Posts Tagged ‘Rosenthal’
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.
On May 16th, 2016, the Independent Investigations Office released a media announcement saying they had cleared the Transit Police officer engaged in fatally shooting a knife-wielding man in the Safeway in Whalley, BC which occurred on Dec. 28, 2014. What could possibly have taken so long in what was, by all accounts, a cut and dried police use of force?
Yes, there were a lot of witnesses, but this should make the job easier. Additionally, there was CCTV footage that allowed the IIO to track the armed suspect’s movements throughout the store and, as well, the police movements from start to finish.
Both officers gave clear statements to IIO investigators which was corroborated by civilian witnesses, forensic evidence and CCTV footage. What does it take for Richard Rosenthal to accept that the police acted appropriately? What could possibly take so long? This should have been done and dusted in weeks not 16 months.
The problem is that Rosenthal, the Chief Civilian Director, believes his role is to gather evidence to prosecute police, not to find the truth.
On the heels of this, on May 20th, the IIO announced they were conducting a review of their own investigation into the shooting of an armed suspect at the Starlight Casino in November, 2012. This investigation led to the charge of second degree murder against Delta Police Constable Jordan McWilliams, of which much has been written in this space. The charge was stayed last summer nearly 3 years after the incident. It should have never been laid in the first instance.
This is ironic isn’t it? The IIO was formed because the government believed that the police shouldn’t investigate themselves. Yet, somehow we are supposed to trust the IIO to investigate themselves when their deeply-flawed investigation resulted in a charge against a police officer doing his duty and doing so courageously.
On Monday, the IIO responded to another police shooting, this one in Vancouver. Again, a knife-wielding suspect, clearly disturbed and clearly dangerous. And again, this appears to be a cut and dried use of force incident. But, given the IIO’s performance history they will likely drag this out for months and months.
How clear cut? Let’s take a look.
At midday, a visitor from Edmonton, Bill Whatcott, was in Vancouver visiting his dad. He walked out of the McDonald’s at Hastings and Cassiar in east Vancouver. He noticed a car fire and two female VPD officers in the parking lot. He didn’t think too much of it but took a photo of it anyway. Here’s the photo:
As he was taking photos of the fire, a man suddenly appeared on the scene. Here’s the next photo. You can seen the man has what appears to be self-inflicted wounds to his abdomen and a knife clenched in his fist.
The officer sees the knife and draws her weapon. The suspect then charges at the officer wielding the knife. This photo shows the moment before the shot was fired. Whatcott described it as a “death charge.” If you note the officer’s position in the above photo then in this one, it’s clear she was backing away from the man as he charged.
The officer fired a single shot which took down the suspect.
Here you see the officer holding her weapon on the downed suspect, maintaining a distance and yelling at him to stay down as her partner comes to assist. You can see the car fire still burning in the background.
Finally, other officers arrive along with paramedics and begin medical treatment.
The man was taken to hospital with gunshot and stabbing injuries, the latter presumably self-inflicted and the police continue to investigate the incident. VPD later said the burning car was associated with the suspect.
This appears to be as clean an officer involved shooting as you will see. Yet, the IIO will do what they do in their bubble to try and figure out what the officer did wrong to try and bring some sort of prosecution.
Whatcott posted online after the incident saying, “Anyways, please pray for the officer and subject involved. I found this was traumatic for me. How much worse for them……”
Indeed. And how much more traumatic is it for the officer involved to have something like this hang over her head for months and months wondering if the IIO will fabricate something for which she may be charged criminally?
I don’t have a problem with civilian oversight of the police. I do have a problem with the philosophy of the IIO as it is constituted. Rosenthal looks at things 16 days to Sunday trying to figure out if something an officer has done is an offence against any statute not just the criminal code or the Police Act. What the IIO should be doing is looking for the truth and whether police actions were appropriate or not, considering all the circumstances and in doing so, conduct a competent and timely investigation. If, in the process, evidence emerges that an officer used excessive force, then so be it, bring a charge. Every police officer is authorized to use force in the execution of their duty, but is criminally responsible for any excess thereof. Emphasis on excess.
