Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

IIO, police at an impasse

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Another story being played out in the Vancouver media last week was also outlining an impasse between the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and the Vancouver Police Union (VPU). (Family caught in spat between Vancouver police and independent watchdog)

That incident occurred on a hot August afternoon in southeast Vancouver in 2015 and ended just across the Burnaby border with the death of 33-yr-old Myles Thomas Gray.

That story told of the frustration being felt by the Gray family because the IIO has yet to conclude their investigation into the death and the frustration with the VPD because their members are not cooperating with investigators.

The story also quoted Doug King of the Pivot Legal Society who is calling for either changes in the BC Police Act to force the officers to cooperate or for them to be charged criminally in the death to force them to mount a defence.

An interesting take for a lawyer for a civil rights organization who seems to think the police are not entitled to the same rights as any other member of the public.

This gets complicated by the fact there are no independent witnesses to the events of that fateful day.  The IIO initially designated all the officers who were hands-on with Gray as “subject officers.” This placed all the officers in the position that anything they said could be used criminally against them.

Then the IIO realized that because they cannot compel subject officers to provide statements, and there were no other witnesses, they changed the designation of some of the officers to “witness” officers to try and compel them to give statements.

This gets further complicated by the fact that the family filed a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court against 11 VPD officers alleging they beat Gray to death. It’s inflammatory to say the least. And any statements made by any of the officers could expose them to civil liability as well as criminal jeopardy from the IIO.

The stalemate seems complete.

To date, the IIO is refusing to let members review CAD information and radio traffic surrounding the chaotic events of that afternoon. They haven’t even told the police, or the family for that matter, the cause of death from the autopsy nor have they provided any information from the toxicology reports. One assumes they had toxicology analysis given the circumstances of the death, but we don’t even actually know that.

In reality, there were several 9-1-1 calls about the behaviour of Gray that day. The first emanated from the Gray household itself where things seem to have started. Were there drugs involved? Perhaps needed meds not taken? Alcohol? We don’t know.

The situation escalated when Gray got into a confrontation with a neighbour watering a garden then he ran off on foot east toward Burnaby when the neighbour called 9-1-1. VPD members were searching for their suspect in the disturbance calls when a female officer driving the wagon spotted him. He attacked the police vehicle forcing the member to lock herself in and call for backup.

Members arrived on scene and tried everything including pepper spray to take the crazed man into custody. It escalated into a knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out ground fight. In the process, Gray went into medical distress and VPD members performed CPR on him and brought him back from the abyss only to have him get up and start fighting again. This happened multiple times during the course of events. Think about that.

Paramedics were called but took 30 minutes to respond. Another significant contributing factor.

During the fight, of the five officers who were engaged, three suffered broken bones, one blew out a knee. One hasn’t been back to work since. One officer, privately, described Gray as “drugged out with super strength.”

In the media story VPU President Tom Stamatakis was quoted saying, “I don’t have confidence in the IIO in terms of how they treat police officers, who are doing exactly what the public expect of them in most cases”

It seems there’s a lot of that going on these days.

While I feel for the Gray family – no one should ever have to bury a child – the IIO has brought this on over the course of time. By treating police officers as criminals and seeking evidence to prosecute rather than seeking the truth in their investigations, they created an adversarial relationship.

I don’t know how this will end up, but what is clear in this is the government, at some point, is going to have to step in and find a solution to this impasse. It’s not getting any better and frankly, they created this monster and only they can fix it.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Competence at heart of VPD / IIO court petition

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News broke yesterday that the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has filed a petition with the courts to try and force members of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to cooperate with their investigators citing “obstruction” in the aftermath of a shooting which occurred in November at the Canadian Tire store on Grandview Highway in Vancouver. This is disingenuous in and of itself. The VPU has never said their members will not cooperate.

I have previously written about what happened that day. If you’re interested, you can read that piece here.

VPD Chief Constable, Adam Palmer, when he received a demand from the IIO that he order involved officers to cooperate and provide statements replied, on March 13, that he would be seeking legal advice. While he was in the process of doing that, the IIO filed the court petition, apparently not content with the Chief’s words and trying to force his hand. And with that, the battle lines are now drawn. Frankly, this was inevitable.

