Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

The death of his daughter after she was hit with rubber bullets brought Ron Rauch to the conclusion that looking for answers from British Columbia’s police watchdog is a “waste of time.”

Lisa Rauch was shot three times in the back of the head by an officer when police were called on Christmas Day 2019 to a report of a woman acting aggressively in a social housing suite, says a report by the Independent Investigations Office.

As a special committee reviews British Columbia’s Police Act, some families would like to see changes ranging from how police respond to mental health calls to more power for oversight agencies.

In Rauch’s case, another police officer told investigators he thought his colleague was aiming for the woman’s hips or stomach when they entered the unit after a fire broke out.

The watchdog did not talk to the shooter and concluded in its report that police did not act with “recklessness or negligence” as it decided not to refer the case to the Crown for the consideration of charges.

“They were doing all they reasonably could to save an emotionally disturbed and intoxicated person from herself — and other residents of the building from her actions — and needed to act swiftly with a relatively high level of force to try to resolve a very dangerous situation as quickly as possible.”

Ron Rauch said he would like police officers to be compelled to speak to investigators from the watchdog agency.

“After dealing with the (Independent Investigations Office), our personal experience is that it was a waste of time.They did not have any power to question the actual shooter,” he said in an interview.

The all-party legislature committee reviewing the act is looking at a range of issues including racism, mental health and the role of agencies that investigate the police. It is expected to produce a report by the of April 2022.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year as Black Lives Matter protests spread from the United States into Canada.

Doug Routley, a New Democrat member of the legislature who is committee’s chairman, said the public’s concerns about policing are being taken seriously.

“Clearly, there’s a sense from people that these institutions aren’t serving them well enough,” he said in an interview. “We have to listen to that, look at that objectively and determine how much of that is an impression people have and how much we can address with the Police Act.”

Ron Rauch said the government could immediately change how it investigates allegations of wrongdoing.

“The biggest thing we see with the Police Act is you have police investigating police and it’s just not right,” he said.

Margie Reed’s son Myles Gray died after suffering injuries including a broken eye socket, possible partially dislocated jaw and a voice box fracture, during his arrest by Vancouver police in 2015.

The Independent Investigations Office forwarded charges to the Crown, which said none of the officers involved in the arrest would be charged because it could not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that any offence was committed.

“They need to have more power, they do not have any,” Reed said, referring to the Independent Investigations Office. “They refer to them as the watchdog. They make them sound like a Rottweiler with a spiky collar, at the end of a leash … as a watchdog, they’re like a toothless Chihuahua.”

B.C.’s police complaint commissioner announced in December the opening of a disciplinary-conduct investigation into the actions of seven officers involved in Gray’s arrest.

Ron MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, said he understands the concerns of families but defended his agency’s approach.

“Sometimes families don’t agree with our decisions and that’s going to happen. But I don’t think anybody can rightly say that our investigations have been unobjective or not independent and not thorough enough,” MacDonald said in an interview.

He acknowledged frustration that officers aren’t required to give evidence, but said legislative changes to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms could change that.

“We do our job and I think we do it quite well. Can we do our job better? Absolutely, we can always do better,” he said.

Families that spoke to The Canadian Press also want to see funding improved for mental health responses.

“(Police are) not equipped to handle people in a vulnerable moment in life or (who) are having mental health issues,” said Reed. “That is where they’re hugely lacking in the police force.”

Psychiatric nurses should attend calls that have a mental health component, she added.

Linda Bush’s son Ian was shot in the back of the head at the RCMP detachment in Houston, B.C., shortly after he was arrested for having an open beer at a hockey game in October 2005 and giving the officer a false name.

The officer was cleared of wrongdoing by an inquest, an internal RCMP review and an inquiry by the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP.

Bush pushed for the creation of a police watchdog after her son’s death.

She said the watchdog has made a difference in holding police accountable, adding it was much harder for families before the independent oversight agency was created.

“Some people say it’s not so different,” Bush said. “I tell them ‘Hey, you weren’t here before.’ Don’t tell me there’s nothing different, it’s not any better, because you weren’t there.”

Families or advocates who push for change need to ensure it is followed through, Bush said. If the government is not held accountable, then things will stay the same.

“It will be slow and it will take a lot of work.”

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Police

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
B.C. teacher suspended after calling students ‘cutie’ and ‘sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Most Read