Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

A crisis of confidence

with 6 comments

News of the imminent departure of the Chief of Investigations of the Independent investigations Office (IIO) John Larkin was broadcast to staff of the IIO last Monday morning. Curiously enough, staff coming to work also noticed that the office of Director of Investigations Allison Hemming-Cook had apparently been cleaned out on the weekend. Her status seems murky.

Staff think she’s on sick leave. If so, why clean out her office? Hemming-Cook says she is returning on June 20th following her impending marriage and honeymoon apparently to well-known Vancouver lawyer Monty Carstairs, QC. Which sounds like a vacation not a sick leave.

I tried to get clarification from Marten Youssef, nominally the Acting Director of Communications for the IIO. All he would provide was the vanilla response, “The IIO will not be providing comment on any personnel matters.” What that triggered, instead of a clarifying communication to the staff, was an email saying the word had gotten out and Youssef got himself on the news that night to try and spin his way out of my questions.

So, the staff there are left in the dark. Is there an open slot for a new Director of Investigations or isn’t there? If it’s a sick leave, how is it that a finite date for return has been set as stated by Hemming-Cook? The word in the office is that she was told in no uncertain terms to take sick leave. Whatever the reason, staff relations there appear to be the messiest they have ever been.

It would seem that Larkin and Hemming-Cook have worn out their welcome in that office. There is a union grievance filed against Hemming-Cook and several sources have told me that she and Larkin’s replacement, retired Asst. Commissioner of the Queensland police, Gayle Hogan, were at odds with each other. Hate is a strong word and I hesitate to use it, but I have been told they “hate” each other. I make no evaluation, but what’s clear in that is there will be a rocky road ahead if she returns following her honeymoon.

All of this follows a blistering letter sent by Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer two weeks ago in which he questioned the competence of the IIO. The Chief wasn’t mincing words. He said, “Changes need to be made to the IIO’s current practices to improve the relationship between the IIO and the police. The VPD has two principal concerns. The first concern is what appears to be the IIO’s lack of investigative competence. The second concern is the rigid position the IIO has adopted regarding pre-interview disclosure which has led to unnecessary friction and distrust between the police and the IIO. These concerns need to be addressed given the importance of independent police oversight to maintain public trust and accountability.”

Well, it would seem that changes are being made although it remains to be seen if these changes will be enough to satisfy the VPD and the Vancouver Police Union who have all but declared war on the IIO.

The question of competence of the IIO is a major concern for all police departments in the province including the RCMP. I have documented many instances underlining the apparent lack thereof over the course of the past four years.

There are many reasons why. Part of it was Larkin. He was, as described by Palmer, adversarial without question. He set the tone when he stated the IIO started every investigation believing the officer involved has committed a crime and work back from there. That, in and of itself, is incredibly unprofessional and anathema to any real investigator who knows his or her job is to find the truth about what happened not enter it with any pre-conceived notion about what occurred.

Part of it is turnover, lack of training and despite protestations to the contrary, the inability to meet the BC Provincial Policing Standards. They are after all, a police agency.

Section 1 of the Standards says this: “The chief constable, chief officer or commissioner must ensure that:

  1. A Command Triangle is formed for all major case investigations, as soon as reasonably possible given the circumstances and the needs of the investigation, with officers assigned to the following roles:

(a) Team Commander;

(b) Primary Investigator; and

(c) File Coordinator.”

It goes on to say this:  “The chief constable, chief officer, commissioner or chief civilian director must ensure that:

(2) An officer assigned to the role of Team Commander for a major case investigation, or an IIO investigator assigned to the role of Team Commander for the investigation of an incident where a person may have died as a result of the actions of an officer, whether on or off duty:

(a) Has experience relevant to the type of investigation; and

(b) Meets each of the following criteria:

(i) Successful completion of a provincially-approved Team Commander training course;

(ii) Previous experience in the role of Primary Investigator or File Coordinator;

(iii) Previous investigative experience in a supervisory or management role; and

(iv) No disciplinary records of serious misconduct that would affect his/her ability to

perform the duties of Team Commander.”

Aye, there’s the rub. The CCD MUST ensure the Major Case Management model is followed and MUST ensure a Team Commander is designated who meets the criteria as stated. At this point there is not one person in the IIO qualified to be a Team Commander which involves not just training but accreditation by a provincial board made of senior police investigators who evaluate the applicant’s major case experience.

