Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Common sense judgement

with 2 comments

In the wake of the discussion last week of the manslaughter charge against RCMP Cst. Jason Tait, as a result of his actions stopping a drunk driver who was refusing to stop, let’s consider some things. He took the action he took to protect the citizens of Castlegar. He did his duty at great risk to himself, much like police officers do every day across this country.

Things happen in the blink of an eye and police have to react to what is unfolding with two objectives; to eliminate the perceived threat and to protect life, which includes their own.

Tait was charged by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) three and a half years after the event occurred. It took the Independent Investigations Office nearly two years to do their investigation and a further 16 months for CJB to review it before filing a criminal charge against Tait. That is unconscionable.

I think to appropriately consider this, it is instructive to look at the decision of the now retired Provincial Court Judge Donald Gardner in the prosecution of Delta Police Cst. Vicken Movsessian who was charged with careless use of a firearm after another lengthy IIO investigation. 

The incident happened on Nov. 7, 2013 and the court decision was rendered in December of 2016. Suffice to say it has been underreported.

The officer was seconded to CFSEU, a Joint Forces Operation working organized crime. On the night in question, CFSEU had surveillance on a vehicle they believed contained a gang member wanted on over thirty warrants, several of which involved firearms offences. The suspect was believed to be seeking a weapon with which to conduct a home invasion. 

During the surveillance the vehicle stopped at a residence of a known gang associate. A passenger got out and went into the carport and retrieved something from the rafters. Police surveillance units could not determine what the object was other than it fit into the hand of the person who retrieved it. 

After the vehicle drove away, it was decided to stop the vehicle in what is called a Code 5 takedown, a high-risk traffic stop with multiple police vehicles blocking a suspect vehicle and officers with drawn weapons ordering vehicle occupants out and on the ground where they are secured. Or, at least, that’s the plan. 

During the execution of the stop, Movsessian was focussed on the man in the rear seat the police believed to be their primary target. The suspect dropped his hand towards his hip and Movsessian fired once, striking the suspect. He then dragged him out of the car and secured him. Apparently, at some point in time Movsessian said he was sorry. He recognized the person he had shot was not their target but rather another related drug dealer, a 31 yr-old named Michael Minchin.

Evidence at trial summed up by the trial judge said this: Cst. Movsessian yelled ”Police, show me your hands.”  “He then saw the target in the backseat lean forward, then turn sideways towards the window. Initially he saw that person’s hands in the air and his face pressed against the window.  His face was illuminated by the nearby lighting.  He had his hands in the air, then suddenly he could not see his hands anymore, as he was leaning back. He seemed to be reaching for something, and the officer thought he was reaching for a firearm.”

The search of the suspect and the vehicle turned up drugs but no weapon. 

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was contacted and an investigation was begun.  Seven months later a Report to Crown Counsel was submitted. It should be noted that Cst. Movsessian never give a statement to investigators as is his right. 

The IIO submitted a Report to Crown Counsel some seven months later and it took the Criminal Justice Branch nearly a year later to approve a charge of Careless Use of a Firearm against Cst. Movsessian. How they arrived at that is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was because of the apology, but that is only a guess. 

At trial the Crown advanced the theory that Cs. Movsessian forgot his training to keep his index finger on the trigger guard and accidentally shot Minchin. Defence argued no such thing. Defence argued that Cst. Movsessian “acted intentionally in discharging his firearm and his conduct did not amount to careless use of a firearm.”  Indeed, Cst. Movsessian testified during the four day trial to that effect. 

The judge relied on the evidence of a use of force expert, RCMP Insp. Butler who testified about reaction time for police officers with a weapon drawn and the perception of a threat. Judge Gardner said in judgement, “The summary of the above two points means that officers are almost always behind the action/reaction time curve. If an officer waits until he or she is able to discern with complete certainty that an offender does in fact have a gun, the officer will be shot at 100 percent of the time before they respond.”

The judge also displayed a remarkable amount of common sense when he said, “I also not that this trial has occurred over four days. The submissions of counsel alone lasted more that two hours, an I have not lost sight of the fact the accused did not have that amount of time to decide whether or not to shoot.”

