Posts Tagged ‘police’
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more than a year now I have been trying to get the final BC Coroner’s Service report into the suicide death of Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who was the the Media Liaison Officer (MLO) for the RCMP in October 2007 when Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski was Tasered by officers responding to a disturbance call at the International Arrivals area at Vancouver International Airport, YVR.
Lemaitre was found dead July 29, 2013, hanging in his home in Abbotsford. Two years later his widow, Sheila, filed a lawsuit against the RCMP and the Attorney General, claiming the Force made him a scapegoat for the fatal confrontation between Dziekanski and the RCMP and the resulting fall-out. I have written about the circumstances previously: Hindsight is 20/20 in YVR case
A year ago, I spoke with John Knox, the Special Investigations Coroner with the Coroner’s Service who is responsible for the file. He said the investigation wasn’t finished. I was incredulous. The man hung himself. For the Coroner’s office, whose responsibility is to investigate unnatural, sudden and unexpected deaths, determine a cause of death and ensure the relevant facts are put before the public either via a report or a public inquest, to be dragging their feet for two years at that point was incredible. A typical suicide should take no more than a month or two, three at the outside. What could possibly be taking so long?
Knox was unresponsive to my questions on the subject so I started digging around a bit and found out that Knox, to this date, now nearly three and a half years after the suicide, from what I can find out, has yet to conclude a file.
He has been with the Coroner’s Service since 2011. He was given the position of Special Investigations Coroner in 2012 to coincide with the launch of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) where he was the designated Coroner to deal with all things police involved.
Prior to that he was a private investigator since 2005. In BC, that primarily means doing ICBC investigations, mostly sitting in the back of a van doing surveillance trying to prove fraudulent claims. His LinkedIn page says he was “specializing in personal background investigations, insurance claims investigations, witness location services and document service.” Document service? Well, that’s impressive.
What qualified him for this position?
Incredibly, the fledgling IIO, lacking in experienced investigators were to work with a Coroner’s Special Investigator himself lacking in investigative expertise in major cases as well. Well, what could possibly go wrong? Talk about the blind leading the deaf.
In the four years since being named Special Investigations Coroner, he has yet to complete a file, including stunningly, 26 cases resulting from the Pickton investigation. Another source in the office told me, “John doesn’t really leave the office. Even on local cases he sends people out to do his work.”
I was stunned.
Then I was told about a recent suicide case of a municipal police officer in the late spring when Knox, instead of attending the family home, as is customary, required the widow to attend his office. He arranged for another coroner to sit in on the interview and said he was going to record the interview. He took his cell phone out then hid it and never told the widow he was recording the interview.
The coroner sitting 2nd chair was very uncomfortable with what was being done that a complaint was lodged with the Deputy Chief Coroner. This led to much upheaval in the office and after a couple of hours of what was described to me as a “raised voice conversation about the legality of recording without telling the person.” The DCC evidently said the service would support Knox.
In Canada, there has long been a legal standard called “One Party Consent” as it relates to recording private conversations derived from Sec. 184 of the Criminal Code, but that has been blurred by Supreme Court decisions mostly relating to the police doing it. And then there is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act which further complicates this issue. In this case, at the very least, the ethics are clearly lacking, let alone the lack of compassion for the widow of a serving police officer who had just tragically taken his life.
In 2011, following the appointment and subsequent departure of three Chief Coroners in a two year period, the service was in disarray. The BC Auditor General looked into it and issued a report with a number of recommendations in July, 2011. One of those concerned timelines of investigations. The service set a standard of 18 weeks. In August 2013, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe issued a response report saying that recommendation was “Fully or substantially implemented”
Well, evidently not, as the Lemaitre suicide case shows. Pierre Lemaitre took his life on July 29, 2013. Now, nearing the end of October, 2016 and no conclusive report appears forthcoming. Lemaitre’s widow is engaged in a lawsuit with the RCMP, two of the four members who attended YVR on that fateful night were shamefully convicted of perjury by a system looking for someone to scapegoat. And the Coroner investigating the suicide of one of the major players in the events of that fateful night in October, 2007 can’t seem to complete this or any other file.
