Archive for October 2015
A couple of days after RCMP Cst. Rick Drought had the asinine charge of Careless Use of a Firearm stayed in Cranbrook court, Global reporter John Daly did a story for the six o’clock news. In the process of gathering information for his story, he interviewed Solicitor General Susan Anton who essentially said she didn’t have a problem with the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and they were much like any other agency who investigates and submits reports to Crown for charge approval.
Anton is either lying or is significantly out of touch with reality with what is occurring in her ministry and all the investigations into bullying, morale issues, inappropriate behaviour that are or have gone on in the IIO by various 3rd parties and the PSA, the governmental HR department who was instructed by her own deputy minister, Richard Fyfe.
Police officers across the province are more than a little concerned every time they go to work that even if they do their job properly in high stress situations they run the risk of finding themselves in the dock of a criminal courtroom. And why not? They have seen at first hand the charge of second degree murder filed against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams. He went through nine months of hell until the Crown, in a sudden moment of clarity, stayed the charge they couldn’t possibly have proven in the first instance.
They say the same thing played out two weeks ago with the stay of charges against Drought. But the stay didn’t change the nearly two and a half years that Drought had the charges hanging over his head. The original charge was two separate counts each of which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Think about the stress that created for Drought and his family. And what for? For having the temerity to do his job courageously and appropriately.
Just last week the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Richard Rosenthal forwarded a case to Crown involving VPD members chasing robbery suspects where a Police Service Dog (PSD) was deployed and one suspect was injured in the process. It’s not criminal. Commit a serious crime and flee, well guess what? The police will go after you. If you run, it’s very likely they will deploy a PSD. Oh, and because dogs don’t have opposable thumbs, they use their mouths to take down fleeing suspects. And if the suspect struggles, the dog bites harder.
If this seems ridiculous to you, it is. But it also seems ridiculous to IIO investigators who try to do their job diligently. And more often than not, when they hear a file has been forwarded to Crown they look at each other and shake their heads because they know the police officer acted appropriately.
What happens then is the investigator tends to get fired for daring to have the temerity to question the motives of the CCD. And when they get fired, it costs you the taxpayer big money. Why? Largely because Rosenthal wants to ensure there is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place so there’s no talking out of school, so to speak.
Provincial government employees are entitled to 18 months severance plus 19% on top of that in lieu of benefits. In return, outgoing employees of the IIO sign NDAs to ensure their silence about the myriad of problems within and the sadly lacking leadership of Rosenthal.
Since it’s inception in Sept. 2012, many have left of the authorized strength of 32. Let’s take a look at how many.
Rita M., Gail H., Robin P., Christa R., Sandy T., Hal W., Fred L., Catherine W., Kate C., Ken O., Rob S., Eric F., Andrea S., Bruce G., Owen C., Bill S., Roy F., Tansey R., Claire L., Brabra K., Candace M., Rebecca H., and the most recent just last week, Susan O.
I am not using their full names to protect their privacy, but suffice to say that many, like Rob, Fred, and Ken are experienced career police officers who objected to Rosenthal’s procedural anomalies and bullying in the face of criticism. Others, like Barbara K. were career civil servants who had served in a number of ministries and were simply told their services were no longer required. And here’s your big six figure cheque courtesy of the taxpayers of British Columbia.
The IIO is short of investigators largely because no one with any credibility will work there. Frankly, the only people still there are those who either need a job or like John Larkin, the former British cop who is Chief of Investigations, is a true believer like Rosenthal that cops are always doing something wrong. One former investigator told me that Larkin starts from the premise that the cops are guilty and then works backwards from there.
So, after three years, the IIO has forwarded more than thirty files to Crown. In the two cases where criminal charges were laid, both were ultimately stayed by the Crown. The only result they have had in three years is one cop who pleaded guilty to a traffic ticket.
Between the operating budget, millions in severance, and the purchase of a diesel rental vehicle that Larkin put regular gas into, this travesty has cost the taxpayers of this province north of $35 million. Thus far.
Rosenthal is still in place with his sycophant John Larkin. There are multiple open, unfilled positions, open investigations into the actions of the CCD and at least one director, there has been little to show for all the bluster and buffoonery and the Minister doesn’t have any problems with the IIO?
And good cops just trying to do their jobs and go home to their families are the ones at risk.
And the Minister has no problem with it all.
This morning in Cranbrook, common sense finally re-entered the room and the Crown entered a stay of proceedings against RCMP Cst. Rick Drought. I first told you about this on Monday, but Drought has been going through hell since criminal charges were laid against him more than two years ago.
