Independent body needed to watch over police force

The case of police in Prince George using a Taser on an 11-year-old boy raises numerous questions. But one is the same question that has been asked numerous times before —most notably in the case of Robert Dziekanski, who died in 2007 after being tasered by the RCMP in the Vancouver airport.

Why are police conducting investigations into the conduct of other police officers?

It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that there could be a concern about bias, even with different police departments investigating each other.

There is a long tradition among police officers of camaraderie, support and “watching each other’s backs.”

The West Vancouver officers charged with investigating this latest tasering incident may well be able to conduct an impartial review. But it is difficult to shed the appearance their conclusions could be tainted.

Immediate disciplinary actions typically doled out to officers under investigation, such as suspension with pay, transfers and administrative leave, are not helping to change public perception.

The best way to give the public an assurance of an unbiased report is simply to ensure reviews of police conduct are conducted by an independent civilian panel.

Retired justice Thomas Braidwood, who conducted the public inquiry into Dziekanski’s death, has been calling on the provincial government to create such a body, but nothing has been done.

It is time for our government to help restore confidence in our police forces. The best way to do that is to keep them at arm’s length when their conduct is called into question.