Nova Scotia police watchdog expanding to New Brunswick

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Felix Cacchione is director of the Serious Incident Response Team. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)
Felix Cacchione is director of the Serious Incident Response Team. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's police watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Team, will investigate cases involving officers in New Brunswick under a new agreement in principle between the two provincial governments announced Monday.

New Brunswick has for years has relied on agencies outside its borders to come in and investigate when there's a serious incident involving police. SIRT has conducted some of those investigations, but the new agreement will formalize the arrangement.

The team's mandate is to investigate serious incidents that stem from police actions, including death, serious injury, sexual assault, domestic violence and "other matters of significant public interest." It is independent, and in Nova Scotia can lay charges against police officers.

SIRT director Felix Cacchione said plenty of logistics will have to be worked out between now and when the agreement takes effect next year. He said the team will require three or four more investigators, which is double the current number.

"We did not have the manpower to cover two recent incidents in New Brunswick and had to refer them to other outside agencies," Cacchione said.

CBC
CBC

Those cases are the deaths of Chantal Moore and Rodney Levi, who were both shot by police within days of one another in June 2020.

Cacchione said the Quebec watchdog agency that eventually took on the Moore case was able to send eight investigators and its own forensic team.

Cacchione said he would prefer to have at least some of the new investigators based in New Brunswick, citing the long response times when investigators are dispatched from Halifax.

He said for cases in the Edmundston or Campbellton areas in northern New Brunswick, it would take investigators a minimum of eight hours just to get there from Halifax. He noted SIRT investigated one case along the side of the Trans-Canada Highway.

"That scene has to be maintained until the arrival of the SIRT investigators, the arrival of the forensic identification team and that posed a problem," he said. "The Trans-Canada has to be shut down."

Cacchione said the new arrangement will also require legislative changes. He said SIRT investigators are not currently recognized as peace officers in New Brunswick and have to get special clearance from the province's Justice Department every time they go there.

He said the New Brunswick process is also different because the provincial Public Prosecution Service must lay any charges, whereas he has the power in Nova Scotia to lay charges without Crown approval. He said he'd like to see changes to the New Brunswick system so that SIRT would operate under the same rules in both provinces.

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