Nova Scotia’s investigative-oversight agency probing major police incidents has been managing more cases than expected, its annual report says.
The report for 2014-15 from the Serious Incident Response Team says 34 new investigations were opened during the year.
“SIRT is now handling a workload almost 75 percent greater than originally anticipated,” lawyer Ron MacDonald, the team’s civilian director, says in the annual report. It was delivered to the provincial justice minister in October.
MacDonald tells The Coast he initially estimated his office would handle about 20 cases a year. “Even a few cases [more] can make a big difference when you’re a small unit,” he says.
Aside from MacDonald, SIRT has four full-time investigators and a full-time administrative employee.
The first year the agency was operational, in 2012-13, there were 22 cases. The next year, there were 25. During 2014-15, SIRT put 26 files to bed, according to the annual report—some of which were opened prior to the present year.
“In the upcoming year, SIRT faces the challenge of an ongoing increased workload, as well as attempting to meet the organizational goals carried over from last year,” MacDonald writes.
Money spent on the arm’s-length agency yearly is about $850,000.
SIRT looks into all serious incidents that may have been prompted by the actions of a police officer in Nova Scotia. MacDonald is responsible for deciding which cases will result in the laying of charges.
In an interview, he says the average length of time for a case to be dealt with is five to six months. MacDonald acknowledged he has “quite a few” reports on investigations that still need to be filed. “I think we’ll kind of come back to a bit of a [workload] balance over the next few months, hopefully.” Asked if hiring more staff was feasible, MacDonald said taking on additional investigators is “probably a non-starter.”
Back in 2012-13, investigations resulted in six police officers charged in connection with off-duty conduct. In 2013-14, four of five cops investigated among 25 probes were charged due to off-duty behaviour. In 2014-15, three charges were laid against police officers. Two related to off-duty conduct, and one was an allegation of an assault during an arrest.
Most charges over the years have been hooked to cops off the clock, and these involved domestic-violence allegations.