Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

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.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

March 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Leo,

    What a mess! How did the adversarial nature of this process come about? There are police, IIO and members of the public. Can the dysfunction really be only the fault of the IIO? It may well be but I guess I am wondering how all this has come about! Leadership? Resistance by police services??

    I have had another back flare up this morning and hoping I will be OK to meet tomorrow (dammit). I am really looking forward to meeting and hearing your views.

    In case you are wondering, I got a call from the executive search firm that is lining up candidates for this job and they asked me to apply. Interviews will be held sometime in May/June. I am a little sceptical of being included because it seems only Crowns ever get appointed to this job…and it never works out right across Canada. I’m interested but not ‘chopping’ at the bit given the history.

    I will confirm with you tomorrow.

    Shirley

    Shirley Heafey

    March 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm

  2. Good article Leo. Government step in you ask? They already did under the review headed up by MLA Mike Morris. But the Ministry of Justice was so ashamed of what they hired to head up this team they did the usual cover it up and let’s see if we can get the problem to leave. It took a “no your contract will not be extended” to get Rosenthal out but by then the damage was done. And this is what’s left. A group of highly payed want to be investigators that have no hands on experience with ermegency and complex cases. And I repeat the IIO couldn’t find the zeros in a box of Cheerios. Sad as it is it will take one or two of the municipal forces to remove themselves from their agreement to get this dealt with properly.

    Murray Macham

    March 27, 2017 at 9:54 pm

  3. Leo,

    There’s another IIO File where a suspect was acting rather strange and in the process attacked and substantially damages two vehicles using his hands and feet. Police respond, suspect is spotted, he runs, police chase him and take him to the pavement, like a defensive back takes down a receiver. Not pretty, but effective and in a manner taught at the JI. No apparent injuries, but one officer suspects possible drug involvement and calls for an ambulance. No ambulances are available so suspect is sent to jail on what is a relatively short wagon ride. Short time later, members are notified by the jail staff that the suspect has a broken wrist. Normal procedures kick in, ambulance is called to the jail for the suspect, a 2 person unit is taken off the road and escorts the suspect with ambulance staff to St Pauls for treatment. Supervisors notify the Duty Officer , who in turn notifies the IIO. Their investigation starts and the next night they are spotted in the same location where the incident occurred soliciting pedestrians walking by while wearing their nice blue IIO jackets. Some members identified as witness officers were interviewed.

    Members involved in the incident, continued with their investigation, witness statements, pictures, video etc on the day in question. A report was submitted to Crown Counsel recommending charges of Mischief involving the suspect. Given the damage to both vehicles the repair bill footed by ICBC was well over $5000. Of course this suspect does not have 2 nickels that ICBC can go after.

    Roughly 18 months have passed, the suspect was convicted of damaging the two vehicles, a yellow cab and a new BMW SUV. The suspect also has previous history of doing the same thing he was convicted of. This of course was not known to the responding officers at this incident. What about the IIO? Have they finished their investigation? Have they submitted a report with their findings to crown recommending charges against the responding officers? Stay tuned because they haven’t. Of course, their thought track at the time they responded to this call was that the mean city policeman must have broken the suspects wrist on purpose.

    Questions for the IIO. What was this man doing before the incident? Level of intoxication, possible drug use? was he involved in any other altercations before this incident/ If so, how many? What did the witness’s say? Was he beating on the Cab & BMW with his hands? Fists? Feet? did he jump up on top of the cab & BMW? Did he jump off? Fall off? Yes it is entirely possible that he broke his wrist after running from the Police when he was taken to the ground. However, it wasn’t evident at the time, & if it was, the suspect would have been waiting at that location for an Ambulance instead of going to jail. Did the suspect break his wrist thrashing around in the back of the wagon while on route to jail? That is a possibility. However, once it was discovered, the suspect was treated like anyone else who was discovered with a broken arm or wrist. The only difference is that as he was under arrest, Police are required to travel with the Ambulance escorting the prisoner to the hospital.

    This incident occurred in a location close to the DTES, at a well travelled intersection close to a major transportation hub. It is almost 18 months later, the suspect was convicted of the mischief. In a minor file like this, they went in with the mindset that the police were guilty of harming this poor innocent man. They still have not resolved this one. Does one have any faith that they can properly investigate the shooting at Canadian Tire and the incident that Leo mentioned above? One of the officers involved in that file suffered a serious injury and has not returned to regular uniformed duty. Think about that. Has not & is not able to return to regular duty.

    Anon

    March 28, 2017 at 7:12 am

  4. Head of B.C. police oversight body vows timely results http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/head-of-bc-police-oversight-body-vows-timely-results/article5960322/
    “We are still looking at completing investigations within months, not years, and weeks, not months,”
    And I remember when Rosenthal was critical of the time it took the police to complete investigations. He also promised fair investigation and complete transparency, now the IIO cannot complete even the most simple investigation in a reasonable time and when was the last time they provided any sort of update on their ongoing investigations. They don’t do media releases anymore, except to announce when the forward a file to crown.

    As for fairness, they don’t even want to know of any events involving the “affected person” prior to contact with the police. In fact they don’t even question the “affected person” about the statement he/she provided to determine the validity or reliability of the statement, they accept it at face value regardless of how outrageous it is.

    Rosenthal took an organization that should have been invaluable to the citizens of this province, and that was initially largely supported by the police community and drove it into the ground. It will take years to recover and longer, if ever, to gain the trust of the policing community again.

    Ray Lopez

    March 28, 2017 at 2:30 pm


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