“I have concluded that Cst. Movsessian had reasonable grounds to believe, at the moment he fired his weapon, his life was in danger due to the unpredictable actions of Mr. Minchin. As such, Cst. Movsessian’s actions were not a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent officer in these circumstances.”

And with that he dismissed the charge. This is important for the IIO and CJB to understand the decision and the fact Gardner J. took judicial notice of threat perception / reaction times for police and the fact officers have milliseconds to decide shoot/don’t shoot. The fact he also took judicial notice of that when he referred to the amount of time for counsel submissions compared to Cst. Movsessian’s decision to shoot.

One hopes the judge assigned to the charge against Cst. Tait also considers these salient facts as well. One also hopes the IIO reads this decision and thoroughly digests it as they proceed in their investigations going forward. 

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

April 26, 2018 at 5:23 pm

RCMP officer charged with manslaughter for doing his job

with 49 comments

Two days ago the Criminal Justice Branch released  information saying that as a result of an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office into a police involved shooting that occurred “during an attempted traffic stop on January 29, 2015,” RCMP Constable Jason Tait of the West Kootenay Traffic Unit was now charged with manslaughter.

There was precious little other information. All the media reporting I could find on the original incident at the time yielded little more.

An attempted traffic stop? There’s got to be much more to the story. So, I started poking around to try and find out what happened.

It turns out the man who was shot, Waylon Edey, 39, who lived in Yahk, BC had been drinking in a Nelson bar and was so drunk he was cut off by the bar staff. They told him not to drive or they would call the police. He told them to “Go f**k themselves.” He got in his pick up truck and bar staff called 9-1-1.

The next call comes from staff at a drive-thru restaurant who report Edey is drunk and has open liquor in his vehicle, a 5,000 lb. Ford F-150 and is heading toward Castlegar.

Tait was off shift and had just arrived home. He’d heard the call but didn’t think too much about it until his supervisor called him and requested he assist looking for the reported drunk driver.

Now, it should be noted that Tait was a member of “Alexa’s Team” a select group of 335 police officers, who “have made an extraordinary contribution in reducing the number of alcohol and drug affected drivers.” The team was formed by the parents of Alexa Middelaer who was killed at the age of four by a drunk driver in Delta, BC.. All of the officers involved took it very personally and did all they could to prevent another Alexa tragedy.

Tait didn’t hesitate when he got the call. He jumped back in his police SUV and drove out of town looking for the pick up truck. He spotted it near Ootschinia, just outside Castlegar on Hwy #3. He turned and activated his emergency equipment. Moments later the suspect vehicle, driving at about 90 KMH entered the Kinnaird Bridge at the entrance to town.

On the other side of the bridge were strip malls, restaurants and typically, at 8 o’clock in the evening, a lot of pedestrian traffic.

Tait felt he had to stop the impaired driver before he reached that foot traffic lest another tragedy happen.

I should also add that Edey has a history of drunk driving. At the time of the incident he was on probation and his license was suspended. He was also facing charges from another earlier incident from Cranbrook when he tried to run an RCMP road check stop and two members had to dive out of the way to avoid getting hit by him. He was listed on police computers as a flight risk and dangerous to police.

Neither of those officers were spoken to by the IIO during their investigation.

Tait overtook the suspect vehicle on the left and spun his SUV in the so-called attempted traffic stop. He got out of his vehicle which had all the lights activated, drew his weapon and moved to the rear of the driver’s side. Edey showed no sign of slowing down. When he was about 15 feet from the police vehicle Tait fired several shots and started running laterally towards the side of the bridge thinking he might have to jump over, contemplating the 150 ft. drop to the river.

The pickup truck hit the police vehicle on the passenger side toward the rear and continued rolling forward. Tait ran after the vehicle and stabbed the rear tire to disable the vehicle and found Ebey slumped over the wheel.

As a trained paramedic and EMT, he got him out of the vehicle and began emergency first aid and called EHS. Ebey later died of a single bullet wound in hospital.

