New unit formed to probe police actions

Monday, June 29th, 2015 @ 2:30PM

SOURCE – WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

If a police officer shoots a suspect in Manitoba or stands accused of any other serious crime, former officers drawn from different police forces will head up the investigation into the accused officer’s actions.

The new, permanent unit — working for the Manitoba Justice Department — is made up of five investigators: one from the Calgary police force, one from the RCMP, one from the Canadian Armed Forces, one from the London Metropolitan police who moved back to Canada and worked with Great-West Life and one retired city police officer.

The NDP’s new independent investigation unit came into force Thursday, the final piece of the 2009 Police Services Act to be enacted as law.

The province introduced the first civilian head of the new unit at a news conference Friday: former Crown attorney Zane Tessler, who will be the first director of the independent investigation unit of Manitoba (IIUM).

“It is my privilege to be part of this new and historic chapter in policing in Manitoba,” Tessler said. In total, the office has 13 permanent staff, including the investigators who each count 20-plus years of experience in their fields. “Manitoba’s IIU joins an elite group of officers tasked with investigating serious incidents involving police,” Tessler said.

Attorney General Gord Mackintosh, along with Ian Grant, chief of the Brandon Police Service and vice-president of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police, Robert Taman, husband of Crystal Taman, and Nahanni Fontaine, the province’s special adviser on aboriginal women’s issues, attended the announcement.

“The issue of police forces investigating themselves was an issue for decades,” said Mackintosh. “It was raised in the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, and I know how concerned the public are when the police force investigates someone from the same force.

“The Taman inquiry put an exclamation mark on the need for a special unit to investigate serious allegations of police activity.”

Crystal Taman was killed by then-off-duty Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk in a car crash in 2005. In a controversial plea deal, Harvey-Zenk was convicted of dangerous driving causing death. Other charges of refusing a breathalyzer, impaired driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death were stayed by the Crown. It was later revealed those charges were dropped because East St. Paul police botched the investigation.

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