Robert Dziekanski was on Canadian soil for 12 hours. Thus far, he has cost the loss of two lives including his own, more than $50 million of taxpayer’s money and four Mounties their careers and for two of them, possibly their liberty.
The story continues to get worse and worse.
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.
Next month the Independent Investigations Organization (IIO) turns four since it commenced operations in 2012. Two days before the anniversary will be the last day for its first Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Richard Rosenthal.
Rosenthal was hired with much fanfare back in December, 2011 in a major announcement by the Premier Christy Clark and then Solicitor General Shirley Bond as well as several municipal police chiefs including then VPD Chief Jim Chu, then West Vancouver Chief Peter Lepine and Assistant Commissioner Fraser MacRae representing the RCMP.
They all stood in front of a big sign that said “Increasing Accountability.” Bond defended the hiring of an American because of his “experience” saying he had a strong track record in building these kinds of organizations which, in itself was not true. In fact, Rosenthal had never supervised more than five people in his career let alone led a start-up of more than 30 people.
In point of fact, Rosenthal did not even apply for the job within the requisite time frame in the original job posting which said the posting closed on August 16, 2011. Rosenthal only “applied” directly to then Assistant Deputy Minister in Justice, Jay Chalke, after he’d been informed his contract in Denver would not be renewed when it expired in the winter of 2012. Why Chalke re-opened the posting is anyone’s guess? Chalke is now British Columbia’s Ombudsman.
The fact that Rosenthal was a lawyer and a former Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles and was involved in police oversight in Portland and Denver was much-touted by the government as a reason for his hiring. Yet, he was spectacularly unsuccessful in the launch of the IIO and is in fact leaving prior to the expiration of his initial five year contract.
Rosenthal claims he is leaving of his own volition to pursue a PHD in Criminology at Simon Fraser University. Whether that or because the government declined to renew his contract given the tumultuous four years under him is moot really. The fact that he is gone, or soon will be, is good.
It is interesting to note that as one of his final acts he had senior management conduct a leak inquiry by searching every single employees’ computer simply speaks volumes about his lack of leadership skills. Presumably, he wanted to determine who was leaking information to the media, primarily yours truly. It would seem nothing of note was discovered despite their best efforts.
So, four years in and what is there to show for their efforts? Not a lot. They managed to alienate the whole of the police community in BC with the charging of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams for second degree murder in the shooting incident at the Starlight Casino in November 2012. MacWilliams was merely doing his job that day and to face a charge of murder was absolutely obscene. Fortunately, clearer minds prevailed and the charge was stayed last summer, but not before putting MacWilliams through hell.
The IIO has turned over virtually all of their original experienced investigators hired and paid for the privilege through severance with many taxpayer dollars.
They’ve been through a couple of investigations conducted by the PSA, essentially the government’s HR department, resulting from staff complaints of bullying and harassment. Employee surveys revealed huge disconnects between front-line staff and senior management. Rosenthal was being openly mocked by subordinates. Frankly, it was an absolute shit show.
His heir apparent, lawyer Clinton J. Saddlemeyer, appointed acting CCD in Rosenthal’s absence in 2015, was suspended for wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to the staff Halloween party when the IIO was investigating the shooting of an Anonymous activist wearing the same mask at the time.
Far from being transparent and swift, they are taking up to a year and a half to complete the average investigation. Just last week on August 9th, they put out a public notice seeking witnesses to an event that occurred last August 13th, 2015 in Burnaby. Really. A year later they suddenly discover there may be some salient witnesses to an event? It’s stunning really. Shouldn’t that be one of the first steps they take? You know, when memories are fresh and details clear?
The challenge for anyone taking the reins at this moribund and incompetent organization is huge especially given its mandate. Thus far, the government has not announced who is to take that challenge. Considering they announced back in January that the search had commenced.
For all their gurgling about the importance of having a lawyer with experience in police oversight at the time of Rosenthal’s hiring, my sources are telling me that a career provincial government bureaucrat will be named as CCD shortly. Whether permanent or interim is not known.
This particular bureaucrat rose to high levels in the civil service and retired in 2013 after a full career and is currently acting as a management consultant. So apparently, the reasons for hiring Rosenthal no longer apply.
I wish the new CCD well and truly hope that the competence and transparency level of the IIO can be hugely improved. Sadly, I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who understands transparency and few who were actually competent leaders who could inspire subordinates, but there’s always a first time.