The IIO had the file for nearly two years and after submitting their report to Crown another 16 months ensued before a decision was made to charge Tait. The CJB attempted to justify the long delays in their press release saying: “The investigation and charge assessment process were protracted due, in part, to the complexities of the evidentiary issues in the case and the requirement for further investigation and analysis.”

Well, nonsense.

There was only one gun and it was not a mystery that required ballistics testing. The only testing needed was a tox screen to determine the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of Ebey. Something that should only take a week or two.

I am told they sought and received a report from an RCMP Use of Force expert who gave the shooting a clean bill of health. The IIO then sought a second opinion from a Calgary Police Service UOF expert who said there were issues with the level of force used.

I spoke with a retired Vancouver Department UOF expert who told me that based on the circumstances he didn’t see an issue. He also cast some doubt on the quality of the CPS expert used by the IIO.

Tait had a duty to stop Edey, a known drunk driver with a history of violence toward police as evidenced by the Cranbrook charges, before he got to the edge of town where the pedestrian traffic was at risk. The public expect their police will do all they can to protect them. Police are duty bound to take acceptable risks in their job. That is what Tait did. He should have a medal pinned on his chest not be before the criminal bar.

Tait was off for a month after the incident. He went through the usual protocols and was given a clean bill of health and following the RCMP review of the shooting, he was returned to active duty. He remained there for 29 months until Crown started making noises that he was going to be charged. An NCO in the RCMP I spoke to thinks this good, young, productive officer may never return to duty given all this.

Tait has spent his whole adult life in the service of this country. Prior to joining the RCMP in 2007, he was in the army and was deployed to Bosnia and then saw action in Afghanistan.

He did his job and this is the thanks he gets. The more I learn of this case, the angrier I get.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

April 6, 2018 at 12:25 am

IIO investigative delay “unacceptable”

with 3 comments

Yesterday the IIO’s Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Ron MacDonald released his conclusions into the circumstance of a police involved fatal shooting near Slocan, BC on October 13, 2014.

Yes you read that right, 2014.

The Commanding Officer of the RCMP in BC, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr promptly released a statement decrying the long delay.

“The protracted nature of this review is unacceptable,” she said.

The incident involved a manhunt in the mountains of the back country near Slocan, the town itself in lockdown for nearly five days. Think of it as a mini-Boston in the hours after the marathon bombings. Where this started was the police attending a rural location to investigate a dispute/possible assault call. They were met with an armed man who exchanged shots with police and fled into the back country.

She continued, “This was a dynamic and dramatic series of events that has forever changed the police officers involved, a community and a family which lost a loved one. The techniques used and the resulting time delays in determining the circumstances compounded the trauma and severely limited the ability of many to move forward. The police officers were consistent in their participation in the IIO BC investigation and remained professional throughout the lengthy process. However, the delays have contributed unnecessarily to a state of extended uncertainty and stress that could have been avoided.”

In his final report on the case, MacDonald, the newly appointed CCD  said this: “This investigation has taken an unfortunate length of time. This resulted from operational pressures within the IIO, the complexity of the evidence, and the necessity of seeking and awaiting several expert reports. Overall the process took much longer than anticipated. Throughout, the emphasis was placed on attempting to uncover all relevant and reliable evidence before reaching a conclusion. In addition, this case required continual diligence to avoid a premature conclusion based on incomplete evidence.”

He goes on, “While it is unfortunate that the delays experienced during the course this matter left Officers 1 and 2 (the ERT officers) and the family of AP (Affected Person) in a state of uncertainty for over three years, at the end of the day I consider that the final result herein is the correct one.”

The main part of the problem, in reading the report, was an error made by the primary pathologist who conducted the autopsy. He mistakenly identified an exit wound in the back as an entry wound and the entry wound in the neck as an exit wound. This did not corroborate what the RCMP members said happened.

In a nutshell, that would have suggested the suspect had his back turned to the ERT officer who fired the fatal and only shot. Yet the reverse totally corroborated their version of events.

