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Another over-reach by the IIO

with 12 comments

I played golf with a few of my former VPD colleagues last week, all retired now, but with Major Crime and/or Internal experience and one, retired as the Inspector running the VPD Traffic Section. As we sat down for a post game libation, I got a press release from the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) saying charges of Dangerous Driving causing bodily harm had been approved against a Nanaimo Mountie, Cst. David Buchanan.

My immediate thought was that he’d been ordered to shut down a chase and hadn’t, risking lives of pedestrians as he careened down the sea wall in the Port of Nanaimo. But no, nothing of the sort apparently.

As I read the release further, it turns out the CJB believe that he was in a pursuit involving a scooter. A scooter? You know, something like a Vespa. A scooter, capable of burning up the pavement at something between 50-60 KMH.

Again, my mind conjured up a chase on a sidewalk with pedestrians diving out of the way.  But no, no such thing.

This occurred around eleven o’clock on a wet, rainy February night in 2016.

When I told my golfing companions that the charge involved the interaction with a scooter, the speculation began as to what the officer might have done to get over the bar to be charged criminally with Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm. All suggestions involved innocent members of the public being put at risk by the actions of the officer.

I began to look into the circumstances and the surmises of those experienced investigators did not appear to be the case.

Quite the contrary, the incident occurred at 11 p.m. Cst. Buchanan was assigned to the Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) at the time and was based out of Nanaimo. IRSU is a traffic enforcement unit that operates in different areas of the province. It is funded primarily by ICBC and is tasked with specific enforcement functions with the goal of reducing motor vehicle accidents.

Buchanan was down in the Shawnigan Lake area coming to the end of his shift. He stopped at the Tim Horton’s in north Duncan to get a coffee to accompany him on the hour-long drive back to Nanaimo.

As he was leaving the parking lot exit he noticed a scooter heading south on Hwy. 1 apparently without a license plate which is required for that class of vehicle.

Buchanan turned south and began to close the distance so that he could verify what he thought he saw. As he got closer to the scooter in his unmarked SUV, the male on the scooter turned off the highway and Buchanan followed, no lights, no siren.

The scooter rider ran through two rolling stops then made an illegal left turn across some train tracks at which point Buchanan made the decision to conduct a traffic stop. Once he activated his emergency equipment to stop the rider, the rider did what is known in surveillance terms as a “shit hook.”

He did a hard U-turn and re-traced his route. Buchanan had to execute a Y-turn in reverse to get turned around to head after the scooter. Now, remember this is late in the evening and there’s not another sinner on the streets in this quiet area.

Scooter Boy noticed the SUV getting closer and turned into a parking lot followed by Buchanan who saw an exit where Scooter Boy seemed headed. He blocked the exit and Scooter Boy glanced off the front right fender of the police car and continued on onto a grassy area. Unfortunately, the grass was wet and Scooter Boy fishtailed and crashed into a fire hydrant.  His ankle was fractured, caught between the hydrant and his scooter. This is where the Independent Investigations office (IIO) asserted jurisdiction. Although, I fail to see how a fractured ankle classifies as a “serious injury.”

There was a confrontation as Buchanan tried to take Scooter Boy into custody and strikes were delivered by the officer to get control and the suspect handcuffed. But, I note he wasn’t charged with assault as a result. The CJB determined that to be justified.

Did I mention that the scooter was not only unlicensed and uninsured but also stolen and Scooter Boy has a history with police. I know, big shock. Cst. Buchanan on the other hand is a police officer who has been decorated for valour.

Scooter Boy was identified as Bryce McKay. He has not been identified publicly until now, but Buchanan’s name has been in every media outlet on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and throughout BC.

And for what? Because he did his job?

The entire incident lasted, start to finish, 52 seconds. There is dash cam video that shows what Buchanan actually did during the incident. Menaka Giri, the Crown handling the prosecution of McKay who was charged with possession of stolen property, flight from police and possession of a stolen vehicle, reviewed the dash cam video and said in an email that she doesn’t see that Buchanan did anything wrong and that he should be confident to testify against McKay.

Well, apparently the prosecutors at the CJB felt otherwise and have approved criminal charges against yet another cop in BC just trying to do his job.

