five years.

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