Review of police oversight bodies to be released to public this week

Review of police oversight bodies to be released to public this week

After spending 11 months reviewing Ontario's police oversight bodies, Justice Michael Tulloch will release his report and recommendations this Thursday — and the families of men who were killed in confrontations with police are hoping he'll call for significant reforms.

Tulloch heard from 1,500 individuals, held 17 public consultations and more than 130 private meetings across the province.

The review began on April 29, 2016, after activist groups like Black Lives Matter demanded the province overhaul the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the wake of fatal shootings of black men in Toronto.

The attorney general's office announced the review after the SIU released its report on the 2015 Toronto police shooting death of Andrew Loku, a father of five.

The SIU is a civilian oversight body which investigates cases of death, serious injury or sexual assault involving police officers.

It concluded that the officer who shot Loku, 45, would not face any criminal charges, which sparked a public outcry.

Loku was shot by Toronto police in July 2015 at an apartment complex near Rogers Road and Caledonia Road. He refused to comply with a police order to drop a hammer and had threatened to kill a friend of a guest in the apartment.

Almost two years later, Loku's uncle said the family is far from satisfied with the SIU report.

"There wasn't really that much that can convince me or the whole family to knowing that this is exactly what led to this, based on that report that was released," said Semos Timon, a taxi driver in Saskatoon.   

Timon told CBC Toronto he hopes Tulloch's recommendations include compelling the SIU to provide more information about its investigative findings to families and the public.

"The more information that can be shared with the family, it will help the family in the process of grieving because having everything so secretive increased the pain and the gap of trust and confidence in the process itself," Timon said in a phone interview.

Officers can refuse to co-operate

In the case of Rodrigo Almonacid, 43, who died in hospital after Toronto police officers tasered him eight times in his bathtub in November 2015, his family remains troubled by parts of the SIU investigation — especially the fact that two officers did not co-operate with the police oversight body.

The SIU cleared 10 Toronto police officers of wrongdoing in that case.

"It sort of boggles the mind that an officer can refuse to co-operate in an SIU investigation," said Kevin Wolf, the lawyer representing Almonacid's family.

"The family's position is that subject officers who are being investigated by the SIU should be statutorily mandated to co-operate with the investigation, that is. make himself available to be interviewed and furnish their field or duty notes on request."

The SIU is one of three bodies that Tulloch reviewed. The other two are the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).

Tulloch delivered his report to Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi on Friday.

"We are now undertaking a detailed review of the report," said Naqvi in a written statement.