Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes is the first government agency of its kind created in Québec and has authority under the Act to amend the Police Act as concerns independent investigations adopted on May 9, 2013 (2013, c. 6). Ministère de la Sécurité publique studied a variety of agencies with similar mandates to identify best practices and incorporate them into BEI.
Although it reports to the Minister of Public Security, Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes maintains an arm’s length relationship with the Québec government and is not subject to the control of the government or any Québec police force.
Decision-making and functional autonomy make Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes an independent agency, which contributes to public confidence. The entire BEI team working to fulfill the agency’s mandate has a duty to maintain the distance required and perform its duties with the impartiality and diligence needed to ensure such independence.
BEI has the status of a specialized police force in the performance of its mission. Its management and investigators are peace officers and therefore have all the corresponding powers.
Under the Police Act, BEI investigates various events that have occurred anywhere in Québec.
Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes conducts an investigation in any case where a person other than a police officer on duty dies, is seriously injured, or is injured by a firearm used by a police officer during a police intervention or while being detained by a police force. BEI intervenes to shed light on the event. This marks the launch of an independent investigation.
BEI also investigates any allegations against a police officer concerning a criminal offense of a sexual nature committed in the performance of duties and investigates all criminal allegations against a police officer in all cases where the victim or the complainant is a member of the First Nations or the Inuit Nation.
If the minister so requests, BEI may conduct any other investigation of allegations relating to a criminal offence committed by a police officer or special constable and, in exceptional cases, may be tasked with investigating any other event involving a peace officer that is related to his or her duty.
At no time may BEI investigate the conduct of a police officer who is guilty of professional misconduct under the Code of Ethics of Québec Police Officers. The Commissaire à la déontologie policière receives and examines complaints involving police officers.
When put in charge of an investigation, BEI makes every effort to shed light on the event and the surrounding circumstances. For example, for every independent investigation it is assigned, whether it is an independent or criminal investigation, BEI collects evidence, facts, and other elements to help it reconstruct the event in minute detail, and faithfully records them in a file. The investigative team conducts the investigation according to a set procedure noted for its thoroughness and impartiality. Careful examination, analysis, research, and structured interviews with witnesses and parties to the event are the backbone of the investigators’ work. Their task is to produce a complete, detailed report free of outside influence.
Upon completion of the investigation, BEI submits its final report to the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales. The DPCP decides whether criminal charges will be laid based on this report. In the event of a death, BEI must submit the same report to the coroner’s office as soon as the DPCP decides whether or not to lay charges against the police officer. BEI has absolutely no power to lay charges against a police officer.
Once it takes over the investigation of an event where someone has been seriously injured or has died following a police intervention, BEI immediately gets in touch with one of the person’s family members. The lead investigator of the case or an investigator designated for this purpose remains in contact with that person throughout the investigation. The lead investigator may provide such person with information on the stages of the investigation to provide a better understanding of the event, while respecting the sensitive nature of the information disclosed so that its disclosure does not harm the investigation. If need be, the lead investigator may refer the person to resources that can provide support under the circumstances.
Every investigation led by the BEI will end with a report submitted to the DPCP who will then decide if legal proceedings are to be initiated against the police officer involved in the event.
Each criminal investigation will also result in a report being filed with the DPCP. However, in the case of allegations against a police officer concerning a criminal offense of a sexual nature commited in the performance of duties, BEI may, after conducting its investigation, close the file if it considers the allegation to be frivolous or unfounded.
In all cases of criminal allegations, BEI may also ask the DPCP to initiate proceedings if it has gathered evidence through its investigation that could prove a criminal offense was commited.
Shedding light on an event or allegation is therefore a delicate task for BEI. Although the investigations conducted by Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes vary in nature and complexity, they all meet the same requirements of professionalism and diligence based on the application of formal and consistent rules.
In each case, BEI makes every effort to prepare top quality investigation reports that are exhaustive and well documented. It therefore grants its investigative teams the time they need to fulfill this important obligation.