Attorney General David Eby introduces Ron MacDonald (left) as B.C.’s chief civilian director of the Independent Investigation Office. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C.’s new police watchdog comes from Nova Scotia

Lawyer takes over from Richard Rosenthal at Independent Investigations Office

Nova Scotia lawyer Ron MacDonald has arrived in B.C. to head up the Independent Investigation Office, overseeing incidents of serious injury or death involving police.

MacDonald held a similar role as director of the Serious Incident Response Team in Nova Scotia. He was introduced Thursday by Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

MacDonald said his goal is to investigate incidents as quickly as possible, but public interest investigations can take several months or even a year before a report can be released.

“Sometimes that means seeking out much more information than you would in a typical police investigation,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald declined to comment on B.C.’s mix of civilian and police investigators in the IIO, and the goal to make it all-civilian, which is still in progress. He worked with investigators who were former police officers in Nova Scotia, after serving as criminal law policy advisor at the Nova Scotia Department of Justice.

The B.C. IIO started up in the fall of 2012 with 36 investigators, about half and half civilians and former police officers. Its mandate was to move to all-civilian investigations, and the first director was former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Richard Rosenthal.

Rosenthal came to public notice in the 1999 Rampart investigation, dealing with cases of violence and drug dealing within the Los Angeles Police Department. He went on to establish independent police oversight offices in Portland and Denver before coming to B.C.

By 2014, Rosenthal said progress has been made, with two thirds of staff in the two investigative teams being people who have never worked as police officers. In that year, four former officers were fired from the IIO and five more resigned, following several other departures in the first two years.