As a former homicide investigator said to me on this one, “I could do this file from my sofa.” Yet this will take the IIO months and months. And given their history thus far, neither the public nor the police should have any confidence it will be either competent or timely.
On March 14th the Criminal Justice Branch of BC announced there would be no charges laid against an off duty RCMP member who was involved in a traffic collision in Coquitlam in April 2015.
Without going into much detail, the officer was heading eastbound and the other driver was heading northbound on a cross street with a stop sign he ignored and turned left right in the path of the oncoming officer.
The IIO’s crack investigators sprung into action. A traffic reconstruction expert was called. This expert estimated the officer’s vehicle was travelling 45 KPH at the time of collision. The IIO had the Event Data Recorders (EDR) downloaded. They showed the officer was doing 59 KPH prior to the collision and 57 KPH at the time of collision.
The EDR’s also showed the other driver only slowed to 14 KPH when he went through the stop sign and began to turn left into the path of the oncoming officer’s car.
Clearly the officer had nothing to do with causing the collision. But, the Acting Chief Civilian Director, Clinton J. Sadlemyer, who you may remember from last November when I wrote this For Fawkes sake, forwarded the report to the CJB suggesting a charge be considered. Really? For speeding? For 7 kms over the 50 KPH limit?
In order to prove the charge against the officer, they would have had to call the engineer who designed the system to establish it was accurate, the guy who actually installed it in that car to prove it was working correctly, and the person who downloaded the EDR to prove it was done correctly. All to establish a charge of speeding that is so minimal it is inside the tolerance zone of traffic cops with laser or radar devices.
And, at what cost? Is there no one at the IIO with an ounce of common sense?
And what about the driver who actually caused the accident that actually resulted in the injuries he suffered? I have no idea. I can’t, officially, even get the name of the so-called “Affected Person.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Four days later the CJB announced there would be no charges against two Burnaby RCMP officers in a case where they, responding to a disturbance call, were attacked by a man who was 6’5, 300 lbs. who had been drinking heavily, taking crack cocaine and meth.
During the fight with three Mounties, joined in by two civilians trying to help the police, a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) was deployed twice with “no discernible effect.” The fight continued on the ground and one officer got folded under the big man and “feared for her life.” Together the five of them managed to get handcuffs on him after a lengthy ground fight.
Once handcuffed the big man became unconscious. Paramedics were called and after 45 minutes of resuscitation efforts, the big man was pronounced dead.
In comes the IIO.
The autopsy report showed the man died from “the combined effects of cocaine toxicity, means of restraint, and cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart.)”
The report further stated: “An enlarged, dilated heart can predispose a person to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden collapse, which may be precipitated by a stressful situation such as confronting means of restraint.”
The toxicological report showed “cocaine and alcohol together with their by-products including cocaethylene, a toxic product formed after the use of cocaine and alcohol.“ The report further stated: “A person under the influence of cocaine is prone to sudden death, and means of restraint applied at the same time will more likely than not further increase the physical/mental burden by increasing stress and/ or restricting breathing (such as in the case of a morbidly obese individual in a face-down position with hands to the back).” (Think Eric Garner in New York.)
In other words, the police had nothing to do with the death of the man. He did it to himself in what he imbibed and then he attacked the police who were called to deal with his erratic and violent behaviour by the residents who eventually assisted in securing the big man.
One of the civilians interviewed by the IIO said, “Nobody did anything wrong. Nobody did anything that shouldn’t have been done. I’m pretty sure we were all in fear of him getting up.” He also said “I’m telling you right now if we didn’t come in there, I’m
pretty sure it would have been a hell of a lot worse.”
