Crime & Punishment

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Posts Tagged ‘Delta Police

The irony of the IIO

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“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.”
Henry James

The irony is delicious.

Following the November 2012 fatal shooting of an armed hostage taker who had fired shots at the Starlight Casino by Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, part of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT), was charged with murder by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) following the incredibly flawed investigation by the then-fledgeling Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

How flawed? Beyond belief. They never even interviewed the female hostage who was shot at, dragged and had a gun held to her head in the incident. They never asked for the video from the casino security staff itself who had the whole incident recorded. Casino security staff, who watched events unfold live on monitors and called 9-1-1, burned a DVD for the New West police who asked for and received it. They burned a copy for the Coroner’s office who asked for and received it. They burned a copy for the IIO who never asked for it. Stunning.

MacWilliams as one of the first officers for the MIERT who responded to the shots fired/ hostage taking call at the casino. The perpetrator had been waiting for a female casino employee to arrive for work and fired three shots at her before dragging her from her car and about 500 metres down the sidewalk toward the entrance when New Westminster PD units arriving to the 9-1-1 call from casino security boxed him in in the parking lot. The call to the MIERT went out.

Less than an hour into the stand-off, MacWilliams and another officer noticed the female hostage managed to separate herself from the armed man and they immediately broke cover and put themselves between the hostage and the assailant with weapons drawn, exposing themselves to danger while a third officer ran out and pulled the woman to safety. The exposed officers withdrew to cover and the stand-off continued for several more hours. Had MacWilliams wanted to kill the man he had he opportunity then. He held fire and risked his own safety.

The negotiators tried and failed to end the situation and the incident commander decided to try a non-lethal assault using ARWEN guns with plastic bullets to try and disarm the man.

MacWilliams was designated lethal in that attempt. He was in the sniper seat to provide cover for the ALPHA team when they broke cover to take the shots. They did and the suspect turned toward them with gun raised and MacWilliams did his job. He took the shot, protected his colleagues and took down the armed man.

As MacWilliams said to me after the event, “All my guys got to go home that night, we did our job.” And he is exactly right.

Had the IIO bothered to do their job were they actually competent, they would have interviewed the hostage who had information relevant to the hostage-taker. She would have told them, as she later told me, that the man had said to her when he had a gun to her head that the only way he was leaving the scene was in a body bag. In her mind that meant he was going to commit suicide at his own hand or force the police to shoot him.

You’d almost think that was important info that would corroborate the 22 page statement given by MacWilliams in describing the events of the day. Almost.

Instead they went through an elaborate charade trying to merge three video clips to suggest that MacWilliams fired before he should have and that resulted in him being charged with murder.

Insanity!

MacWilliams went for many months with a murder charge hanging over his head. The stress of the situation affected his life, his family’s life, his colleagues and police officers around the province who worried what might happen if they double-clutched if they were in a similar situation.

I wrote much on the situation exposing the charge for the sham it was. Fortunately, the murder charge was eventually stayed in a rare moment of clarity from the Criminal Justice Branch and MacWilliams was allowed to return to his job serving the citizens of Delta, BC.

Apart from the ridicule I heaped upon the IIO in this, they never suffered any consequences. They still exist and their incompetence is exacerbated with nearly every investigation they do. The police have no confidence in them and nor should the general public.

And even though the Solicitor General, in a rare moment of clarity and common sense, pushed the first Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal out the door early, the stupidity remains.

They recently brought in some experienced, retired police officers to help out with their procedures and training. That was good. But in at least one of those cases they are only having the instructor train new hires in proper major crime investigation techniques. Why not existing investigators so that everyone has the same level of training and information? That’s just plain stupid.

They have hired a new Chief Civilian Director who performed a similar role in Nova Scotia, albeit that model uses seconded, seasoned police investigators instead of the BC model which uses, well, inexperienced civilians with little or no expertise. Indeed, the new CCD, the rather unfortunately named Ronald McDonald, faces a huge challenge to bring credibility to this organization which has become the subject of derision in the policing community.

First indications are not good.

But, in a delicious twist of irony, earlier this week, Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams was summoned to Victoria and, at Government House, was presented with the Award of Valour for his actions on that day at the Starlight Casino.

Well done Constable. The IIO and the CJB should be ashamed for putting him and his family through the stress of a murder charge hanging over his head for all that time just for doing his job.  And the heads of those responsible should roll.

But I won’t hold my breath.