The family had their own pathologist review the case and he came to a different conclusion which wound as entry and which was exit but initially the family would not share the report with the IIO.

That prompted a review by another pathologist hired by the IIO.  Evidently, he concluded that in entry wounds there exists a micro-tearing of the skin which is the actual entry wound and this tearing was present in the neck wound which made that the entry wound and corroborated the statement made by the ERT officer to the IIO.

The other problem is the first pathologist said the wounds were caused by a “small calibre bullet with a low velocity.” Well, except the RCMP ERT use a Colt M-16 which fires a larger calibre 5.56X45 mm NATO bullet at a rate of approximately 3,000 feet per second, hardly a “low velocity.”

To be fair, a pathologist in that part of the world likely doesn’t see a lot of GSWs. (Gunshot wounds) Which also begs the question, given the dichotomy on their hands, why wouldn’t they seek a review by a more experienced pathologist who sees lots of GSWs?

To their credit, the IIO recognized the problem and sought the review of another pathologist. Not to their credit they waited from October 2014 until August 2017 before they did this. Why is anyone’s guess.

In the interim they also hired a biomechanical engineer to try and determine the position of the suspect when shot. In my opinion, this not only overly complicated things but contributed much to the delay of the investigation.

At the end of it all, they new CCD came to the right conclusion and issued his report clearing the ERT officer who fired the fatal shot. But the delay, as Butterworth-Carr said, is unacceptable.

MacDonald seems to recognize this and since he started he has concluded 16 investigations hanging around from 2015, 2016 and 2017. He has also referred two files to the Criminal Justice Branch to determine if any criminal charges are applicable.

That’s very promising and diametrically opposed to what we have come to expect from the IIO.

When I asked the IIO for comment on all of this, Marten Youssef, the Director of Public Engagement said, “The CCD chose to let his decision speak for its self and therefore didn’t issue a separate statement. As CO Butterworth-Carr said, her and the CCD have been in contact in the past on this matter and he shares her view on the length of this investigation. This was also expressed in the decision.”

When asked about the sea change in concluding files, Youssef said this, “As for the change at the IIO, there is no doubt it is being spearheaded by Ron and his leadership. That said, the CCD is a firm believer that the change is a result of the collective effort and hard work by staff. He has also stated that he is devoting his focus to improving the future of the IIO as opposed to being defined by the past.”

That is encouraging.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 30, 2018 at 10:31 pm

More positive signs of change at the IIO

with 9 comments

Earlier this week the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) released a report that analyzed their investigation in the Nov. 8, 2012 police involved shooting at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster by Delta Police Cst. Jordan MacWilliams.  The analysis was conducted by retired RCMP Supt. Doug Kiloh who has much Major Case Management (MCM) experience but he also had expertise in ERT tactical procedures. Which, I might add, no one involved in the actual investigation had.

On October 20, 2014 MacWilliams was charged with second degree murder. The charges were finally stayed on July 14, 2015.

Regular readers will know that much has been written on this case in which I was very critical of the IIO’s investigation and questioned their competence in many aspects and on many occasions.

The Delta Police Association wrote a letter of complaint to the IIO essentially saying their investigation was flawed and also questioned their competence. The IIO, to their credit, then commissioned the review by Kiloh.

Kiloh’s 15 page report is very critical of the IIO but does note that in the intervening time a number of things have changed. But he also makes a number of recommendations involving training, investigative techniques, evidence management, MCM protocols and enhanced training.

Kiloh also focused on two salient events from the IIO investigation. One was that investigators never spoke to the female taken hostage that morning. I surfaced her and interviewed about six months after the charge was laid against MacWilliams. I also surfaced the fact that the IIO never asked casino security for their video. Casino security burned a DVD for the New Westminster police and the coroner. They got their copies but the IIO never  asked.

When I asked why the IIO never bothered to touch these basic but critical things to understand what happened, I was told that the IIO doesn’t concern themselves with what led up to the Affected Person’s interaction with police but just the actual interaction. I was stunned.

Well, evidently Kiloh was equally stunned. He deals with these failures and others in his report.

