Archive for the ‘Crime & Punishment’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
*To view the video go to theprovince.com
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.
The more the extraordinary 2nd degree murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams in the 2012 death of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami is looked into, the more it appears to be the railroading of a good, young police officer.
Murder is an extraordinary charge to be laid against a police officer engaged in executing his or her duty. It is even more extraordinary when laid against an officer working as an ERT (Emergency Response Team) officer.
There are so many aspects of this story that haven’t been told and I’m sorry to say so many apparent gaps in the investigation conducted by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that one must question whether ulterior motives or politics played a part in laying a charge of murder in this case.
MacWilliams was a member of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT) on November 8th, 2012 when, at the start of his shift, his phone went off alerting him to a call-out after shots were fired and a woman was taken hostage.
MacWilliams was the first MIERT officer to arrive on scene at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster. Within the first half-hour, the ERT members arriving set up their containment process which limited the armed suspect to a small patch of pavement on the sidewalk just outside the casino parking lot.
MacWilliams then noticed the hostage had created some separation between herself and the armed suspect. Throwing caution to the wind, MacWilliams and two other officers broke cover and ran towards danger. They deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. MacWilliams and New Westminster Const. Cliff Kusch positioned themselves between the armed suspect and the hostage while fellow Delta PD Const. Mo Parry grabbed the terrified hostage and shepherded her to safety.
MacWilliams and Kusch retreated back to cover, despite the fact either could have taken the shot to take out the suspect during the rescue. They didn’t, while risking their lives, they retreated to try and achieve a peaceful conclusion.
Hours later, the decision was made to try a non-lethal approach to arrest Bayrami using a ‘flash bang’ and ARWEN guns, which fire large plastic projectiles. MacWilliams was designated ‘lethal’ and positioned using an armoured police vehicle for cover. His job was to take the shot if the non-lethal approach went bad and the exposed officers were in jeopardy. This is a typical tactical deployment.
The flash bang went off and Bayrami jumped back, pistol waving in hand, the ARWEN rounds missed the intended target and MacWilliams fired one shot hitting Bayrami, who died nearly two weeks later in hospital.
Last Monday, the woman whose life was undoubtedly saved by MacWilliams and his colleagues showed up at the front counter of Delta Police headquarters incensed after hearing of the murder charge laid against one of the police officers who rescued her. She demanded to speak to an investigator to give a statement. Apparently, in the two years the IIO had the file, she had not been contacted by any investigator.
Think about that. The central figure at the heart of what happened on that day was not contacted by the IIO to tell her story. It’s stunning.
But it doesn’t end there.
According to casino security, to date, the IIO has not asked for, nor received any of the video from the Starlight Casino where the bulk of the events took place.
The suspect laid in wait on that morning in the parking lot of the casino. He attacked a woman as she drove into the parking lot firing three shots into the vehicle, mercifully missing her. He then dragged her from the vehicle at gunpoint and nearly a half a kilometre across the parking lot to the road where police, responding to 9-1-1 calls from casino security, responded. It was at that point the standoff began and the call went out to MIERT. And it was all watched live and recorded by casino security.
One might think that the video of all this activity might be germane to any investigation. But not to the IIO apparently. New Westminster police, who conducted a parallel investigation thought it was and obtained a copy. The Coroner’s service also thought it important and they too have a copy. But not the IIO who is the agency who have sought the charge of murder against MacWilliams.
There is undoubtedly much more to come on this very puzzling case.
Ten years after 9/11, much of the free world paused to remember and remind us to “Never forget.” It truly is hard to forget that day for those of us old enough. It was one of those history-making days that transcended everything running parallel, like the day JFK was shot or the landing on the moon for the first time.
But as I reflected on that day I was struck by a dichotomy; how far we have come in defeating the enemies of the West and how it may not matter if politicians don’t get their head around our spending problem.
The people who hijacked those planes were bent on their mission to ultimately destroy America and the West. In many ways they needn’t have bothered. We have been destroying ourselves from within for a long time. Unless and until western governments get control of their fiscal deficits, they will accomplish what Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never could. We simply cannot afford to support so many politically correct causes and sacrosanct programs such as our healthcare system.
Equally, we cannot afford the ridiculous demands of groups like the BCTF and other public sector unions in their contract talks. Where in the world do they think the money will come from?
The unions who drive the debate of the left in this country seem to think that there is no end of money available if we only tax the rich more. Oh, and those damn corporations. And most especially banks and oil companies! It doesn’t matter to them that these are the very organizations who generate all the money to pay for the public sector. The unions are content to bite the hand that feeds.
They really need a reality check as they stand there with both their hand and bottom lip out. Here’s a clue: want more money? Try providing more value. Or get a marketable skill. It’s amazing how much money business will pay for value provided.
