B.C. now joins Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia in having a provincial police watchdog that will conduct investigations into serious injuries or deaths where police are involved, rather than police looking into such incidents themselves.
The Independent Investigations Office aims to restore the public's faith in police services - be they RCMP, municipal police, auxiliary police, special provincial constables and First Nations police - with three key promises.
Those are of "unbiased investigations, completed in a timely manner and accountable through public reporting," said chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal.
This commitment comes after inquiries into two high-profile deaths where police were involved - the infamous Tasering of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport and Frank Paul freezing in a Vancouver alley after being ousted from the drunk tank.
Under the Police Act, law enforcement officers will be required to report to the Independent Investigations Office any situations involving death or serious harm and then secure the scene until an investigator from the IIO arrives.
Once the investigation is complete, if Rosenthal thinks an offence took place, he will send a report to Crown counsel. If not, he can release a publicly available report explaining his reasons for not sending it to Crown.
The change is a vast improvement over the old system, which essentially forced officers to investigate each other; not a great situation for the public or police themselves.
There are already concerns being expressed that the office's recommendations are not binding, but with the public in the know, there will be additional pressure for police to be accountable.
Some also have misgivings that an investigator with the IIO may be a former police officer, just not within the past five years.
This is on the government's radar, however. By January 2015, a special committee of the legislature will be looking at what progress has been made toward having the office staffed solely with civilians who have never been police.
All in all, as David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association put it, "it's a long overdue improvement in police accountability in our province."
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.