The other civilian said, ”I couldn’t stop him. I tried to. I thought I could hold him ‘cause he come (sic) and grab hold of me and I thought … he was going to kill me…I was f****n’ scared. To be honest with you, I was petrified.”
So, we have a man out of control who is big enough that it took five adults, three RCMP officers and two civilians, to control and secure the violent man. That he died in the process is certainly not intended. Simply stated, he was the author of his own misfortune. The police just did their job in trying circumstances.
But in the upside down world of Richard Rosenthal, they must have. So, he submits a Report to Crown Counsel suggesting that because the RCMP officers initially refused to take the handcuffs off the man they somehow contributed to his death.
Which is, of course, stuff and nonsense. After the fight the Mounties didn’t know why he was unconscious and were concerned about what might occur if he gained consciousness again. Perfectly reasonable. And ultimately what was concluded by the CJB nearly two years after the fact.
Never one to accept the police acted appropriately, Rosenthal then issued a release saying despite what CJB decided, he had referred the matter the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for their review.
This circus never ends.
Information coming from sources within the offices of the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIOBC) in the past week is stunning. Apparently, there is no one currently acting as the Chief Civilian Director and there won’t be for the next two weeks.
Richard Rosenthal hasn’t been around but for brief sightings since he went on some type of approved administrative leave in the Spring when his wife took ill and later died. Another source tells me he has recently registered at Simon Fraser University in a graduate program in the Criminology department.
In the interim, at the end of July, the government issued a “Cabinet order,” according to news reports at the time, which I presume is an Order In Council, appointing Clinton J. Sadlemyer, the IIO’s Director of Legal Services, as the Acting Chief Civilian Director.
This occurred in the wake of a RCMP involved shooting in Ft. St. John outside a BC Hydro public hearing on the Site C dam project. A man inside disrupted the meeting by throwing tables around and hurling epithets which resulted in the police being called. This man soon left.
As police arrived they were encountered by another man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask who was armed with a knife. According to information released by the police, he was acting “in an aggressive manner, refusing to comply with directions.” One of which was undoubtedly, “Drop the knife.”
The result was that 48-year-old James Daniel McIntyre was shot by the RCMP and died.
The IIO asserted jurisdiction and began their investigation. Kellie Kilpatrick, the Executive Director of Public Accountability, a fancy title for media spokesperson, was on site and conducted several media briefings.
A day later the hacktivist group Anonymous issued a press release claiming McIntyre was one of theirs and vowed revenge against the RCMP. What they did manage to do was find a bunch of personal information about Kilpatrick and published it on the internet.
This prompted a risk assessment within the IIO and Kilpatrick’s home and security adjustments were made. Kilpatrick, needless to say, became worried for her safety.
But all of this is the back story to why there is no CCD for the next two weeks.
Last week, according to my sources, in the IIO offices, they held a lunch Halloween potluck party. Sadlemyer, in a stunning display of insensitivity, entered the room wearing – wait for it – a Guy Fawkes mask.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Complaints were immediately initiated and the PSA, the HR department of the provincial government, got involved and an assistant deputy minister. The decision was made to suspend Sadlemyer for two weeks, apparently without pay.
The mind boggles.
In their media statement at the end of July, the IIO said there were “legal reasons” for the cabinet order. Ralph Krenz, speaking for the IIO said, “We need somebody who can officially act with the confidence of the legislature.”
One wonders if, after these two weeks in the penalty box, anyone will be able to say that Sadlemyer can still act with the confidence of the legislature?
With Rosenthal still on some unspecified leave after so much criticism of the lack of leadership and a host of other missteps, cock-ups and questions about his own fitness for the job, where does this leave the IIO moving forward?
Since the IIO was launched in September, 2012, it has been beset with all manner of criticisms, at least 8 internal investigations and at least 26 departures of their original staff complement of 32. And this, the government would have us believe, is the organization that police should have confidence in should they become involved in a situation that involves serious injury or death.
For Fawkes sake.