Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘leadership

The irony of the IIO

with 5 comments

“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.

-30-

Leo Knight

@prmetimecrime

Advertisements

Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Successful campaign, but bitter feeling lingers

with 8 comments

Two weeks ago we started a GoFundMe campaign for Cindy Millington to help her through a tough time while her husband, RCMP Cst. Kwesi Millington, was serving his 30 month sentence after being convicted in a trumped-up charge of perjury.

After running for a week, we had surpassed the target goal of $10,000 and moved the goal to $12,000. Well, that too got passed. I spoke with Cindy and she was overcome with gratitude. We decided to let the campaign run through the long weekend then close it with a big thank you to all of you who supported Cindy. We then started the withdrawal process.

I then left for a pre-planned week in the desert playing golf with some of my retired former VPD friends. When I arrived at our hotel, I received a message from the GoFundMe Community Management Team saying, “It has come to our attention that your campaign may not be compliant with our Terms & Conditions.” They then proceeded to tell me the campaign was suspended pending a response from me.

I promptly responded explaining the situation and said the money was being raised for Cindy to help with the household bills and mortgage payments while her husband was unable to earn money and her salary alone would not cover everything. In the interim, I began getting messages from folks who were trying to donate but the site had been taken down and they were asking why.

I subsequently got this reply from GoFundMe: “Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that your campaign is in violation of the following line from our terms: “the defense or support of anyone alleged to be involved in criminal activity.”

Criminal activity? I was stunned.

What followed was a back and forth to ensure Cindy would be able to collect the donated funds and I’m pleased to say that Cindy has now received an EFT in the amount of $14,136.24.

When Cindy told Kwesi of the campaign he was very moved. Cindy said, “I told him how you created the campaign and it’s been flooded with donations. When I told him we were at $10,000 he said, OMG, I’m gonna cry, that’s amazing.”

While alls well that ends well, I suppose. But I’m still miffed at GoFundMe for the account suspension citing “the defence or support of criminal activity.” This was anything but. Kwesi Millington got steam-rolled by a system looking for scapegoats for political purposes and an employer that stood mute and did not come to the defence of the YVR Four.

Clearly by using the phrase “It has come to our attention…” indicates they got a complaint. Who would complain over this type of campaign? I don’t know. Maybe an anti-police type?Perhaps someone who doesn’t like inter-racial couples? A seniour member of the RCMP who did not agree with my criticism of the Force in this? Who knows?

But, what I do know is the policing community and those who support police came together and supported Cindy and the campaign for the week it ran and I guarantee you not one of those who donated in any way, shape or form defend or support criminal activity. It’s a nonsensical position taken by GoFundMe but at least they allowed Cindy to collect the donated funds, less their commissions of course.

I will stay in touch with Cindy and try and update you on how Kwesi and Monty Robinson are doing as I get updates. Again, thank you to all who supported this campaign. Your generosity is truly humbling and appreciated.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 21, 2017 at 6:35 pm

The real price to be paid for a travesty of justice

with 13 comments

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Leo Knight

November 6, 2017 at 1:27 am

A crisis of confidence

with 6 comments

News of the imminent departure of the Chief of Investigations of the Independent investigations Office (IIO) John Larkin was broadcast to staff of the IIO last Monday morning. Curiously enough, staff coming to work also noticed that the office of Director of Investigations Allison Hemming-Cook had apparently been cleaned out on the weekend. Her status seems murky.

Staff think she’s on sick leave. If so, why clean out her office? Hemming-Cook says she is returning on June 20th following her impending marriage and honeymoon apparently to well-known Vancouver lawyer Monty Carstairs, QC. Which sounds like a vacation not a sick leave.

I tried to get clarification from Marten Youssef, nominally the Acting Director of Communications for the IIO. All he would provide was the vanilla response, “The IIO will not be providing comment on any personnel matters.” What that triggered, instead of a clarifying communication to the staff, was an email saying the word had gotten out and Youssef got himself on the news that night to try and spin his way out of my questions.

So, the staff there are left in the dark. Is there an open slot for a new Director of Investigations or isn’t there? If it’s a sick leave, how is it that a finite date for return has been set as stated by Hemming-Cook? The word in the office is that she was told in no uncertain terms to take sick leave. Whatever the reason, staff relations there appear to be the messiest they have ever been.

