Category Archives: Surrey

Audio of RCMP Killing of Hudson Brooks Posted Online

A matter of seconds. That was all the time that transpired before Surrey RCMP officers decided to shoot and kill Hudson Brooks after encountering the youth,  as revealed in newly released audio of the killing.

Most of the significant questions about the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks outside an RCMP community policing detachment in south Surrey, British Columbia remain unanswered almost two years after the 20-year old was shot by police on July 18, 2015. His family has persistently sought answers, both of police and the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province.

In March 2017 police audio of the killing of Hudson Brooks was posted on YouTube. Notably, the clip was not released to family by police who have been uncommunicative regarding the killing. The audio was apparently posted by a user who regularly uploads recordings of police-involved incidents from radio traffic and scanners. The 2 minutes and 41 seconds of audio reveal the chaos of police actions and confirm the quick move by officers to deploy lethal force with virtually no interaction with, or attempt to communicate with the young man who would become their victim.

After hearing the audio, Jennifer Brooks, Hudson Brooks’ mother responded:  “It was devastating. It was so heartbreaking. There was no ‘stop, put up your hands,’ nothing. Within seconds of them calling upon him, he was shot. He didn’t stand a chance. How this went so wrong so quickly is unfathomable” (quoted in Chan 2017).

The audio confirmed what the family and some commentators have managed to piece together about the killing, from witnesses and available limited reports. Up front a female voice is heard describing Hudson Brooks. At the 52 second point, a male voice is heard saying: “I got something right here coming directly at me.” In a matter of mere seconds later: “I need help now. I need help now.” Then the call of “shots fired.”

The tape does confirm what many have suspected for some time, that the RCMP officer who was shot during the encounter actually shot herself. In the audio a female voice can be heard saying, “I shot myself.” This is followed by a male voice calling for emergency services: “Suspect is critical. We need a code. We need it now.” This is noteworthy because police initially used the shooting of an officer to suggest to the public that Hudson Brooks was armed and inflicted the wound, thus justifying, in their view, the deployment of lethal force.

The IIO has requested that the recording be taken down. Jennifer Brooks, however, says that while she would not listen too it again she supports it being publicly available so long as it does not impact the ongoing IIO investigation. In her  words: “Otherwise, the public needs to hear what happened” (quoted in Chan 2017). And answers are needed now. Why did police shoot? And why did they jump to shoot so quickly? Why did officers panic to such an extent that one would shoot herself and what does this say about the safety of any public into which such panicky officers are deployed? Too much time has passed with minimal to no information from police or the IIO.

 

The video can be found at:

 

Further Reading

Chan, Cheryl. 2017. “Audio of Surrey RCMP Shooting of Hudson Brooks Posted Online.” Vancouver Sun. March 30. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/he-didnt-stand-a-chance-audio-of-police-involved-shooting-of-hudson-brooks-posted-online


Inquest into Vancouver Transit Police Killing of Naverone Woods (23) Begins: March 20, 2017

An inquest into the killing of Naverone Woods has begun in Burnaby, British Columbia on March 20, 2017. Woods, a 23-year-old Gitxsan man, was shot and killed by a Metro Vancouver Transit Police officer in Surrey, British Columbia in December 2014. This case has generated much concern and organized protest but few answers for grieving family members. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, earlier reported that Woods was shirtless and suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds when police, including the transit police officer, encountered him inside a Safeway grocery store in the Whalley neighborhood in Surrey. The transit officer then fired her gun striking and killing Woods. She was cleared by the IIO in may 2016. The Metro Vancouver Transit Police are the first armed transit force in Canada.

The inquest, heard by presiding coroner Brynne Redford and a jury, has no power to attribute wrongdoing or recommend charges. They will examine evidence around the killing of Woods and make recommendations that they have no mechanism to enforce on police.

Family and friends have consistently referred to Naverone Woods as gentle, caring, and helpful.


