Search for new IIU civilian director continues


Advertise with us

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s police watchdog is on the search for a new boss.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

We need your support!
Local journalism needs your support!

As we navigate through unprecedented times, our journalists are working harder than ever to bring you the latest local updates to keep you safe and informed.

Now, more than ever, we need your support.

Starting at $14.99 plus taxes every four weeks you can access your Brandon Sun online and full access to all content as it appears on our website.

Subscribe Now

or call circulation directly at (204) 727-0527.

Your pledge helps to ensure we provide the news that matters most to your community!

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s police watchdog is on the search for a new boss.

The provincial government is hiring a new civilian director for the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba.

Current civilian director Zane Tessler’s time on the job comes to an end on June 30 following a four-month extension to his 10-year term.

<p>A civilian director of the IIU can'>

A civilian director of the IIU can't serve more than two, five-year terms, according to the Police Services Act. (Bloomberg)

A job bulletin to find a new civilian director was posted in October 2022 and closed in January but netted no qualified applicants.

Under the Police Services Act, a civilian director cannot serve more than two, five-year terms.

Tessler hit that milestone on March 2 but agreed to stay in the position while the province conducts the search for his replacement. He was reappointed by Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen for a four-month term on March 15.

The IIU cannot function without a civilian director and it is in the public interest to keep the position filled at all times, an order-in-council formalizing the appointment stated.

The provincial government will have a tough time filling Tessler’s shoes at the IIU, Winnipeg-based criminal justice attorney Saul Simmonds said.

“The best individual for this particular role, which is a thankless role and a difficult role, is not going to be an easy find,” said Simmonds.

Tessler was first appointed to the office responsible for investigating serious incidents involving police on March 2, 2013, and was the unit’s inaugural civilian director.

He was responsible for establishing policies, regulations and hiring investigators for the independent agency following its creation in the wake of the 2008 Taman Inquiry.

The government inquiry was called into the 2005 death of 40-year-old Crystal Taman, who was killed in 2005 by Derek Harvey-Zenk, an off-duty Winnipeg police officer who was allegedly driving drunk when his truck rear-ended the vehicle Taman was driving when she was stopped at a red light.

The unit became operational in June 2015.

Tessler took on the role with significant experience as both criminal defence lawyer and a Crown attorney, with a good deal of time spent on high-level cases within the provincial prosecutions branch, Simmonds noted.

Candidates will have to possess those qualities as well as have significant experience with police investigations, operations and tactics to bring necessary insight into law enforcement, he said.

“The investigative unit needs to understand, and the head of that unit needs to appreciate, the nature of what it takes to prosecute a case,” Simmonds said. “Having a comprehensive understanding of that and these various elements is integral to the person who goes into the IIU.”

The position can also be isolating, Simmonds said, noting a lawyer stepping into the civilian director role would want to stay an arm’s-length from many of their former associations in order to maintain their impartiality.

“It’s a level of restriction and separation that I, personally, would not want to have. There are many unpopular decisions that the director will have to take and determinations that are really complex. You can’t please everybody and, in some situations, you’re pleasing no one,” he said.

The civilian director job is also becoming more complex, owing to an increasingly volatile environment for police and a growing number of weapons in the community, Simmonds said. In 2021-2022, the IIU’s caseload had 67 files (up from 13 the year before) including 49 investigations, leading to 23 charges being laid.

“Whoever is running the IIU has a very difficult task in balancing all the interests of various parties,” Simmonds said.

Goertzen was not made available for an interview on Friday. Instead, a Manitoba Justice spokesperson sent a statement.

“The unique and specialized skill set required for this position often leads to lengthier searches for suitable candidates,” the spokesperson wrote.

The department would not say how many applications it received during the initial job posting period.

In 2021-22, the IIU civilian director was paid $165,782. The salary effective March 2, 2023, was $6,692.48 bi-weekly, or $174,587 per year.

» Winnipeg Free Press

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us