About a year or so ago, Delta Police Chief Constable Neil Dubord wrote a letter to the IIO demanding they are held to the same investigative competencies as members of his department. I am waiting to confirm, but I am told he has not, to date, received a response.

Nor has the Delta Police Union who requested a review of the fatally-flawed investigation into the shooting at the Starlight Casino which resulted in 2nd degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan McWilliams, of which I have written much.

I specifically asked Youssef how many people at the IIO had Major Case Management certification and this was his response: “The IIO operates under an MCM framework and investigations are based on that model.”

Well, that was clear as mud.

The reality is that even though the IIO endeavours to follow the model as is required by the Director of Police Services for the province, they simply cannot meet the standard inasmuch as they have no accredited commanders and precious few who have had the investigators’ course.

Is it any wonder that Palmer, whose department follows the Provincial Policing Standards is lacking confidence in those who are responsible for investigating his officers and expecting them to get a fair shake?

Any which way you look at this, four and a half years into this, this is a mess. Perhaps, in the words of a former IIO investigator I spoke to today, “This is the messiest it’s ever been.”

That speaks volumes.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 24, 2017 at 1:15 am

Reports are scathing of the RCMP, but little will change

with 5 comments

Two reports were released Monday by the Public Safety Minister in Ottawa. The first, was written by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and can be found here.  The CRCC broadly reviewed workplace harassment and bullying in the Force.

The other was authored by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. It looked at four particular cases where harassment lawsuits were filed individually by female members Catherine Galliford, Alice Fox, Susan Gastaldo and Atoya Montague. That report can be found here.

The RCMP has had both reports for several weeks but thus far has had little positive reaction to either report both scathing in their criticism of the Mounties essentially saying the organization is  dysfunctional and the harassment and bullying was systemic. Where have we heard this before?

I have long described the RCMP as “144 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” These two reports just reinforce that statement.

None of this is new. There have been a number of reports over the past decade or so and successive commissioners have mouthed all the platitudes including the current one, Bob Paulson, who has been described by a number of officers to me as the biggest bully of all. I cannot argue. Indeed, Galliford told me this is the fifth such report she has participated in.

Both reports recommend some form of civilian oversight for the Force. If that is to happen then the RCMP Act will require the appropriate amendments, if not re-written in its entirety, given the recent union certification application made by the newly formed National Police Federation.

But even then I am not sure much will change. The problem is the culture within the RCMP. It, in and of itself, causes the dysfunction. Part of it is the Old Boys network. For example when Gary Bass was the CO of E Division (BC) his sycophants were referred to as the Bass Boys Club or BBC for short. Promotions literally depended on whether one was a member of the BBC.

When Craig Callens took over upon Bass’ retirement nothing changed except the name. The sycophants were then referred to as being on “Craigslist.”

Another significant issue is the “go along to get along” unwritten rule. Members don’t dare colour outside the box. But the overriding issue is the, again unstated policy, not to do or say anything that could damage the reputation of the RCMP. This is at the heart of the problem.

If a member has a complaint about a superior, even if validated, which is rare, the member is discouraged from pushing it for the good of the Force or the miscreant is simply transferred. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak.

The RCMP Act was re-written in 2014 ostensibly to make it easier for the Commissioner to fire the “bad apples.”

The CRCC report identifies what the RCMP has done since it’s last report on the matter in 2013 were simply small initiatives that had little or no effect.  Said Ian McPhail, Chair of the CRCC in the report, “If the last 10 years, over 15 reports and hundreds of recommendations for reform have produced any lessons, it is that the RCMP is not capable of making the necessary systemic changes of its own accord.”

Stunning words. Paulson’s response? Meh.

Well, to be fair he did put out a one page response in which he gave no reaction to the major recommendation common to both reports, the establishment of civilian oversight committee or board that will assume control for administration, finance and human resource management of the RCMP.

This is his response: “These reports make recommendations that require careful review and consideration. They will no doubt help improve policies to further support a healthy and respectful workplace as the RCMP continues moving forward.” How about that for tepid?

McPhail’s report also says that little has changed in the RCMP from their previous report in 2013 to the present day. Paulson’s response? “It should be noted that many of the reports’ judgments rely on the historical context of RCMP transformation efforts that are not, in my view, reflective of current RCMP environment, policies or processes.”

Yeah, that sure sounds like he is seized with the findings and recommendations doesn’t it?