The IIO has been plagued with incompetence since its launch in September of 2012. I have outlined that incompetence in file after file in the intervening time. It has now gotten to the point that the Vancouver Police Union (VPU) has lost all faith in the IIO to conduct a competent investigation that they have picked this particular hill upon which to make a stand.

They want their members to have pre-interview disclosure to ensure whatever statement is made by any member will allow that individual to review CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) information, radio dispatch traffic and any CCTV video footage germane to the incident prior to talking to IIO investigators. If you want to understand why, you need only to consider the four RCMP officers who were involved in the taser death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR in 2007. Two of the four were convicted of perjury in what can only be described as a travesty of justice. (For more on that, click here)

The VPU wants their members to be able to avail themselves of as much information to ensure the accuracy of their statements in any IIO investigation. The IIO says no, they should rely on their memory and notes. In a situation such as occurred at the Canadian Tire store on that fateful day, as police were responding to first a robbery call, which escalated to a stabbing of a clerk, then a hostage taking, then an officer down, then shots fired, trust me, no one was making notes as they responded Code 3 to the scene.

As an aside, the IIO tried to manage the media coverage of this. In fact, the Vancouver Sun in their coverage said this: “A police officer was also hurt during the incident.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. The officer in question was stabbed multiple times by the suspect, Daniel Peter Rintoul, 38. Who, by the way, was a big man weighing in at over 380 lbs. The stabbed officer fired the first shot and fell to the pavement with his intestines hanging out. So, yes, I guess you could say he was “hurt” in the incident.

This is all about confidence on the part of the VPU that their members will be treated fairly and the investigation will be done in a competent and fair manner. Thus far, the IIO has proven its approach to investigations are anything but on both levels.

In this matter, the IIO was advised promptly, as required, by the Duty Officer. They ordered that all members on scene be held pending their arrival. There was more than 30 officers who responded ultimately to the escalating calls. It took the IIO more than five hours to arrive from their office in Surrey. Five hours. That’s a lot of police man hours standing around doing nothing instead of serving the citizens of the city they are paid to protect.

In point of fact, the IIO investigators tried to seize the uniforms and weapons of the ERT officers who responded even though they arrived after the shooting was done and the gun smoke had cleared. This in itself shows the incompetence. In the first place ERT officers weren’t there at the time. In the second place their weapons are high-tech and very personal, sighted in for and by each individual member. In the third place, VPD doesn’t have an armoury large enough to simply replace all of those weapons for however long it would have taken the moribund IIO to process whatever request they might have had for ballistics tests on weapons that weren’t used in the shooting. It’s madness.

The IIO then upped the ante for incompetence when they held an assembly for all involved officers at 2120 Cambie, police headquarters. They gave a Charter caution to everyone in the room and said they wanted to seize all laptops from police cars that attended the scene. Seriously.

Police laptops or mobile data terminals can communicate car to car and presumably the IIO wanted to ascertain whether any responding member had off-line communications which could be germane to their investigation. So, they actually wanted to seize dozens of laptops without considering what the VPD would use in the interim. The laptops are used to query criminal databases and write reports, stuff inherently needed by the police for virtually every call they take.

Common sense prevailed when the Duty Officer told them no in no uncertain terms.

A competent investigator would have simply attended EComm on Hastings Street where the computer servers are and had all communications downloaded from the server. Where, I might add, they would have to attend anyway to get the radio traffic for the incident downloaded from another server sitting right beside it.

This isn’t complicated stuff. Detective work rarely is, it’s methodical but it requires a level of competence and common sense and the ability to use critical thinking skills. Skills apparently lacking in the IIO and exactly why the VPU and Chief Palmer are taking the stand they are.

