Editorial — Delayed decision is devastating
At long last, a decision has been made on the fatal shooting of Alvin Wright by Langley RCMP on Aug. 6, 2010.
Last week, Vancouver Police announced that there was no criminal wrongdoing involved by the Langley RCMP officer who shot Wright. This investigation took 15 months.
While the length of investigation is not unusual, it is particularly devastating in a case of this type.
For 15 months, the Wright family and the community has wondered about this case. In the case of the family, questions have remained unanswered and lives have been left on hold. They still have many questions. Some of those will be resolved by a coroner’s inquest next March, and others may be resolved after an investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC).
The OPCC became involved after criticism of the decision not to even give the results of the police investigation to Crown counsel. Had the shooting involved a member of a municipal police force, the OPCC would automatically have become involved. But because the Wright case involved the RCMP, the OPCC had no jurisdiction to do so.
The provincial government and the RCMP are to be commended for getting the OPCC involved in this case. The public has a lot of doubts about police investigating other police forces involved in a shooting death. The OPCC is at arm’s length from police forces, and the new Independent Investigations Office, which will be set up later this year, will take that removal one step further. Civilian investigators will take the lead in looking into police shootings.
Langley RCMP Supt. Derek Cooke issued a press release last week after the initial report from Vancouver Police which cleared the unnamed officer. His press release stated that Wright had been armed with a knife and a hatchet when police shot him. This is the first time that has been made known, and undoubtedly that was a factor in the Vancouver Police decision.
More details of all the events of that fateful Friday night will be revealed at the inquest. It is unfortunate that the investigation took so long, and that there will now be another four-month wait for the inquest.
Answers are needed, and the sooner they come, the more likely the family can start to experience some closure.