Paulson has already announced he is leaving at the end of next month. We don’t yet know who his replacement will be, but unless the Trudeau government picks a strong leader – a real leader  who can take the Old Boys’Network by the scruff and shake the heck out of it – nothing will change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telegraphed today that the appointment will be either a female or someone well-versed in aboriginal issues. Leadership qualities apparently are not the criteria.

Equally, I don’t think Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister, has the intestinal fortitude to take on the RCMP because any effort to establish some form of civilian oversight with authority over the Commissioner’s office will be fought every step of the way by seniour management in the RCMP. Take that to the bank.

The female members who were interviewed by Fraser were told that the Minister is “absolutely committed to follow the recommendations.” I’m sure Fraser believes that. I, on the other hand, don’t buy it for a second.

I spoke with former West Vancouver Chief and former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed to get his take. He said, “Nothing will change in the RCMP. There are consecutive reports over the past 15 years; Kennedy, Duxbury, Brown ‘et al’ calling for the same changes. The organization will not change unless they are redefined and stick to just federal policing.”

It’s hard to argue that. But that sort of institutional change would have to come from government. The same government lacking in the same sort of leadership that’s needed in the RCMP.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 16, 2017 at 3:04 am

VPD Chief fires broadside at the IIO

with 17 comments

Vancouver Police Chief Constable Adam Palmer fired a broadside at the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in an 8 page letter in which he questioned their competence and motivations in the way they conduct their investigations.

Palmer addressed the investigation into the officer-involved shooting at the Canadian Tire store on Grandview Highway that occurred just before Christmas. I have previously discussed that incident in this article: IIO missing the obvious, again

There’s more on it here: Competence at heart of VPD / IIO court petition

In the letter Palmer outlines 36 separate concerns the VPD has with the IIO resulting from that incident. Many of which question their competence. And rightly so.

The chief concludes this explosive missive with these words: “Changes need to be made to the IIO’s current practices to improve the relationship between the IIO and the police. The VPD has two principal concerns. The first concern is what appears to be the IIO’s lack of investigative competence. The second concern is the rigid position the IIO has adopted regarding pre-interview disclosure which has led to unnecessary friction and distrust between the police and the IIO. These concerns need to be addressed given the importance of independent police oversight to maintain public trust and accountability.”

What is not said in this is the or else. What might the chief do if the IIO does not react appropriately? The obvious answer is to exercise the 30 day ‘shotgun’ clause afforded to all the chiefs in the original Memorandum of Understanding with the IIO. Doing so will have the natural effect of causing other chiefs throughout the province and the RCMP Deputy Commissioner to reconsider whether they will do the same. In my opinion, the first domino to fall will topple the rest.

What then, will the government do? If some or all of the police agencies opt out the IIO ceases to exist. It will have no mandate. With no mandate and no one to oversee what else would result?

The government will be left with a lot of egg on their face and scrambling to try to figure out where to go from there.

I have been saying for much of the past four years since its inception, that the IIO needs to be blown up, metaphorically, and fundamentally re-thought.  Thus far, the government, despite all the adverse publicity, the internal complaints, a legislative committee, separate internal and external investigations and direct pleas from former employees, have been kicking the can down the road, saying everything is fine. Well, no, it’s not fine.

The public need to trust their police services. In cases where the police, in providing that service, have to use force in the execution of their duty and serious injury or death results, the police need to have confidence that their actions will be competently and thoroughly investigated. At this point in time, as evidenced by Palmer’s letter, the police have no such confidence in the creation of the government, the IIO. Make no mistake, they own this. They created this monstrosity, only they can fix it. But they need to be seized with the importance of that. I suspect this letter from Palmer may stimulate that. If it does not, then the government deserves its fate.

Albeit, one week out from election day I rather suspect the Premier will push it aside and claim it’s a serious issue that needs to be looked at thoroughly and a week out is not the time. Perhaps so. But she has been ignoring it for four years as have successive Solicitors General, Shirley Bond who oversaw its creation and Suzanne Anton who keeps her head firmly planted in the sand.

For the record, the incompetence at the IIO is not going to be fixed anytime soon. Chief Palmer in his letter acknowledges that “many of your investigators have less than two years experience.”  The IIO has had incredible difficulties retaining good folks. In the past four weeks four more experienced investigators have resigned. They are leaving because it is a toxic workplace. And that is on the leadership of the organization, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Since the departure of the original Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal in September, the government has replaced him with a career bureaucrat who I am sure is good at pushing papers around and ordering staples but he knows the square root of bugger all about the matters his agency is responsible for investigating.