This will be interesting to watch and could dictate the fate of the current structure of the IIO moving forward. I only hope the provincial government is paying attention because this monster is their creation and only they can fix it.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 25, 2017 at 3:47 am

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The culture is the problem in the RCMP

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Shirley Heafey is a former Chair of the Commission of Public Complaints of the RCMP that oversees public complaints into the RCMP. She recently wrote an open letter to the next Commissioner of the RCMP which was published in MacLean’s magazine. Here’s that article: Fixing the RCMP: An open letter to the next Commissioner

Heafey sent me the piece to read and I replied to her in an email with my thoughts. I thought many of you would appreciate the discussion so I have posted it here in its entirety.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

******************

Interesting. As you may or may not know, I am a former member of the RCMP. I left the Force to transfer to Vancouver PD where I served for the next decade.

You get close to the problem in your letter, but you don’t quite hit the nail on the head, but merely deliver a glancing blow.

Leadership is exactly the problem and the problem is historic. I have often referred to the RCMP as 144 years of tradition unhampered by progress. I say that mostly tongue-in-cheek, but only mostly.

You see, the Force serves three masters. The public which it serves daily, the political party in power to whom it must answer and the traditions of the Force itself, the primary of which is never tarnish the buffalo, meaning the buffalo in the centre of its logo and badge.

This last piece is drummed into members starting in Depot and reinforced in word and deed throughout their careers. It is this aspect of things that leads to all manner of problems. From the way the Old Boys’ network works to why members feel their complaints aren’t heard to transfers instead of handling problems and covering up as best they can instead of admitting a problem. Finally, when there is a problem made public for all to see, in many cases individual members are scapegoated for the greater good.

Those are leadership issues that are ingrained. It’s why the Harper government tried Bill Elliott as the first Commissioner from outside the Force. The problem was that Elliott was by nature a bully himself and ultimately failed in the role Harper foresaw.

The culture is endemic and changing it will require a monumental shift and a leader who understands what it will take to do that. I do not see a serving member at the senior level who is that leader at this point in time. Nor do I see one emerging without someone or something to shake the leadership in the RCMP to it’s very core.

Written by Leo Knight

March 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

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VPD shooting shows officers’ bravery, IIO incompetence

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In the midst of the snow Monday morning and a Vancouver commute already made bad by the closing of the Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridges due to snow bombs and slick conditions, Vancouver Police made matters worse by having the temerity to shoot a man armed with a machete who kept coming at them and ignoring orders to drop the weapon. 29th Ave. Skytrain was then closed and caused all manner of delays.

As with most things involving the police these days, there was citizen journalist video posted to Facebook and You Tube within minutes of the events. But as with most of these things, the video doesn’t tell the whole story.

The incident started at Stadium Station in downtown Vancouver. Police received multiple 9-1-1 calls about a man armed with a machete. VPD were responding to the station and Transit police also responded by jumping on a train heading east. They just happened to jump on the same train but in a different car to their suspect.

At 29th, the Transit police called for VPD back-up and one officer confronted the man who was acting angrily, possibly in a drug-induced or mental health related state. The other officer then cleared the train of all civilians.

They then tried to talk the man down, to calm him and get him to drop the weapon. One of the Transit officers was a trained negotiator and he tried everything he had to talk the guy off the ledge, so to speak.

On an iPhone video taken from the platform, you can hear police talking to the man and then, suddenly something goes awry. The man reacts adversely and angrily towards police, who were in plainclothes. The police can be seen backing out of the train rapidly with weapons drawn. One of the officers radios to Transit operations to remotely close the doors on the train and the other clears the platform of all civilians including the citizen journalist.

The next part is missing on the available video. The armed suspect who can’t open the doors on the train car, begins to smash his way out through a window. The Transit officers try, in vain, to prevent him from getting out to the point one of the officers had shards of glass in his hair and scalp afterwards.

Despite their efforts and concerns for their own safety from the machete wielding crazed man, they backed away and the man crawled from the Skytrain car onto the platform. The Transit officers continued to keep their weapons trained on the armed suspect and backed away as the man continued to advance ultimately up the stairs from the platform towards the exit where a great many civilians could be in harm’s way.

