Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘shooting

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

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Written by Leo Knight

March 25, 2017 at 3:47 am

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IIO complaint nothing but sour grapes

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The news release issued by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) on Wednesday is instructive and unique. Not in the fact they announced that the VPD officer involved in a fatal shooting in April, 2015 would not face any criminal charges, but for the way the report ended.

The incident itself took more than 14 months for the IIO to determine the officer did nothing wrong. Albeit, that’s a few months quicker than their average and frankly, given the circumstances, about a year longer than it should have taken any competent investigator.

I don’t say that lightly. Let’s look at the circumstances. VPD received multiple 9-1-1 calls about a man with a knife who had stabbed two people in the 400 block of Gore on the Downtown Eastside. Three officers responded from close by, one equipped with a shotgun and beanbag rounds, a non-lethal use of force option.

The first officer, armed with his duty pistol and the officer with the shotgun immediately located the suspect armed with a bloody knife. The VPD members challenged the man pointing their weapons and yelling, “drop the knife, drop the knife.”

Three beanbag rounds were fired which struck the suspect and had no effect. The suspect then charged at the officer with what one civilian witness later described as a “bull charge.” The beanbag weapon was fired again and again with no apparent effect. That officer later said, “I thought he was going to stab me.”

Several shots were then fired by the other officer which momentarily doubled over the suspect. But it didn’t drop him. He then ran across the street to a parkade entrance at a church where a passerby female was bent over to pick a $20 bill she had dropped. Without warning the suspect attacked and stabbed the woman several times. The officer chasing then shot the suspect several times. He fell down, dead, on top of the woman he was stabbing.

Police had to pull the assailant off the woman to get her out from underneath to begin first aid. She later told IIO investigators, “I’d like to thank that cop that killed him. Because without him getting that lucky shot I wouldn’t be here right now.”

The IIO were called in as protocol requires. They interviewed three “Witness Officers” and 17 civilian witnesses. With all but some small exceptions, as one would expect, the witness accounts coincided and was corroborated with other associated gathered evidence including area video, recorded radio transmissions and 9-1-1 recordings.

The law is very clear when giving police the right to use lethal force and from this set of circumstances it would seem a textbook, righteous shoot.

But nothing is ever cut and dried with the IIO. This leads us back to what made the press release remarkable.

After the usual statement and case synopsis came this: “All firearm discharges resulting in death or serious harm are the subject of an automatic administrative review by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.  As such, this incident is subject to review by that office. In addition to this, the CCD will be forwarding a complaint to the OPCC regarding the failure of two of the involved officers to write any duty-to-account report relating to this incident.”

“This case appears to be an example of a pattern of problems with respect to subject officers involved in critical incidents in British Columbia failing to prepare timely duty to accounts or notes of their involvement in incidents.”

The Chief Civilian Director (CCD), the almost outta’ here Richard Rosenthal, apparently is all pissy because designated subject officers are no longer filing duty to account reports or copies of their notes. Well, he has only himself to blame.

Because he saw the role of the IIO to gather evidence to prosecute police officers and demonstrated that attitude with the incredible overreach in bringing a murder charge against Delta Cst. Jordan MacWilliams and others like Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought. Charges were ultimately dropped but not after putting the affected officers through hell.

When the BC Chiefs and the RCMP agreed to the original Memorandum of Understanding, they believed the IIO would conduct professional, unbiased investigations to determine the truth of any incident. But that’s not what they got. And now it seems, they have finally realized it.

In a nutshell, the various unions, agencies and the RCMP have obtained legal opinions which essentially say that police officers are Canadians first and police officers second. They may avail themselves of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms just like anyone else. The Charter supersedes all other statutes including the BC Police Act. And why Rosenthal’s pathetic complaint will go no where.

If you know someone is looking to criminally charge you, why help them? It’s a fundamental principle of our constitution and the police have now decided to fight back against the IIO’s nonsense. Fairness is all the police wanted, but that’s not how the IIO operate. So, now the battle is on.

And it’s not just the police unions driving this bus. Senior management are on board. So too, surprisingly, are the RCMP.

In an 8 page memo dated August 16th, the RCMP directed Liaison Officers (officers assigned to facilitate between the agency and the IIO in an investigation) not to provide “compelled notes, statements or reports to the IIO.”

Cudos to seniour management of the RCMP to back their members. Trust me, it’s rare when  that happens.