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Leo Knight

@prmetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2017 at 5:52 pm

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

Despite charges stayed, more questions remain in Starlight Casino case

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The announcement yesterday by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in BC outlining that second degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams were stayed and the accompanying explanation did little to clarify why charges were laid in the first instance. In fact, it speaks more to the incompetent investigation done by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Or perhaps something more nefarious.

In the media release the CJB attached an 8 page document they called “Clear Statement.” Well, it was anything but.

In it, CJB says as a result of the charge being laid, Crown prosecutors conducted “exhaustive” interviews with police officers at the scene at the Starlight Casino on November 8, 2012 and this led them to the conclusion that this case did not meet the charge approval standard in the province.

Well, in the first instance, doesn’t this really say that the investigation conducted by the IIO was sub-standard? Why wouldn’t they have surfaced this information during their interviews? Information such as the suspect’s finger was on the trigger when the gun in his hand moved to horizontal? Information such as there were other officers who had moved their fingers from the finger guard to their own triggers and would have also shot had MacWilliams not shot first?

These are no small matters. The information from the witnesses didn’t change. It’s more likely IIO investigators never asked the right questions. Why then, becomes the next question. Was it the incompetence of the investigators or perhaps, they were trying to come to the conclusion they wanted no matter the truth? Either is a possibility knowing what I know about the IIO.

Whatever the answer to these questions it is very clear that the CJB should not have approved the charge in the first place. None of the circumstances changed, nor has the standard to be met for the charge approval system. It seems to me that for all the reasons outlined by the CJB in their “Clear Statement,” that is exactly why the charge never should have been laid.

The matter of what the officer perceived the threat to be when he made the decision to use lethal force is paramount to the charge. If other officers had the same perception of the threat as did MacWilliams, then clearly no charge should have been laid.

Another aspect in this that is badly explained by the CJB is the reaction time from threat perceived to shots fired. This is known as “perception, processing and action.” Police are trained to minimize the time between perception and action, but it still exists. In this case the time delay was .49 of a second. A blink of an eye. Yet somehow, this became a salient issue in the decision to charge MacWilliams.

Retired Vancouver Police homicide investigator Bob Cooper was incredulous as he read the document especially as it glossed over this aspect. He said via email yesterday, “Any Use of Force expert worth his salt knows this and would have pointed it out in his report because it explains the differences in the perceptions of not just PC Mac Williams but a number of his colleagues as well as opposed to what is seen in the video.”

There are many more questions than answers in this and one hopes the CJB would answer them. But they won’t. They cannot be held accountable for anything they do except by the minister responsible and I have never seen any minister tread that path. The IIO report to the Deputy Minister responsible for the CJB, so again, while there are many questions to be answered in this by the IIO, but that too, seems unlikely.

Charging this officer with murder in these circumstances was an incredible over reach by the IIO and the CJB. Yesterday they stepped back from that over reach and did the right thing. But, they never should have been in this position in the first place.

Jordan MacWilliams was elated yesterday when he got the news from his lawyer David Butcher. This nightmare is finally over for him and he can go back to the job he loves, protecting and serving the citizens. I hope though, for his sake, that his emotional self can recover from the stress and damage done to his psyche by being put through this gut-wrenching experience. Not the shooting. He has said that were he to do it all over, he would do the same thing. For him, the critical thing was that he and his colleagues were able to go home to their families that night.

I mean, of course, going through the experience of being charged for murder when all he did was his job in trying and exigent circumstances. I truly wish him well. And I also truly hope that the CJB, the government, the IIO and the public of British Columbia has learned much from this sordid chapter in our province’s history.

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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Delta Cop charged with murder appears in court

with 3 comments

Yesterday, Cst. Jordan MacWilliams appeared in New Westminster Supreme court to answer the charge of second degree murder laid inexplicably after he fired the fatal shot in a armed-hostage taking situation in November, 2012.

There is something political about this and why this charge has been laid against a good, young officer who did his job and did it well. I don’t yet know what it is, but, I will find out and I will ensure that is made known publicly.

Whether it is the political ambition of prosecutor Peter Juk or the political survival of IIO chief Richard Rosenthal, I don’t yet know. Equally, I don’t know why Attorney General Susan Anton is letting this pantomime play out on her watch. But I will find out.

Yesterday, the Crown provided MacWilliams’ defence team with a document outlining what it is they think they can prove to justify a charge of second degree murder against MacWilliams. It is a flight of fancy at best.

More to come in this.
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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

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