The new Chief Civilian Director, Ron MacDonald, put out a statement corresponding with the release of the Kiloh report. In it he said, “I have accepted the conclusions and recommendations outlined in his report, which is attached, in their entirety.”  He goes on to say than many of the recommendations have already been undertaken.

He then said this: “As the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, I am focused on ensuring our investigations are carried out in as excellent and timely a manner as possible. We will always work to improve where necessary. This report and our response to it is an example of how the IIO is prepared to receive feedback and acknowledge weaknesses, recognize the need to improve, and make the needed changes.”

Well, that’s diametrically opposed to the first CCD, Richard Rosenthal

Considering the new CCD said he accepted the conclusions and recommendations “in their entirety,” I sent the following question yesterday to Marten Youssef, the IIO’s Director of Public Engagement:

If, in fact, the IIO accepts the report and recommendations “in it’s entirety,” that leads me to a very salient question. In the Starlight Casino investigation I surfaced the female hostage who was not interviewed by the IIO and the fact that casino security had burned a DVD of all of their video for the IIO but was never asked for it. Kiloh refers to both these matters as failings.

At the time when I questioned these things I was told by the IIO, I believe it was you, that was because the IIO was only interested in the limited focus of the police interaction with the Affected Person and not in circumstances that led up to that interaction.”

Youssef forwarded that enquiry to the new CCD who responded himself.

Here is his pasted response intact:

I have reviewed your email regarding the report about the Starlight Casino shooting. That report is about a five year old investigation, and the report notes several issues with that investigation. While it was important for us to release the report to publicly acknowledge those issues, and to demonstrate transparency to the public, at this point  my goal is to focus on the approach the IIO takes going forward.

In that sense you refer to the fact that the whole of the circumstances of an incident ought to be relevant in our investigations, not just the immediate interaction between the police and the AP.

To put it simply, I agree with you, and that is indeed the approach we take in our investigations. Not only can that context assist in an assessment of police actions, it will help explain the entire fact situation to the public.

I hope that addresses your questions.

Take care.

Ron

Well, well. Rosenthal never responded to my questions in his four years as CCD, let alone admit I was correct on any issue let alone such a salient one.

There are positive winds blowing at the IIO with this new guy at the helm.

One last point, Earlier today the Criminal Justice Branch released a report saying there would be no charges in an event at West Shore RCMP jail in which the arrestee, very drunk, was fighting with three members and taken to the floor when she sustained an injury. The whole thing is on video as you might imagine.

This occurred four years ago and the decision was only released today. Four years. The new CCD talks about timely investigations. Clearly this was not a priority of the previous administration. So, far he is talking the talk and walking the walk with two recent events that have taken place since he assumed the mantle were cleared in two months and one month respectively.

There were a couple more in the past couple of weeks. We shall see how the new IIO does with those.

I’m hopeful right now that MacDonald has forced the IIO to turn a corner. Early signs are promising.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 23, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Political revenge or justice?

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Last week the RCMP announced a single charge of Breach of Trust by a public official against Vice Admiral Mark Norman, the former second in command of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The investigation was conducted by the RCMP’s National Division, the section responsible,ostensibly, for “sensitive and international” investigations. This is the same section that conducted the investigation of Senator Mike Duffy in the Senate expense scandal. The problem is that it reeks of politics and seems to have little to do with justice.

Norman had in his portfolio oversight of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy which was intended to be the replacement of the Protecteur class of naval supply ships. While the project had been underway for several years, a series of incidents led to the premature decommissioning of the HMCS Preserver and the HMCS Protecteur in 2014.

The government of Stephen Harper understood the problem of not having our own naval supply ships. There aren’t any gas stations in the middle of any ocean. That meant our navy was limited in how far our ships could travel. The navy scrambled and rented a supply ship from the Chilean navy for the Pacific, but that was a limited arrangement. They were in the process of negotiating with Spain for a supply ship for the Atlantic coast but that never came to fruition.

