A shooting involving the Canadian Pacific Railway Police Service marks the first time in more than three decades one of its officers has discharged a firearm, with the rare event sparking confusion about which B.C. agency was supposed to investigate the use of force.
A Lower Mainland homicide unit in a written statement said Mission RCMP received a complaint at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday that a man had stolen a knife and merchandise from a grocery store. The man was then seen heading toward a Canadian Pacific Railway track.
"It is early in the investigation, but it is believed a CP Police Service officer engaged with the suspect and shots were fired," the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team statement read. "The suspect then fled police and was arrested by Mission RCMP officers a short distance away."
The statement said the 33-year-old suspect was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No police officers were injured during the incident.
The statement said the RCMP notified the Independent Investigations Office, a police watchdog, of the shooting only to be told the office does not oversee the CP Police Service and would not assert jurisdiction.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team – which investigates homicides in 28 communities policed by the RCMP and four policed by municipal departments – then took over the investigation. Mission RCMP are investigating the original theft complaint.
"This is an unusual circumstance," the investigation team's statement read.
A Canadian Pacific Railway spokesperson said the CP Police Service has 80 officers across the country but could not disclose how many were in B.C. since policing needs change over time. The spokesperson said an officer discharging a firearm was an "extremely rare" event and had not occurred in more than 30 years.
The CP Railway website said the police service ensures the safety of the public and of railway infrastructure.
"Because the railway is private property and traverses multiple traditional jurisdictions, other police agencies have limited ability to enforce the law across the railway system," the website reads. "Additionally, policing the railway environment requires a deep understanding of railway safety and operations, knowledge that is not found within other police agencies."
The website said CP Police Service members "carry firearms to protect themselves and the public from dangerous and armed offenders." The spokesperson said previous police experience is preferred but not essential, as new applicants attend a recognized police college for at least 16 weeks of training. After that, the officer takes an additional four to six weeks of railway police and safety training.
Ronald J. MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, in an interview said his agency does not have jurisdiction over federal police services such as CP Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency and officers who patrol Canadian ports.
B.C.'s Police Act does, however, allow the office to investigate incidents involving B.C. members of the RCMP, despite the fact that the RCMP is also a federal police service.
Mr. MacDonald said the RCMP addressed the jurisdiction question in Mission as best it could, by giving the file to a unit that was not involved in the incident.
He said he would be prepared to explore how the Independent Investigations Office could oversee cases involving other federal officers moving forward.
"The public is more and more coming to expect that agencies such as us will do that work. And I think it's definitely an area for discussion," he said.
The B.C. government in a written statement said it is not reviewing a change to the Independent Investigations Office's jurisdiction at this time.
An Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesperson did not return messages seeking comment.