It ought to be an interesting trial. If I were defence counsel for Buchanan, I’d call Giri as a witness for the defence then simply stand and look at the judge and make a motion for dismissal because there’s clearly a difference of opinion in the office of the Crown itself. Talk about reasonable doubt.

It seems the IIO is attempting yet another overreach in charging another cop just trying to do his job and somehow they managed to get again the compliance of the CJB. Shame. This isn’t law, this isn’t justice. This is offensive to every cop trying to do his or her job.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 20, 2017 at 4:37 am

A crisis of confidence

with 6 comments

News of the imminent departure of the Chief of Investigations of the Independent investigations Office (IIO) John Larkin was broadcast to staff of the IIO last Monday morning. Curiously enough, staff coming to work also noticed that the office of Director of Investigations Allison Hemming-Cook had apparently been cleaned out on the weekend. Her status seems murky.

Staff think she’s on sick leave. If so, why clean out her office? Hemming-Cook says she is returning on June 20th following her impending marriage and honeymoon apparently to well-known Vancouver lawyer Monty Carstairs, QC. Which sounds like a vacation not a sick leave.

I tried to get clarification from Marten Youssef, nominally the Acting Director of Communications for the IIO. All he would provide was the vanilla response, “The IIO will not be providing comment on any personnel matters.” What that triggered, instead of a clarifying communication to the staff, was an email saying the word had gotten out and Youssef got himself on the news that night to try and spin his way out of my questions.

So, the staff there are left in the dark. Is there an open slot for a new Director of Investigations or isn’t there? If it’s a sick leave, how is it that a finite date for return has been set as stated by Hemming-Cook? The word in the office is that she was told in no uncertain terms to take sick leave. Whatever the reason, staff relations there appear to be the messiest they have ever been.

It would seem that Larkin and Hemming-Cook have worn out their welcome in that office. There is a union grievance filed against Hemming-Cook and several sources have told me that she and Larkin’s replacement, retired Asst. Commissioner of the Queensland police, Gayle Hogan, were at odds with each other. Hate is a strong word and I hesitate to use it, but I have been told they “hate” each other. I make no evaluation, but what’s clear in that is there will be a rocky road ahead if she returns following her honeymoon.

All of this follows a blistering letter sent by Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer two weeks ago in which he questioned the competence of the IIO. The Chief wasn’t mincing words. He said, “Changes need to be made to the IIO’s current practices to improve the relationship between the IIO and the police. The VPD has two principal concerns. The first concern is what appears to be the IIO’s lack of investigative competence. The second concern is the rigid position the IIO has adopted regarding pre-interview disclosure which has led to unnecessary friction and distrust between the police and the IIO. These concerns need to be addressed given the importance of independent police oversight to maintain public trust and accountability.”

Well, it would seem that changes are being made although it remains to be seen if these changes will be enough to satisfy the VPD and the Vancouver Police Union who have all but declared war on the IIO.

The question of competence of the IIO is a major concern for all police departments in the province including the RCMP. I have documented many instances underlining the apparent lack thereof over the course of the past four years.

There are many reasons why. Part of it was Larkin. He was, as described by Palmer, adversarial without question. He set the tone when he stated the IIO started every investigation believing the officer involved has committed a crime and work back from there. That, in and of itself, is incredibly unprofessional and anathema to any real investigator who knows his or her job is to find the truth about what happened not enter it with any pre-conceived notion about what occurred.

Part of it is turnover, lack of training and despite protestations to the contrary, the inability to meet the BC Provincial Policing Standards. They are after all, a police agency.

Section 1 of the Standards says this: “The chief constable, chief officer or commissioner must ensure that:

  1. A Command Triangle is formed for all major case investigations, as soon as reasonably possible given the circumstances and the needs of the investigation, with officers assigned to the following roles:

(a) Team Commander;

(b) Primary Investigator; and

(c) File Coordinator.”

It goes on to say this:  “The chief constable, chief officer, commissioner or chief civilian director must ensure that:

(2) An officer assigned to the role of Team Commander for a major case investigation, or an IIO investigator assigned to the role of Team Commander for the investigation of an incident where a person may have died as a result of the actions of an officer, whether on or off duty:

(a) Has experience relevant to the type of investigation; and

(b) Meets each of the following criteria:

(i) Successful completion of a provincially-approved Team Commander training course;

(ii) Previous experience in the role of Primary Investigator or File Coordinator;

(iii) Previous investigative experience in a supervisory or management role; and

(iv) No disciplinary records of serious misconduct that would affect his/her ability to

perform the duties of Team Commander.”