The man overseeing investigations is John Larkin. He is referred to in Palmer’s letter as “adversarial.” And that is at the heart of the problem. The IIO, as it is constituted should not be adversarial. Their role should be to seek the truth. If that truth leads to criminal charges against a police officer then so be it. That’s the system. But Larkin believes their role is to start off believing the police involved committed a crime.

That attitude is evidenced in Palmer’s letter in paragraph 13 where he states, “The IIO Chief of Investigations specifically characterized this matter as a “murder investigation” during a conversation with the VPD Major Crime Section (MCS) Inspector. This use of such a biased and inflammatory term infers that VPD officer(s) committed a serious criminal offence. The term “murder” used in this context is presumptive and inappropriate. The VPD Inspector felt it necessary to remind the IIO Chief of Investigations that it was an “officer-involved shooting.”

I applaud the actions of the Chief Constable.  What he is demonstrating in this is support for the people at the sharp end of things. But equally, he clearly states he supports the need for civilian oversight. What he complains about is incompetence of the IIO investigations. And that needs to get the attention of the government.

It’s their mess and the public needs to have confidence in their police service and the police need to have confidence in those providing oversight. That is what needs to be fixed.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 3, 2017 at 12:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

RCMP brass failing their border responsibility

with 4 comments

Since Donald J. Trump took office as the President of the United States something strange started happening at the border between our two countries. Muslim migrants began crossing the border at unmanned points and claiming refugee status in Canada.

In some cases, they’d take a cab from somewhere in Minnesota or North Dakota to the border. But they don’t cross at the land border crossing on Interstate 29 near Pembina, North Dakota. Instead they trek through farmer’s fields across the 49th Parallel and call 9-1-1 to elicit a response from the RCMP.

Now, you might think this is strange. Why would an illegal migrant call the authorities?  Why indeed.

I was at a luncheon last week for members of the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP. Most are retired, some not, but the conversation is always interesting. A Mountie came up to me and asked if I was aware that members of the Canadian Border Services Agency, who work screening folks at land crossings of our international border, had no authority beyond the actual property of the land crossing and if someone walked just outside the actual crossing the CBSA member had no ability to stop that person. The only thing they could do was call the RCMP, who, I might add have few if any resources deployed to border security.

I was shocked. How could that be? They are federal officers aren’t they?

He sent me a piece written by a retired Mountie with 36 years service much of which was in border communities in Canada. That piece, written by David Greenhaulgh, was shocking.

In it he says, “In 2017 the RCMP institutionally lacks the capacity, the motivation, the leadership and the equipment to  defend our borders. It lacks the leadership and the moral courage to tell Canadians the truth about it’s enforcement capabilities or to tell us the direct threat to Canada from Criminal and ideological migrants. For Border enforcement the RCMP is accountable to the Government and not to the citizens it polices. Today there is no evidence the RCMP has any plan outside “business as usual” to defend our Borders.”

This statement in and of itself is stunning. Especially given the 2009 Project Shiprider agreement signed between the governments of Canada and the US committing the RCMP to cooperative border security between the two countries. That agreement specifically designates the RCMP, not CBSA, as the authority to act for Canada in these matters.

The RCMP brass has essentially ignored their responsibilities to our border security. According to Scott Newark, a former Alberta Crown Counsel, Counsel to the Canadian Police Association and Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada,  “In 2013 the federal government committed $92 million to the RCMP to deploy sensor technology along the Quebec – US border in Eastern Canada. Nothing was done.”  Newark said, “A year later, with no action taken, this funding was re-announced by the RCMP as the ‘Border Integrity Technology Enhancement Program (BITEP), yet almost two years later BITEP remains an acronym and not a deployed action.”

Typical.

Back in Emerson, Manitoba, every day migrants from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan make their way to the northern border of the US and simply walk across a field 100 metres from a point of entry and announce their arrival to the RCMP.

They are taken in by the RCMP and, according to Greenhaulgh, “briefly detained, admitted, housed, fed, provided medical attention and a lawyer. That is an estimated $50,000 minimum cost for the first year, per migrant, on the Federal tax dollar. After 12 months they become a Provincial liability.”

Had they tried to enter the country 100 metres away at the land Point of Entry, CBSA officers would simply deny them entry and tell them to return home under the Safe Third Country agreement. Essentially, they are safe in the US and thus not refugees by definition.

