The long wait for answers for the family of police-shooting victim Hudson Brooks is “unacceptable,” according to the provincial justice critic, who said he will be discussing the matter in the legislature in the coming weeks.
NDP MLA Mike Farnworth (Port Coquitlam) told Peace Arch News Wednesday that there are “a whole bunch of questions” that need to be asked surrounding the events of last July – when Brooks was fatally shot outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment – and the subsequent investigation by the Independent Investigations Office.
“Why is it taking so long?” Farnworth said. “Why was the mother not allowed to see the body? Why did it take 12 hours for her to be notified? It may well be that we have to hear from the IIO on this. But this does strike me as a rather long time to have such silence.”
Few details have been released about what happened in the early-morning hours of July 18, when police say an altercation took place and Brooks was shot. An officer also suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and investigators later confirmed only police-issued weapons were found at the scene.
Brooks’ family has expressed frustration at the unanswered questions and the lack of support from elected officials, who – until Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammell spoke out earlier this week – have remained mum on the incident.
Liberal MLA Gordon Hogg (Surrey-White Rock) told PAN Thursday that while he agrees with Hammell and Farnworth that the investigation is taking a long time, the IIO was established by the province to carry out investigations “at arm’s-length from government.”
“I don’t think this is something that politicians should be actively involved in,” Hogg said. “It’s a legal process, and legal processes are there not to be influenced by politicians, who sometimes make bad judgments with initiatives that are particularly legal in nature.”
Hogg said that while he is “very empathetic” to Brooks’ family – he noted that his office had been in touch with a family friend following the incident and offered condolences at the time – he believes the lack of information provided by investigators was a reflection of a legal process that “is not often as compassionate as we would like it to be.”
“In court cases – and this well may end up in court – they don’t reveal information beforehand because it could prejudice the outcome of the court proceeding,” he said. “There is a very delicate and challenging balance between providing information to the family and ensuring due process.”
Farnworth said he plans to bring the matter up during budget estimates, a review process during which opposition critics can ask detailed questions of cabinet ministers. He said he plans to inquire not only about Brooks’ case but about the IIO process and whether the backlog of “third-party reports” IIO spokespersons have attributed to the delay are indicative of staffing issues.
“If there are these kinds of backlogs, then there are obviously problems,” Farnworth said. “You should not be having to wait more than a year for a report on a ballistics test.”
Farnworth cited a February 2015 report conducted by a special legislative committee formed to review the IIO, and said he would review its findings and recommendations.
“This will be an opportunity to look at what has happened since that report,” he said.
Farnworth echoed statements made by Hammell earlier this week that Brooks’ family has waited “too long” for an explanation of what happened.
“The fact that the family has been left with so many unanswered questions, quite frankly, is unacceptable,” he said