Bathurst balks at sharing cost of investigating fatal shooting by police

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Judicial review sought of decision not to try police in Bathurst shooting death

The City of Bathurst says it won't share the costs of a proposed New Brunswick Police Commission investigation into two municipal officers and will take charge of the probe itself.

The city has rejected an offer by the commission to oversee the investigation and to split the bill with the city.

Mayor Paolo Fongemie says he wasn't able to get a clear idea from the commission about how much the process might cost in the end.

"We have financial diligence and unfortunately we didn't get the answers," he said.

For example, he said, the commission didn't say if it would examine facts already uncovered in the criminal case or repeat a lot of the work in an entirely new investigation. For the cost, "there's a big difference between the two," the mayor said.

The city will still outsource the probe to an outside agency to ensure its independence, he added.

No trial for officers

In February, a judge ruled after a preliminary inquiry that there wasn't enough evidence to send Const. Patrick Bulger and Const. Mathieu Boudreau to trial.

They were charged with manslaughter in the January 2015 shooting of Michel Vienneau of Tracadie.

Unless Crown prosecutors decide to go to trial with a seldom-used preferred indictment, the criminal case against the two police officers is over. The 30-day deadline for the Crown to appeal the outcome of the preliminary hearing has passed.

But the commission must still look into a misconduct case filed by Bathurst police Chief Eugene Poitras.

Commission executive director Steve Roberge said it was "quite unusual" for a municipality an officer works for to refuse to share the costs of an investigation with the commission.

"We have never had any difficulties coming to an arrangement," he said.

The commission has now handed the complaint file back to the Bathurst chief for him to oversee.

Having the commission oversee the investigation would be "more of a reassurance to the public that the process is as independent as it can be," Roberge said.

Oversight powers

But he added that the commission still has oversight powers and can disagree with the outcome of whatever investigation Bathurst conducts.

For example, if there's a finding of misconduct and a settlement that includes what the commission considers an "unacceptable level of corrective measure," the commission can direct the Bathurst force to take more severe action.

Longemie said the city will ask an outside body to run the misconduct investigation to ensure it's not biased.

"At least we'll have some guidelines that we can budget around," he said.

"A hundred per cent of the cost with guidelines is maybe less than 50 per cent of the cost without guidelines."

$178K spent so far

He said the city had already spent $178,000 contracting the Halifax police to conduct the criminal investigation into the shooting involving the two constables.

Vienneau, 51, was shot in the parking lot of the Via Rail station in Bathurst on Jan. 12, 2015, after getting off a train from Montreal.

​​Court documents filed in a civil lawsuit by Vienneau's partner, Annick Basque, revealed police were acting on a Crime Stoppers tip when they stopped the couple as they were coming off the train.

Other documents filed by the City of Bathurst say the officers fired in self-defence after Vienneau's car accelerated toward one of them, pinning him against a snowbank.