N.L. police watchdog now running its own investigations and will make reports public

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's police oversight agency has started running its own investigations and will soon begin publishing its reports.

Michael King, the first director of the Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador, said today a team of three investigators recently began conducting their own probes, adding that he will review and make final decisions on each case.

The former defence lawyer, who was appointed in September 2019, says his agency had been using investigators from the RCMP or the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to probe cases.

King says the agency is now handling its own cases on an annual budget of about $500,000, with an option to hire outside investigators if his officers are fully assigned.

The agency, referred to as SIRT-NL, is responsible for investigating death, serious injury, sexual offences, domestic violence or any matter of significant public interest involving police officers in the province.

He says the agency will publish final reports on investigations as soon as the first cases carried out by its own investigators are complete. One of the first cases the agency will investigate on its own involves an RCMP officer who shot and killed a citizen in Grand-Falls-Windsor, N.L., on June 11.

"I like to think I made a good reputation representing the underprivileged and the less fortunate in court, day after day, challenging police in cases and representing people against the power of the state," King, who worked as a defence counsel for 16 years, said in an interview.

"I bring independence and objectivity and I hope that contributes to our mission to ensure police are held accountable for their actions and building, over time, public trust in policing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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