In the interim, adios Richard Rosenthal. You’ve long overstayed your welcome.
The war on police continues.
Last weekend, 12 Dallas police officers were shot, five of them fatally by a nutter with military training and Islamic inducement. Oh yes, I should add the shooter was black and the cops shot were white. In the ensuing ‘negotiations’ with police the shooter said he was trying to kill as many white cops as possible. But apparently, according to the Department of Justice, this was not a hate crime. Had the tables been turned, you can bet it would be a hate crime.
Yesterday, a travesty of justice was committed in a Vancouver court against a Mountie who was just doing his job. Cst. Kwesi Millington, the young officer who wielded the Taser at YVR the night Robert Dziekanski died, was appealing his conviction for perjury.
In issuing a 23 page written judgement, the Court of Appeal essentially punted. In legal terms they said the appellant (Millington) didn’t argue his case well enough to convince them to order a new trial.
Millington, with his legal team headed by Vancouver lawyer Ravi Hira will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. I am not holding my breath on this one.
Hira argued five solid points on appeal yet the Court of Appeal gave him short shrift. Why?
The essential component of the criminal trials against the four officers involved in the YVR incident is did they collude to make up some sort of statement? In and of itself, this is nonsense. One only need look at the timeline of events to conclude it was impossible. Yet, the bespectacled, pencil-necked Mr. Justice William (Bill, when I knew him as a junior prosecutor) Ehrcke somehow managed to “infer” they must have colluded.
How, is a whole other question considering once Dziekanski went down, Cpl. Monty Robinson was monitoring his physical symptoms while the other three officers were canvassing witnesses. Once the watch NCO from Richmond Detachment arrived and took control of the scene, he ordered the three constables to the sub-detachment to await follow up investigators and Robinson to remain at YVR to await those self-same investigators from IHIT.
Erchke’s “inference” could also be justifiably called a “great leap in mental gymnastics” yet the Court of Appeal declined to deal with that.
One wonders if they were told to let sleeping dogs lie as it were?
From day one of this affair, politics has reared its ugly head. The Braidwood inquiry which emanated from this was fundamentally flawed in that Mr. Justice Braidwood found the four officers colluded in the absence of any evidence. To conclude that one presumes that imagination trumps evidence.
That finding triggered two legal reviews. One, commissioned by the RCMP, was done by very respected counsel Len Daoust. He concluded that no case existed against the four members relative to perjury at the Braidwood inquiry. The other, that of Special Prosecutor Richard Peck, pursued the matter at great expense to the taxpayer.
Why, for example, were the four members prosecuted individually? Surely that quadrupled the cost to prosecute the cases on essentially the same fact pattern. Apparently, once a Special Prosecutor is appointed no further oversight can be done by the Criminal Justice Branch. Every decision is up to the Special Prosecutor. The meter on billable hours just runs and runs.
The prosecutions included flying a lawyer back and forth from Toronto for every appearance, argument, trial date and what have you. Flights and hotels for a Toronto lawyer? Why? Are there no competent lawyers in Vancouver?
One notes that Peck was hired by the same Toronto lawyer a few years back to deal with a matter involving the Toronto Police. Apparently, scratching backs is accepted among lawyers when dealing with taxpayer dollars.
For the record, neither Richard Peck nor Mike Fenton, the Toronto lawyer who prosecuted three of the four cases, deigned to show up at the appeal hearing. Peck left it to his juniors. Perhaps he thought he’d lose the appeal?
But no victory for Kwesi Millington who spent the day in a jail cell. Just as he did the day the appeal was argued. A cop who was just doing his job was in a jail cell as his lawyer tried to argue common sense to a legal panel bereft of it.
I’m stunned. Offended. And a myriad of other things I probably cannot and should not say.
The YVR Four did nothing wrong. Yet two, the non-white ones by the way, were convicted and sentenced to jail for doing their jobs. My anger in this is palpable.
It’s very hard to go to jail in BC if you are a garden variety criminal charged with B&E, theft, assault, rape, robbery etc. But a cop doing his job? Two years is the standard apparently. And the BC Court of Appeal is okay with that.
Personally, I’m disgusted.