Crime & Punishment

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Posts Tagged ‘investigation

IIO investigative delay “unacceptable”

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Yesterday the IIO’s Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Ron MacDonald released his conclusions into the circumstance of a police involved fatal shooting near Slocan, BC on October 13, 2014.

Yes you read that right, 2014.

The Commanding Officer of the RCMP in BC, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr promptly released a statement decrying the long delay.

“The protracted nature of this review is unacceptable,” she said.

The incident involved a manhunt in the mountains of the back country near Slocan, the town itself in lockdown for nearly five days. Think of it as a mini-Boston in the hours after the marathon bombings. Where this started was the police attending a rural location to investigate a dispute/possible assault call. They were met with an armed man who exchanged shots with police and fled into the back country.

She continued, “This was a dynamic and dramatic series of events that has forever changed the police officers involved, a community and a family which lost a loved one. The techniques used and the resulting time delays in determining the circumstances compounded the trauma and severely limited the ability of many to move forward. The police officers were consistent in their participation in the IIO BC investigation and remained professional throughout the lengthy process. However, the delays have contributed unnecessarily to a state of extended uncertainty and stress that could have been avoided.”

In his final report on the case, MacDonald, the newly appointed CCD  said this: “This investigation has taken an unfortunate length of time. This resulted from operational pressures within the IIO, the complexity of the evidence, and the necessity of seeking and awaiting several expert reports. Overall the process took much longer than anticipated. Throughout, the emphasis was placed on attempting to uncover all relevant and reliable evidence before reaching a conclusion. In addition, this case required continual diligence to avoid a premature conclusion based on incomplete evidence.”

He goes on, “While it is unfortunate that the delays experienced during the course this matter left Officers 1 and 2 (the ERT officers) and the family of AP (Affected Person) in a state of uncertainty for over three years, at the end of the day I consider that the final result herein is the correct one.”

The main part of the problem, in reading the report, was an error made by the primary pathologist who conducted the autopsy. He mistakenly identified an exit wound in the back as an entry wound and the entry wound in the neck as an exit wound. This did not corroborate what the RCMP members said happened.

In a nutshell, that would have suggested the suspect had his back turned to the ERT officer who fired the fatal and only shot. Yet the reverse totally corroborated their version of events.

The family had their own pathologist review the case and he came to a different conclusion which wound as entry and which was exit but initially the family would not share the report with the IIO.

That prompted a review by another pathologist hired by the IIO.  Evidently, he concluded that in entry wounds there exists a micro-tearing of the skin which is the actual entry wound and this tearing was present in the neck wound which made that the entry wound and corroborated the statement made by the ERT officer to the IIO.

The other problem is the first pathologist said the wounds were caused by a “small calibre bullet with a low velocity.” Well, except the RCMP ERT use a Colt M-16 which fires a larger calibre 5.56X45 mm NATO bullet at a rate of approximately 3,000 feet per second, hardly a “low velocity.”

To be fair, a pathologist in that part of the world likely doesn’t see a lot of GSWs. (Gunshot wounds) Which also begs the question, given the dichotomy on their hands, why wouldn’t they seek a review by a more experienced pathologist who sees lots of GSWs?

To their credit, the IIO recognized the problem and sought the review of another pathologist. Not to their credit they waited from October 2014 until August 2017 before they did this. Why is anyone’s guess.

In the interim they also hired a biomechanical engineer to try and determine the position of the suspect when shot. In my opinion, this not only overly complicated things but contributed much to the delay of the investigation.

At the end of it all, they new CCD came to the right conclusion and issued his report clearing the ERT officer who fired the fatal shot. But the delay, as Butterworth-Carr said, is unacceptable.

MacDonald seems to recognize this and since he started he has concluded 16 investigations hanging around from 2015, 2016 and 2017. He has also referred two files to the Criminal Justice Branch to determine if any criminal charges are applicable.

That’s very promising and diametrically opposed to what we have come to expect from the IIO.

When I asked the IIO for comment on all of this, Marten Youssef, the Director of Public Engagement said, “The CCD chose to let his decision speak for its self and therefore didn’t issue a separate statement. As CO Butterworth-Carr said, her and the CCD have been in contact in the past on this matter and he shares her view on the length of this investigation. This was also expressed in the decision.”

