VICTORIA -- When Richard Rosenthal took on the position as head of the new police watchdog he made it clear the team wouldn't open their doors until every hair was in place.
That decision was vindicated when, mere hours after making the announcement the Independent Investigations Office was fully operational, staff were called to their first case in Prince George.
Rosenthal, the office's chief civilian director, and his team of 10 investigators took three days to complete their preliminary investigation into the Sept. 10 shooting of Greg Matters.
But the former Los Angeles County district attorney wasn't surprised by the speed at which the group was required to jump into action.
"What I took away [from that] was that I was just so happy I insisted that we be ready on Day 1 because as much as we talk about what could happen, particularly with instances like this, you never know," he told The Citizen.
Though each case is a learning experience, Rosenthal said he was pleased at how quickly the group was able to deploy.
The office was notified of the incident at 7:36 p.m. the day of the incident and the first of the group's members was in Prince George and on the scene by shortly after midnight.
But that's not to say the team -- half of which are former police officers -- didn't run into any problems.
Getting transportation and accommodations sorted out were unforeseen challenges.
"Apparently there was something going on in the city that all the hotel rooms seemed to be sold out, all the rental cars were gone and it took a lot of work to get everyone those necessities," Rosenthal recalled.
That experience brought up more questions and concerns, such as what sort of challenges would the group face when they were called into remote areas of the province?
"And it's not like we can really buy a stash of cars to leave up north because it's too expensive," Rosenthal said. "We've got to balance the needs of the office against making sure that it's an appropriate use of public resources."
The American transplant praised the local RCMP for doing their best to let him know what he was going to be in for in Prince George.
He said he was "very impressed" by North District command staff when they met with him prior to the office opening.
"They were extraordinarily helpful as far as warning us ahead of time of some of the equipment needs we'd have, the challenges we'd find," Rosenthal said. "So in that sense, I felt that we were pretty well prepared."
Even though the IIO opened when they could hit the ground running, there is still more work to expand their mandate and scope that won't be fully realized until they have a couple of years under their belt. The office is due for a legislative review by the beginning of 2015.
"It's probably going to take about two or three years before we have a real sense of what the long-term workload is going to be," said Rosenthal.
Those years will give the director time to properly implement the ability to investigate sexual assaults, which are not currently under his mandate, as well as determine if there needs to be another office outside of the Lower Mainland.
"Obviously that was one of the first questions that was asked: when are you going to establish an office in Prince George?" Rosenthal said. It's something he said he's interested in pursuing, but he stressed that during the group's infancy, he wants to focus on creating a new culture -- which he can't do when he has team members hundreds of kilometres away.
"So what we've decided is those are the kinds of questions we're going to have to ask and then if I feel that I've got appropriate people I can send up there who will do the job right and there's an appropriate workload, then it would certainly improve our response time and improve our ability to respond to some of the community concerns."