'Unacceptable': B.C. Ombudsperson calls for oversight of municipal jails | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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'Unacceptable': B.C. Ombudsperson calls for oversight of municipal jails

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In the wake of a Prince George man who was left on a jail cell floor with a fractured hip, the B.C. Ombudsperson is renewing calls for independent oversight of jail guards in municipalities policed by the RCMP.

The case in Prince George was investigated by the B.C. police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, which found that the treatment he received from a civilian guard in prison amounted to torture.

"The recent Independent Investigations Office report describes a man screaming in agony for hours who was later diagnosed with a fractured hip. This is unacceptable," B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke said in a media release.

"Currently there is no independent oversight body where allegations of misconduct in these situations can be brought forward. I have raised this issue several times over the past four years and have again written to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to highlight how this case is a vivid reminder of the urgent need to close this gap."

Municipalities in B.C. with a population of more than 5,000 people must provide detention facilities for individuals in police custody, Chalke said.

The oversight of the municipal staff running detention facilities varies depending on whether the municipality has a municipal police force or the RCMP.

Locations with a municipal force, have detention staff that have special municipal constable status under the Police Act.

This means they're subject to discipline by their police chief and accountable to the provincial Police Complaint Commissioner.

However, in communities that have the RCMP, there is no independent agency with legal authority to investigate a complaint about municipal jail guards.

The ombudsperson wants this to change.

The provincial government watchdog says it has received numerous complaints about guards in municipal lockups in RCMP policed municipalities.

One woman who was menstruating while detained says she was denied feminine hygiene products and access to a shower.

Another woman who was an immigrant and victim of a domestic assault had a male guard attempt to strip search her.

"We were not able to investigate these complaints as the Police Act specifically excludes my office’s oversight of matters that arise under that Act," Chalke said. "Unfortunately, there was no other independent oversight body where we could refer these individuals."

The ombudsperson points out that in 2019 a government report by the Special Committee to Review the Police Complaint Process recommended to review of this issue.

"Too many years have passed with no significant movement on this issue. In light of the Independent Investigations Office's recent report, I am reiterating the urgent need for action on this matter. No person should be in custody without recourse to independent oversight," Chalke said.


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