In my opinion, the IIO, as it is currently constituted and operating in the manner it has, needs to be completely re-thought by the government. Their mandate should be to conduct professional, unbiased investigations to find the truth. If the truth leads to a criminal charge against a police officer then so be it. Every police officer knows they are responsible for their actions. But that’s a far cry from the IIO’s attitude, as stated by their Director of Investigations John Larkin, “We start out believing they are guilty and work from there.”

Rosenthal is firing a parting shot with this complaint to the OPCC. It’s just sour grapes from a man who failed utterly.

He had the opportunity to create a first class police oversight agency. It isn’t and he didn’t. A career bureaucrat has been appointed as interim CCD while headhunter PFM Executive Search looks for someone to take over this mess. Whoever that will be will have to dismantle a flawed culture and start over. If not, the chasm between the police and the IIO will grow wider.

Neither the citizens of BC nor the police who serve them should be satisfied with that.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

September 4, 2016 at 12:36 am

Shooting investigation should be cut & dried

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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:

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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.

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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.

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The officer fired a single shot which took down the suspect.

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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.

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Finally, other officers arrive along with paramedics and begin medical treatment.

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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.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

May 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm

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Nearly a year later still no answers from IIO in police shooting

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On December 28, 2014, at 8:03 a.m. Naverone Woods, 23, took a knife from a shelf in an aisle in the Safeway store on King George Highway and 104th Ave. in Surrey. He was screaming and self-inflicting cuts when a bakery worker who heard the disturbance called 9-1-1.

Two transit officers, one male and one female, happened to be only metres away looking for a male who had been seen banging his head on a wall at Surrey Central Skytrain station. Because they are multi-jurisdictional, they monitor local police radio traffic.

They heard the Surrey RCMP call at the Safeway and went there quickly likely believing the calls were related. As it happened, the RCMP had no members available to respond so the Transit officers were on their own.

When they got inside the store they found a situation with a bleeding, shirtless man with a knife trying to get at the bakery worker, who, after she called 9-1-1 went to have a look at what was going on. Woods spotted her and began chasing her. She retreated to the bakery and took cover behind two large bakery racks she pushed to block the entry leading to the area behind the bakery counter.

The two officers immediately engaged Woods, yelling for him to drop the knife. He turned his attention towards the officers and began heading towards them. More warnings and finally two shots fired by the female officer. One struck a refrigeration unit behind the suspect and the other hit Woods and dropped him.

EHS rushed him to hospital where he later died.

Those are the facts as we know them culminated from Anne Drennan, spokesperson for the Transit Police, media reports at the time including interviews with Blake Simming, boyfriend of the bakery worker who learned of the details shortly after when he rushed down there to comfort his distraught girlfriend after she texted him.

The lawyer representing the female officer has been trying to find out what is taking the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) so long to conclude their investigation. He has been querying the IIO and the only response he is given is they are waiting for ballistics tests back from the lab.

Wait, what? Ballistics? They have the weapon used and a statement from the officer describing her actions. Why the need for ballistics which is used to determine if the bullet came from a particular weapon?  They know which weapon was used. They have it. They have the remaining bullets in the weapon and they have the weapon, not fired, carried by the male officer. Where’s the mystery that they would need ballistics?

There is no earthly reason in the world that they should be holding up their determination waiting on ballistics.

The store had just opened at the time and there were few if any customers, only staff. The grocery store was sealed down and about 20 civilian witnesses were held for interviews. The store has CCTV cameras which recorded events.

If the IIO believes there is something in what happened that may constitute misconduct by the officer, ballistics won’t change that. Conversely, if they believe the shooting was justified based on the facts and the evidence they have, then again, ballistics won’t change a thing.

What in the world are they waiting for?

I spoke to Kevin Woodall, lawyer for the officer  to get his take on things. He is frustrated. “There is no excuse, with a file as important as this, it should take this long,” he said.

“The public have a right to know if the police acted appropriately, the family of the dead man has the right to know. And the officer, whose action’s are under investigation has a right to know.”

Indeed, the family held a vigil in March in which they gave a statement to the media demanding answers.

To me, this is a competence issue. The IIO really doesn’t know what they’re doing. They aren’t looking at things to determine whether the use of force was justified or not, but to see what they can dredge up to charge the officer with something, anything.

IIO investigators attended the RCMP building where the Transit officers were taken by Surrey RCMP following the shooting. The officers were told to accompany RCMP officers to the washrooms and to give up their uniforms. Literally, they were stripped to their underwear and arrangements had to be made to get some civilian clothing for them to wear so they could leave the washrooms.

The IIO investigators even seized their personal wristwatches and, I might add, the support wristbands for Delta Cst. Jordan Macwilliams they were both wearing. I kid you not. They tried to take their personal cell phones too, but at that point their union representative pushed back.

