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Another RNC officer under investigation by outside independent group

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary crest.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary crest.

The Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) is investigating an alleged sexual assault by an RNC officer against a member of the public.

The incident, according to SIRT Interim Director John Scott, happened some time ago but his organization was asked to investigate it around late summer.

"The previous director got a call, I think, late August or early September," Scott said. "The investigators from our own office weren't available so we assigned two officers from the Halifax Regional Police. They went to Newfoundland and did an investigation — they were over on a couple of occasions — and the investigation is near completion."

Scott explained that when SIRT's own investigators are too busy to take on a case, the director has the option of calling in investigators from the Halifax Regional Police force. He noted that when those investigators have completed their work, the file will be sent to him.

He will then need the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to formally give him the authority to do an oversight on the file and make recommendations on whether there are sufficient grounds for charges to be laid.

"I'm waiting on a memorandum of understanding from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador giving me the authority to do the oversight on the investigation," he said.

A statement released Tuesday by RNC Chief Joe Boland said the complaint of alleged inappropriate conduct against the officer, who is not being named, came in during the summer.

"Due to the gravity of the allegations made by that member of the public, I contacted the Department of Justice and Public Safety and requested that an outside agency be engaged to complete a thorough and independent investigation," Boland said. "The Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team is overseeing this investigation in conjunction with Halifax Regional Police (HRP). The police officer in question is presently assigned to non-operational administrative duties pending the findings of SIRT and HRP.

"Criminal conduct should not be assumed because SIRT is conducting an investigation. An outside agency, such as SIRT, becomes involved when an allegation, if true, could result in a criminal code charge. I await the findings of SIRT and assure the public that inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour has no place at the RNC. Serious incidents or complaints involving police officers require independent investigators and I continue to fully support Minister (Andrew) Parsons and the Department of Justice and Public Safety's plans to implement SIRT in Newfoundland and Labrador."

On Monday, it was announced the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating allegations of police misconduct against another RNC member. Media reports stated the RNC officer in that case is Const. Joe Smyth.

Smyth is well-known as the RNC officer who shot and killed Donald Dunphy on Easter Sunday 2015. ASIRT had also reviewed the RCMP investigation into the Dunphy shooting. The RCMP investigation in that case found that available evidence at the scene supported Smyth's version of events and that appropriate force was used and no charges were warranted. A public injury last winter came to the same conclusion.

In this recent ASIRT investigation involving Smyth, the case arose as a result of an allegation of contact between the officer and a member of the public during an incident last May.

Parsons said today during a media scrum outside the House of Assembly that he is aware of the allegation being investigated by the Nova Scotia SIRT. He said asking outside organizations to investigate can be difficult as those organizations are already busy with the work in their own jurisdictions.

"One of the issues we are facing is it's getting harder and harder to have this kind of work done by going to outside sources. They have their own work to do. Their own resources are tight," Parsons said. "So I don't want a situation where we need something to be investigated and we can't get it investigated. We've been lucky so far, but that will run out at some point."

Costs also expected to increase as essentially pro bono efforts are expected to change to bills, especially when bringing in outside investigators. Right now the government will pay for travel costs but not the cost of the full investigation.

Parsons has said these incidents show that there is a need for Newfoundland and Labrador to have its own serious incident response team, or be part or a regional one.

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