BC Coroner Announces 2017 Public Inquest into Police Killing of Naverone Woods

The BC Coroners Service has announced that it will hold a public inquest into the death of Naverone Christian Landon Woods, a young Gitxsan man shot and killed by police in Surrey, British Columbia in 2014. The killing of the 23-year-old Woods, of Hazelton, has generated much concern and some pubic outcry and protest but few answers or information (such as names of officers involved) despite an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) the (non-independent) provincial oversight body that examines cases of police killings of civilians in BC.

What has been reported is that Naverone Woods entered a Safeway grocery store in the Whalley area in north Surrey, near the Skytrain, around 8 AM on December 28, 2014. Customers and staff either at the grocery store or a nearby convenience store reportedly called 911. Two officers from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, an armed transit force, the first of its kind in Canada, entered the store and in the ensuing encounter one officer shot and killed Woods. The victim was taken to Royal Columbia Hospital in New Westminster, BC where he died shortly upon arrival.

The inquest will be see evidence presented to presiding coroner Brynne Redford and a jury. Testimony will be taken from witnesses under oath. Members of the public can make presentations. The focus will be on establishing facts of the killing and making recommendations but these have no binding power or authority.

The inquest into the police killing of Naverone Woods is scheduled to begin on March 20, 2017 at 9:30 AM. It will be held at Burnaby Coroners Court, 20th floor, MetroTower II, Metrotown, 4720 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC.


Independent Investigations Office (BC) Report on Police Killing of Hudson Brooks: Crown to Consider Charges

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

 

Further Reading

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


No Oversight, No Accountability: Problems of Supposedly Independent Investigations of Police

Too often people in hopes for reform of policing, or for increased accountability of police, on the creation of supposedly independent investigation or oversight agencies. These institutions are often held out as some sort of panacea for problems of police brutality and crime. To be sure such agencies can represent an improvement over the dubious situation that exists in many provinces in Canada in which police violence against civilians, including killings of civilians, is only “investigated” by their colleagues in other forces, often within the same province or jurisdiction. At the same time the evidence over years of operation of independent investigation units, in provinces including Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba, shows that such units are never truly independent from police agencies and furthermore they are hampered by a range of issues from underfunding and lack of resources, to interference, obstruction, harassment and hostility from police, and few if any means to address uncooperative and non-compliant behavior among officers. Such institutions are also set upon by police associations and law and order police-friendly politicians alike.

The situations of non-autonomy, interference and intimidation, and lack of mechanisms for accountability or compliance with regard to supposedly independent investigations of police suggest that such agencies rather than offering real accountability for policing provide more of a cover for police operations, providing the public a false sense of integrity, oversight, or justice (a final line of community quality control). Indeed it is a misnomer to speak of these agencies as oversight agencies precisely because they have no authority over police and do nothing about day to day operations, governance, or practices of policing. In the end the independent investigations units can only make recommendations to the Crown, with decisions to proceed with charges rarely coming from police friendly and collaborative prosecutors concerned with career interests and working relationships.

In practice investigations units are plagued by lack of resources, reliance on police and police institutions for training, and absence of mechanisms to ensure cooperation or compliance from police. In many cases investigations take too long and result in little more than a reproduction of police excuses.

 

The IIO in BC

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in British Columbia was, like other such units, received by much public anticipation and hopefulness. It would replace an unacceptable situation in the province in which police investigated police for police acts that resulted in harm to civilians. Since its founding in 2012, however, it has reproduced many of the problems experienced by other independent investigation units.

The office itself had its origins in the brutal killing by police of Robert Dziekanski, a traveler from Poland who was assaulted by several RCMP officers, tasered multiple times, and killed in the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). In the days immediately following the killing the RCMP made a number of public statements in which they blatantly lied about the circumstances of the killing, distorting what happened and pursuing a character assassination of the victim who they falsely described as drunk and aggressive (he was neither). The RCMP manipulation of the case would be undone when a witness brought forward a video recording of the encounter with police showing the RCMP story to be a fabrication (Dziekanski was retreating and compliant when police inexplicably tasered him repeatedly and jumped him). This video by Paul Pritchard, would become perhaps the most famous and significant piece of civilian journalism involving police violence in Canadian history. A public inquiry into the RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski, and further evidence of officer collusion and lying, would lead to the creation of the IIO (lead officer Monty Robinson and one other officer involved in the killing, Kwesi Millington, would be found guilty of perjury).