Aye, there’s the rub. The CCD MUST ensure the Major Case Management model is followed and MUST ensure a Team Commander is designated who meets the criteria as stated. At this point there is not one person in the IIO qualified to be a Team Commander which involves not just training but accreditation by a provincial board made of senior police investigators who evaluate the applicant’s major case experience.

About a year or so ago, Delta Police Chief Constable Neil Dubord wrote a letter to the IIO demanding they are held to the same investigative competencies as members of his department. I am waiting to confirm, but I am told he has not, to date, received a response.

Nor has the Delta Police Union who requested a review of the fatally-flawed investigation into the shooting at the Starlight Casino which resulted in 2nd degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan McWilliams, of which I have written much.

I specifically asked Youssef how many people at the IIO had Major Case Management certification and this was his response: “The IIO operates under an MCM framework and investigations are based on that model.”

Well, that was clear as mud.

The reality is that even though the IIO endeavours to follow the model as is required by the Director of Police Services for the province, they simply cannot meet the standard inasmuch as they have no accredited commanders and precious few who have had the investigators’ course.

Is it any wonder that Palmer, whose department follows the Provincial Policing Standards is lacking confidence in those who are responsible for investigating his officers and expecting them to get a fair shake?

Any which way you look at this, four and a half years into this, this is a mess. Perhaps, in the words of a former IIO investigator I spoke to today, “This is the messiest it’s ever been.”

That speaks volumes.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 24, 2017 at 1:15 am

Reports are scathing of the RCMP, but little will change

with 5 comments

Two reports were released Monday by the Public Safety Minister in Ottawa. The first, was written by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and can be found here.  The CRCC broadly reviewed workplace harassment and bullying in the Force.

The other was authored by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. It looked at four particular cases where harassment lawsuits were filed individually by female members Catherine Galliford, Alice Fox, Susan Gastaldo and Atoya Montague. That report can be found here.

The RCMP has had both reports for several weeks but thus far has had little positive reaction to either report both scathing in their criticism of the Mounties essentially saying the organization is  dysfunctional and the harassment and bullying was systemic. Where have we heard this before?

I have long described the RCMP as “144 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” These two reports just reinforce that statement.

None of this is new. There have been a number of reports over the past decade or so and successive commissioners have mouthed all the platitudes including the current one, Bob Paulson, who has been described by a number of officers to me as the biggest bully of all. I cannot argue. Indeed, Galliford told me this is the fifth such report she has participated in.

Both reports recommend some form of civilian oversight for the Force. If that is to happen then the RCMP Act will require the appropriate amendments, if not re-written in its entirety, given the recent union certification application made by the newly formed National Police Federation.

But even then I am not sure much will change. The problem is the culture within the RCMP. It, in and of itself, causes the dysfunction. Part of it is the Old Boys network. For example when Gary Bass was the CO of E Division (BC) his sycophants were referred to as the Bass Boys Club or BBC for short. Promotions literally depended on whether one was a member of the BBC.

When Craig Callens took over upon Bass’ retirement nothing changed except the name. The sycophants were then referred to as being on “Craigslist.”

Another significant issue is the “go along to get along” unwritten rule. Members don’t dare colour outside the box. But the overriding issue is the, again unstated policy, not to do or say anything that could damage the reputation of the RCMP. This is at the heart of the problem.

If a member has a complaint about a superior, even if validated, which is rare, the member is discouraged from pushing it for the good of the Force or the miscreant is simply transferred. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak.

The RCMP Act was re-written in 2014 ostensibly to make it easier for the Commissioner to fire the “bad apples.”

The CRCC report identifies what the RCMP has done since it’s last report on the matter in 2013 were simply small initiatives that had little or no effect.  Said Ian McPhail, Chair of the CRCC in the report, “If the last 10 years, over 15 reports and hundreds of recommendations for reform have produced any lessons, it is that the RCMP is not capable of making the necessary systemic changes of its own accord.”

