EDITORIAL: We need to be informed

Many important questions have stayed unanswered in the immediate aftermath of an officer-involved shooting in South Surrey.

It was a ‘worst-case’ scenario, right from the beginning.

An officer-involved shooting confrontation outside the detachment offices at 152 Street and 18 Avenue in South Surrey left a young man dead and an RCMP officer wounded.

That much we know from the scant information released by the RCMP following the early Saturday morning incident.

We were told that a “suicidal” man was screaming outside of the offices, that a physical struggle ensued and that the man was shot. We were told that an officer had also received a non-life-threatening gunshot wound in the incident.

But it took until Monday to receive confirmation from the RCMP’s Independent Investigations Office – which has taken over investigation of the incident – that only “police-issued equipment” was found at the scene.

An online update posted that evening seems to suggest the young man – who we have since learned was Hudson Brooks, 20 – was unarmed.

No further comment on the circumstances, including how many officers were on the scene and how many shots were fired, has been forthcoming.

We all have reason to mourn the loss of a young life in what appears to be a senseless tragedy. Under any circumstances, a natural response to such loss – particularly for those who knew the deceased – is feelings of anger. But this is where a worst-case scenario gets even worse.

Because the silence of investigators in such cases is almost guaranteed to fuel such anger. Hearing nothing else, residents will be quick to jump to conclusions and listen to rapidly spreading rumour. Some of the anger, justly or unjustly, will end up being directed at the police – as we can see from comments already posted to the article on the Peace Arch News website.

We all understand police caution about making premature statements regarding ongoing investigations. Ill-advised comment cannot only be wrong, it can compromise investigations and can be the basis of lawsuits and legal appeals.

Yet it appears, from observing similar incidents in other jurisdictions, that the public are far more likely to receive cogent news releases elsewhere than in our own backyard.

When the IIO notes that the incident is the sixth officer-involved shooting under investigation since April 1, it seems clear that they understand the public has concerns about the proliferation of such incidents.

But there is a big difference between understanding and acting to ease them through quick and effective public relations.

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