There were “serious flaws” in the investigations of the suicide of Afghanistan war veteran Stuart Langridge with poorly supervised military police seemingly unable to cope with even basic policing techniques, says a hard-hitting federal report released today.
The Military Police Complaints Commission’s three volume, 1,008-page final report includes 46 recommendations aimed at comprehensive, top-down military policing, especially in “sudden death” cases.
But military police commanders have already rejected or ignored all but a few of the recommendations in their response to the report. Langridge committed suicide at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton on March 15, 2008, after several attempts and after battling depression and alcohol and drug abuse — all now recognized as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Langridge’s parents brought 33 complaints against the National Investigation Service (NIS) — the military’s detective force — claiming it was biased, negligent and incompetent in three investigations it conducted related to the soldier’s suicide.
The MPCC rejected the allegations that the NIS had been bias in its investigations but did recommend that the military police make a greater effort to assert their independence from mainstream military.
As expected, the report targeted the single highest-profile aspect of the case:
The keeping of the soldier’s simple, handwritten suicide note from his parents for 14 months.
That act resulted in the soldier’s last wish, for a private, family funeral, being ignored in favour of a full military funeral.
The Fynes have described the discovery of the note as “emotionally devastating.”
The report recommends that for “greater clarity” military police adopt a specific policy on suicide notes.
Aside from criticizing the length of time the NIS took to hand over the suicide note, the report is also critical of NIS senior officers for not explaining to Langridge’s family why it was withheld in the first place or whether foul play was ruled out before the soldier’s funeral. During the 2012 hearings, NIS officers said they had withheld the note in the interests of Langridge’s family in case he had been the victim of foul play and the suicide note forged.
The Commission found significant deficiencies in the investigations conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and unacceptable errors in the way the Military Police interacted with the Fynes, particularly in the mishandling of Cpl. Langridge’s suicide note.
— Commission chair Glen Stannard
Other key recommendations:
* Better supervision of military police investigators, especially when complex facts and allegations are involved.
* Meaningful and substantive briefings for families during sudden death investigations.
* Increased opportunities for military police investigators to improve their skills through secondment to civilian police forces.
* Experienced federal, provincial or municipal police investigators should be brought in to lead sudden death investigations.
* Property seized as part of an investigation should be immediately returned to families when no longer needed as evidence.
* Suicide notes should be withheld only if there are compelling reasons for suspecting foul play.
* Full face-to-face briefings should be held between a departing investigator and officers new to the case.