There is little expectation that officers who kill civilians in Canada will be in any way held accountable (even minimally). This expectation is even further diminished in cases in which police have killed social activists in the course of upholding or defending the state capitalist status quo. Clearly in such cases the officers are carrying out their fundamental purpose of maintaining dominant structures of social stratification and hegemonic order. And in this they must be assured full protection and legitimation. Thus it is almost certain that they will not be taken to task under such circumstances for killing someone who challenges that order or threatens to make a public show of reasonable opposition to established order.
The official investigation into the RCMP officers who killed Indigenous Anonymous activist James McIntyre while he was protesting the Site C dam megaproject in British Columbia and the conclusions drawn by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is in no way surprising then. The IIO exonerated the officers involved including the cop who fired the shot that killed James McIntyre despite the fact that the officer failed even to file an internal report on the killing which is required under law. The IIO could only state with futility:
“As of the time this decision is being issued, it does not appear that the subject officer has completed any reports or notes of his recollection of the incident. The IIO has, and continues to engage with the RCMP on the necessity of officers completing timely reports.” (IIO 2016)
Adds the IIO spokesperson Marten Youssef: “They are required to write timely reports, timely accounts, detailing their account of what happened. It appears as of the time of writing this case that the subject officer in this investigation did not comply with that policy.” (quoted in Kurjata 2016)
And there is nothing to suggest that the killer cop received so much as a stern word or cross look for this violation, let alone any sort of actual punishment. Yet the IIO concludes that the officer did nothing wrong despite the absence of any report.
The failure of officers involved in the killing of civilians to file reports of to file reports in a timely manner is notorious in British Columbia, a fact the IIO has raised repeatedly. Indeed officers often watch media coverage before filing a report in those cases where a report is actually provided. Clearly police in the province view the legal requirements under which they are supposed to operate as something of a joke or at most a matter of personal convenience rather than a legal requirement of their job. As in other cases the officers view themselves as above the law—they are a law unto themselves.
Furthermore there is no mechanism to compel officers to interview with the IIO in the course of its investigation. That is, officers choose whether or not they will interview with the supposedly independent investigation. One can well guess the choice killer cops tend to make. So in the case of the RCMP killing of James McIntyre the IIO had no interview testimony from the officer responsible for killing McIntyre.
Notably witnesses interviewed by the IIO varied in their accounts of how James McIntyre responded to police (approached, lunged, jabbing, coming towards, etc.). They were inconsistent in portraying the threat, if any, that the victim posed. There is no sense that James McIntyre posed a threat beyond police to the public. In addition the witnesses do make clear that James McIntyre was shot almost immediately as police told him to drop his knife (which some witnesses suggested was described as a “weapon” rather than a knife by police). Some witnesses noted having unreliable sight lines. One witness noted not being able to see after being hit by pepper spray from police (and before the fatal shot was fired). A witness officer admits that McIntyre only became agitated after being pepper sprayed. Yet the IIO somehow concluded that the officers did nothing to provoke McIntyre. Despite all of this the IIO wrapped their investigation and exonerated the officer, who remains unnamed.
Police did not even know until afterwards that McIntyre was not the man they had received a call about a protester at an event promoting the Site C project. That man was local farmer Terry Hadland. Hadland described his reasons for ripping up maps and turning over tables at the event: “I triggered the whole darn thing because I didn’t want Hydro to get away with smooching up to the public” (quoted in Kurjata 2016). He was deeply impacted by the police actions that killed James McIntyre. In his words: “Oh, I was devastated. I felt awfully guilty. I could hardly believe that…it was surreal, especially as I began to realize it was me they were out for” (quoted in Kurjata 2016).
It remains to be seen what response Anonymous might have to the conclusion of the IIO investigation. The National Post reports their interview with an Anonymous activist previously. The activist is quoted as saying there would be retaliation in the event of a cover up:
“Our message to whoever will be making those kind of decisions (is) that we are a very talented and patient and courageous crew and even if it takes us many months or many years to figure out what went wrong, we will sniff out your dirtiest laundry, procure it from wherever it’s hiding and find the highest flagpole in the windiest part of the public square and hang it up for everyone to smell and everyone to see.” (quoted in Humphreys 2016)
If not a cover up, the IIO investigation certainly leaves important questions unanswered. While raising many others.
Humphreys, Adrian. 2016. “RCMP Officer Cleared in Shooting Death of B.C. Activist that Sparked Anonymous Revenge Campaign.” National Post. November 16. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/rcmp-officer-cleared-in-shooting-death-of-b-c-activist-that-sparked-anonymous-revenge-campaign
IIO. 2016. Public Report of the Chief Civilian Director: Regarding a Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting on July 16, 2015 Involving the Dawson Creek RCMP. http://iiobc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/07-16-2015-Dawson-Creek-Firearm-Death-2015-000104.pdf
Kurjata, Andrew. 2016. “Police ‘Begged’ Site C Activist to Put Down Knife before Shooting Him, Witness Says.” CBC News. November 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/police-begged-site-c-activist-to-put-down-knife-before-shooting-him-witness-says-1.3853759