Yet several years into its operations the IIO has become another symbol of disgraceful policing related practices in the province. It has been plagued by personal turnover, complaints by workers against administrators, and concerns about connections with the Justice Institute of British Columbia, which trains IIO members but is simultaneously the police training academy for officers in the province and which employs active officers as instructors.

Among the issues that have received the most public attention and criticism has been the significant delay in completing investigations. The IIO is routinely taking up to 18 months to complete its investigations into police involved deaths and injuries of civilians, with concerns that these are moving toward two year completion times.

These concerns were recently heightened when the IIO reported that the investigation into a police killing of a mother and son, Shirley Williams, 77, and Jovan Williams, 39, in the small town of Granisle on April 21, 2016, will again take approximately 18 months.

Pivot Legal Society, a Vancouver-based civil rights law group, has raised concerns about IIO practice and the great length of delays in investigation reporting. Pivot is currently awaiting the conclusion of several IIO investigations, including the killing of Tony Du in 2014, who was shot and killed by the Vancouver Police Department. That case is now getting close to 18 months without a report. Other outstanding cases which are now coming near 18 months with no IIO report are those involving the police shootings of Peter de Groot in Slocan, BC and Naverone Woods, who was killed in Surrey, BC. According to Pivot lawyer Douglas King:

“There is a limitation period of two years to start an action in most cases now, and people who are directly involved in these incidents, and families who have been affected, that’s often the deadline where they have to decide if they’re going to take action against a police department. 18 months is truly unacceptable, two years would be a bit of a disaster, to be perfectly honest. It would have severe impacts on the rest of the legal system.” (quoted in Britten 2016)

In addition to the impacts on the system and the issue of killer cops being active on their force, there is also the issue of addressing family needs and concerns. As King suggests: “It’s absolutely brutal, especially for the families of people killed by police, and for the officers themselves, to have to wait that long,” (quoted in Britten 2016).

The IIO has little to offer in the way of an adequate explanation for the numerous roubles plaguing the agency. Incredibly they have pointed to the sheer number of police involved killings of civilians in the province over the last few years. But that is what they are supposed to be addressing. According to IIO spokesperson Marten Youseff:

“An officer-involved fatality is equivalent to a homicide in the level of rigour that’s required. We rely on third-party reports. We don’t have our own forensic laboratory … and sometimes those reports take an exceeding amount of time. We’re definitely not proud of our timeliness, and we’re doing everything we can to expedite this process.” (quoted in Britten 2016)

Pivot Legal Society is having a hard time accepting this. Douglas King believes that some of the delays in the IIO are related to internal problems within the institution itself. In his opinion: “If the only thing holding up these investigations is a third-party report, then we really need to start talking to the provincial government about how that can be fixed.  If it’s a problem with internal issues with the IIO, then certainly the public has an expectation that the IIO should fix those” (quoted in Britten 2016).

 

Conclusion

Yet in numerous other cases of supposed police oversight agencies, including ones with longer histories and opportunities for correction than the IIO such as the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario, the evidence shows that these problems are endemic to police oversight and cannot simply be reformed. They certainly cannot be addressed by training that includes active officers and/or institutions that maintain official training relations with officers. They also cannot be reformed through an addition of resources, including more investigators. Official reports, such as the Ombudsperson’s report in Ontario have noted the persistence by police forces of harassment, obstruction, uncooperative behavior, disruption and interference, and outright insolence and contempt shown by officers toward investigators and the investigations process. Until police are subject to consequences and punishment, including criminal consequences, for failing to comply with investigations or to follow processes without obstruction there will be no fulsome police oversight, or investigation that anyone can have any confidence in. Beyond this it is virtually impossible to carry out any truly independent, autonomous oversight of or investigation into police when they control their own crime scenes.

