Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘courts

The real price to be paid for a travesty of justice

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Earlier this week the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeals of RCMP members Benjamin “Monty” Robinson and Kwesi Millington and both began serving their sentences, two years less a day and 30 months respectively after totally undeserved perjury convictions.

As I have said previously, this is a travesty of justice. The four RCMP officers who attended a disturbance call at YVR in October, 2007 which resulted in the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski, were just doing their jobs and now are both in prison. I’m disgusted.

There’s a lot of blame to be thrown around here, but none of it is on these members. They were failed by the seniour leadership of the RCMP and failed badly when they would not say publicly that these four officers acted according to their training and RCMP policy.

They were failed by the Braidwood Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dziekanski when Mr. Justice Thomas Braidwood failed to take into account the forensic video analysis of Grant Fredericks which showed demonstrably that the four members were telling the truth and the baying media hounds hadn’t a clue. Yet he sided with the hounds.

They were failed by the gutless politicians who had their own agenda that had nothing to do with justice and the truth.

Of the four, two were acquitted at bar and two were convicted. The two white officers were acquitted. The First Nations member and the black member were both convicted and now jailed. I am not making a specific accusation here, I merely am making an observation of fact.

I spoke with Kwesi Millington’s wife, Cindy, a few days after her husband turned himself in to begin serving his sentence. She was, as you might imagine, very upset. They expect that he will be terminated by the RCMP given the circumstances and that means his paycheque stops. Equally, while jailed he won’t be able to earn at another occupation now that his policing career is over.

Her salary isn’t enough to keep up with the mortgage, bills and legal fees they must now incur to get a parole lawyer to steer that process forward to ensure Kwesi gets parole at the earliest opportunity. She said she’d likely have to sell Kwesi’s car while he was in prison while using up what savings they had.

Kwesi has been transferred into the federal prison system in Kingston, Ontario. He is in protective custody because of his occupation. That means he spends his time in a small cell by himself with just 30 minutes of exercise a day with guards as company.

His first facility there will be for 2-3 months while Corrections Canada bureaucrats assess his case to determine which facility he should be assigned to serve his time. In the interim he won’t be allowed to call Cindy for several weeks until he gets his assigned phone card.

If I told you the whole of this story and how these members have been utterly abandoned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and left dangling in the breeze you might dismiss it as improbable fiction. This is the national police force after all. They have an iconic reputation and all that. Surely they would do the right thing, after all, their motto is “Maintiens le droit” – Maintain the right. And surely, you would be wrong.

The once proud force has done exactly the wrong thing in this matter every step of the way and much of it deliberately knowing what would happen to their members. It’s beyond offensive.

For regular readers of this space, my many supporters, police officers, retired and former police officers or just those of you who who can’t stomach injustice, I have set up a GoFundMe account to help Cindy and Kwesi in this trying time.

If you can help, please do. Anything would be welcomed. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/cindy-kwesi-millington

For the record, Kwesi was a young officer. When he used the Taser that night, it was the first time he’d ever deployed the weapon. When he testified at the Braidwood Commission, it was the first time he had ever testified in any forum.

Robinson was a Corporal in the RCMP. He has a pension and his income won’t suffer during his incarceration. He will, but at least his family will be okay. The circumstances are much different for Cindy Millington. She didn’t sign up for any of this.

She loves her man and was proud of him for what he was doing for a living, knowing all of the potential bad things that can befall a cop. But not this.

Unfair doesn’t even begin to explain what has happened to these four men. Worse for the two who are currently in the prison system. Worse still, for those who love them.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by Leo Knight

November 6, 2017 at 1:27 am

Even basic cases seem beyond IIO’s capability

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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

Competence at heart of VPD / IIO court petition

with 14 comments

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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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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Hindsight is 20/20 in YVR case

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Two of the four RCMP officers involved in the incident at YVR that resulted in the tragic death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski were found guilty of perjury in bizarre decisions and given custody sentences. I don’t believe either will serve any time at all. And the reality is that none of the four needed to be put through the hell that they have these last seven years.

Both Cpl. Monty Robinson and Cst. Kwesi Millington have filed appeals of their convictions and given the other two Mounties involved were acquitted at bar and the Crown appealed one and was soundly defeated in the Court of Appeal, it seems likely the appeals will be successful. At least I hope that will be the case. I have stated this before and will say so again; not one of those four officers did anything wrong. They responded according to their training and the RCMP policy such as it was at the time.

For them to be in criminal proceedings at all is a travesty. Let alone for the trumped-up charges of perjury.

