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B.C. unleashes independent watchdog on police forces

Richard Rosenthal, Chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, is photographed at his office in Surrey, British Columbia, Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Starting Monday, police incidents in British Columbia that end in fatalities or serious injury will be investigated by an outside agency.

The provincial Independent Investigations Office will open its doors, taking over reviews for incidents involving RCMP, 11 municipal police departments, provincial Transit Police and one First Nations police force operating in the province.

The office fulfills the primary recommendation from public inquiries into two high-profile police-involved deaths: Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver airport in October 2007 after being stunned with an RCMP Taser and Frank Paul froze to death in a Vancouver alley where he was taken by Vancouver police after being ejected from the city drunk tank.

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B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond will officially open the office on Monday alongside IIO director Robert Rosenthal.

Ms. Bond has said the office will strengthen the public's faith in police by ensuring that incidents of death or serious harm are investigated in an impartial way.

Mark Surakka, whose daughter lay dying for four days after an RCMP officer failed to properly investigate a 911 call, says the office has been a long time coming, but he's still hesitant to believe it will hold police accountable for their actions.

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