Stunning words. Paulson’s response? Meh.

Well, to be fair he did put out a one page response in which he gave no reaction to the major recommendation common to both reports, the establishment of civilian oversight committee or board that will assume control for administration, finance and human resource management of the RCMP.

This is his response: “These reports make recommendations that require careful review and consideration. They will no doubt help improve policies to further support a healthy and respectful workplace as the RCMP continues moving forward.” How about that for tepid?

McPhail’s report also says that little has changed in the RCMP from their previous report in 2013 to the present day. Paulson’s response? “It should be noted that many of the reports’ judgments rely on the historical context of RCMP transformation efforts that are not, in my view, reflective of current RCMP environment, policies or processes.”

Yeah, that sure sounds like he is seized with the findings and recommendations doesn’t it?

Paulson has already announced he is leaving at the end of next month. We don’t yet know who his replacement will be, but unless the Trudeau government picks a strong leader – a real leader  who can take the Old Boys’Network by the scruff and shake the heck out of it – nothing will change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telegraphed today that the appointment will be either a female or someone well-versed in aboriginal issues. Leadership qualities apparently are not the criteria.

Equally, I don’t think Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister, has the intestinal fortitude to take on the RCMP because any effort to establish some form of civilian oversight with authority over the Commissioner’s office will be fought every step of the way by seniour management in the RCMP. Take that to the bank.

The female members who were interviewed by Fraser were told that the Minister is “absolutely committed to follow the recommendations.” I’m sure Fraser believes that. I, on the other hand, don’t buy it for a second.

I spoke with former West Vancouver Chief and former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed to get his take. He said, “Nothing will change in the RCMP. There are consecutive reports over the past 15 years; Kennedy, Duxbury, Brown ‘et al’ calling for the same changes. The organization will not change unless they are redefined and stick to just federal policing.”

It’s hard to argue that. But that sort of institutional change would have to come from government. The same government lacking in the same sort of leadership that’s needed in the RCMP.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 16, 2017 at 3:04 am

Even basic cases seem beyond IIO’s capability

with 4 comments

After last week’s pieces on the impasse between the Independent Investigations Office and the Vancouver Police Union, I got many comments essentially asking how did we get to this point?

The simple answer is because the IIO views its role in investigating the actions of the police as to gather evidence with which to prosecute police. This is, of course, the doing of the first Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, who ran the organization for a tumultuous four years.

Instead, what they should be seeing as their mandate, is to investigate to find the truth wherever that may lead. If there is evidence of police criminal misconduct then a prosecution should be brought to bar. And the same standard needs to apply as it does to police before recommending charges against any member of the public.

The concept of civilian oversight is fine with most police I talk to. But, they must have confidence in those who conduct that oversight. From its inception the IIO has demonstrated in case after case they are not competent investigators and thus, the impasse with the VPU.

The other real issue is their focus on the “Affected Person” and only police actions as they relate to that person. They don’t consider events as a whole and what caused the person to act as he or she did. No clearer demonstration of that failure can be made than their handling of the police shooting at the Starlight Casino. I have written much of that case and won’t drag you through it again, but the fact they never spoke to the woman who was taken hostage speaks volumes. She was shot at, dragged from her car and held at gunpoint for a lengthy period of time. At the very least she could have provided evidence showing the suspect’s, sorry, the Affected Person’s state of mind.

Had they done so, they would have found out that the suspect told her during the stand-off that the only way he was leaving was in a body bag. The only way that was going to happen was if he ate his own gun or pointed it at a police officer, which is ultimately what happened.

Instead they ignored all of that in its entirety and focused on building a criminal case with which to charge the officer who fired the fatal shot with murder. Ridiculous.

But it’s not just lethal force cases where they focus on building a case. The head of investigations there, John Larkin, has said they begin by believing the subject officer is guilty and work from there. Which is, of course, antithetical to any real investigator.

It happens even in less serious cases.

On November 9, 2015, shortly after 8 p.m. VPD were called to a Chinatown intersection where a crazed man was jumping up and down upon and kicking doors on a Black Top cab.  The cab had substantial damage to the hood, roof, windshield and door. Subsequent investigation determined that he’d been randomly damaging other vehicles in the neighbourhood.

