Complaints Commission Releases Report into the In-Custody Death of Mr. Robert Knipstrom in Chilliwack, BC, on November 24, 2007
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) has finalized a public interest investigation into the in-custody death of Robert Knipstrom in Chilliwack, British Columbia, on November 24, 2007.
The CPC first became engaged in this incident on November 19, 2007, when it deployed an independent observer to the RCMP's criminal investigation into events surrounding the arrest and subsequent death of Mr. Knipstrom. The CPC Observer concluded that there were no identified issues as they related to questions of impartiality.
The CPC also launched a complaint into the conduct of the RCMP members present at, or engaged in, the arrest of Mr. Knipstrom, and the adequacy of the subsequent criminal investigation, given the public concern surrounding use of the TASER® and the propriety of the police investigating the police.
On November 19, 2007, Mr. Knipstrom was allegedly involved in a hit and run in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Mr. Knipstrom immediately left the scene and continued on to an equipment rental centre. While he was there, he began displaying odd behaviour and he would not leave, so the RCMP was called for assistance.
Following an attempt to engage Mr. Knipstrom in conversation to assess the situation, a physical altercation occurred with the RCMP members who attended the scene. The members resorted to a variety of hand techniques and weapons, including pepper spray, a TASER® and a baton. All attempts and techniques used had little or no effect on Mr. Knipstrom. Eventually, backup arrived and they were able to restrain and handcuff Mr. Knipstrom.
Mr. Knipstrom was then transported to hospital, where he suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after his arrival and died on November 24, 2007.
The CPC made 28 findings and 4 recommendations in its investigation report. The Commission found that the RCMP members involved in the case acted reasonably. In particular, the CPC found that the use and subsequent deployment of the TASER® on Mr. Knipstrom was reasonable in the circumstances, and the members appropriately sought and obtained medical treatment for Mr. Knipstrom.
The CPC did, however, identify several concerns with the investigation that have also been identified in previous CPC reports which required action by the RCMP.
- The RCMP should formalize the attendance of the staff relations representative (SRR) to provide clear policy and guidance to ensure that the SRR knows the bounds of his or her involvement.
- As with the Ian Bush decision (November 2007) and the St. Arnaud decision (March 2009) the RCMP should "develop a policy that dictates the requirement, timeliness and use of the duty to account that members are obliged to provide."
- All witness interviews in serious incidents should be conducted by a two-member team.
The RCMP Commissioner accepted all but two of the CPC's findings and agreed, wholly or in part, with all but one of the CPC's recommendations. Those areas of disagreement have since been addressed with the implementation of the RCMP's Responsibility to Report Policy and the External Investigation or Review Policy.
The RCMP took nearly 21 months to issue its response to the CPC's Interim Report. In the view of the CPC, that delay was neither appropriate nor necessary, nor has it been explained.
For more information, please contact:
Jamie Robertson, Director of Communications
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