It would seem that Larkin and Hemming-Cook have worn out their welcome in that office. There is a union grievance filed against Hemming-Cook and several sources have told me that she and Larkin’s replacement, retired Asst. Commissioner of the Queensland police, Gayle Hogan, were at odds with each other. Hate is a strong word and I hesitate to use it, but I have been told they “hate” each other. I make no evaluation, but what’s clear in that is there will be a rocky road ahead if she returns following her honeymoon.

All of this follows a blistering letter sent by Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer two weeks ago in which he questioned the competence of the IIO. The Chief wasn’t mincing words. He said, “Changes need to be made to the IIO’s current practices to improve the relationship between the IIO and the police. The VPD has two principal concerns. The first concern is what appears to be the IIO’s lack of investigative competence. The second concern is the rigid position the IIO has adopted regarding pre-interview disclosure which has led to unnecessary friction and distrust between the police and the IIO. These concerns need to be addressed given the importance of independent police oversight to maintain public trust and accountability.”

Well, it would seem that changes are being made although it remains to be seen if these changes will be enough to satisfy the VPD and the Vancouver Police Union who have all but declared war on the IIO.

The question of competence of the IIO is a major concern for all police departments in the province including the RCMP. I have documented many instances underlining the apparent lack thereof over the course of the past four years.

There are many reasons why. Part of it was Larkin. He was, as described by Palmer, adversarial without question. He set the tone when he stated the IIO started every investigation believing the officer involved has committed a crime and work back from there. That, in and of itself, is incredibly unprofessional and anathema to any real investigator who knows his or her job is to find the truth about what happened not enter it with any pre-conceived notion about what occurred.

Part of it is turnover, lack of training and despite protestations to the contrary, the inability to meet the BC Provincial Policing Standards. They are after all, a police agency.

Section 1 of the Standards says this: “The chief constable, chief officer or commissioner must ensure that:

  1. A Command Triangle is formed for all major case investigations, as soon as reasonably possible given the circumstances and the needs of the investigation, with officers assigned to the following roles:

(a) Team Commander;

(b) Primary Investigator; and

(c) File Coordinator.”

It goes on to say this:  “The chief constable, chief officer, commissioner or chief civilian director must ensure that:

(2) An officer assigned to the role of Team Commander for a major case investigation, or an IIO investigator assigned to the role of Team Commander for the investigation of an incident where a person may have died as a result of the actions of an officer, whether on or off duty:

(a) Has experience relevant to the type of investigation; and

(b) Meets each of the following criteria:

(i) Successful completion of a provincially-approved Team Commander training course;

(ii) Previous experience in the role of Primary Investigator or File Coordinator;

(iii) Previous investigative experience in a supervisory or management role; and

(iv) No disciplinary records of serious misconduct that would affect his/her ability to

perform the duties of Team Commander.”

Aye, there’s the rub. The CCD MUST ensure the Major Case Management model is followed and MUST ensure a Team Commander is designated who meets the criteria as stated. At this point there is not one person in the IIO qualified to be a Team Commander which involves not just training but accreditation by a provincial board made of senior police investigators who evaluate the applicant’s major case experience.

About a year or so ago, Delta Police Chief Constable Neil Dubord wrote a letter to the IIO demanding they are held to the same investigative competencies as members of his department. I am waiting to confirm, but I am told he has not, to date, received a response.

Nor has the Delta Police Union who requested a review of the fatally-flawed investigation into the shooting at the Starlight Casino which resulted in 2nd degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan McWilliams, of which I have written much.

I specifically asked Youssef how many people at the IIO had Major Case Management certification and this was his response: “The IIO operates under an MCM framework and investigations are based on that model.”

Well, that was clear as mud.

The reality is that even though the IIO endeavours to follow the model as is required by the Director of Police Services for the province, they simply cannot meet the standard inasmuch as they have no accredited commanders and precious few who have had the investigators’ course.

Is it any wonder that Palmer, whose department follows the Provincial Policing Standards is lacking confidence in those who are responsible for investigating his officers and expecting them to get a fair shake?

Any which way you look at this, four and a half years into this, this is a mess. Perhaps, in the words of a former IIO investigator I spoke to today, “This is the messiest it’s ever been.”

That speaks volumes.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 24, 2017 at 1:15 am

Reports are scathing of the RCMP, but little will change

with 5 comments

Two reports were released Monday by the Public Safety Minister in Ottawa. The first, was written by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and can be found here.  The CRCC broadly reviewed workplace harassment and bullying in the Force.

