What happens once SiRT is notified of an incident?
How do we decide if we should be involved? First the Director or his designate determines the nature of the incident and whether the matter fits our mandate. Our mandate is to investigate all matters that involve death, serious injury, sexual assault and domestic violence or other matters of significant public interest that arise from the actions of any police officer in Nova Scotia.
A serious injury includes:
- fractures to limbs, ribs, head or spine;
- burns, cuts, or lacerations which are serious or affect a major portion of the body;
- loss of any portion of the body;
- serious internal injuries;
- any injury caused by gunshot;
- admission to hospital as a result of the injury (not including outpatient care followed by release).
Cases will often meet the mandate even though there is no allegation of wrongdoing on behalf of the police.
How do we respond? If the matter does not fit SiRT’s mandate, no investigation is conducted. The police service and member of the public who made the referral, if relevant, are notified.
If the matter fits SiRT’s mandate, a primary SiRT investigator and as many additional investigators as necessary are assigned to the case. The Team attends the incident scene as quickly as possible and an investigation is commenced.
What happens when SiRT conducts an investigation? SiRT engages in a thorough and balanced investigative process, which generally includes (but is not limited to) the following:
- examining the scene and securing all physical evidence;
- monitoring the medical condition of anyone who has been injured and consulting with medical personnel about the nature and cause of injuries;
- locating and securing the cooperation of all witnesses, including police witnesses. This will likely involve the canvassing of the area where the incident occurred for additional witnesses;
- seizing police equipment for forensic examination;
- having all forensic examination conducted as necessary in the case;
- consulting with the medical examiner if there has been a death;
- notifying next of kin and liaising with the family of the deceased or injured parties to keep them informed;
- appointing a community liaison to work with the affected party and the Team where appropriate;
During the course of the investigation, the SiRT investigative team prepares various reports and attends investigative team meetings designed to keep the Director informed of their progress. Upon completion of the investigation, the primary investigator is required to submit an investigative report, which is reviewed by the Director.
SiRT will issue a media release at the outset of a case to assure the public that an independent investigation of the serious incident has begun. Other releases may occur during the investigation that are necessary.
After SiRT becomes involved, police may need to continue their criminal investigation into the initial incident. For example, police may have been responding to a robbery when they became involved in the serious incident. SiRT works with the police agency to ensure that the interests of justice are met.
Who decides what happens after the investigation? The Director determines whether a charge should be laid in relation to the actions of the police who were the subject of the investigation. Throughout the investigative process SiRT liaises, as necessary, with the NS Public Prosecution Service (Crown). If a charge is laid, SiRT turns the case over to the Crown for prosecution and the SiRT investigator(s) may provide support to the Crown in its prosecution.
What information is made available? At the end of an investigation the Director of SiRT is required to make a summary of the investigation available to the public. That summary, subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the needs of the investigation, will provide the information necessary to explain the reasons behind the Director’s decision.
What about those involved? Particular attention is paid to the need for the affected person or next of kin to have a full understanding of the investigative results. This is generally accomplished through direct personal contact by the lead investigator and the Director. Similar contact is made with the police officer(s) who is (are) the subject of the investigation.