The driver got out of the cab to confront the man but quickly retreated when he saw how crazed the man was.

When multiple police units arrived, the suspect hid behind another car. Civilian witnesses pointed out the shirtless man in his mid 20’s. As police approached he took off running and a foot chase ensued northbound on Abbott Street. The suspect was running in the middle of the street being closely pursued by a plainclothes officer. As the pursuing officer closed in on the fleeing man he pushed him from behind and the suspect fell forward and he was taken into custody. Arresting officers believed the suspect to be high on drugs and so an ambulance was called. But, due to shortages, EHS couldn’t respond. The decision was made to have the wagon take the suspect to the city jail where a staff nurse could assess him.

It should be noted that at no time did the suspect say he was hurt or in any kind of pain. But upon examination the nurse found he had an injured wrist. He was then taken to St. Paul’s hospital where it was determined that his wrist was broken, most likely when he fell forward, but it could have been pre-existing from punching cars.

The IIO were notified by the Duty Officer as required and the IIO asserted jurisdiction. Why is anyone’s guess. Their mandate is to assume jurisdiction in cases of “serious injury or death.” I’m not sure how a broken wrist is considered serious, but I digress.

The police are given the power to arrest people they reasonably believe have committed an offence. These circumstances clearly show they had the right to arrest in this case and the arrest was lawful.

The Criminal Code of Canada also says that the police may use as much force as is necessary to make that arrest and it also holds them criminally responsible for using excessive force. That is the only question here. Was the force used necessary or excessive?

A push is one of the lowest forms of force that can be used by police. it is marginally higher on the continuum than speech commands. It is used to take someone off balance for the purpose of securing the individual. In this case, the person fell, but that was much less dangerous for the officer than trying a flying football tackle. Pavement tends to be disagreeable on the landing for both parties.

This should be a no-brainer. The suspect was identified by civilian witnesses at the scene. He fled on foot and at full tilt the pursuing officer gave him a push which caused him to fall whereupon he was taken into custody.

Again, given those circumstances what could possibly be taking the IIO to reach a conclusion? It’s been 17 months since the events took place and they still have their investigation active. Why? This shouldn’t even be in question.

I contacted the IIO Director of Communications, (nominally A/Director, Public Engagement and Policy) Marten Youssef to ask the status of this investigation. He said, “We are nearing completion on this file and expect a decision to be issued in due course.” I wonder how long due course is?

Meanwhile, 17 months later the members involved are still waiting to learn if they may face criminal charges.

A senior VPD Sgt. said to me, “Sometimes people get bit by police dogs, sometimes fingers thumbs & wrists get broken. It should be simple for them to deal with this call. Never mind the two big ones that they have on their hands right now.”

Well said I thought.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

April 4, 2017 at 1:30 am

IIO complaint nothing but sour grapes

with 7 comments

The news release issued by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) on Wednesday is instructive and unique. Not in the fact they announced that the VPD officer involved in a fatal shooting in April, 2015 would not face any criminal charges, but for the way the report ended.

The incident itself took more than 14 months for the IIO to determine the officer did nothing wrong. Albeit, that’s a few months quicker than their average and frankly, given the circumstances, about a year longer than it should have taken any competent investigator.

I don’t say that lightly. Let’s look at the circumstances. VPD received multiple 9-1-1 calls about a man with a knife who had stabbed two people in the 400 block of Gore on the Downtown Eastside. Three officers responded from close by, one equipped with a shotgun and beanbag rounds, a non-lethal use of force option.

The first officer, armed with his duty pistol and the officer with the shotgun immediately located the suspect armed with a bloody knife. The VPD members challenged the man pointing their weapons and yelling, “drop the knife, drop the knife.”

Three beanbag rounds were fired which struck the suspect and had no effect. The suspect then charged at the officer with what one civilian witness later described as a “bull charge.” The beanbag weapon was fired again and again with no apparent effect. That officer later said, “I thought he was going to stab me.”

Several shots were then fired by the other officer which momentarily doubled over the suspect. But it didn’t drop him. He then ran across the street to a parkade entrance at a church where a passerby female was bent over to pick a $20 bill she had dropped. Without warning the suspect attacked and stabbed the woman several times. The officer chasing then shot the suspect several times. He fell down, dead, on top of the woman he was stabbing.

