Police watchdog's investigative file, recommendations on Colten Boushie case now in hands of RCMP

The ball is now in the RCMP’s court after a police watchdog agency has completed its probe into how the Mounties investigated the August 2016 shooting of Colten Boushie, and made recommendations to the police force.

Boushie, a 22-year-old from Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was shot and killed during an altercation with Biggar, Sask.-area farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016. A jury at Stanley’s trial found him not guilty of second-degree murder in February 2018.

After the trial, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) launched an investigation into whether the RCMP’s investigation of Boushie’s death was reasonable. It also looked at whether RCMP members discriminated on the basis of race.

Last week, the CRCC confirmed it has finished its investigation. The commission gave the RCMP its findings, along with some recommendations, on Jan. 20, 2020.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is not bound by any deadline to respond to the watchdog report, but the RCMP said it has prioritized its response. (CBC)

It now falls on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to respond to the CRCC’s interim report and indicate which recommendations, if any, the police body will act on, a spokesperson for the CRCC said in an emailed statement.

“If no action is to be taken, the commissioner must provide reasons,” said spokesperson Kate McDerby.

RCMP prioritizes response

Under current legislation, the complaints commission is not bound by any deadline, McDerby said. 

“The review and delivery of this response to the CRCC rests solely with the RCMP,” she said. 

Cpl. Caroline Duval, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said in an emailed statement that some of the commission’s findings are “complex” and could have far-reaching impacts for the organization. 

“As a result, there are many factors that need to be considered before preparing a response,” Duval said. “These include existing case law, our legal authorities, our budget and potential impacts on our service to the public, amongst others.

“Given the numerous factors to consider, the high volume of relevant material to be reviewed and the complexities of the recommendations and findings, the time required to prepare a thorough and well-founded response can be difficult to predict.”

Duval said the RCMP’s response to the CRCC report has been prioritized despite other challenges and pressures, “so that the commissioner will be able to provide her response as soon as feasible.”

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission announced its investigation on March 6, 2018, just weeks after Stanley’s acquittal. The commission is an independent agency that conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of a file.

The Boushie family has raised several questions about the RCMP investigation into Colten Boushie’s death, including why police did not cover the car in which he was shot before it rained at the scene. (RCMP)

The RCMP has already cleared its officers of any wrongdoing, following an internal investigation.

Duval said the RCMP fully supports the CRCC’s work, “as we understand there are outstanding questions.” 

According to documents previously obtained by CBC News, the CRCC review was held up in part by the “RCMP’s delays in responding to and delivering relevant materials” to the commission.

“The RCMP acknowledges there is a delay in responding to CRCC interim reports, due in part to the number of interim reports and the volume of relevant material to be analyzed,” Duval said. “Efforts are currently underway to address this imbalance.”

Concern about evidence preservation

Stanley’s jury trial heard that RCMP officers who were tasked with securing the scene at his farm did not tarp over the vehicle in which Boushie was shot before rain washed away some evidence — an oversight that troubled the Boushie family following the trial.

The family also raised concerns about how RCMP members notified them about Boushie’s death.

Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, previously told CBC News that on the night he was shot, RCMP officers entered her home with weapons drawn before informing her of her son’s death.

Baptiste said that after she collapsed on the floor, one RCMP officer told her to “get it together” and then asked, “Have you been drinking?”

In a previous statement, the RCMP said it was not the officers’ intention to cause any pain, and that they had received a tip that an armed person might have been in a trailer matching the description of the one Baptiste lived in.

“The response to any major incident is often dynamic and complex,” RCMP said. “In addition to doing the next of kin notification, the officers also had to ensure there was no risk to officer and public safety.”

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