The next video shows the man walking up the stairs with the saw-toothed machete brandished in front of him point forward at the police officers. At the top of the stairs on a short platform were at least two VPD officers in uniform. Whether it was the uniforms or the drugs or whatever, the armed suspect turns sharply towards the VPD members and amid the ignored shouts to drop the machete and the VPD officers backtracking rapidly trying to keep a safe distance, out of the kill zone of 21 feet, one shot is heard and the suspect is down. The threat eliminated.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) were then called. From everything I saw and know from speaking to sources close to the investigation, the police acted professionally, courageously and well within the Use of Force provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada,

The IIO will take a year and a half or so to do all manner of nonsense to justify their existence and will come to exactly that conclusion. But they will cause a lot of stress to members involved in the process, spend stupid money doing needless tests on weapons that shouldn’t have been seized and uniforms of witness officers equally needlessly seized.

A couple of weeks ago, at the Canadian Tire on Grandview Hwy in Vancouver, I wrote of another VPD shooting. In that one, the suspect tried to rob the store armed with a knife. He stabbed a clerk and he met up with responding officers at the entrance. They tried to arrest the suspect still armed with a knife. One officer was stabbed so badly in the ground fight, he was disembowelled. He staggered to his feet and fired his weapon and collapsed. His partner ran to his side to provide first aid to his partner. A third officer with a long gun held his weapon on the suspect. When the suspect tried to get up again another volley of shots were fired and the suspect was killed.

What I didn’t know when I wrote about that shooting, was that it took the IIO more than five hours to arrive on scene. From their office in Surrey. And then only two of their so-called investigators could bother to show up. There were dozens of civilians and somewhere around 30 VPD members including the Emergency Response Team who showed up after all the shooting was done.

No matter, VPD had to secure all the witnesses, the scene and basically stand around with their fingers in their butts because the IIO required it. Not just the officers involved but everyone whether they were there at the time of the shooting or not.

The Keystone Kops, when they finally arrived, demanded the three identified subject officers, and at least five identified ‘witness’ officers surrender, not only their weapons, but their entire uniforms right down to their boots.

They actually tried to seize almost 30 weapons including those of the ERT officers who arrived after the shooting. Yes, I’m being serious. They tried but it was only the resistance of the VPD Duty Inspector in charge of the scene who dug his heels in at that stupidity.

Then came the problem that neither IIO investigators had the requisite certification to handle a weapon.

They didn’t even have a basic Firearms Acquisition Certificate. Apparently they don’t think the laws of Canada apply to them.

I still don’t understand how the IIO thinks they can seize witness officers’ weapons, duty belts and full uniforms without a search warrant. Certainly, if they ask and the officers consent, that is legal. But if any officer told them no, they would need a warrant as would any police officer in any investigation.

So, I asked their Director of Communications, Marten Youssef, under what authority they did that. Here is his reply:

“The IIO is a law enforcement agency with all of the powers and responsibilities prescribed to all police agencies under the Police Act (see section 38.07). As such, the IIO may seize all evidence necessary to carry out its investigation according to the relevant laws. This process is further guided by the Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Investigations between the IIO and all police agencies in B.C. Section 8 of the MOU speaks specifically to the seizure of evidence from a scene.”

In the first instance, the powers of seizure for all police officers is granted by the criminal code and I can guarantee you it doesn’t include the uniforms of officers not designated ‘Subject’ officers who are involved in a serious incident. There is no evidentiary value to take weapons not fired, and duty belts and uniforms of designated witness officers. The only possible exception is if there is blood splatter contamination.

In the second instance, the signatures of the respective Chief Constables on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) cannot supersede the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects every Canadian, including police officers, of the right against unlawful search and seizure.

So the answer is meaningless. The only possible answer is the incompetence of the IIO investigators. They don’t actually know what they should seize for investigative and evidentiary value so they try and seize everything.

I would not want to be a police officer in British Columbia who might have to rely on these clowns to decide my fate.

Merry Christmas.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 24, 2016 at 3:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

IIO missing the obvious, again

with 21 comments

On Thursday afternoon a robbery was attempted at the Canadian Tire store on Grandview Highway at Rupert in east Vancouver.  The suspect, Daniel Peter Rintoul, 38, a large white male, 6’1”, 380 llbs., allegedly stabbed a clerk in his 50’s then broke into a long rifle cabinet. Whether he retrieved  one or more rifles and ammunition depends on which reports you read.