More than this, of course, is the lager issue of policing and the role of police within class stratified societies. The institution of policing is inherently political and police forces exert tremendous political pressure on governments and “regulators” at all levels. All of this occurs in a context in which police have been designed and developed as instruments of social war and the defense of status quo relations (which by definition will be enforced through often lethal violence). The only way to ensure public confidence and safety would be a dismantling of policing and rearrangement of social resources to support broader social services (mental health supports, community resources, social hosing, safe use sites, etc.).

 

Further Reading

Britten, Liam. 2016. “IIO Investigations Taking Too Long at 18 Months, Says Critic.” CBC News. May 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/iio-investigation-delays-1.3580472


Independent Investigations?: The Failings of the IIO and Police Oversight in British Columbia

British Columbia is in the midst of a crisis involving police killings of civilians over the period of several years. The Independent Investigations Office, set up to address the use of lethal force by police in the province has in its few years of existence shown the perils and limitations of such would be oversight efforts. As in other cases issues of independence, and fortitude in the face of police backlash have come to the fore.

There are currently only five police oversight agencies in Canada. This is a small minority in a country with ten provinces and three territories. The first such oversight agency was established in Ontario, the country’s largest province, in 1990. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is still viewed by many as the model such agency, nationally and, for some, globally, despite ongoing, well documented, structural limitations and continued interference and non-participation by police. The next oversight agency came almost a decade later when the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was established in 2008. The Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team was set up in 2012, the same year that the IIO was established in British Columbia. In 2013 Manitoba set up the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba.

The Independent Investigations Office in British Columbia was created in response to recommendations resulting from two public inquiries into police involved killings, including the infamous police killing of Robert Dziekanski in which police lied publicly about events of the killing before a civilian video appeared to show police claims to be bold lies. The mandate of the IIO is to probe all police-involved incidents that result in death or serious harm. The IIO currently consists of 34 investigators. This includes team directors, forensics staff, affected-persons liaisons, and public accountability staff.

The first few years of its existence has been rocky, to put it in its nicest possible light. The IIO began operations a year later than planned (Sept. 10, 2012) and over its first few years has suffered a range of problems and missteps. These include questions about its framework, low morale, high attrition, and ongoing concerns about how the office has investigated some of its cases. Allegations that chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal was harassing and bullying staff led to an investigation by the British Columbia government. Stunningly, 22 of the IIO’s 50 employees quit or were fired in the first two years (Saltman 2016).

The IIO staff recognize that the first few years have been a struggle and much work still needs to be done. The next chief civilian director of the IIO enters the position in 2017. According to current chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal: “We’re four years old. Hopefully we’re not sticking our fingers in electrical outlets, but we’re still very young, we’re still emerging, we’re still developing. Nobody can say what this organization is really going to look like 10 years from now” (quoted in Saltman 2016). Yet the newly developed directions in IIO training and practices raise real questions about its future as anything approaching an effective police oversight agency.

The IIO has appeared to capitulate to criticism over cases that have found against police officers. Those cases have been responded to by a great deal of public propaganda by police officers, agencies, and supporters. This media flak by police associated sources has been effective in putting the office on the defensive. Senior director of investigations, Patrick Kennedy suggests: “Civilian oversight is challenging because you have to look at it from a different perspective and a different paradigm” (quoted in Saltman 2016).

In response to police initiated criticisms the office has planned a new training program introduced in February 2016 involving the swearing in of seven new investigators. Under the new training program, investigators now complete a six- to eight-week induction and then spend three months training at the Justice Institute of B.C. Yet the Justice Institute is the police training institution in British Columbia. It is part of and central to policing in the province. Instructors are typically police officers, many of whom are currently active on the force. This is in no way independent training and it raises fundamental questions about investigators’ relationships with and commitments to their instructors, the institution, and the police forces in British Columbia. Investigators will work cases for 12 to 18 months before they can act as primary investigators. While the IIO states its hope that the training will help the organization move toward one day being completely staffed by civilians, this raining program largely undermines this stated hope. Notably the “independent” investigators have expressed satisfaction with the new arrangement.

