Last week marked the one year anniversary of the police incident that resulted in the death of Waylon Jesse Edey of Yahk, BC.
Castlegar RCMP and West Kootenay Traffic Services were acting on a complaint regarding an impaired driver in the Castlegar area on the evening of January 29, 2015 when the incident occurred.
Police eventually located the alleged impaired driver on the Kinnaird Bridge. During the traffic stop matters escalated and the RCMP officer fired his service pistol at the suspect.
The incident was turned over to the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) for investigation. The mandate of the IIO is to investigate whether any offences may have been committed by the police officers involved. At the time a five person team that included a forensic specialist was sent out.
A year later, that investigation is still underway. According to the IIO web site, about 80% of the tasks related to the case are complete. Marten Youssef, manager of strategic communications for the IIO stated, “We are pretty much in the final stages of that investigation.” One of the things they are still waiting on is third party reports. These reports can include such things as lab exams, and expert reports on blood splatter and use of force. “We do not have a lab ourselves, so we rely on national and local labs to provide us with these results,” said Youssef.
Once the investigation is completed, it will be reviewed by the chief of investigations of the IIO, and then reviewed by the chief civilian director of the IIO, who will make a decision on whether to exonerate the officer or refer the case to Crown counsel. If the chief civilian director finds that an officer may have committed any offence, under any enactment, the police act requires him to refer the case to Crown counsel. If he can independently clear the officer, he will issue a public report that will be available on the IIO website detailing the case, the evidence examined and the witnesses interviewed.
When asked about the extended length of time it is taking to complete the investigation, Youssef offered the following statement:
“The timeliness of our investigations have suffered recently, in large part, as the result of a rash of officer-involved shootings and police-involved fatalities throughout the province that began in September of 2014 and continued for the better part of a year (a total of 20 shootings and fatalities in a period of 12 months).
These incidents require the expenditure of enormous resources. That workload, in conjunction with the fact that the IIO is still a new organization (with significant turnover and training responsibilities) has made it impossible to keep up with our timeliness goals. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, as we have 10 new investigators starting at the IIO next month and, over time, our increased staffing should have an impact on timeliness overall.”