One of the more frustrating issues, as a licenced firearm owner, is watching Crown prosecutors treat police officers caught violating the Firearms Act very differently than they would treat civilians in similar circumstances.
It’s frustrating because, for example, if I were to leave a loaded handgun and ammunition behind the receptionist’s desk at a physiotherapy clinic, I would face criminal charges faster than you can say, “Call the police!”
Yet when a Manitoba RCMP member, rank not identified, left his loaded handgun and ammunition unattended at a physiotherapy clinic on November 1, 2019, not a single charge was laid.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) was notified of the complaint and, I’m pleased to say, conducted an investigation.
The IIU “investigates all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, whether occurring on or off duty. We have jurisdiction over all police services in Manitoba, including the RCMP.”
According to the IIU’s FAQ: Must police officers cooperate with an IIU investigation?
Witness officers have a duty under the Independent Investigations Regulation 99/2015 of The Police Services Act, to submit to interviews with IIU investigators at the earliest opportunity. The IIU is also entitled to receive from the police service a copy of the witness officer’s notes.
Police officers who are deemed the “subject officer” are invited — but not compelled — to present themselves for an interview with the IIU. They do not have to submit their police notes to IIU. This is because an officer who becomes the focus of an investigation, and therefore faces potential criminal jeopardy, is granted the same rights as any citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protection from self-incrimination.
The FAQ refers to Section 13 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
13. A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.
And, in the case of this particular RCMP member, rank not identified, he invoked his s.13 Charter rights and refused to be interviewed.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Police Services Act, a designated subject officer cannot be compelled to provide his or her notes regarding an incident nor participate in any interview with IIU investigators. In this matter, the Subject Officer did not respond to IIU investigators [request] to attend for an interview.
An individual, identified only as Civilian Witness 1, gave the following statement.
On November 1, 2019, CW1 attended the physiotherapist’s office (the office) for an appointment.
Upon arrival, CW1 noticed a marked RCMP vehicle stopped outside the office, with the engine running. CW1 states the RCMP vehicle was unoccupied but was unable to say whether it was locked or unlocked.
When CW1 entered the office, he noticed an armoured vest with ‘POLICE’ displayed on it, laying on the floor, behind the reception counter.
CW1 also noticed a pistol on an equipment belt and ‘clips’, which he said were used to store ammunition. He sat and waited for his appointment for 20 minutes and he observed the equipment went untouched during this entire time.
CW1 states that the equipment was still behind the receptionist desk after he left his appointment.
CW1 states that he never saw a police officer at the office. CW1 states that he took four photographs of the police equipment with his cellphone. CW1 states he saw a black pistol including the slide part and the ejection port, an ammunition clip near the handle and a black holster.
Civilian Witness 2, the receptionist at the office, said:
CW2 confirms that SO routinely leave his duty belt behind the reception desk when he attends. CW2 did not know what was contained in this police equipment and never looked or inspected it.
When their investigation was complete, the IIU forwarded their findings to the Manitoba Prosecution Service (MPS) for assessment about whether criminal charges should be authorised.
The Manitoba Prosecution Service refused to file charges against the RCMP member, saying:
…this matter did not meet the prosecution-charging standard, and based on the circumstances, a reasonable likelihood of conviction did not exist.
Accordingly, MPS advised that in light of this conclusion, there was no purpose to lay any criminal code charge.
Do you remember the old American Express slogan “Membership Has Its Privileges”?
It applies to RCMP members facing possible criminal charges under the Firearms Act, too.