The records related to the cases within the Independent Investigations Office are quite telling: There have been 156 cases investigated by the IIO since the office opened in September 2012. Forty-four cases remain open. There have been 112 cases that have been closed. Of those closed cases, 48 resulted in reports to Crown counsel and 64 resulted in public reports exonerating the officers involved. An improbably low number of seven cases have seen any charges approved by the Crown. Of these, two cases resulted in stays of proceedings, two resulted in pleas, one resulted in an acquittal, and two are pending. The office has probed 29 officer-involved shootings. In 17 cases, the shootings were fatal while the rest of them resulted in serious harm. Between September 2014 and September 2015 alone there were 20 fatalities that the IIO was called to investigate. Twelve of these involved shooting deaths of civilians by police (Saltman 2016).

Among the greatest current worries about the IIO has been the backlog of cases that has quickly built up in a short period of time. The office presently has 44 open cases, an incredible 10 of which are more than one year old. This has made things very difficult and painful for victims harmed by police and for families of victims killed by police. It has also put pressure on Crown prosecutors in making decisions about charges, already a rare circumstance in police involved killings. Incredibly, the IIO blames the backlog on the large increase in police involved killings (which the IIO was instituted to help reduce).

There have also been concerns about the limited mandate and limited definitions of police involved harms. Currently domestic violence and sexual assaults by police are not included within the IIO mandate for investigations.

 

Further Reading

Saltman, Jennifer. 2016. “B.C.’s Cop Watchdog Gets More Teeth: Dogged by Controversy, the IIO is Hiring More Investigators to Tackle Police Death Complaints.” The Province. February 21. http://www.theprovince.com/news/watchdog+gets+more+teeth/11734645/story.html


Speak No Evil: Surrey RCMP Refuse to Answer Questions about Killing of Hudson Brooks

It says plenty about the protections afforded police who kill civilians in Canada that months after a killing even minimal details about the event are not released to public or media. Officers involved are shielded from public scrutiny. Media are not allowed to report the issue in a manner consistent with an open and democratic system. Loved ones are left to ask painful questions. And live with excruciating silence from the agencies involved and responsible for providing answers. This serves to protect the system and allows police agencies time to reconstruct events, and their stories, to suit their own interests.

Seven months after Hudson Brooks, 20, was shot down in the street outside of an RCMP detachment in South Surrey, BC, the young man’s family has received no answers and few insights into how or why their loved one came to be a victim of police violence. This despite repeated requests made to the RCMP and the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the province’s police oversight body for information. This despite public appeals for disclosure from the RCMP, IIO, and local politicians, including two marches involving hundreds of supporters.

What is known for sure is that Hudson Brooks was shot multiple times and killed by an RCMP officer or officers outside the force’s South Surrey detachment. The IIO, in one of its few informational statements on the killing, has also confirmed that only a police service weapon was recovered at the scene. No other weapons were present. This is crucial because RCMP, as is often the case in police killings of civilians, initially suggested in media reports that there had been an exchange of shots between Brooks and the RCMP resulting in a gunshot wound to one officer. It now appears that the officer’s injury was either self-inflicted or a result of friendly fire. Brooks was not even wearing a t-shirt at the time he was shot and killed. He had no weapon or place to hide it.

Later police tried to claim that Brooks was suicidal. As in other recent cases in BC the RCMP sought to disparage and blame the victim (as if being suicidal could legitimize police killing someone—only in that authoritarian culture of impunity). Brooks family and friends have been clear and consistent that the young man was happy, optimistic, with a bright future.