But this case was messed up out of the gate. And for a number of reasons. Where to begin?
Quite apart from the nonsense spouted by Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigator Sherman Mah when he testified that he had no ability to take measurements at the scene and resorted to super-imposing an RCMP diagram on a printout of Google Earth to estimate the distance between Drought when he opened fire and the vehicle accelerating towards him. That was not only wrong, but plainly embarrassing. I only wish it stopped there.
I spoke tonight with Alan Armstrong, the good Samaritan who stopped to help Nicholas John Bullock and his 17-yr-old girlfriend who had run out of gas in the car they had highjacked in Coquitlam hours earlier.
When Armstrong picked them up he engaged them in conversation. Bullock repaid his courtesy by placing a cold, metal something at the back of his head and said, “Pull over. I’ve got a gun against your head and I’ll blow your fucking head off.” Armstrong protested that he was in traffic and couldn’t and Bullock repeated the threat.
Armstrong pulled over and undid his seatbelt as he was told. He got a boot in his ribs pushing him from his Toyota 4Runner and got blasted with bear spray in the face for his trouble.
Bullock sped off with his vehicle while Armstrong staggered to a nearby home and asked for help. It was from there he called police and reported the carjacking at gunpoint.
It was this information that was broadcast out to Cranbrook RCMP officers when Drought spotted the 4Runner near Elizabeth Lake and he took up the pursuit.
But none of this information was known to the IIO because they never contacted Armstrong to get his story. They did finally contact him a little over a month after the events of Oct, 2, 2012. But that was to ask him if he knew where his SUV was. So, a month after they took control of an officer involved shooting they contacted the victim of a car-jacking not to get details of what happened, but to see if he knew what had happened to their primary exhibit. I was stunned.
How would anyone with care and control of an investigation such as this, lose control of their primary exhibit? The incompetence is stunning.
Not to mention not speaking to the victim of the carjacking. You almost think the information about the gun given to the RCMP and broadcast to responding members would be germane, wouldn’t you?
Armstrong was incredulous when he spoke to the IIO investigator. And he’s a civilian. He said to the IIO investigator,”Why don’t you stand up in your cubicle and ask if anyone there knows where the vehicle is.” The response was classic. The IIO investigator said, “I hope if we have to contact you again I hope you’ll be more cooperative.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
When this file played out and the Crown in the form of Oleh Kuzma, former failed Regional Crown in the Interior, approved charges against Drought, Richard Rosenthal, the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO dispatched investigators to Cranbrook to serve the charge documents on Drought who was out of town with his son.
What occurred then was a comedy wrapped in a tragedy. The investigators insisted on serving the charging documents directly and Drought’s lawyers said they would accept service. The back and forth took about eight hours.
They finally served counsel and returned to Vancouver. Rosenthal questioned them asking why they didn’t arrest Drought and conduct a ‘Perp walk’ with him. Unbelievable.
Richard Rosenthal is an absolute embarrassment in the role of CCD of the IIO. He has been protected by a Deputy Minister in the Department of Justice despite the myriad of complaints about him from very credible investigators in the IIO who have since been fired by Rosenthal.
The reality is there is little competence remaining in the IIO. The government may have had good intentions in the formation of the IIO, but the reality is something that is vastly different from those good intentions and needs to the addressed.
Premier Clark, this is now on you.
I will have much more to say on this later, but for now I am pleased to report that this morning the Crown has stayed the charges against Cranbrook RCMP Cst. Rick Drought. Common sense has finally re-entered the room.
After the first week of testimony in the charge of careless use of a firearm against Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought, a 15 year veteran of the RCMP at the time, I am still left wondering why this charge has been laid in the first place. A week into it and I have no inkling what it is the Crown thinks it can prove that adds up to criminal behaviour.
What’s even more puzzling is that when the charge against Drought was first announced on August 8, 2013, the charge was ‘intentionally discharging a firearm into a motor vehicle knowing a person was in the vehicle and intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life and safety of another person.’
Those charges were new to the Criminal Code in 2009 and were designed to prosecute gang shootings not police officers in the execution of their duty. It carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for each count. In the government background announcing the amendments it specifically said, “One of the main purposes of the bill is to facilitate the battle against organized crime, and to that end, it amends the Criminal Code.”