The Harper government changed contracting regulations that allowed them to do a sole-sourced contract when operational necessity merited. They then entered into an agreement with Davie Shipyards to convert a cargo ship, the MS Asterix, purchased by the shipyard, into a supply ship that would bridge the gap while Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver was building the replacement “Joint Support Ships.”

So far, so good. But the Harper government lost the election that year and the country was, yet again, blessed with a Liberal government. Those of us with memory of the last Liberal government recall the absolute cock-up they made of the Sea King helicopter replacement program. Their mismanagement, or should I say political corruption, cost the taxpayers $500 million in penalties for the cancellation of contracts put in place by the previous Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.

The Sea King replacement project began in 1983 and was well on the way until the Tories lost the 1993 election and the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien won. One of their first actions was to cancel the Sea King replacement contracts. To say that decision was simply political and blatantly stupid would be an understatement. There are still Sea Kings in operational use by the Canadian navy. They were old when Mulroney launched the New Shipboard Aircraft Project in 1985 for God’s sake. Navy pilots describe the Sea Kings as “10,000 nuts and bolts flying in loose formation.”

Not to be outdone, the government of Justin Trudeau, as one of their first acts decided to cancel the contract with Davie Shipbuilding after receiving communications from Irving Shipbuilding on the east coast requesting the cancellation of the contract and opening it up to bids from other shipyards. Naturally, the Irvings through their group of companies are huge donors to the Liberals historically. So Trudeau and the Liberals, as is their wont, decided in Cabinet to do exactly that. In their world the good of the country falls behind what is good for the Liberals.

Needless to say, Norman, was frustrated by that. He is alleged to have engaged in a series of communications with Davie Shipyards about the problem. The information was somehow leaked to the media and the ensuing uproar caused Trudeau to retreat on the decision.

The project went ahead and as we speak, the HMCS Asterix is undergoing sea trials. All’s well that ends well one might think. But no, Trudeau called in the RCMP and Norman was suspended by the Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance pending investigation.

The RCMP raided Norman’s home as well as Davie Shipyards and a myriad of other places and organizations in Canada as well as the US resulting last week with the announcement of a breach of trust charge against Norman. Stunning.

Norman has an unimpeachable record of service to the nation. And let’s be realistic, to penalize  a man like that suggesting he leaked something, given that leaks are the capital of government, journalists and lobbyists, simply smacks of revenge.

Clearly Norman, by all accounts, frustrated by political interference, did whatever he did in the best interests of the country. It is also useful to note that Section 122 of the Criminal Code was designed to rout out corruption by public officials, typically for those who make decisions meant to benefit themselves or associates. There is no apparent evidence, at least in the public domain, of any such benefit sought by Norman in any of this. Now, maybe the RCMP unearthed something like that in their investigation, but of that, I am very sceptical.

Adding to all of this, Trudeau, not once but twice, in the past year, before the investigation was concluded and the charge laid, stated this matter would inevitably end up in court. How in the world would he know that? Well, there is certainly historical precedent of the PMO interfering in an RCMP investigation. Project Sidewinder during the Chrétien administration quickly leaps to mind.

No, this smacks of political revenge and crushing someone who defied the Liberals.

Norman is not a wealthy man after a career in the military. Some folks who served with him have set up a GoFundMe account to help with his legal bills trying to fight the might and deep pockets of the Crown.

This is outrageous.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 14, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Positive signs of change at the IIO

with 8 comments

This past month the new Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Ronald J. MacDonald released a report into an incident in which a man died of a self-inflicted pellet rifle shot during an encounter with Burnaby RCMP. The incident occurred on December 20, 2017. The report was released on  February 20, 2018 just two months after the event.

In the IIO’s five year history this has never occurred. They have been averaging 18 months from date of incident to investigation completion and report issued. This has certainly been a bone of contention with me and others critical of the organization.

Just a month ago at the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Tony Du, the IIO came under criticism for taking so long to complete that investigation. They said they were essentially done after 11 months but had to wait an additional 7 months for ballistics. Huh?

Why they would need ballistics testing in a VPD officer involved shooting in which only one officer fired his service weapon? He said it was him and gave a statement. This is not a stone-cold whodunnit. The IIO had the weapon, the brass and the remaining bullets in the magazine. What’s to test to examine the facts of the shooting?