When asked about the sea change in concluding files, Youssef said this, “As for the change at the IIO, there is no doubt it is being spearheaded by Ron and his leadership. That said, the CCD is a firm believer that the change is a result of the collective effort and hard work by staff. He has also stated that he is devoting his focus to improving the future of the IIO as opposed to being defined by the past.”

That is encouraging.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

March 30, 2018 at 10:31 pm

More positive signs of change at the IIO

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Earlier this week the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) released a report that analyzed their investigation in the Nov. 8, 2012 police involved shooting at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster by Delta Police Cst. Jordan MacWilliams.  The analysis was conducted by retired RCMP Supt. Doug Kiloh who has much Major Case Management (MCM) experience but he also had expertise in ERT tactical procedures. Which, I might add, no one involved in the actual investigation had.

On October 20, 2014 MacWilliams was charged with second degree murder. The charges were finally stayed on July 14, 2015.

Regular readers will know that much has been written on this case in which I was very critical of the IIO’s investigation and questioned their competence in many aspects and on many occasions.

The Delta Police Association wrote a letter of complaint to the IIO essentially saying their investigation was flawed and also questioned their competence. The IIO, to their credit, then commissioned the review by Kiloh.

Kiloh’s 15 page report is very critical of the IIO but does note that in the intervening time a number of things have changed. But he also makes a number of recommendations involving training, investigative techniques, evidence management, MCM protocols and enhanced training.

Kiloh also focused on two salient events from the IIO investigation. One was that investigators never spoke to the female taken hostage that morning. I surfaced her and interviewed about six months after the charge was laid against MacWilliams. I also surfaced the fact that the IIO never asked casino security for their video. Casino security burned a DVD for the New Westminster police and the coroner. They got their copies but the IIO never  asked.

When I asked why the IIO never bothered to touch these basic but critical things to understand what happened, I was told that the IIO doesn’t concern themselves with what led up to the Affected Person’s interaction with police but just the actual interaction. I was stunned.

Well, evidently Kiloh was equally stunned. He deals with these failures and others in his report.

The new Chief Civilian Director, Ron MacDonald, put out a statement corresponding with the release of the Kiloh report. In it he said, “I have accepted the conclusions and recommendations outlined in his report, which is attached, in their entirety.”  He goes on to say than many of the recommendations have already been undertaken.

He then said this: “As the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, I am focused on ensuring our investigations are carried out in as excellent and timely a manner as possible. We will always work to improve where necessary. This report and our response to it is an example of how the IIO is prepared to receive feedback and acknowledge weaknesses, recognize the need to improve, and make the needed changes.”

Well, that’s diametrically opposed to the first CCD, Richard Rosenthal

Considering the new CCD said he accepted the conclusions and recommendations “in their entirety,” I sent the following question yesterday to Marten Youssef, the IIO’s Director of Public Engagement:

If, in fact, the IIO accepts the report and recommendations “in it’s entirety,” that leads me to a very salient question. In the Starlight Casino investigation I surfaced the female hostage who was not interviewed by the IIO and the fact that casino security had burned a DVD of all of their video for the IIO but was never asked for it. Kiloh refers to both these matters as failings.

At the time when I questioned these things I was told by the IIO, I believe it was you, that was because the IIO was only interested in the limited focus of the police interaction with the Affected Person and not in circumstances that led up to that interaction.”

Youssef forwarded that enquiry to the new CCD who responded himself.

Here is his pasted response intact:

I have reviewed your email regarding the report about the Starlight Casino shooting. That report is about a five year old investigation, and the report notes several issues with that investigation. While it was important for us to release the report to publicly acknowledge those issues, and to demonstrate transparency to the public, at this point  my goal is to focus on the approach the IIO takes going forward.

In that sense you refer to the fact that the whole of the circumstances of an incident ought to be relevant in our investigations, not just the immediate interaction between the police and the AP.

To put it simply, I agree with you, and that is indeed the approach we take in our investigations. Not only can that context assist in an assessment of police actions, it will help explain the entire fact situation to the public.

I hope that addresses your questions.

Take care.

