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Archive for March 2018

IIO investigative delay “unacceptable”

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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

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Written by Leo Knight

March 30, 2018 at 10:31 pm

More positive signs of change at the IIO

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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

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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