Civilian body should investigate police, Dunphy inquiry told

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Civilian body should investigate police, Dunphy inquiry told

New calls were made Thursday to stop the practice of police investigating police, as the public had the opportunity to speak at the Don Dunphy shooting inquiry in St. John's. 

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Joe Smyth shot and killed Dunphy, 58, on April 5, 2015. Smyth was at Dunphy's home that Easter Sunday in his role as the former premier's security detail.

Smyth testified earlier that he fatally shot Dunphy after he saw Dunphy raise a rifle.

Entering its second phase, the inquired headed by Justice Leo Barry held a series of panel discussions that looked at several topics, including how "officer-involved serious incidents" in the province are investigated. 

Gareth Jones, who was an investigator with Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, believes police should not investigate other forces. 

"I don't believe in a unit that has serving police officers on it will have the full confidence of the public," said Jones, who testified earlier this week at the inquiry about how the RCMP had investigated Smyth's role in the fatal shooting. 

Jones believes Newfoundland and Labrador should set up a civilian-led police oversight unit.

"[An] oversight unit with serving officers will have a huge hurdle to overcome to have credibility with the public, if you are getting cops investigating cops, however it is packaged," said Jones. 

Worth the extra money, inquiry told

Jones cautioned a unit that is called on to investigate when a police officer is involved in a shooting or harm to the public will be expensive but also warns it won't be effective unless it's given the money it needs.

Jones also said a Newfoundland and Labrador-based investigative unit must have a mandate to investigate as quickly as possible.

"Don't less a case fester," he said. "It's unfair to everyone involved."

Meanwhile, the assistant commission for the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador agrees that an independent police investigation unit is needed in the province.

"Absolutely we need an independent body," said Peter Clark. "Public trust increases when there is an independent organization to investigate police." 

But unlike Jones. he believes a N.L. Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) or SIU should include serving officers as members.

"Serving police should be part of a police oversight unit because of their experience," Clark said.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons has spoken many times about the need for a an oversight unit to investigate police involved incidents in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently, he said that steps to make it happen will come later this year.

Follow the latest from the inquiry and symposium in our live blog.