Archive for November 2015
This week, to no one’s surprise, the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) issued a media release saying there would be no criminal prosecutions against members of the Vancouver Police Department arising from a report to Crown Counsel submitted by the Chief Civilian Director (CCD) of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) following a running gun battle that started in Yaletown and ended at Science World on June 10, 2014.
At the time I reported about that case in this space, I said, “Yet again, we see the incredible overreach in what should be a cut and dried case.”
What was surprising is that the CCD, Richard Rosenthal, issued a statement of his own regarding the incident. It can only be described as an attempt to justify his existence by trying to explain his actions in this.
Said Rosenthal, “In this case, based on the evidence obtained, the IIO was unable to unequivocally conclude that there was no potential that an offence may have occurred. This was due to the potential risk of harm to bystanders as a result of some of the shots fired by the officers. The fact that the involved VPD officers acted heroically that day and successfully gained control of a volatile incident that jeopardized both the safety of the public and responding officers did not eliminate the IIO’s responsibility to fulfill its mandate by making referrals to the Criminal Justice Branch as per the required referral standard.”
Risk of harm to bystanders? Really? Is that what this was all about? Well, yes apparently. In the CJB media release, they said this, “This analysis took into account the potential for collateral injury from gunfire in an urban setting and close proximity to a highly popular tourist attraction. To obtain a conviction for this offence, the Crown would need to prove that an officer’s conduct constituted a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent police officer in the circumstances that existed.”
Rosenthal is severely misguided if he thought that any of the actions of the VPD on that day “may” have constituted criminal behaviour. Regardless if a bystander had been hit by an errant police bullet. Indeed, if a child coming out of Science World had been hit and killed, that would have been a tragedy, but it would not be a crime.
The police were fired upon immediately after the suspect shot another man in Yaletown. A chase ensued followed by a gun battle just in behind Science World. The gun battle can be seen here.
Rosenthal seems to think his mandate is to prosecute police officers. Their mandate is actually to investigate incidents involving serious injury or death and to determine whether or not the police acted appropriately. In those rare cases where an officer may have committed an offence then the CCD is to write a Report To Criminal Justice Branch (RTCJB) outlining what crime he thinks “may” have been committed and what evidence there is to support that.
According to Rosenthal, he believes in the three years he has been in the position, that police “may “ have committed crimes 45 times. In two of those cases, charges were laid by CJB and later stayed of which regular readers will know I have written extensively. In one case one officer pled guilty to fail to yield the right of way when making a left turn under the Motor Vehicle Act.
In another that went through trial on a charge of dangerous driving, the officer was acquitted. There is a charge pending of careless use of a firearm against a Delta police officer from circumstances of what appears to be an accidental discharge. And two more from the Island that have yet to be dealt with.
The vast majority of submissions resulted in charges not being approved. Rosenthal hides behind the “may have been committed” weasel words used in the Police Act as an excuse to forward most things to CJB instead of making a decision.
In one case, he tried so desperately to get a charge laid that he was even trying to push a bylaw charge against a VPD dog master for driving a vehicle in a park. Seriously.
This man is an enemy to every police officer in the province. His flights of fancy have already put two good cops through hell before their cases were ultimately stayed. And, he has caused at least one 13 year member of the RCMP to quit after being put through the rigours of the IIO nonsense even though he acted appropriately and the investigation established that. He told me he just didn’t want to put his family through it again.
Cops in BC don’t have a problem with civilian oversight. They just want to be treated fairly and have a competent investigation done into their actions as required. At this point, they have no such confidence.
Rosenthal has lost or fired all the competent, experienced investigators he had. One of his current directors is a former CBC reporter for God’s sake. There is little or no experience left with major case management.
New IIO investigators go through a 10 week training program at the Justice Institute in basic skills like report writing, statement taking and the like. They do not take any use of force training which is the very thing they are supposed to investigate. In both cases where charges were laid and later stayed, they clearly demonstrated the lack of understanding of police procedures and use of force basics.
How can any police officer have any degree of confidence in the IIO fairly investigating their actions?
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking to the Abbotsford Police Department at their formal dinner. I said then and in front of the Chief, that in my opinion, any police officer designated as a subject officer should not cooperate with an IIO investigation. They have a duty to report on the incident. That report is made available by their department to the IIO. That should be the length and breadth of it. If you know that any investigation is trying to get something, anything to prosecute you, why would you cooperate further?
Equally, I also said that if I were a Chief Constable I would write a letter to the Premier and the Solicitor General demanding this be fixed or I would exercise my right under Section 23 of the Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the IIO to withdraw with 30 days notice. And I would get every like-minded Chief to also sign the letter.
In my view, that’s the only way this mess gets fixed.
Information coming from sources within the offices of the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIOBC) in the past week is stunning. Apparently, there is no one currently acting as the Chief Civilian Director and there won’t be for the next two weeks.
Richard Rosenthal hasn’t been around but for brief sightings since he went on some type of approved administrative leave in the Spring when his wife took ill and later died. Another source tells me he has recently registered at Simon Fraser University in a graduate program in the Criminology department.
In the interim, at the end of July, the government issued a “Cabinet order,” according to news reports at the time, which I presume is an Order In Council, appointing Clinton J. Sadlemyer, the IIO’s Director of Legal Services, as the Acting Chief Civilian Director.
This occurred in the wake of a RCMP involved shooting in Ft. St. John outside a BC Hydro public hearing on the Site C dam project. A man inside disrupted the meeting by throwing tables around and hurling epithets which resulted in the police being called. This man soon left.
As police arrived they were encountered by another man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask who was armed with a knife. According to information released by the police, he was acting “in an aggressive manner, refusing to comply with directions.” One of which was undoubtedly, “Drop the knife.”
The result was that 48-year-old James Daniel McIntyre was shot by the RCMP and died.
The IIO asserted jurisdiction and began their investigation. Kellie Kilpatrick, the Executive Director of Public Accountability, a fancy title for media spokesperson, was on site and conducted several media briefings.
A day later the hacktivist group Anonymous issued a press release claiming McIntyre was one of theirs and vowed revenge against the RCMP. What they did manage to do was find a bunch of personal information about Kilpatrick and published it on the internet.
This prompted a risk assessment within the IIO and Kilpatrick’s home and security adjustments were made. Kilpatrick, needless to say, became worried for her safety.
But all of this is the back story to why there is no CCD for the next two weeks.
Last week, according to my sources, in the IIO offices, they held a lunch Halloween potluck party. Sadlemyer, in a stunning display of insensitivity, entered the room wearing – wait for it – a Guy Fawkes mask.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Complaints were immediately initiated and the PSA, the HR department of the provincial government, got involved and an assistant deputy minister. The decision was made to suspend Sadlemyer for two weeks, apparently without pay.
The mind boggles.
In their media statement at the end of July, the IIO said there were “legal reasons” for the cabinet order. Ralph Krenz, speaking for the IIO said, “We need somebody who can officially act with the confidence of the legislature.”
One wonders if, after these two weeks in the penalty box, anyone will be able to say that Sadlemyer can still act with the confidence of the legislature?
With Rosenthal still on some unspecified leave after so much criticism of the lack of leadership and a host of other missteps, cock-ups and questions about his own fitness for the job, where does this leave the IIO moving forward?
Since the IIO was launched in September, 2012, it has been beset with all manner of criticisms, at least 8 internal investigations and at least 26 departures of their original staff complement of 32. And this, the government would have us believe, is the organization that police should have confidence in should they become involved in a situation that involves serious injury or death.
For Fawkes sake.