The other was authored by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. It looked at four particular cases where harassment lawsuits were filed individually by female members Catherine Galliford, Alice Fox, Susan Gastaldo and Atoya Montague. That report can be found here.

The RCMP has had both reports for several weeks but thus far has had little positive reaction to either report both scathing in their criticism of the Mounties essentially saying the organization is  dysfunctional and the harassment and bullying was systemic. Where have we heard this before?

I have long described the RCMP as “144 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” These two reports just reinforce that statement.

None of this is new. There have been a number of reports over the past decade or so and successive commissioners have mouthed all the platitudes including the current one, Bob Paulson, who has been described by a number of officers to me as the biggest bully of all. I cannot argue. Indeed, Galliford told me this is the fifth such report she has participated in.

Both reports recommend some form of civilian oversight for the Force. If that is to happen then the RCMP Act will require the appropriate amendments, if not re-written in its entirety, given the recent union certification application made by the newly formed National Police Federation.

But even then I am not sure much will change. The problem is the culture within the RCMP. It, in and of itself, causes the dysfunction. Part of it is the Old Boys network. For example when Gary Bass was the CO of E Division (BC) his sycophants were referred to as the Bass Boys Club or BBC for short. Promotions literally depended on whether one was a member of the BBC.

When Craig Callens took over upon Bass’ retirement nothing changed except the name. The sycophants were then referred to as being on “Craigslist.”

Another significant issue is the “go along to get along” unwritten rule. Members don’t dare colour outside the box. But the overriding issue is the, again unstated policy, not to do or say anything that could damage the reputation of the RCMP. This is at the heart of the problem.

If a member has a complaint about a superior, even if validated, which is rare, the member is discouraged from pushing it for the good of the Force or the miscreant is simply transferred. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak.

The RCMP Act was re-written in 2014 ostensibly to make it easier for the Commissioner to fire the “bad apples.”

The CRCC report identifies what the RCMP has done since it’s last report on the matter in 2013 were simply small initiatives that had little or no effect.  Said Ian McPhail, Chair of the CRCC in the report, “If the last 10 years, over 15 reports and hundreds of recommendations for reform have produced any lessons, it is that the RCMP is not capable of making the necessary systemic changes of its own accord.”

Stunning words. Paulson’s response? Meh.

Well, to be fair he did put out a one page response in which he gave no reaction to the major recommendation common to both reports, the establishment of civilian oversight committee or board that will assume control for administration, finance and human resource management of the RCMP.

This is his response: “These reports make recommendations that require careful review and consideration. They will no doubt help improve policies to further support a healthy and respectful workplace as the RCMP continues moving forward.” How about that for tepid?

McPhail’s report also says that little has changed in the RCMP from their previous report in 2013 to the present day. Paulson’s response? “It should be noted that many of the reports’ judgments rely on the historical context of RCMP transformation efforts that are not, in my view, reflective of current RCMP environment, policies or processes.”

Yeah, that sure sounds like he is seized with the findings and recommendations doesn’t it?

Paulson has already announced he is leaving at the end of next month. We don’t yet know who his replacement will be, but unless the Trudeau government picks a strong leader – a real leader  who can take the Old Boys’Network by the scruff and shake the heck out of it – nothing will change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telegraphed today that the appointment will be either a female or someone well-versed in aboriginal issues. Leadership qualities apparently are not the criteria.

Equally, I don’t think Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister, has the intestinal fortitude to take on the RCMP because any effort to establish some form of civilian oversight with authority over the Commissioner’s office will be fought every step of the way by seniour management in the RCMP. Take that to the bank.

The female members who were interviewed by Fraser were told that the Minister is “absolutely committed to follow the recommendations.” I’m sure Fraser believes that. I, on the other hand, don’t buy it for a second.

I spoke with former West Vancouver Chief and former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed to get his take. He said, “Nothing will change in the RCMP. There are consecutive reports over the past 15 years; Kennedy, Duxbury, Brown ‘et al’ calling for the same changes. The organization will not change unless they are redefined and stick to just federal policing.”

It’s hard to argue that. But that sort of institutional change would have to come from government. The same government lacking in the same sort of leadership that’s needed in the RCMP.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 16, 2017 at 3:04 am

The culture is the problem in the RCMP

with 4 comments

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,