RNC under criminal investigation

Independent outside unit looking at actions of constabulary leadership

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on January 14, 2016
Andrew Parsons.
Telegram file photo

Premier Dwight Ball was tight-lipped Thursday about an out-of-province police force reportedly investigating senior managers in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) for criminal wrongdoing.

Ball promised that the report of the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) will be made public, if not right away, then shortly after it’s completed.

“One thing to consider is allowing the appropriate time to make sure that those that are impacted would have the appropriate time to do the necessary response to that,” Ball said. “But we would make this publicly available as quickly as possible.”

On Wednesday evening, CBC News reported that SIRT was called in to Newfoundland and Labrador in November to conduct an investigation relating to criminal wrongdoing by senior members of the constabulary.

SIRT director Ron MacDonald said he’s unbothered by media reports about a criminal investigation involving senior members of the RNC.

MacDonald confirmed he’s been in the province and investigators came back to keep working after Christmas.

According to the CBC report, the matter concerns a criminal informant working for the RNC, who “continued to commit crimes without being arrested — even though some of the incidents were witnessed by police officers.”

MacDonald said the investigation is relatively complex, and he can’t give a clear timeline of how long it will take to complete.

“It’ll be a matter of some months before it’s concluded. I can’t really say how many,” he said.

If such an investigation was taking place in Nova Scotia, MacDonald said, at the end of it there would be a public report filed by the SIRT.

In this case, though, the report will be delivered to the Department of Justice and Public Safety and it will be up to the government to decide when to make it public.

It appears Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons was briefed on the matter in December, shortly after he assumed the role as minister.

In briefing notes obtained by The Telegram through access to information, there is a two-page note about SIRT, referencing the fact MacDonald recently visited the province to meet with officials in the Department of Justice and Public Safety as well as RNC and RCMP leaders.

“Recently, a number of high-profile cases in the province have raised concerns about whether the police can legitimately and impartially conduct criminal investigations into its own members or whether the RCMP and RNC can impartially conduct criminal investigations into the other force’s members,” the briefing note says. “These concerns come under greater scrutiny in cases where police actions have resulted in serious injury or death.”

The two preceeding pages of Parsons’ briefing materials are completely redacted. The department cited several sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to justify the redactions, including a section which states that releasing the information could “reveal the identity of a confidential source of law enforcement information or reveal information provided by that source with respect to a law enforcement matter” and also “harm the conduct of existing or imminent legal proceedings.”

Parsons refused a request for an interview.

A spokesman emailed a statement from Parsons to The Telegram.

“I am respecting the investigative process that is currently underway and I am presently unable to comment on the specifics of the allegations that have been brought forward. However, I look forward to addressing this matter once that investigation is complete. It is of paramount importance to this government that the public have confidence in the administration of justice in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames