All RCMP in-custody deaths since 2002 for review
Police still to investigate police, exonerated officer to receive refresher training
Andy Ivens, The Province
Published: Friday, November 30, 2007
RCMP watchdog Paul Kennedy made nine recommendations yesterday in his final report into the shooting death of Ian Bush, who died two years ago while in custody.
But, despite a public clamour for a change from having RCMP investigate RCMP members in homicide cases, Kennedy opted for the status quo.
Instead, he is launching a review of all RCMP in-custody deaths since 2002.
The RCMP’s northern B.C. Major Crime Unit “conducted a highly professional investigation into Mr. Bush’s death and exemplified the best practices for major-crime investigations,” said Kennedy.
RCMP Const. Paul Koester shot Bush, 22, after a struggle in the Houston detachment.
Kennedy defended the treatment Koester received after the shooting.
After providing a brief “duty-to-account” statement to investigators within 12 hours, as required by law, Koester went into seclusion for 17 days, working on his formal statement with the help of his wife and lawyer. He wasn’t formally interviewed by major-crime investigators for more than three months.
Kennedy noted everyone has the right to remain silent.
That didn’t sit well with Bush’s mother, Linda Bush, yesterday.
“He has the right to remain silent, but I think every other citizen would have the right to remain silent in a cell,” she noted wryly.
“I don’t think he was treated the same [as the general public],” she said. “There was no justice for Ian and all that we can hope to do is change how it works in the future.”
Ian’s sister, Renee Bush, criticized the RCMP spokesman who summarized the case for the media before contacting the family.
“We didn’t even know what had gone on. We were just finding out at that point that Ian was at the detachment when he died,” said Renee.
The RCMP investigation was handed off to the New Westminster police for an outside opinion.
The New West investigators agreed with the Mounties’ finding that Koester was justified in using deadly force when he shot Bush during the struggle inside the interview room of the detachment, but suggested the Mounties conduct a re-enactment.
The RCMP decided not to do so, a decision that was endorsed by Kennedy.
Crown counsel decided not to charge Koester, and B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal agreed.
At a coroner’s inquest last summer, Koester testified Bush was on top of him, choking him to death, when he pulled the trigger as a last resort.
Koester said he was lying face-down on a couch and reached up around behind Bush and shot him in the back of the head.
Among his recommendations, Kennedy called on the RCMP to install closed-circuit TVs in all its interview rooms and cell blocks where prisoners are dealt with.
He also recommended that Koester receive refresher training on how to conduct thorough searches of prisoners.
At a later news conference, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre, commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C., welcomed the main findings in Kennedy’s report — that Koester was justified in using deadly force and that police can investigate police in such matters.
He praised Koester as “a really nice man . . . He’s a very quiet, well-spoken young man. He said he just wants to get on with doing the job of a policeman.”
Macintyre said Koester has been posted to an Interior detachment, which he would not identify, saying Koester had received repeated e-mail threats from one person.
Kennedy’s recommendations are not binding on the RCMP. His full report can be found at: http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca.
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