Ron

Well, well. Rosenthal never responded to my questions in his four years as CCD, let alone admit I was correct on any issue let alone such a salient one.

There are positive winds blowing at the IIO with this new guy at the helm.

One last point, Earlier today the Criminal Justice Branch released a report saying there would be no charges in an event at West Shore RCMP jail in which the arrestee, very drunk, was fighting with three members and taken to the floor when she sustained an injury. The whole thing is on video as you might imagine.

This occurred four years ago and the decision was only released today. Four years. The new CCD talks about timely investigations. Clearly this was not a priority of the previous administration. So, far he is talking the talk and walking the walk with two recent events that have taken place since he assumed the mantle were cleared in two months and one month respectively.

There were a couple more in the past couple of weeks. We shall see how the new IIO does with those.

I’m hopeful right now that MacDonald has forced the IIO to turn a corner. Early signs are promising.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

March 23, 2018 at 10:39 pm

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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IIO missing the obvious, again

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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

Posted in Uncategorized

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The IIO is struggling to be relevant

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I know the Independent Investigations Office is struggling to demonstrate any relevance in their existence. I also know that they have demonstrated a significant level of incompetence since their error-laden launch in September of 2012 with the demonstrable lack of leadership displayed by the crusading Richard Rosenthal who seems to believe that virtually everything police do may somehow bear some criminal responsibility.

But, to demonstrate how absolutely redundant the IIO is, and, how utterly wrong-headed their construction and their raison d’être is, one only need to look at two cases in the past two weeks.

In strikingly similar circumstances, one on Saltspring Island and the latter in Abbotsford, BC last night, police responded to calls of a fight. When they arrive on scene they find unresponsive males. In the first, on Saltspring, RCMP officers arrived to find an injured, unresponsive male being administered CPR by two civilians, one of whom had non-life threatening injuries himself. Hmmm.

The RCMP officers took over the administering of CPR until paramedics arrived. The man later died in hospital.

Last night in Abbotsford, police arrive to find an unresponsive male at the scene of a reported brawl. They begin life-saving CPR until paramedics and fire responders arrive who take over the ministrations. Again, the man is pronounced dead in hospital.

The IIO will try and say they have asserted jurisdiction because technically, both were deaths in police custody. The obvious question is: in custody for what?

Both men were engaged in an altercation of some sort. The police were called in each case. They respond and find, in both cases, injured men in cardiac distress. In both cases the police administered CPR, albeit in one, they continued CPR started by citizens. In the other they initiated the CPR.

Now, we have to remember that the IIO, as explained by both Rosenthal and his chief investigator, John Larkin, believe their job is to gather evidence to prosecute police officers rather than to find the truth. An interesting and very telling parsing of words.

One fails to see what possible criminal behaviour police may have committed by trying to save two men’s lives. Seriously, what happens the next time a police officer finds someone in cardiac distress? Do they stand back and simply call paramedics knowing that any attempt to save someone’s life may result in their being read a caution saying, anything and everything they say may be given in evidence in a prosecution?

Or maybe they do exactly that and Rosenthal and his merry band of clowns say that by not doing anything they ‘MAY’ be guilty of criminal negligence even though it was the actions of the IIO in these two cases that caused them to not do anything.

The mind boggles at the stupidity of all of this.

At its full strength, the IIO has about two dozen investigators of dubious expertise. They are so short-handed because of Rosenthal’s leadership, or lack thereof, they have had nine newly hired “investigators” at the JIBC in the past month. But they don’t actually participate in police training. They only watch actual police officer recruits going through training.

One supposes the so-called leadership thinks monitoring actual training will actually prepare investigators to investigate serious incidents. Why they think that, one can only guess.

The other interesting aspect of this, is that had those officers, who tried in vain to save two men’s lives not been wearing a badge and a gun, they would have been covered by the Good Samaritan laws which exempt members of the general public from any sort of liability they might otherwise incur in a similar situation. But, because they’re cops, they have found themselves in the sights of the IIO.

Yes, this is ridiculous. Yes, it is the result of a plethora of errors by this government. But, yes, some good cops are going to go through the worry and rigours of being investigated criminally for trying to do their jobs and save some lives.

If you weren’t offended before, you now should be.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 3, 2016 at 3:33 am