Police had to pull the assailant off the woman to get her out from underneath to begin first aid. She later told IIO investigators, “I’d like to thank that cop that killed him. Because without him getting that lucky shot I wouldn’t be here right now.”

The IIO were called in as protocol requires. They interviewed three “Witness Officers” and 17 civilian witnesses. With all but some small exceptions, as one would expect, the witness accounts coincided and was corroborated with other associated gathered evidence including area video, recorded radio transmissions and 9-1-1 recordings.

The law is very clear when giving police the right to use lethal force and from this set of circumstances it would seem a textbook, righteous shoot.

But nothing is ever cut and dried with the IIO. This leads us back to what made the press release remarkable.

After the usual statement and case synopsis came this: “All firearm discharges resulting in death or serious harm are the subject of an automatic administrative review by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.  As such, this incident is subject to review by that office. In addition to this, the CCD will be forwarding a complaint to the OPCC regarding the failure of two of the involved officers to write any duty-to-account report relating to this incident.”

“This case appears to be an example of a pattern of problems with respect to subject officers involved in critical incidents in British Columbia failing to prepare timely duty to accounts or notes of their involvement in incidents.”

The Chief Civilian Director (CCD), the almost outta’ here Richard Rosenthal, apparently is all pissy because designated subject officers are no longer filing duty to account reports or copies of their notes. Well, he has only himself to blame.

Because he saw the role of the IIO to gather evidence to prosecute police officers and demonstrated that attitude with the incredible overreach in bringing a murder charge against Delta Cst. Jordan MacWilliams and others like Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought. Charges were ultimately dropped but not after putting the affected officers through hell.

When the BC Chiefs and the RCMP agreed to the original Memorandum of Understanding, they believed the IIO would conduct professional, unbiased investigations to determine the truth of any incident. But that’s not what they got. And now it seems, they have finally realized it.

In a nutshell, the various unions, agencies and the RCMP have obtained legal opinions which essentially say that police officers are Canadians first and police officers second. They may avail themselves of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms just like anyone else. The Charter supersedes all other statutes including the BC Police Act. And why Rosenthal’s pathetic complaint will go no where.

If you know someone is looking to criminally charge you, why help them? It’s a fundamental principle of our constitution and the police have now decided to fight back against the IIO’s nonsense. Fairness is all the police wanted, but that’s not how the IIO operate. So, now the battle is on.

And it’s not just the police unions driving this bus. Senior management are on board. So too, surprisingly, are the RCMP.

In an 8 page memo dated August 16th, the RCMP directed Liaison Officers (officers assigned to facilitate between the agency and the IIO in an investigation) not to provide “compelled notes, statements or reports to the IIO.”

Cudos to seniour management of the RCMP to back their members. Trust me, it’s rare when  that happens.

In my opinion, the IIO, as it is currently constituted and operating in the manner it has, needs to be completely re-thought by the government. Their mandate should be to conduct professional, unbiased investigations to find the truth. If the truth leads to a criminal charge against a police officer then so be it. Every police officer knows they are responsible for their actions. But that’s a far cry from the IIO’s attitude, as stated by their Director of Investigations John Larkin, “We start out believing they are guilty and work from there.”

Rosenthal is firing a parting shot with this complaint to the OPCC. It’s just sour grapes from a man who failed utterly.

He had the opportunity to create a first class police oversight agency. It isn’t and he didn’t. A career bureaucrat has been appointed as interim CCD while headhunter PFM Executive Search looks for someone to take over this mess. Whoever that will be will have to dismantle a flawed culture and start over. If not, the chasm between the police and the IIO will grow wider.

Neither the citizens of BC nor the police who serve them should be satisfied with that.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

September 4, 2016 at 12:36 am

Police watchdog puts cloud over courageous cops

with 13 comments

On Thursday, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) issued a media statement saying the Acting Chief Civilian Director has made a report to Crown Counsel in relation to an incident involving the Vancouver Police.  Essentially they are saying one or more of the officers involved in a shooting on June 10, 2014 “may” have committed a criminal offence.

