Police Watchdog Reports Turn Up

By Botelho-Urbanski, Jessica | Winnipeg Free Press, November 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Police Watchdog Reports Turn Up


Botelho-Urbanski, Jessica, Winnipeg Free Press


Manitoba’s Justice Department made public Wednesday annual reports prepared by the province’s police watchdog, days after a Free Press report discovered they were missing.

“Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba’s last annual report (for 2016-17) wasn’t properly tabled because of “an administrative error.” Meantime, the 2017-18 report was tabled on time, he said.”

The Free Press undertook the four-part series to examine the effectiveness of the province’s 31/2-year-old civilian-led police watchdog and its relationship with the Winnipeg Police Service.

Hundreds of documents obtained by the Free Press uncovered numerous roadblocks encountered by the IIU — from officers not co-operating, to disappearing complaints, to institutional pushback, to jurisdictional disputes — that have undermined the agency’s effectiveness.

IIU civilian director Zane Tessler alluded to those difficulties in the two annual reports that were made public Wednesday.

“The IIU continues to work with police agencies in Manitoba to ensure that information required to advance an investigation is provided to the IIU in a timely fashion,” he writes in the 2017-18 report.

“While the legislation outlines the obligations of police agencies and the IIU in an investigation, discussions continue between all parties to ensure issues are resolved or recommendations for legislative change are advanced.”

He made a similar observation in the report from the previous year.

“It is paramount that the investigative team is able to obtain the information it requires in order to advance an investigation to its next stage and ultimately to conclusion,” he wrote in the 2016-17 report.

“The IIU will continue to work with and educate all involved parties and police agencies about the role of the IIU and the roles and obligations of each person within an investigation.”

Cullen said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of the jurisdictional battles playing out between the IIU and the WPS until learning about problems this week.

He said the province is committed to reviewing the Police Services Act, which it promised in Tuesday’s throne speech, but wasn’t yet prepared to include the IIU.

“We haven’t heard that outcry from Manitobans yet,” he said. “I think it’s an opportunity for us to open the door, to have that discussion to see how (the IIU) might be more effective in terms of legislation,” Cullen said.

“Maybe in the short term there could be something, some other approaches that we may need to take.”

Details of the review, including a timeline, are still being worked out, Cullen added.

On Nov. 17, the Free Press published the first instalment in a four-part series detailing past battles between the police force and the oversight agency. The series continued Monday to Wednesday.

“Certainly this latest situation with IIU has just come to light, so we look forward to digging a little deeper on that side of it,” Cullen said. …

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