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Saanich police adopt sweeping changes in use of force policy

Jan 24 2012

Saanich police have adopted sweeping changes in its use of force policy and the way it investigates police-involved shootings, in light of an external report into the 2004 shooting death of Majencio Camaso by a Saanich police officer.

Camaso, 33, was shot by Saanich police Const. Kris Dukeshire in a school playground on July 11, 2004. Camaso, who had a psychiatric disorder, had ran at Dukeshire with a crowbar and a pipe.

In response to a damning judgment in April 2011 by B.C. Supreme Court judge Grant Burnyeat in a civil suit — which criticized Dukeshire’s actions, Saanich police’s policies and the department’s botched internal investigation — the department asked former police complaint commissioner Dirk Ryneveld to conduct an external investigation.

Camaso's wife Teresa sued the department in the earlier civil suit and Burnyeat found that Dukeshire used excessive force and was grossly negligent. Burnyeat ordered the District of Saanich to pay Camaso’s family over $350,000. Saanich is appealing that decision.

The bulk of Ryneveld’s recommendations released today focused on ensuring Saanich police do not investigate their own officers in police shootings. That was in response to Burnyeat’s sharp criticism of their internal investigation.

Ryneveld recommended that Saanich police enforce a policy that stipulates if someone is killed as a result of police use of force, two external police departments would conduct a criminal investigation and professional standards investigation. Both would be reviewed by the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Ryneveld also recommended that all officers involved in a death be segregated from each other and avoid communicating with each other about the incident. This was not the case in the Camaso incident.

The witness officer should be available for an interview before he or she goes off shift and must deliver all notes, reports and other relevant material to the external investigator. In the Camaso case, officers were allowed to leave the department without giving interviews or writing up their notes, Ryneveld wrote.

The officer directly involved must also turn over their notes, and may be, but is not compelled to be, interviewed by the external investigator.

Dukeshire did not give a statement until three days later and Const. Kathleen Murphy did not give a statement until five days later. Instead of writing their own use-of-force reports, as is policy, the officers signed a four-sentence report, which Burnyeat said was inaccurate.

Ryneveld also recommended that the department should not issue a news release about the death before a family member is notified and should not make any comment “about the specific facts of the case or preliminary opinions as to the circumstances surrounding the event.”

Burnyeat found the department issued a misleading news release which suggested that the use of force was appropriate, before obtaining a statement from the officers.

Come this summer, the province expects the new Independent Investigations Office to be up and running, which will see civilian and retired police officers probe deaths or serious injuries in police custody.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said: “Dirk Ryneveld’s recommendations are consistent with the provincial government’s new approach to police shootings and provides interim policies pending the start up of the new provincial agency, the Independent Investigations Office.”

Ryneveld also recommended that Saanich police implement all of the recommendations with regards to Taser use that came out of Thomas Braidwood’s inquiry into the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski.

Chief Mike Chadwick accepted the recommendations and said the Saanich police board already adopted them at a Jan. 6 board meeting.

In 2005, when Saanich police reviewed the shooting, they wrote a report to the police board that there were no policy deficiencies which contributed to the shooting. Ryneveld, who was police complaints commissioner at the time, agreed with the report.

“The Court’s comments in Camaso concerning policy, based as they were on the facts and arguments raised at the trial, has caused Saanich to want to take a fresh look at its policies,” Ryneveld.

A coroner’s inquiry in 2005 also made several recommendations most of which focused on ways in which Saanich police could improve the way they deal with the mentally ill, including to better co-ordinate with the Emergency Mental Health Services Team. Saanich police did implement a policy outlining when officers should call on the mental health team for assistance.

Ryneveld made clear the report would not deal with the court’s finding of gross negligence, since Saanich is still appealing that decision.

“This review is not about legal liability. It is about best practices iin policing moving forward,” he wrote.

kderosa@timescolonist.com