Du was a distraught man swinging a 2X4 at police at 41st & Knight St. in traffic. VPD trying to deal with him fired multiple bean bags rounds at him but that didn’t stop him. As he advanced towards the police swinging the 2X4 he was shot and later died of his wounds.

The officer who fired the fatal shots didn’t hide anything and gave a statement outlining the circumstances outline why he fired.

The only questions to answer in this investigation were 1) Was the officer entitled to use force and 2) was the force used reasonable or excessive. That’s it. But the IIO in the past always tried to turn what should be relatively simple matters into convoluted investigations taking months and years for what should take a competent investigator weeks.

It was for these reasons that the Ministry announced the award of three contracts last August to have experienced police officers revamp and augment the training IIO investigators received.  I was optimistic this was a good sign.

Unfortunately, the first time the training was delivered at the Justice Institute one of the instructors, retired VPD Inspector Les Yeo, encountered resistance and condescension from the IIO participants. Comments like, “That’s not how we do things” were made. Well, Sparky that’s actually the point of giving training by someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Yeo spent years in Strike Force, Major Crimes and in the wake of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot he led a team of investigators putting together over 300 criminal prosecutions of riot participants. He was also board certified as a Team Commander in the Major Case Management model the IIO claims they follow but have no one with that same certification.

On the final Friday of Yeo’s course, he staged a mock coroner’s inquest with an actual coroner and an actual lawyer acting as counsel for the coroner. Yeo set up a set of circumstances for the inquest which mirrored an actual event in which Yeo himself was shot before he was able to return fire on the armed robbery suspect who later died as a result of police fire.

During the exercise the IIO investigator playing Yeo’s role in the shooting inquest essentially mocked the actions taken by Yeo and yes, he was offended and angry at the anti-police attitude displayed by the IIO investigators.

But it was more than just Yeo. At least half of the instructors were dismayed by the attitude displayed by the IIO attendees during the course of the month-long training. Yeo has since had a meeting with members of the JIBC and the IIO in which he informed the IIO that he was no longer interested in doing any training for their staff.

 I should note the new CCD had not yet taken office when this training occurred.

I contacted the IIO’s Director of Public Engagement and Policy, Marten Youssef for comment. To my surprise I received a reply from the new CCD. He acknowledged the problem saying, “The issues were addressed managerially with an emphasis on the sensitivities at play. In addition, discussions have been held between Gayle (Chief of Investigations), JIBC representatives and the instructor. I am advised that on behalf of the IIO, Gayle acknowledged the issues raised as perceived by the instructor and assured the Instructor and JIBC representatives the IIO does not tolerate inappropriate behaviour and attitude.”

“Further they were advised and I can confirm, the issues were dealt with managerially,” said McDonald. The CCD referred to the mocking incident as a “poor attempt at humour.”

Interesting.

In the past five years since the inception of the IIO and despite much criticism in this space I never heard a word from the previous CCD including when I called for his termination. He never admitted any fault nor attempted to explain the actions of the IIO.

Just yesterday the IIO announced there would be no charges in the case of an RCMP officer who stopped a car for erratic driving on Hwy 1. The driver, while the officer was in his patrol vehicle writing tickets for the incident, got out of his vehicle and leapt into the path of oncoming traffic sustaining significant injuries. The incident occurred on February 5th, 2018. Yes, you read that right. Just a month ago.

The new CCD even went as far in his report to say the officer involved was “professional in his dealings” with the affected person. Those words would never have been uttered by the former CCD, Richard Rosenthal, who displayed nothing but contempt for the police.

This is unprecedented in the history of the IIO and I truly hope a positive sign of change with the new management of the police oversight agency. But we shall see.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 7, 2018 at 12:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Justice delayed is justice denied

with 5 comments

There’s an old legal maxim which says “Justice delayed is justice denied.” The phrase has been attributed to William E. Gladstone who was Prime Minister of the UK for 12 years spread over four terms in the mid to late 19th century.