Now, I ask you, what possible evidentiary value would there be to seizing their complete uniforms, wristwatches, boots and the support wristbands for a brother officer? And from both officers, not just the officer who fired the shots?

I couldn’t think of any possible reason. So I asked a former homicide investigator, a current homicide investigator and a couple of former IIO investigators why might they have seized those things from the two officers. No one could think of a reason.

In point of fact, when the IIO investigators were retrieving items including the weapons, they counted out the bullets in front of the members who had just been involved in the shooting. Then a present Transit officer, there to support his colleagues had to show the IIO investigator how to properly seal the evidence bag.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. Now, if you were a police officer doing your job, how confident would you be with these people conducting the investigation of your actions?

The female officer returned to duty after some counselling to ensure she was okay. She believes she acted appropriately, but now, nearly a year later, she is getting stressed because of how long this has been dragging on.

No one with a stake in this, not the public, the family nor the officer has yet to get answers in this.

Meanwhile, back at the IIO their crack team of investigators are still waiting on ballistics tests. The mind boggles.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 1, 2015 at 10:39 pm

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More mystery in another IIO cop prosecution

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After the first week of testimony in the charge of careless use of a firearm against Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought, a 15 year veteran of the RCMP at the time, I am still left wondering why this charge has been laid in the first place. A week into it and I have no inkling what it is the Crown thinks it can prove that adds up to criminal behaviour.

What’s even more puzzling is that when the charge against Drought was first announced on August 8, 2013, the charge was ‘intentionally discharging a firearm into a motor vehicle knowing a person was in the vehicle and intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life and safety of another person.’

Those charges were new to the Criminal Code in 2009 and were designed to prosecute gang shootings not police officers in the execution of their duty. It carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for each count. In the government background announcing the amendments it specifically said, “One of the main purposes of the bill is to facilitate the battle against organized crime, and to that end, it amends the Criminal Code.”

So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at the facts in the case.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 2nd, 2012, 25-yr-old career criminal Nicholas John Bullock, accompanied by his 17-yr-old girlfriend, violently carjacked two folks driving a white Chevy Malibu in the parking lot of the Coquitlam Superstore.

They drove the car until they ran out of gas outside of Yahk, BC. They flagged down a passing motorist and promptly violently carjacked the hapless good Samaritan. They then drove towards Cranbrook, BC where Mounties were responding to the reported carjacking. It should be noted they believed the suspect was armed. Cst. Drought took up the pursuit in the area of Elizabeth Lake.

The suspect drove the hijacked Toyota 4 Runner into the woods on a rural acreage at the top of Victoria Avenue. Drought got out of his police car likely believing the suspects would abandon the vehicle and try to lose their pursuer in the woods.

He had only moved a short distance in front of his cruiser when the SUV came out of the woods lit up and accelerating right at the police officer. He reacted in the blink of an eye. In the space of 2.5 seconds Drought fired nine shots into the vehicle, seven through the windscreen and two through the passenger side window as he sidestepped the vehicle according to the firearms investigator who testified.

Clearly, Drought feared for his life.

Three of his shots hit the suspect, one in the upper body and two in the left wrist and he was taken into custody.  Bullock would later plead guilty to a number of charges and was essentially sentenced to two years less a day after time served was taken into consideration. He has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2005 for a host of offences including robbery.

One would think that would be the end of things. But not so for police officers in British Columbia since the inception of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

Sherman Mah from the IIO testified on Thursday that he estimated the distance between Drought and the SUV when he began shooting was approximately 14 metres or about 45 feet. He didn’t actually take any measurements because he said this was only their second case and they didn’t have the ability to transport any equipment from Vancouver or frankly, any equipment to transport. No, really, he actually said that.

So what did he do? Well, he used a diagram provided by the RCMP and super-imposed that over a printout from Google Earth. You can’t make this stuff up.

The next day, the scene was reconstructed for the jury – yes, this is a jury trial – and the distance appeared to be much less. Much, much less, apparently, somewhere between five and six metres or about 20 feet.We won’t know the specific distance until the RCMP crime scene folks testify, but let’s call it 20 feet, give or take. So, the car was travelling at about 30 KPH and accelerating towards the officer. How much time would you think it would take to cover that 20 feet?

Exactly.

Drought reacted as anyone would facing that threat would and fired his weapon, all shots hitting in the driver’s compartment as intended. Bullock told the IIO investigators that he wasn’t really going to run over the officer, but he understood why the officer fired.

