Archive for April 2006
The Hells Angels have long maintained they are not a criminal organization. Their propaganda machine fuelled by their charitable toy runs and the like. But, even though the police have had only limited success in breaking up their criminal networks, taking a gun to a high level meeting certainly seems to tell a different story.
A hint of what really went on came on Wednesday morning when over 100 officers mustered in a Vancouver armoury to get briefed on the plan to rescue the young man.
During that week as well, the police were hampered in their efforts by some elements of the broadcast news media who simply would not do as they were asked and refused to “blackout” the story so the police could do their job. With a kidnap victim’s life hanging in the balance, one has to question the judgment in those newsrooms.
But the story that really stuck in my craw was the piece done by CTV’s Lisa Rossington when she “tracked down” the rental car used by the kidnappers to abduct McMynn.
Rossington spoke to someone in the car lot office who said the police had not contacted them, implying that somehow the police were incompetent.
Given that the girlfriend of the victim was present at the time of the abduction and was the one who gave them the information about the vehicle, did Rossington really believe that the police wouldn’t have followed up on their only solid lead from the get-go? It strains credulity well past the breaking point to even contemplate such a notion a week into the kidnapping.
And, let’s face it, saying that on the six o’clock news sends an entirely contradictory message to the kidnappers than what the police and the family were trying to get out which was to get the kidnappers to make contact. And in this, she placed McMynn’s life in further danger.
The Vancouver Police proved all the doubters and armchair quarterbacks wrong. They conducted an effective, successful investigation in the most trying of circumstances in the desperate attempt to save an innocent life.
The media and the police both have their role to play in a democratic society. Those roles need not always be at odds with each other. Especially when lives are at stake.
Late Tuesday morning, Graham McMynn, 23, a UBC student, was snatched off a street in broad daylight by armed Asian gunmen, leaving his distraught girlfriend screaming for help on the street. By early afternoon CTV news had a microwave truck positioned outside the McMynn home. A news crew from Global was on the scene as well, but they chose to be much more discreet.
In short order radio station CKNW were broadcasting news of the kidnapping, admittedly with few details.
Police asked that the media sit on the story knowing full-well that in kidnapping cases their ability to control the information known to those responsible is critical.
That evening, the debate raged in newsrooms throughout Vancouver, whether to go with the story or not. Responsible newsrooms like BCTV on Global, CBC and The Province made the right decision.
CITY TV decided not to go with the story on their six o’clock broadcast, but had a reporter ready to do a “live hit” if the other stations went with it. CTV ignored the pleas from the police and led with the story so CITY did their live hit ten minutes into the newscast.
With the actions of CTV, the damage was done. The next day all the other media outlets were in overdrive with coverage of the scant details and clamouring for more. That afternoon, VPD held a press conference to try and quell the coverage
Two days later with coverage of the story now abounding, the family put out an emotional plea to encourage the kidnappers to make contact. It appears as though the barrage of media coverage gave them cold feet.
How this will end up is anyone’s guess. The Vancouver police are throwing every possible resource at the investigation. But without contact from the kidnappers their ability to negotiate a settlement is severely hampered.
While I don’t know the motives for this kidnapping, it has all the hallmarks of a kidnapping for ransom case. Indeed, elements of Asian organized crime use kidnapping of wealthy people as a significant revenue source in their day-to-day illicit activities. Most you never hear about, or you hear about after the fact, when the case has been successfully concluded.
Typically, the gangsters contact the family of the victim in short order making a ransom demand and tell them not to involve the police. Equally, the police use a media blackout to reinforce the idea that the kidnappers and the family are negotiating a “business transaction.”
It seems highly likely that the broadcast media coverage of this event has derailed the plans, however misguided, of the kidnappers. One can only hope that tragedy will not be the result.
Yesterday, The Province reported they had begun an investigation into the sinking. Reporter Matthew Ramsay quoted Sgt. Ken Burton saying, “The RCMP is running a parallel and concurrent investigation. We are exploring all the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate event.”
Sounds pretty unequivocal to me. But then the day the story appears, BC Ferries boss David Hahn denies any such thing and calls the story “reckless” and RCMP media flak Sgt. John Ward says they are only at the stage of determining whether they will do an investigation.
But, when asked if the Province story was wrong, Ward had this to say: “I don’t think you were wrong. I don’t think Burton was wrong.”
So, which is it? Is the RCMP back-pedalling because Hahn didn’t like the inference that someone at Ferries had done something criminal that led to the ferry sinking and the apparent loss of two lives?
While we can’t discount the possibility of some type of equipment failure, it seems pretty clear to me that the tragedy was likely the result of either human error or human misconduct. The first would not be criminal, the second would. With a boat on the bottom and two people missing and presumed drowned, if there is a possibility of criminal behaviour being the cause, the RCMP are duty-bound to investigate regardless of what David Hahn thinks.
This is no different than any other type of sudden death investigation in that end. The police investigate and make a determination. If that determination is criminal in nature then the process follows that line. If not, then the matter is closed from a police point of view.
And let’s be clear about this. The ship struck a rock in a channel that it has been sailing through for decades. How did that happen? Because whatever the answer to that question is, is directly responsible for the deaths of two people.
And that is a police matter.