What I do know is that on Friday I was contacted by Global TV reporter Rumina Daya to review  five minutes of citizen journalism video and to comment on it. Snippets of the video were broadcast on Global’s six o’clock news hour broadcast that evening. You can watch those reports here.

On the video you can see two VPD plainclothes officers attempt to arrest the large man as he exits the store. In the ensuing ground fight, the sort of wrestling match police officers everywhere get in on a regular basis, one of the officers clearly gets stabbed multiple times. He jumps up holding his abdomen, points his weapon at the big man and fires. His partner is extricating himself and in the video it’s not clear if he fired his weapon as well.

The stabbed officer then falls backward. A uniformed officer carrying a long-barrelled weapon trains his weapon on the downed suspect outside the kill zone of 20 feet.

The stabbed officer’s partner moves quickly to check on his downed partner, sees the wounds, quickly gloves up and begins first aid. The suspect can be clearly heard screaming numerous times, “Finish me off.” The officer with the long-barrelled weapon, keeps trained on the suspect and keeps his distance.

As the suspect is yelling and starts getting to his feet he lets off a blast of bear spray. You can clearly see the spray being released as he is yelling at the police to kill him. When he gets to his feet with an arm extended, likely with the knife used to stab two people so far, more shots are fired. Judging by the sounds I heard, it sounds like a short volley of C8 and 9mm suggesting another officer is present and fired but is not apparent from the viewpoint of the video shooter.

As the second volley of shots is being fired, the partner who was applying first aid to the stabbed partner, grabs the downed officer by his collar and drags him from the fray. The second volley of shots killed Rintoul.

The following day, VPD Chief Constable Adam Palmer told the assembled media that an elderly male hostage was taken by the suspect prior to exiting the store. Fortunately, that man managed to get away and wasn’t harmed. How isn’t entirely clear at this point. Perhaps that’s where the VPD injected themselves into the fray. On the video I viewed, that wasn’t clear.

But Palmer also said the following, “The actions of our officers were absolutely heroic. I’m very proud of the way they performed yesterday.” Good for the Chief because that is exactly what I saw on the video.

Palmer continued, “We tried to use the least amount of force possible to take him into custody, and when that was not possible, lethal force was used.”

And good on the Chief I say. It happens far too rarely that a senior police executive takes a stand backing his people at the sharp end of things. So far, I have seen that several times from this Chief.

As is the norm, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was called in to investigate the actions of the police. While I harbour no illusions about the competence of the IIO, I was a little surprised to see a communication come from the IIO Monday, four days after the shooting, asking for anyone who had video of the events to please come forward.

Well, I saw five minutes of raw video on Friday, the day after the shooting provided to Global BC. Several days later the IIO is asking folks to voluntarily come forward with video?

They already know Global has video which has been broadcast. Gee, I don’t know, maybe their crack investigators should write an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant to get a judge or JP to issue a warrant they could produce to Global.

News organizations won’t simply provide evidence like that to police when asked, but they will when instructed by court order. The media expect that. They have to maintain a separation from authorities and they probably already have a DVD cut awaiting the IIO. That’s just a guess, but I bet I am not far from the truth.

The video was broadcast on the six o’clock news on Friday. A competent investigator should have been standing in their newsroom before the credits were rolling. Or at the very least within a couple of hours. But to issue that sort of vanilla plea for information and video from the public four days later, followed up by a press conference in the hopes citizen journalists who provided video to newsrooms might come forward just speaks to their level of competence.

The initial Chief Civilian Director may have been pushed out the door and a career bureaucrat meekly put in his stead. But, if I were one of the VPD officers designated ‘subject officers’ having been involved in this “heroic” incident, I’m not sure how much confidence I would have in those holding me in judgment.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 15, 2016 at 6:20 pm

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YVR questions yield more questions

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For more than a year now I have been trying to get the final BC Coroner’s Service report into the suicide death of Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who was the the Media Liaison Officer (MLO) for the RCMP in October 2007 when Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski was Tasered by officers responding to a disturbance call at the International Arrivals area at Vancouver International Airport, YVR.