The IIO investigators who conducted the investigation were surprised that the Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, forwarded the case to Crown. The CCD does this whenever he feels a crime MAY have been committed. This is a dangerously low threshold to meet and normally common sense takes hold and no charges are laid. In this case common sense left the room and a Senior Crown Counsel in Victoria overrode local Crown Counsel and laid the ridiculous charge against a police officer in the execution of his duty that was intended by Parliament for use against gang bangers doing drive-bys.

This is a war on police not civilian oversight as envisioned by the government resulting from the flawed Braidwood Inquiry.

At some point the ridiculousness of this charge must have dawned on someone at Criminal Justice Branch and the charge was amended to “Careless use or storage of a weapon,” under section 86 of the Criminal Code.

To prove this charge the Crown must establish that the accused’s conduct “constitutes a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent person.” Wait, what?

Yup, this charge is aimed at the average owner of a firearm who contravenes a regulation under paragraph 117 (h) of the Firearms Act.

This is nuts. Drought has been off duty on administrative leave for three years, still earning his salary but providing no benefit to the citizens of Cranbrook who pay that salary. For what? To try and prove some nebulous, chicken-shit charge that relates to bureaucratic regulations?

Police officers are authorized to use force, including lethal force, to do their duty. They may use lethal force if they feel their life or that of another is in danger. But, the same criminal code that gives a police officer this power also holds them accountable in Section 26 which states: “Every one who is authorized by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess thereof according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess.”

The test in this or any other case facing IIO investigators should simply be this: Did the officer perceive he or she was in danger? Was he or she entitled to use lethal force? Was the force used excessive in the circumstances?

That’s it. That is the role envisioned for the IIO. Rosenthal has seemingly made it his role to use whatever tools at his disposal to go after scalps of cops.

The trial in Cranbrook against Drought is scheduled to run another week and a half before it goes to the jury. What an absolute waste of time and money. Not to mention the toll it has taken on yet another cop in BC just trying to do his job.

One can almost hear the strains of Judy Collins singing, “Send in the clowns.”

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

October 12, 2015 at 10:17 pm

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Despite charges stayed, more questions remain in Starlight Casino case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Public, police deserve to know why charge laid against cop

with one comment

Last week the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in Victoria released a statement saying that no charges would be approved in a case involving a relatively minor motor vehicle accident. That isn’t surprising, based on the facts where a female RCMP member was trying to effect a traffic stop and a motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction dumped and the rider suffered a broken leg.

The IIO investigation tried to allege that it was due to the mountie, who had lights and siren activated, had somehow contributed to the accident and therefore would have been charged with something like drive without due care and attention. Which, of course, is nonsense and so said the CJB.

But what was interesting to me was the media release was six pages long and 3,134 words explaining why they were not going to charge the police officer. Yet, in the case of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams who was charged with second degree murder, the media release consisted of a single page and was 414 words in length and said absolutely nothing about why this extraordinary charge was laid against an ERT officer doing his job at an armed hostage taking situation.

The last media release by the CJB was on January 14 in a case where the IIO tried to get charges laid against two dog handlers in incidents where the suspects were bitten in the course of the arrest. In that release, also announcing no charges would be laid, the CJB made the announcement in 4,144 words.

In the one before that, on Dec. 23, 2014, the CJB announced no charges in the case of an Abbotsford police officer who made an arrest during which the suspect suffered a broken finger.The CJB used 3,357 words for that particular announcement.

Lots of talk about why no charges would be laid in relatively minor incidents but precious little in a singular case where a charge of murder was laid against a police officer engaged in the execution of his duty. This makes no sense. If the public deserves to know why a charge wasn’t laid, surely it is entitled to know why a charge was laid.

Equally, the police community needs to know. As it stands now in the MacWilliams case the thousands of police officers in BC don’t know why MacWilliams was charged when for all appearances he did the job he was paid to do on that fateful day in November, 2012.

In not telling them why, the CJB risks the possibility of a police officer hesitating, second-guessing what he or she is doing instead of following their instinct and training. That hesitation could cost someone their life.

In December the President of the BC Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, had this to say on the subject of a police officer being charged with murder in the execution of his or her duty: “The expectation is that police officers respond proactively to protect the public, if in responding proactively we are going to now face these kinds of charges, I worry that police officers will hesitate to intervene in circumstances like these, and if they do hesitate than that means the safety of the public is at risk.”

He went on to say that the charge against Macwilliams was “absolutely unconscionable.”

I have to agree with Stamatakis but it is equally unconscionable not to tell the public or the policing community why this is being done.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

February 10, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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