Throughout, the media narrative has been relentless all based on misconceptions that could have easily been cleared up had only the RCMP as an entity, done a better job of communicating with the public instead of hunkering down in the bunker, so to speak, and hoping things would blow over.

The fall-out of those bad communications decisions resulted in the convictions against two of those members for perjury, mind you, nothing to do with the events at YVR. Which in itself, is ludicrous. In the Millington case as an example, Mr. Justice Ehrcke decided that a perjury was committed because he “inferred” they must have colluded. The alternative is that he could have “inferred” they were telling the truth, which they were.

What Ehrcke ignored, conveniently, was it was physically impossible for the four members to have colluded at the Sub-Detachment following the event simply because Robinson as the supervisor on the scene remained at YVR awaiting the IHIT investigators while the other three went to the Sub-Detachment to make their notes and await Robinson and the IHIT investigators.  In the interim, Sgt. Mike Ingles, their Staff Relations Representative, arrived at the sub-detachment and sat with the members. Yet somehow Erchke arrived at the decision he did and in my opinion will be overturned on appeal.

But more telling to me is the phone call made by S/Sgt. Ken Ackles, who was oncoming watch commander in Richmond a few hours after the event. He called Robinson’s cell and asked what had happened. Robinson said, ironically, “Don’t worry Staff, we’ve got a video that shows the whole thing. There’s no problem.” He was, of course, referring to the so-called Pritchard video.

Now, I ask you, if Robinson believed for a minute there was anything wrong with the handling of the event or indeed, that they had some need to collude, to get their story straight, why would he say that to Ackles?

Why would all four give statements to investigators voluntarily without benefit of counsel as they were advised by Sgt. Mike Ingles?

The answer of course is simple. They believed they had handled everything appropriately and had done nothing wrong. After all, as Robinson said, they had the video which backed them up. Little did he know what effect that video would have once the uninformed media got hold of it.

The problem was an error made by media liaison officer Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre at the first media briefing where he gave some inaccurate information to the assembled media that could have been easily corrected in a subsequent press conference simply by saying something like, “We apologize but Sgt. Lemaitre gave you some inaccurate information yesterday based on the information he had at the time. Subsequent investigation has revealed . . . ”

Had the RCMP done that, the story would have died a death within the news cycle. But they didn’t.  The Inspector in charge of IHIT at the time, Wayne Rideout, who is now part of the senior management team for the RCMP in BC, made the decision not to correct the record. Lemaitre was removed because essentially the media labelled him a liar and he had lost whatever credibility he had earned over the years.

Everything resulted from that one, stupid decision by Rideout. The Braidwood Inquiry and it’s wrong-headed conclusions, the subsequent Kennedy report, the Special Prosecutor and the resulting criminal charges against the four officers, everything, resulted from that one ill-advised decision.

The other thing that has not occurred is that the RCMP has never once said publicly that their members reacted according to their training and within policy as it existed at the time. They’ve said it privately behind the scenes when the senior management declined to order a Code of Conduct investigation against the YVR four.

In policy, a COC can be ordered against a subordinate officer within one year of the event in question. On the evening before that year was up following the incident at YVR, then Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass sent out an email to senior management saying that “tomorrow is the expiration of the COC period and unless I hear anything to the contrary, it will expire.”

No one in senior management offered a word in disagreement. And, that includes current Commissioner Bob Paulson. But they, as the senior management team, stood mute in public as the Force in general and the YVR four in particular, were being pilloried in the media.

Had they not done so, I believe they would have avoided the ensuing public relations debacle and the resulting damage done to the reputation of the iconic national police force.

In conversation with Bass recently,  I asked him about his position on the YVR four. He said, “I continue to be of the belief that the four members acted in accordance with their training and the policy at the time and that I never saw any indication that they committed perjury.”

Well, I asked, why not say that publicly at the time? He responded, reasonably I suppose, that while in the position as Commanding Officer of E Division it wouldn’t have been appropriate with all that was going on, with what he called a media “feeding frenzy.” But that now, as a retired civilian, he is free to speak.

Fair enough. I then asked about the decision not to correct the Lemaitre statement that led to all the troubles that resulted. He said he was not aware of the decision at the time, but that he felt as the CO he had to trust the decisions made by his unit commanders.

Also fair enough. But, I can’t help but think that had he engaged in that conversation with the officer in charge of IHIT and reviewed that foolish decision, a lot of grief might have been avoided. Not to mention the north of $50 million the incident has cost the taxpayers so far.

But then, hindsight is 20/20.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

August 20, 2015 at 2:57 pm

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