Lemaitre was found dead July 29, 2013, hanging in his home in Abbotsford. Two years later his widow, Sheila, filed a lawsuit against the RCMP and the Attorney General, claiming the Force made him a scapegoat for the fatal confrontation between Dziekanski and the RCMP and the resulting fall-out. I have written about the circumstances previously: Hindsight is 20/20 in YVR case

A year ago, I spoke with John Knox, the Special Investigations Coroner with the Coroner’s Service who is responsible for the file. He said the investigation wasn’t finished. I was incredulous. The man hung himself. For the Coroner’s office, whose responsibility is to investigate unnatural, sudden and unexpected deaths, determine a cause of death and ensure the relevant facts are put before the public either via a report or a public inquest, to be dragging their feet for two years at that point was incredible. A typical suicide should take no more than a month or two, three at the outside. What could possibly be taking so long?

Knox was unresponsive to my questions on the subject so I started digging around a bit and found out that Knox, to this date, now nearly three and a half years after the suicide, from what I can find out, has yet to conclude a file.

He has been with the Coroner’s Service since 2011. He was given the position of Special Investigations Coroner in 2012 to coincide with the launch of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) where he was the designated Coroner to deal with all things police involved.

Prior to that he was a private investigator since 2005. In BC, that primarily means doing ICBC investigations, mostly sitting in the back of a van doing surveillance trying to prove fraudulent claims. His LinkedIn page says he was “specializing in personal background investigations, insurance claims investigations, witness location services and document service.” Document service? Well, that’s impressive.

What qualified him for this position?

Incredibly, the fledgling IIO, lacking in experienced investigators were to work with a Coroner’s Special Investigator himself lacking in investigative expertise in major cases as well. Well, what could possibly go wrong? Talk about the blind leading the deaf.

In the four years since being named Special Investigations Coroner, he has yet to complete a file, including stunningly, 26 cases resulting from the Pickton investigation. Another source in the office told me, “John doesn’t really leave the office. Even on local cases he sends people out to do his work.”

I was stunned.

Then I was told about a recent suicide case of a municipal police officer in the late spring when Knox, instead of attending the family home, as is customary, required the widow to attend his office. He arranged for another coroner to sit in on the interview and said he was going to record the interview. He took his cell phone out then hid it and never told the widow he was recording the interview.

The coroner sitting 2nd chair was very uncomfortable with what was being done that a complaint was lodged with the Deputy Chief Coroner. This led to much upheaval in the office and after a couple of hours of what was described to me as a “raised voice conversation about the legality of recording without telling the person.” The DCC evidently said the service would support Knox.

Interesting.

In Canada, there has long been a legal standard called “One Party Consent” as it relates to recording private conversations derived from Sec. 184 of the Criminal Code, but that has been blurred by Supreme Court decisions mostly relating to the police doing it. And then there is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act which further complicates this issue.  In this case, at the very least, the ethics are clearly lacking, let alone the lack of compassion for the widow of a serving police officer who had just tragically taken his life.

In 2011, following the appointment and subsequent departure of three Chief Coroners in a two year period, the service was in disarray. The BC Auditor General looked into it and issued a report with a number of recommendations in July, 2011. One of those concerned timelines of investigations. The service set a standard of 18 weeks. In August 2013, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe issued a response report saying that recommendation was “Fully or substantially implemented”

Well, evidently not, as the Lemaitre suicide case shows. Pierre Lemaitre took his life on July 29, 2013. Now, nearing the end of October, 2016 and no conclusive report appears forthcoming. Lemaitre’s widow is engaged in a lawsuit with the RCMP, two of the four members who attended YVR on that fateful night were shamefully convicted of perjury by a system looking for someone to scapegoat. And the Coroner investigating the suicide of one of the major players in the events of that fateful night in October, 2007 can’t seem to complete this or any other file.

Robert Dziekanski was on Canadian soil for 12 hours. Thus far, he has cost the loss of two lives including his own, more than $50 million of taxpayer’s money and four Mounties their careers and for two of them, possibly their liberty.

The story continues to get worse and worse.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

 

Written by Leo Knight

October 27, 2016 at 4:54 pm

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IIO complaint nothing but sour grapes

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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