Yet again, we see the IIO overreach is what should be a cut and dried case. Let’s look at just how cut and dried.

At approximately 11:10 in the morning Gerald Mark Battersby, 61, pumped multiple shots with a .357 revolver into 52 yr. old Paul Dragan outside the Starbucks at Davie and Marinaside Cres. As it happened, a couple of VPD officers were just pulling up in front of Starbucks, drew their weapons and challenged Battersby who replied by shooting at the police then fleeing on a bike onto the Sea Wall towards Science Centre.

Police gave chase and called for cover units to try and block Battersby from the other side. During the chase more shots were fired. Once at Science World, Battersby was engaged by members of VPD. More shots were exchanged. A female VPD member was trapped in her police car as Battersby shot into it, wounding her with flying glass.

Another officer using the police car for cover got caught as Battersby chased him around the car firing as the officer tried to desperately find cover. Battersby was armed with a six shot .357 revolver. He’d already re-loaded at least once, perhaps more.

As he had the male officer within a couple of feet and down he was shot by at least one of the covering officers and by the wounded female officer in the car. Security video seized by the VPD in their investigation was shared with the IIO. The video clearly shows the exchange of gunfire, the pursuit of the male VPD member and Battersby being shot and going down.

How, in the name of all things holy, could anyone think this was anything but a justified use of force by the VPD?

It’s stunning really. Here’s a couple of screen grabs from the security video.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 4.14.54 PM

It shows Battersby pointing the .357, the barrel is protruding from a wrapping. You can see the male VPD member ducking down on the passenger side of the vehicle trying to avoid the shooter. One of the VPD members who shot Battersby can be seen in the lower right.

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 9.51.22 AM

As we saw in the case of Delta PD Cst. Jordan MacWilliams, the IIO leap to conclusions they shouldn’t because they simply do not understand policing or the use of force parameters. They get a whopping 10 weeks training at the JIBC, but zero ‘use of force’ training, the very thing they are supposed to investigate.

Another part of the problem is the wording in the Police Act which essentially says if the CCD of the IIO believes an offence “may” have been committed he shall send a Report to Crown Counsel (RTCC). This is far lower than the standard the police must meet before they can submit an RTCC in a criminal case and far lower than the standard which Crown applies to approve a criminal charge. At the very least, that needs to change. The police are not the enemy here. They protect us from the likes of Battersby.

And, as demonstrated on that day in June last year, they do it with courage and professionalism. Which is much more than I can say about the IIO.

But as with everything else when we look at these cases, there’s more. During his interview with the IIO, the “Affected Person,” Battersby told investigators that his plan was to shoot Dragan, one more person and then shoot at police to get them to kill him. He intended to do everything he could to force the police to shoot him.

So, despite all of this and dozens of witnesses who corroborate the actions of the VPD, the IIO evidently still thinks at least one of the VPD officers did something criminal in this incident?

Words fail me.

A day after the inexplicable release by the IIO, which now casts a shadow over heroic police officers, Deputy Chief Doug Lepard, as Acting Chief in the absence of Chief Adam Palmer, sent an email to all VPD officers.

What is clear in the email is that this was an unexpected surprise from the IIO. But also that those officers have the complete support of the Chief Constable and his senior management team.

Said Lepard, “I have requested a copy of the RTCC that as we move forward we can better understand the information underlying the IIO’s decision this case.”

He finished off with this: “I want to take this opportunity to again express admiration for the bravery shown by the officers involved in this incident and the professionalism that VPD members demonstrate every day in the performance of their duties. I also want you all to know that the officers involved in this shooting will continue to have the VPD’s complete support through this process.”

These are not the words of someone who thinks any VPD member did anything wrong that day. Quite the contrary in fact.

That no one died that day is about the only good thing. To put a cloud over the actions of the courageous VPD officers involved is shameful.

-30-

*To view the video go to theprovince.com

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

August 29, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Murder charge against cop a travesty of justice

with 5 comments

Since I started looking at the circumstances surrounding the murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams the biggest question that remains unanswered is why.

Last week in a discussion with me on Global’s Unfiltered with Jill Krop, former Crown Counsel Sandy Garossino tried to explain the charge approval process as it is practiced in BC. In a nutshell, she explained that for a charge to be approved it must have a “substantial likelihood of conviction” and “be in the public interest.”