So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at the facts in the case.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 2nd, 2012, 25-yr-old career criminal Nicholas John Bullock, accompanied by his 17-yr-old girlfriend, violently carjacked two folks driving a white Chevy Malibu in the parking lot of the Coquitlam Superstore.
They drove the car until they ran out of gas outside of Yahk, BC. They flagged down a passing motorist and promptly violently carjacked the hapless good Samaritan. They then drove towards Cranbrook, BC where Mounties were responding to the reported carjacking. It should be noted they believed the suspect was armed. Cst. Drought took up the pursuit in the area of Elizabeth Lake.
The suspect drove the hijacked Toyota 4 Runner into the woods on a rural acreage at the top of Victoria Avenue. Drought got out of his police car likely believing the suspects would abandon the vehicle and try to lose their pursuer in the woods.
He had only moved a short distance in front of his cruiser when the SUV came out of the woods lit up and accelerating right at the police officer. He reacted in the blink of an eye. In the space of 2.5 seconds Drought fired nine shots into the vehicle, seven through the windscreen and two through the passenger side window as he sidestepped the vehicle according to the firearms investigator who testified.
Clearly, Drought feared for his life.
Three of his shots hit the suspect, one in the upper body and two in the left wrist and he was taken into custody. Bullock would later plead guilty to a number of charges and was essentially sentenced to two years less a day after time served was taken into consideration. He has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2005 for a host of offences including robbery.
One would think that would be the end of things. But not so for police officers in British Columbia since the inception of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).
Sherman Mah from the IIO testified on Thursday that he estimated the distance between Drought and the SUV when he began shooting was approximately 14 metres or about 45 feet. He didn’t actually take any measurements because he said this was only their second case and they didn’t have the ability to transport any equipment from Vancouver or frankly, any equipment to transport. No, really, he actually said that.
So what did he do? Well, he used a diagram provided by the RCMP and super-imposed that over a printout from Google Earth. You can’t make this stuff up.
The next day, the scene was reconstructed for the jury – yes, this is a jury trial – and the distance appeared to be much less. Much, much less, apparently, somewhere between five and six metres or about 20 feet.We won’t know the specific distance until the RCMP crime scene folks testify, but let’s call it 20 feet, give or take. So, the car was travelling at about 30 KPH and accelerating towards the officer. How much time would you think it would take to cover that 20 feet?
Drought reacted as anyone would facing that threat would and fired his weapon, all shots hitting in the driver’s compartment as intended. Bullock told the IIO investigators that he wasn’t really going to run over the officer, but he understood why the officer fired.
The IIO investigators who conducted the investigation were surprised that the Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, forwarded the case to Crown. The CCD does this whenever he feels a crime MAY have been committed. This is a dangerously low threshold to meet and normally common sense takes hold and no charges are laid. In this case common sense left the room and a Senior Crown Counsel in Victoria overrode local Crown Counsel and laid the ridiculous charge against a police officer in the execution of his duty that was intended by Parliament for use against gang bangers doing drive-bys.
This is a war on police not civilian oversight as envisioned by the government resulting from the flawed Braidwood Inquiry.
At some point the ridiculousness of this charge must have dawned on someone at Criminal Justice Branch and the charge was amended to “Careless use or storage of a weapon,” under section 86 of the Criminal Code.
To prove this charge the Crown must establish that the accused’s conduct “constitutes a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent person.” Wait, what?
Yup, this charge is aimed at the average owner of a firearm who contravenes a regulation under paragraph 117 (h) of the Firearms Act.
This is nuts. Drought has been off duty on administrative leave for three years, still earning his salary but providing no benefit to the citizens of Cranbrook who pay that salary. For what? To try and prove some nebulous, chicken-shit charge that relates to bureaucratic regulations?
Police officers are authorized to use force, including lethal force, to do their duty. They may use lethal force if they feel their life or that of another is in danger. But, the same criminal code that gives a police officer this power also holds them accountable in Section 26 which states: “Every one who is authorized by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess thereof according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess.”
The test in this or any other case facing IIO investigators should simply be this: Did the officer perceive he or she was in danger? Was he or she entitled to use lethal force? Was the force used excessive in the circumstances?
That’s it. That is the role envisioned for the IIO. Rosenthal has seemingly made it his role to use whatever tools at his disposal to go after scalps of cops.
The trial in Cranbrook against Drought is scheduled to run another week and a half before it goes to the jury. What an absolute waste of time and money. Not to mention the toll it has taken on yet another cop in BC just trying to do his job.
One can almost hear the strains of Judy Collins singing, “Send in the clowns.”