By any measure, this is nuts.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

April 12, 2017 at 3:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Even basic cases seem beyond IIO’s capability

with 4 comments

After last week’s pieces on the impasse between the Independent Investigations Office and the Vancouver Police Union, I got many comments essentially asking how did we get to this point?

The simple answer is because the IIO views its role in investigating the actions of the police as to gather evidence with which to prosecute police. This is, of course, the doing of the first Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, who ran the organization for a tumultuous four years.

Instead, what they should be seeing as their mandate, is to investigate to find the truth wherever that may lead. If there is evidence of police criminal misconduct then a prosecution should be brought to bar. And the same standard needs to apply as it does to police before recommending charges against any member of the public.

The concept of civilian oversight is fine with most police I talk to. But, they must have confidence in those who conduct that oversight. From its inception the IIO has demonstrated in case after case they are not competent investigators and thus, the impasse with the VPU.

The other real issue is their focus on the “Affected Person” and only police actions as they relate to that person. They don’t consider events as a whole and what caused the person to act as he or she did. No clearer demonstration of that failure can be made than their handling of the police shooting at the Starlight Casino. I have written much of that case and won’t drag you through it again, but the fact they never spoke to the woman who was taken hostage speaks volumes. She was shot at, dragged from her car and held at gunpoint for a lengthy period of time. At the very least she could have provided evidence showing the suspect’s, sorry, the Affected Person’s state of mind.

Had they done so, they would have found out that the suspect told her during the stand-off that the only way he was leaving was in a body bag. The only way that was going to happen was if he ate his own gun or pointed it at a police officer, which is ultimately what happened.

Instead they ignored all of that in its entirety and focused on building a criminal case with which to charge the officer who fired the fatal shot with murder. Ridiculous.

But it’s not just lethal force cases where they focus on building a case. The head of investigations there, John Larkin, has said they begin by believing the subject officer is guilty and work from there. Which is, of course, antithetical to any real investigator.

It happens even in less serious cases.

On November 9, 2015, shortly after 8 p.m. VPD were called to a Chinatown intersection where a crazed man was jumping up and down upon and kicking doors on a Black Top cab.  The cab had substantial damage to the hood, roof, windshield and door. Subsequent investigation determined that he’d been randomly damaging other vehicles in the neighbourhood.

The driver got out of the cab to confront the man but quickly retreated when he saw how crazed the man was.

When multiple police units arrived, the suspect hid behind another car. Civilian witnesses pointed out the shirtless man in his mid 20’s. As police approached he took off running and a foot chase ensued northbound on Abbott Street. The suspect was running in the middle of the street being closely pursued by a plainclothes officer. As the pursuing officer closed in on the fleeing man he pushed him from behind and the suspect fell forward and he was taken into custody. Arresting officers believed the suspect to be high on drugs and so an ambulance was called. But, due to shortages, EHS couldn’t respond. The decision was made to have the wagon take the suspect to the city jail where a staff nurse could assess him.

It should be noted that at no time did the suspect say he was hurt or in any kind of pain. But upon examination the nurse found he had an injured wrist. He was then taken to St. Paul’s hospital where it was determined that his wrist was broken, most likely when he fell forward, but it could have been pre-existing from punching cars.

The IIO were notified by the Duty Officer as required and the IIO asserted jurisdiction. Why is anyone’s guess. Their mandate is to assume jurisdiction in cases of “serious injury or death.” I’m not sure how a broken wrist is considered serious, but I digress.

The police are given the power to arrest people they reasonably believe have committed an offence. These circumstances clearly show they had the right to arrest in this case and the arrest was lawful.

The Criminal Code of Canada also says that the police may use as much force as is necessary to make that arrest and it also holds them criminally responsible for using excessive force. That is the only question here. Was the force used necessary or excessive?

A push is one of the lowest forms of force that can be used by police. it is marginally higher on the continuum than speech commands. It is used to take someone off balance for the purpose of securing the individual. In this case, the person fell, but that was much less dangerous for the officer than trying a flying football tackle. Pavement tends to be disagreeable on the landing for both parties.

This should be a no-brainer. The suspect was identified by civilian witnesses at the scene. He fled on foot and at full tilt the pursuing officer gave him a push which caused him to fall whereupon he was taken into custody.

