Retired RCMP officer criticizes decision by Nova Scotia police watchdog
A retired RCMP officer who gathered information about “serious allegations” regarding another police force in 2020 has harsh words for the failure of Nova Scotia’s police watchdog to officially investigate.
It all stems from a a heavily redacted internal RCMP report prepared by Costa Dimopoulos, released in September by the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia’s April 2020 mass shooting. Dimoploulos was brought in from RCMP J Division in New Brunswick to assist Nova Scotia RCMP with managing issues arising in the aftermath of the tragedy.
That document, known as a situation report (SITREP), contained explosive allegations made against unidentified members of another police force.
According to the SITREP, “…two persons (redacted) came forward and provided information alleging serious criminal behaviour being committed by (redacted)...."
Dated July 10, 2020, the report also states, “there is significant detail provided by both witnesses of non-criminal behaviour in relation to Police Act violations..."
The SITREP indicates the claims were made to senior RCMP members during a detachment visit after the tragedy.
When the document was made public, commission lawyer Emily Hill said much of the detail in the report was redacted by the inquiry because the accusations were unrelated to the mass shooting.
Hill stated it was rather entered into evidence because “relationships between police agencies as well as the role of oversight bodies such as SIRT must be examined to understand and comment on policing in Nova Scotia.”
The RCMP referred the matter to the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), but the police watchdog did not proceed with a formal investigation.
Last month, John Scott, who became SIRT’s interim director after the time of the report, told CTV News his overview of the file indicated there was no evidence of criminality for the watchdog to pursue.
“There was nothing to investigate,” he said. “And it didn’t meet our mandate.”
Scott also confirmed the target of the accusations was a member of the Truro Police Force.
Michael Scott of Patterson Law, which represents many of the Nova Scotians most affected by the mass shooting, remains troubled by the lack of information.
Michael Scott has asked the commission in writing for an unredacted version of the SITREP.
“We can’t understand how it could be reasonably suggested that it wasn’t within SIRT’s mandate and worth some sort of investigation,” says Scott.
“We have several accounts of why that certain investigation didn’t go forward that are, from the outside, impossible to reconcile,” he adds.
The author of the RCMP report, who has since retired from the force, has his own harsh criticism of SIRT’s decision, revealed in an email made public by the Mass Casualty Commission.
The email, written by Dimopoulos on Oct. 28 and addressed to SIRT, describes the police watchdog’s determination there was no criminality to investigate “a bold statement to make considering the level of detail in the report…that I disclosed.”
He went on to say his internal report spoke to "…significant historical allegations of a criminal nature made by very credible witnesses.”
Dimopoulos also expressed concern “…the lack of an official credible and disclosable (SIC) review by SIRT does a disservice to the witnesses who came forward, the credibility of SIRT…and the policing profession as a whole in Nova Scotia….”
Michael Scott calls the stark assessment “unprecedented.”
“I can’t think of another instance in which there would be that sort of discord.”
St. Thomas University criminology professor Michael Boudreau agrees.
“Which is why this case is perhaps curious because it may indeed raise the issue of SIRT's credibility,” he says.
Boudreau says the lack of clear information about who made the accusations and their precise nature, leaves too much open to speculation.
“Which is never a good thing,” he says. “Because SIRT doesn't need its credibility questioned if it's going to be an effective oversight body.”
Interim SIRT director John Scott declined CTV’s request for an interview Wednesday, only saying by email that he stands by SIRT’s decision not to pursue a formal investigation. He also stated the matter would not be reopened.
When the inquiry originally released the SITREP, the Truro Police Service (TPS) told CTV it had never heard of the allegations before.
In a statement Wednesday, the TPS reiterated it was “pleased that SIRT investigated the allegations in 2020 and found no criminality on the part of the Truro Police Service or any of its officers.”
The statement continued, “The TPS is frustrated by the fact that these serious allegations have been made, but the TPS was not informed of them when they first arose in 2020 and still has very limited information about the allegations today.”
“The TPS would like to receive the details of the allegations so it can conduct its own assessment of them and determine whether any further investigative or other steps are necessary.”
It said it wrote both SIRT and the RCMP asking for those details but has not received a response.
Last month, Nova Scotia’s Attorney General, Brad Johns, told CTV he asked the Department of Justice to look into the matter. Wednesday a department spokesperson said there was no update to share “while the review is ongoing.”
This is a corrected story. A previous version said the internal RCMP report was entered into public evidence in October.
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