After more than a year, a period in which few details have been provided to the public or family, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in British Columbia has finished its report into the police killing of 20-year-old Hudson Brooks. The young man was shot and killed by an officer outside the RCMP detachment in South Surrey on July 18, 2015, under mysterious circumstances which have long called for insight and answers. The report has been forwarded to Crown prosecutors for consideration suggesting charges could be laid against an officer or officers involved.
Hudson Brooks was killed while approaching the RCMP detachment in South Surrey. He was intercepted by police on 152 Street in the early morning of July 18, 2015. He was unarmed and wearing shorts and flip-flops when an officer initially targeted him for unknown reasons. Witnesses have suggested Brooks may have been experiencing some distress and seeking assistance at the time. He was shot and killed a short time after the approach by police. Early reports noted that an officer had been shot, in what seemed an attempt to legitimize police actions in the public eye. It has since been revealed that no weapon other than those of police was found on the scene and it is believed the officer’s injury was police inflicted (perhaps even self-inflicted).
Consideration of Charges?
The IIO report has been forwarded to the Crown prosecutors for consideration of charges. This is only done in cases in which the IIO has determined that an officer involved in harm to a civilian may have committed a criminal act. In the words of IIO spokesperson Adan Buckley:
“At the conclusion of an investigation, if the chief civilian director of the IIO concludes that an officer may have committed any offence, then the chief civilian director will refer the case to crown. If it’s concluded the officer has not committed any offence, then the chief civilian director will publish a public report.” (quoted in Johnstone 2016)
While there is some relief in the consideration of charges in this case and the possibility that relevant details about the actions of police the night Hudson Brooks was killed by RCMP, there is little to suggest that police will be held accountable in any meaningful way. It is extremely rare in the Canadian state for officers to be charged when they kill civilians, even under the most clearly dubious and egregious circumstances. The state tends to protect its frontline forces. And Crown prosecutors appear reluctant to jeopardize the close relations they have with police on whose efforts their own success and careers partly depend. Over the brief history of the IIO in British Columbia, 56 reports have been forwarded to Crown for consideration of charges. Those 56 reports have resulted in charges only nine times, a tiny fraction of cases. Five cases remain undetermined.
“Justice for Hudson”
Hudson Brooks’ family has worked tirelessly to get answers about the actions of police in killing their loved one. According to his mother Jennifer Brooks: “I wouldn’t say I’m shocked because I really, really believed that this would go to Crown. I was just so happy that they closed it, because it was such a long, long wait” (quoted in Johnstone 2016).
Family and friends have organized a movement for “Justice For Hudson” to raise awareness about Hudson’s killing by police and to gain some sense of accountability for the force and officers involved. They have organized several rallies and marches in South Surrey and outside the RCMP detachment where Hudson Brooks was killed. These have been mass events with hundreds of people participating. This is in many ways unique in the Canadian context where ongoing rallies and protests over police killings have been less common and certainly received less media coverage and public attention than has been the case in the United States. This too s changing as a younger generation in particular has mobilized against police violence in the Canadian state.
The Justice for Hudson movement will continue as the case goes forward to the Crown. In the words of Jennifer Brooks: “We’re not going to wait for six months, seven months or eight months. If we have not heard anything within three months, we will plan another march because we really, really demand justice for Hudson” (quoted in Johnstone 2016).
It remains to be seen if any of the officers involved will be brought to trial. The history in British Columbia and in Canada leaves little cause for optimism
Johnstone, Jesse. 2016. “Police Watchdog Sends Hudson Brooks Report to Crown for Charge Consideration.” CBC News. October 21. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/hudson-brooks-charges-1.3815896