B.C. police watchdog ‘no longer at crisis staffing levels’ after acknowledging delays

(Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC says it’s retaining staff at a higher level and is getting through cases faster after being understaffed for years.

In February 2023, the IIO admitted that it took too long to review the death of an Indigenous man who died while in police custody in 2017.

It said it was “extraordinarily complex” and “extraordinarily demanding in terms of resources,” but taking six years to investigate the incident was too long, the organization said in 2023.

At the time, the IIO said the length of the investigation was partly due to being understaffed and because its caseload has skyrocketed in recent years, with police shooting investigations nearly quadrupling over five years.

On Thursday, IIO director Ronald J. MacDonald said that the increase in cases, “together with our inability to attract and retain enough qualified and experienced investigators” led to longer investigative timeframes and “suffering morale.”

For several years, the organization called for more funding from the province, and last year the government “responded positively with increased resourcing and additional funding,” said MacDonald on Thursday.

“The IIO has been able to increase investigator staffing and improve the competitiveness of our salaries,” he said. “As a result, the IIO is now almost fully staffed. While we still have work to do, these changes have helped to significantly improve the staffing situation at the IIO.”

MacDonald says that while not all roles have been filled, the organization is “no longer at crisis staffing levels” and that it has moved to a four-team investigator on-call model.

“This helps reduce the toll the job takes on them personally, ensuring their well-being and allowing the IIO to continue delivering fair and thorough investigations to the standard required in a timely fashion that British Columbians both expect and deserve from our office,” he said.

In 2013, the IIO’s attrition rate was six per cent, down from 16 per cent in 2022. For investigators specifically, attrition last year was six per cent compared to 27 per cent in 2022.


With files from the Canadian Press

Adam Chan

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