Again, given those circumstances what could possibly be taking the IIO to reach a conclusion? It’s been 17 months since the events took place and they still have their investigation active. Why? This shouldn’t even be in question.

I contacted the IIO Director of Communications, (nominally A/Director, Public Engagement and Policy) Marten Youssef to ask the status of this investigation. He said, “We are nearing completion on this file and expect a decision to be issued in due course.” I wonder how long due course is?

Meanwhile, 17 months later the members involved are still waiting to learn if they may face criminal charges.

A senior VPD Sgt. said to me, “Sometimes people get bit by police dogs, sometimes fingers thumbs & wrists get broken. It should be simple for them to deal with this call. Never mind the two big ones that they have on their hands right now.”

Well said I thought.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

April 4, 2017 at 1:30 am

IIO, police at an impasse

with 6 comments

Another story being played out in the Vancouver media last week was also outlining an impasse between the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and the Vancouver Police Union (VPU). (Family caught in spat between Vancouver police and independent watchdog)

That incident occurred on a hot August afternoon in southeast Vancouver in 2015 and ended just across the Burnaby border with the death of 33-yr-old Myles Thomas Gray.

That story told of the frustration being felt by the Gray family because the IIO has yet to conclude their investigation into the death and the frustration with the VPD because their members are not cooperating with investigators.

The story also quoted Doug King of the Pivot Legal Society who is calling for either changes in the BC Police Act to force the officers to cooperate or for them to be charged criminally in the death to force them to mount a defence.

An interesting take for a lawyer for a civil rights organization who seems to think the police are not entitled to the same rights as any other member of the public.

This gets complicated by the fact there are no independent witnesses to the events of that fateful day.  The IIO initially designated all the officers who were hands-on with Gray as “subject officers.” This placed all the officers in the position that anything they said could be used criminally against them.

Then the IIO realized that because they cannot compel subject officers to provide statements, and there were no other witnesses, they changed the designation of some of the officers to “witness” officers to try and compel them to give statements.

This gets further complicated by the fact that the family filed a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court against 11 VPD officers alleging they beat Gray to death. It’s inflammatory to say the least. And any statements made by any of the officers could expose them to civil liability as well as criminal jeopardy from the IIO.

The stalemate seems complete.

To date, the IIO is refusing to let members review CAD information and radio traffic surrounding the chaotic events of that afternoon. They haven’t even told the police, or the family for that matter, the cause of death from the autopsy nor have they provided any information from the toxicology reports. One assumes they had toxicology analysis given the circumstances of the death, but we don’t even actually know that.

In reality, there were several 9-1-1 calls about the behaviour of Gray that day. The first emanated from the Gray household itself where things seem to have started. Were there drugs involved? Perhaps needed meds not taken? Alcohol? We don’t know.

The situation escalated when Gray got into a confrontation with a neighbour watering a garden then he ran off on foot east toward Burnaby when the neighbour called 9-1-1. VPD members were searching for their suspect in the disturbance calls when a female officer driving the wagon spotted him. He attacked the police vehicle forcing the member to lock herself in and call for backup.

Members arrived on scene and tried everything including pepper spray to take the crazed man into custody. It escalated into a knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out ground fight. In the process, Gray went into medical distress and VPD members performed CPR on him and brought him back from the abyss only to have him get up and start fighting again. This happened multiple times during the course of events. Think about that.

Paramedics were called but took 30 minutes to respond. Another significant contributing factor.

During the fight, of the five officers who were engaged, three suffered broken bones, one blew out a knee. One hasn’t been back to work since. One officer, privately, described Gray as “drugged out with super strength.”

In the media story VPU President Tom Stamatakis was quoted saying, “I don’t have confidence in the IIO in terms of how they treat police officers, who are doing exactly what the public expect of them in most cases”

It seems there’s a lot of that going on these days.

While I feel for the Gray family – no one should ever have to bury a child – the IIO has brought this on over the course of time. By treating police officers as criminals and seeking evidence to prosecute rather than seeking the truth in their investigations, they created an adversarial relationship.

I don’t know how this will end up, but what is clear in this is the government, at some point, is going to have to step in and find a solution to this impasse. It’s not getting any better and frankly, they created this monster and only they can fix it.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Competence at heart of VPD / IIO court petition

with 14 comments

News broke yesterday that the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has filed a petition with the courts to try and force members of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to cooperate with their investigators citing “obstruction” in the aftermath of a shooting which occurred in November at the Canadian Tire store on Grandview Highway in Vancouver. This is disingenuous in and of itself. The VPU has never said their members will not cooperate.

