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Saanich cops make changes to police-shooting probes, use of force policy

Jan 24 2012

Seven-and-a-half years after the shooting death of a mentally ill man, Saanich police are changing the way they investigate police-involved shootings and their use-of-force policy, according to an external report released Monday.

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

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

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

Teresa Camaso said she was glad to hear of the changes. "They finally saw their deficiencies on how they do their policing. Hopefully, with these changes, no one would experience what I've gone through."

On the other hand, Camaso said: "Why did they appeal the judge's decision and make the changes based on the decision? I am very confused."

Teresa Camaso's lawyer, Jacqueline Horton, slammed the decision to have Ryneveld do the review more than seven years after the shooting, calling it "too little, too late." She also questioned Ryneveld's impartiality, given that he supported Saanich's decision not to discipline Dukeshire.

"They've gone to the very person who exonerated Dukeshire and the Saanich police in the first place?" Horton said.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, chairman of the police board, said Ryneveld was the most "qualified and independent in the province" for the review.

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

By 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 involving police.

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

Ryneveld also recommended that all officers involved in a death be segregated from each other. 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 material to the external investigator.

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

Saanich police have accepted Ryneveld's recommendation that it adopt the Braidwood inquiry's guidelines on use of force involving Tasers. Those guidelines say a Taser should only be used in a situation where someone is about to cause or is causing bodily harm, and it should not be used repeatedly. The Braidwood inquiry was held to investigate the death of Robert Dziekanski in 2007 after police tasered him multiple times.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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