Incredibly, neither Surrey’s Mayor Linda Hepner nor local MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) for Surrey-White Rock Gordon Hogg have contacted the Brooks family whether to provide information or even to offer condolences. In the words of Jennifer Brooks, Hudson Brooks’ mother: “Our son was shot down in the streets of Surrey—they haven’t reached out to me. Where is the compassion? A young man loses his life and we’re not contacted” (quoted in Holmes 2016). A stunning lack of compassion, and basic human decency, which would certainly not be the case in the event of a police officer being killed by a civilian.

Hudson Brooks’ mother has lived with indescribable pain since her son was killed by RCMP officers early in the morning on July 18, 2015. Following the February 2016 march commemorating her son, Jennifer Brooks asked: “Every moment of everyday, I wonder, I get up, first thing I think of is what happened to Hudson? How did this escalate to the point that lethal force was used on my son, my unarmed son?” (quoted in Beja 2016).
There is much for the RCMP to answer for. Jennifer Brooks needs to know. The RCMP need to answer: “I don’t know why my unarmed son was shot multiple times. Why was lethal force used on Hudson? Why was he shot five to seven times? The silence is killing me. I have no answers. It’s devastating” (quoted in Chan 2016).

Outrageously, the IIO points to an increase in officer-involved shootings, and the strain on resources they cause, as leading to a backlog of investigations that has left many families of victims of police violence seeking answers. According to Marten Youssef, spokesperson for the IIO: “Our timeliness has suffered, and that is partly due to a spike in officer-involved shootings and officer-involved fatalities” (quoted in Beja 2016). According to provincial records, between September 2014 and December 2015, there were 20 officer-involved fatalities, 12 were firearm-related, in British Columbia. That compares to one recorded fatal shooting by police in 2013 and three fatal shootings by police in 2012. The rise in killings of civilians by police in BC has led the IIO to hire more investigators to deal with the back-log. At public expense. Yet the activities of the IIO since their inception suggest that they remain largely toothless in holding killer cop accountable or in reigning in murderous forces in the province. In effect they offer no deterrence for killer cops and minimal real oversight.

Jennifer Brooks suggests that the increase in police-involved shootings over the previous year points to a pressing need for better training. In her view: “When there is someone in distress, the first thing to do is not shoot, not use lethal force” (quoted in Beja 2016). In the words of Hudson Brooks’ brother Beaudry: “Too many don’t have proper training and aren’t ready for the position they are in. It leads to things like this. It shouldn’t have happened” (quoted in Chan 2016).

Others would suggest that disarming the police in British Columbia might be a necessary step. Others call for ending the RCMP contracts in sub/urban centers like Surrey.

The silence and disengagement from public requests for answers is telling in the context of RCMP targeting of Surrey for increased policing and stated efforts toward community mobilization. Indeed the RCMP has long viewed Surrey as a site of force expansion and budgetary increase. They are banking on Surrey, and fear campaigns and moral panics targeting the city, in a context in which crime rates on the whole are declining consistently over years (with associated threats to police budgets). RCMP have established a public relations outreach officer in Surrey staffed by an officer who is also part of the RCMP campaign to gain a foothold in local communities by securing a faculty position in the local university, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, that enrolls the greatest proportion of Surrey post-secondary students. This has been central in efforts to recruit younger local residents while gaining access to informants, friends and family, in the neighborhoods of Surrey.

Yet when families ask for answers about the RCMP killing their children, nothing.

 

Further Reading

Beja, Tanya. 2016. “Rally Held for Man Fatally Shot by Surrey RCMP in 2015.” Global News. February 21. http://globalnews.ca/news/2531665/rally-held-for-hudson-brooks-fatally-shot-by-surrey-rcmp-in-2015/

Chan, Cheryl. 2016. “Family Still Seeks Answers in Fatal Surrey RCMP Shooting of 20-Year-Old Last July.” The Province. February 22. http://www.theprovince.com/news/family+still+seeks+answers+fatal+police+shooting+hudson+brooks+surrey+rcmp+last+july/11734777/story.html

Holmes, Tracy. 2016. “Our Leaders Haven’t Reached Out to Me: Mother.” Peace Arch News. February 23. http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/369864111.html