I have previously written about what happened that day. If you’re interested, you can read that piece here.

VPD Chief Constable, Adam Palmer, when he received a demand from the IIO that he order involved officers to cooperate and provide statements replied, on March 13, that he would be seeking legal advice. While he was in the process of doing that, the IIO filed the court petition, apparently not content with the Chief’s words and trying to force his hand. And with that, the battle lines are now drawn. Frankly, this was inevitable.

The IIO has been plagued with incompetence since its launch in September of 2012. I have outlined that incompetence in file after file in the intervening time. It has now gotten to the point that the Vancouver Police Union (VPU) has lost all faith in the IIO to conduct a competent investigation that they have picked this particular hill upon which to make a stand.

They want their members to have pre-interview disclosure to ensure whatever statement is made by any member will allow that individual to review CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) information, radio dispatch traffic and any CCTV video footage germane to the incident prior to talking to IIO investigators. If you want to understand why, you need only to consider the four RCMP officers who were involved in the taser death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR in 2007. Two of the four were convicted of perjury in what can only be described as a travesty of justice. (For more on that, click here)

The VPU wants their members to be able to avail themselves of as much information to ensure the accuracy of their statements in any IIO investigation. The IIO says no, they should rely on their memory and notes. In a situation such as occurred at the Canadian Tire store on that fateful day, as police were responding to first a robbery call, which escalated to a stabbing of a clerk, then a hostage taking, then an officer down, then shots fired, trust me, no one was making notes as they responded Code 3 to the scene.

As an aside, the IIO tried to manage the media coverage of this. In fact, the Vancouver Sun in their coverage said this: “A police officer was also hurt during the incident.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. The officer in question was stabbed multiple times by the suspect, Daniel Peter Rintoul, 38. Who, by the way, was a big man weighing in at over 380 lbs. The stabbed officer fired the first shot and fell to the pavement with his intestines hanging out. So, yes, I guess you could say he was “hurt” in the incident.

This is all about confidence on the part of the VPU that their members will be treated fairly and the investigation will be done in a competent and fair manner. Thus far, the IIO has proven its approach to investigations are anything but on both levels.

In this matter, the IIO was advised promptly, as required, by the Duty Officer. They ordered that all members on scene be held pending their arrival. There was more than 30 officers who responded ultimately to the escalating calls. It took the IIO more than five hours to arrive from their office in Surrey. Five hours. That’s a lot of police man hours standing around doing nothing instead of serving the citizens of the city they are paid to protect.

In point of fact, the IIO investigators tried to seize the uniforms and weapons of the ERT officers who responded even though they arrived after the shooting was done and the gun smoke had cleared. This in itself shows the incompetence. In the first place ERT officers weren’t there at the time. In the second place their weapons are high-tech and very personal, sighted in for and by each individual member. In the third place, VPD doesn’t have an armoury large enough to simply replace all of those weapons for however long it would have taken the moribund IIO to process whatever request they might have had for ballistics tests on weapons that weren’t used in the shooting. It’s madness.

The IIO then upped the ante for incompetence when they held an assembly for all involved officers at 2120 Cambie, police headquarters. They gave a Charter caution to everyone in the room and said they wanted to seize all laptops from police cars that attended the scene. Seriously.

Police laptops or mobile data terminals can communicate car to car and presumably the IIO wanted to ascertain whether any responding member had off-line communications which could be germane to their investigation. So, they actually wanted to seize dozens of laptops without considering what the VPD would use in the interim. The laptops are used to query criminal databases and write reports, stuff inherently needed by the police for virtually every call they take.

Common sense prevailed when the Duty Officer told them no in no uncertain terms.

A competent investigator would have simply attended EComm on Hastings Street where the computer servers are and had all communications downloaded from the server. Where, I might add, they would have to attend anyway to get the radio traffic for the incident downloaded from another server sitting right beside it.

This isn’t complicated stuff. Detective work rarely is, it’s methodical but it requires a level of competence and common sense and the ability to use critical thinking skills. Skills apparently lacking in the IIO and exactly why the VPU and Chief Palmer are taking the stand they are.

This will be interesting to watch and could dictate the fate of the current structure of the IIO moving forward. I only hope the provincial government is paying attention because this monster is their creation and only they can fix it.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 25, 2017 at 3:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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