But I digress. The USA under the leadership of Barack Obama is now getting frightening. Not faux frightening as the lib-left screamed about the stewardship of the country under George W. Bush. But real frightening, as in their interest payments to China, which holds a significant amount of American foreign debt, will entirely fund the Army of the People’s Republic in a few short years. Not debt payments, interest payments alone.
That’s unsustainable in the short term, let alone over the next decades. If the American economy gets driven over the cliff, it doesn’t matter how responsible our governments have been. We’re done too. And when that happens, all of western society will go down the same drain.
Bin Laden could have just waited and watched the West do it to ourselves.
Much is being made about the upcoming international gabfest coming to Toronto later this month. The G8 and G20 conferences will cost around a billion dollars to secure according to media estimates. Which may or may not be true. As an example, every dollar in salary of every member of the Armed Forces or police officer seconded to the events is calculated in that cost. But since they were going to earn those dollars regardless of whether they were assigned to G8/G20 I’m not sure that’s fair to account in with those costs.
Equally, much has been made about the $2 million man-made lake designed to provide a rural Canadiana backdrop for international media. Turns out the lake will only cost $57,000. The balance is on time, materials and labour to build the media pavilion. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?
A $2 million dollar man-made lake sounds much better to the baying media hordes desperate to inflict damage on a “scary” Prime Minister.
This is not to say this isn’t a colossal waste of money. At a time when the deficit is running at $48 billion and the national debt is soaring at over half a trillion dollars, I question any public spending that is not absolutely necessary. But, for good or for bad, this country’s government had committed to hosting the leaders of the free world and given the current geopolitical climate, we must ensure their well-being.
But,the irony is that the bulk of this money is being spent not to protect our guests from assassination although that is a part of this. No, the bulk of the money being spent on security for this event will be aimed at crowd control efforts and by that, I mean keeping the anarchist members of the loony left from getting too close or destroying the city of Toronto in the process.
These are the same Black Bloc-heads who keep turning up and starting a riot. They are the APEC-erheads who attacked police lines at APEC in Vancouver. Remember them from the so-called Battle in Seattle. The riot at the Hyatt? Quebec City? Same crowd.
These are the folks who decry globalization, forestry, mining, oil, government, police and just about everything that makes the West the dominant culture in the world and the most advanced society in history, the endeavours of al Qaeda notwithstanding. They worship at the altar of Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, the high priest and priestess of the loony left.
These are the people who firebombed a bank in Ottawa and attacked The Bay in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics. These are the people who have not contributed anything to society except to bore us to tears with their theatrics and rhetoric. And, likely as not they never will. They will always have their hands out, living off the avails of the taxpayer who pays twice for these idiots with the extra costs for security to keep them in check.
They are worse than the Chardonnay Socialists who permeate the mainstream media, the Liberanos, Jack Layton’s dreary Dippers and the femi-Nazis like Maude Barlow and her Council of (Communist) Canadians. No, these are the people who believe that the state should take care of everything and everyone and that profit and business are bad words. And, they plan and do resort to violence to try and make their ridiculous point every time.
If you want to get mad at someone for the security costs, restrain from flinging stones at the government. How about tossing some stones, and big ones at that, at the real parties responsible for the spiralling costs for security at events such as the Olympics and G8/G20.
By now we have all seen the video of the Victoria police breaking up a nasty fight in the downtown core and during the arrests one police officer is seen kicking two different men. On the surface, the video looks damning of the officer who has since been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
But on closer inspection it is clear that in the first situation an officer is struggling with one man trying to get him secured and the officer wearing the yellow jacket kicks the individual to get him to stop struggling. The second is similar in that you can see one officer trying to get handcuffs on the individual who, I should mention, is 6’5″ and 250 lbs. The kicks are delivered in the context of securing that individual with handcuffs. As soon as the man puts his left hand behind his back, ostensibly in surrender, there are no further blows struck and the handcuffs are applied.
And here is the problem in a nutshell. The police are allowed, by law, to use as much force as is necessary to execute their duty. When they do, they must be prepared to justify that use of force and they are criminally responsible for any excessive force. The police know this and accept it as part of their job. The test in each and every case is the key.
For the purposes of this test, it is impossible to judge simply based on the video. Whether this officer was justified in using force and indeed, if he was, was the force excessive, are questions which can only be answered in a full and thorough investigation. Which will involve speaking with all involved and putting together a much bigger picture than the video allows.
There’s no question that the advent of citizen journalism means the police have to be very careful in their public interactions. Long gone are the days when “street justice” can be administered to an uncooperative knob no matter how desperately he begs for a smack in the yap. We expect our police officers to protect us. We also expect our police officers to be professional in their dealings. But, the use of force by a police officer is not, in itself, a matter for a public outcry every time something apparently violent is posted on You Tube.
Protecting the public means the police have to go into situations the rest of us would run from. To do so means they sometimes have to use the force the law allows and what is considered reasonable force is determined on a case by case basis. That determination should never be made on the basis of a few seconds of video taken by a citizen journalist because inevitably the context is not complete.