If a police officer abuses their authority then certainly it would be in the public interest to charge them. But in this case, MacWilliams was on a tactical call out with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response team to a shots fired, hostage taking call.

After MacWilliams and two colleagues heroically affected the rescue of the hostage, a then employee of the casino who was arriving for work, a stand off ensued which lasted five hours. All the while Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, was waving a pistol he had already fired three times. In fact, he ejected the clip late in the incident, leaving one round in the spout and pointed at one of the ERT officers held up one finger and said, “I only need one.”

So, with the means and the stated aim, the police tried to arrest and disarm the suspect using a tactical, non-lethal approach using a flash bang and an ARWEN gun. As the “non-lethal” officers broke cover, they were covered by MacWilliams, designated in a ‘lethal’ sniper position covered by an armoured police vehicle.

When the flash bang went off and the ARWEN rounds missed, the suspect leapt back and the weapon moves toward the ARWEN operator. It’s at this point MacWilliams fired one shot which felled the armed suspect.

It’s impossible to see from that set of facts how any Crown Counsel could possibly perceive there’s a substantial likelihood of conviction. The Criminal Code gives the police the authority to use force in a number of circumstances but it holds police accountable for that use of force if it is deemed to be excessive. The suspect had a loaded weapon. He had fired three shots from that weapon on that day. He threatened police when he held up one finger and said what he did. He then moved the weapon towards the ARWEN operator. What could possibly be deemed excessive or unlawful in this?

Nor does it seem to be in the public interest to prosecute a police officer doing his duty to protect the public.

I should add that MacWilliams submitted a written statement to Crown late last Spring outlining what happened and why he pulled the trigger. His counsel even offered to address any and all questions the Independent Investigations Office might have. The IIO declined that offer.

So, this seems to tell us that there is not the same standard used by the Crown when it comes to prosecuting those we employ to protect the rest of us.

Why would that be?

Most likely it has everything to do with the 1998 death from exposure of Frank Joseph Paul, who was left intoxicated in an alley by a young VPD constable who didn’t know what else to do with him after Detox and the police jail sergeant both refused to take him.

That case culminated in Commission of Inquiry headed by William H. Davies, QC between 2009 and 2011 when he issued his final report.

In that Inquiry Davies looked at the allegations of conflict of interest against Crown levelled by the usual crowd of hand-wringers. He found there was no evidence of any conflict but wrote that when the possibility of a conflict was present, the case should be given to a lawyer in private practice to review or a prosecutor from another province.

That wasn’t done in this case.

Interestingly enough though, in that inquiry, then Director of Legal Services for the Criminal Justice Branch, Gregory Fitch, testified that while charges were considered he decided not to lay charges because “there wasn’t a substantial likelihood of conviction.”

So, what’s changed? Has the Crown suddenly decided that the rule of law and stated policy no longer applies for police?

We ask the police to do a job most of the population wouldn’t want to do. They see things you wouldn’t want to see. They deal with people with whom you would not want to come into contact. And we ask them to deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. And, if that’s not enough, we demand they be unfailingly polite no matter the abuse and invective that’s hurled at them.

Despite all of that, young men and women willingly take on that challenge. They know their actions will be reviewed and that in their lives, on and off duty, they are held to a higher standard than you are. So, how is it possible that when a decision to charge an officer engaged in the execution of his duty, and courageously I might add, a lower standard is applied by Crown?

This appears to be little more than a charade performed by those lacking in testicular fortitude who are afraid of the perpetually unfounded criticisms of the likes of the Pivot Legal Society or the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Bayrami made his choices that fateful day when he armed himself with a pistol, fired it at a woman he later took hostage and threatened police. MacWilliams made the choice that all members of his team would go home safely to their families that day. To be facing a charge of murder as a result is an absolute travesty of justice. For the Crown to proceed by direct indictment thereby not allowing the defence team to test evidence led at a Preliminary Hearing only exacerbates that travesty.

As one experienced homicide investigator said when we spoke about this case, “It’s like a Chinese Show Trial.”

Indeed it is.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2014 at 4:05 am

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Tagged with , , , ,