But the concept goes back to the Magna Carta of 1215, clause 40 which reads, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

Yesterday the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) issued a media release saying there would be no charges against a member of the RCMP resulting from an in-custody death that resulted from an incident on February 14th, 2015. The man died in hospital on February 21st, 2015. I shook my head and read it again. Could it really have taken nearly three years to reach a conclusion in the case?

What could possibly be so complicated that it would take that long for a process to determine what happened?

The circumstances seem fairly straight forward.

Jacobus Jonker, 53, was arrested by Smithers RCMP resulting from a domestic dispute. His daughter called 9-1-1 saying her father was drunk, holding a knife and was “really aggressive.” She remained on the line with the dispatcher reporting that he had gone to his gun safe and taken out a shotgun, that he may be suicidal and was concerned he would shoot her.

When the responding officer arrived, later to be the so-called subject officer, Jonker was standing in the door. The officer called for him to walk towards him. He did with his hand in his coat pocket saying “shoot me.” While he was aggressive and non-compliant, the officer managed to take him into custody without using lethal force, using OC or pepper spray. Good job I say.

At the detachment, the next chapter in the arrest unfolded in the cells. Jonker became aggressive and attacked the officer’s supervisor who had joined him in cells to assist with the booking along with the jail guard. He tried to reach for the supervisor’s gun and then lunged at him physically. He was grabbed essentially in a headlock by the arresting officer and taken to the ground where a ground fight ensued while the supervisor tried to get handcuffs on the man and the guard tried to control his legs. Oh, and I should mention Jonker weighed 288 lbs. and neither officer topped 190.

He was a rugby player and coached the sport at the local high school. Suffice to say he was a physical challenge for the officers.

During the ground fight Jonker went limp, the officers flipped him over and observed he wasn’t breathing. They immediately began CPR and called EHS. Jonker was airlifted to Victoria where he died in hospital a week later.

Now, I should add that ground fighting is part of every police officer’s training. In the RCMP members are in the gym wearing judo gi’s. They sit back to back on the floor mat and on the instructor’s call, begin fighting, using any method, trick or tactic to get the other guy to tap out. There are no rules to ground fighting, save and except to get control. The object is to win, to survive. Cops don’t start fights, but their very life depends on their ability to finish them.

It’s tragic that Jonker died. It’s equally tragic this member had the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigation and possible criminal charges hanging over his head for as long as this. 34 months from the date of the incident to the day CJB finally issued a statement saying he would not be charged with manslaughter or criminal negligence causing death.

I should also add there was no mystery in any of this. There was a CCTV video system in operation in the detachment cell area and virtually all of the confrontation was captured and available for analysis.

Two police use of force experts were called in by the IIO, one with the RCMP but a different detachment and the other from the Calgary Police Service. Both said the use of force was appropriate and consistent with their training.

What could possibly take 34 months – nearly three years – to determine that this officer was simply doing his job? Jonker got “horribly drunk” as stated by his wife. He was aggressive and violent as indicated by his daughter in her 9-1-1 call and the fact the family had to flee the house. He was uncooperative and aggressive in the cells. He tried to take the supervisor’s gun and attacked that officer. He was pulled off of him by the subject officer and taken to the floor where to control the big man there was a ground fight the likes of which occurs in every jurisdiction in this country on a daily basis. I wish I could say it’s unusual, but it’s not.

In most of these incidents police are able to gain control of the suspect. But, sometimes bad things happen and occasionally people die as a result. But it is always the result of their own choices. The choice to use drugs, alcohol, use violence against the police, being fat are the usual contributing factors. That’s reality.

But there’s nothing complicated in any of this. What could possibly have taken 34 months for the IIO to submit a report to crown and crown to review to determine this officer did his job in accordance with the law and with his training?

Why keep the family of the deceased and the officer and his family hanging for so long? It is unprofessional and reeks of incompetence or worse, a fruitless effort to find something, anything, with which to charge a police officer.

This isn’t justice.

-30-

Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

 

Written by Leo Knight

December 15, 2017 at 10:19 pm