The BC Civil Liberties Association wants the RCMP to release data on serious injuries and deaths caused by its officers.
The call comes on the heels of a June 12 press conference that the BCCLA held last week to draw attention to three serious injury incidents that occurred in the past five weeks. Two of the incidents happened in Terrace, and the third, in which a 15-year-old girl suffered a broken arm, happened in Prince Rupert.
"All of the incidents involve families of Aboriginal descent, all called the RCMP for help with a family member, each case resulted in serious injury, and each took place in a specific geographic area over a short period of time," stated BCCLA president Robert Holmes in a press release. "These factors suggest to us that there is a serious systemic problem."
In response to the press conference, RCMP Superintendent Ray Bernoties issued a statement saying the BCCLA was "grandstanding" because it knows that the incidents are being investigated externally (by the New Westminster Police, Delta Police, and Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP) and that it would be inappropriate to comment on the incidents while they were under investigation.
"The RCMP has chosen to focus solely on whether criminal charges will ensue against RCMP officers. That is only part of the concern here," stated Holmes. "The RCMP should focus not just on whether its members may be charged criminally, but also whether they are properly and professionally doing the job of policing in and enjoy the trust of the communities they are to serve."
Municipal police departments in B.C. are required to report injuries which require medical treatment to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which are publicly available. According to the BCCLA, in 2012, they reported 263 incidents, or once incident per 4,900 people annually.
The BCCLA wants the RCMP to release similar data so it can conduct a Canada-wide comparison with municipal forces.
Superintendent Ray Bernoties told The Tyee that the RCMP does keep track of this type of data, "in a much more meaningful way" through a self-reporting system called Subject Behaviour Officer Response Reports. Since 2010, anytime an RCMP officer uses any type of force, they are required to file such a report whether or not injury or death results.
When asked if, in light of the BCCLA's request, the RCMP would make these reports publicly available on its own website, Bernoties said that "I feel we do made it available to those we are accountable to." Bernoties said that these reports are provided to the BC government's police services division (within the Ministry of Justice).
David Eby told The Tyee that the BCCLA could go through the Freedom of Information process to request these reports from the ministry, "but that takes years."
"And frankly, I don't think our organization should be the one responsible for doing that," he added. "I think it should be the RCMP's duty as part of its transparent law enforcement operation."
Colleen Kimmett is a reporter with The Tyee.