Posts Tagged ‘violence’
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.
On Thursday afternoon a robbery was attempted at the Canadian Tire store on Grandview Highway at Rupert in east Vancouver. The suspect, Daniel Peter Rintoul, 38, a large white male, 6’1”, 380 llbs., allegedly stabbed a clerk in his 50’s then broke into a long rifle cabinet. Whether he retrieved one or more rifles and ammunition depends on which reports you read.
What I do know is that on Friday I was contacted by Global TV reporter Rumina Daya to review five minutes of citizen journalism video and to comment on it. Snippets of the video were broadcast on Global’s six o’clock news hour broadcast that evening. You can watch those reports here.
On the video you can see two VPD plainclothes officers attempt to arrest the large man as he exits the store. In the ensuing ground fight, the sort of wrestling match police officers everywhere get in on a regular basis, one of the officers clearly gets stabbed multiple times. He jumps up holding his abdomen, points his weapon at the big man and fires. His partner is extricating himself and in the video it’s not clear if he fired his weapon as well.
The stabbed officer then falls backward. A uniformed officer carrying a long-barrelled weapon trains his weapon on the downed suspect outside the kill zone of 20 feet.
The stabbed officer’s partner moves quickly to check on his downed partner, sees the wounds, quickly gloves up and begins first aid. The suspect can be clearly heard screaming numerous times, “Finish me off.” The officer with the long-barrelled weapon, keeps trained on the suspect and keeps his distance.
As the suspect is yelling and starts getting to his feet he lets off a blast of bear spray. You can clearly see the spray being released as he is yelling at the police to kill him. When he gets to his feet with an arm extended, likely with the knife used to stab two people so far, more shots are fired. Judging by the sounds I heard, it sounds like a short volley of C8 and 9mm suggesting another officer is present and fired but is not apparent from the viewpoint of the video shooter.
As the second volley of shots is being fired, the partner who was applying first aid to the stabbed partner, grabs the downed officer by his collar and drags him from the fray. The second volley of shots killed Rintoul.
The following day, VPD Chief Constable Adam Palmer told the assembled media that an elderly male hostage was taken by the suspect prior to exiting the store. Fortunately, that man managed to get away and wasn’t harmed. How isn’t entirely clear at this point. Perhaps that’s where the VPD injected themselves into the fray. On the video I viewed, that wasn’t clear.
But Palmer also said the following, “The actions of our officers were absolutely heroic. I’m very proud of the way they performed yesterday.” Good for the Chief because that is exactly what I saw on the video.
Palmer continued, “We tried to use the least amount of force possible to take him into custody, and when that was not possible, lethal force was used.”
And good on the Chief I say. It happens far too rarely that a senior police executive takes a stand backing his people at the sharp end of things. So far, I have seen that several times from this Chief.
As is the norm, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was called in to investigate the actions of the police. While I harbour no illusions about the competence of the IIO, I was a little surprised to see a communication come from the IIO Monday, four days after the shooting, asking for anyone who had video of the events to please come forward.
Well, I saw five minutes of raw video on Friday, the day after the shooting provided to Global BC. Several days later the IIO is asking folks to voluntarily come forward with video?
They already know Global has video which has been broadcast. Gee, I don’t know, maybe their crack investigators should write an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant to get a judge or JP to issue a warrant they could produce to Global.
News organizations won’t simply provide evidence like that to police when asked, but they will when instructed by court order. The media expect that. They have to maintain a separation from authorities and they probably already have a DVD cut awaiting the IIO. That’s just a guess, but I bet I am not far from the truth.
The video was broadcast on the six o’clock news on Friday. A competent investigator should have been standing in their newsroom before the credits were rolling. Or at the very least within a couple of hours. But to issue that sort of vanilla plea for information and video from the public four days later, followed up by a press conference in the hopes citizen journalists who provided video to newsrooms might come forward just speaks to their level of competence.
The initial Chief Civilian Director may have been pushed out the door and a career bureaucrat meekly put in his stead. But, if I were one of the VPD officers designated ‘subject officers’ having been involved in this “heroic” incident, I’m not sure how much confidence I would have in those holding me in judgment.
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 Thursday, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) issued a media statement saying the Acting Chief Civilian Director has made a report to Crown Counsel in relation to an incident involving the Vancouver Police. Essentially they are saying one or more of the officers involved in a shooting on June 10, 2014 “may” have committed a criminal offence.
Yet again, we see the IIO overreach is what should be a cut and dried case. Let’s look at just how cut and dried.
At approximately 11:10 in the morning Gerald Mark Battersby, 61, pumped multiple shots with a .357 revolver into 52 yr. old Paul Dragan outside the Starbucks at Davie and Marinaside Cres. As it happened, a couple of VPD officers were just pulling up in front of Starbucks, drew their weapons and challenged Battersby who replied by shooting at the police then fleeing on a bike onto the Sea Wall towards Science Centre.
Police gave chase and called for cover units to try and block Battersby from the other side. During the chase more shots were fired. Once at Science World, Battersby was engaged by members of VPD. More shots were exchanged. A female VPD member was trapped in her police car as Battersby shot into it, wounding her with flying glass.
Another officer using the police car for cover got caught as Battersby chased him around the car firing as the officer tried to desperately find cover. Battersby was armed with a six shot .357 revolver. He’d already re-loaded at least once, perhaps more.
As he had the male officer within a couple of feet and down he was shot by at least one of the covering officers and by the wounded female officer in the car. Security video seized by the VPD in their investigation was shared with the IIO. The video clearly shows the exchange of gunfire, the pursuit of the male VPD member and Battersby being shot and going down.
How, in the name of all things holy, could anyone think this was anything but a justified use of force by the VPD?
It’s stunning really. Here’s a couple of screen grabs from the security video.
It shows Battersby pointing the .357, the barrel is protruding from a wrapping. You can see the male VPD member ducking down on the passenger side of the vehicle trying to avoid the shooter. One of the VPD members who shot Battersby can be seen in the lower right.
As we saw in the case of Delta PD Cst. Jordan MacWilliams, the IIO leap to conclusions they shouldn’t because they simply do not understand policing or the use of force parameters. They get a whopping 10 weeks training at the JIBC, but zero ‘use of force’ training, the very thing they are supposed to investigate.
Another part of the problem is the wording in the Police Act which essentially says if the CCD of the IIO believes an offence “may” have been committed he shall send a Report to Crown Counsel (RTCC). This is far lower than the standard the police must meet before they can submit an RTCC in a criminal case and far lower than the standard which Crown applies to approve a criminal charge. At the very least, that needs to change. The police are not the enemy here. They protect us from the likes of Battersby.
And, as demonstrated on that day in June last year, they do it with courage and professionalism. Which is much more than I can say about the IIO.
But as with everything else when we look at these cases, there’s more. During his interview with the IIO, the “Affected Person,” Battersby told investigators that his plan was to shoot Dragan, one more person and then shoot at police to get them to kill him. He intended to do everything he could to force the police to shoot him.
So, despite all of this and dozens of witnesses who corroborate the actions of the VPD, the IIO evidently still thinks at least one of the VPD officers did something criminal in this incident?
Words fail me.
A day after the inexplicable release by the IIO, which now casts a shadow over heroic police officers, Deputy Chief Doug Lepard, as Acting Chief in the absence of Chief Adam Palmer, sent an email to all VPD officers.
What is clear in the email is that this was an unexpected surprise from the IIO. But also that those officers have the complete support of the Chief Constable and his senior management team.
Said Lepard, “I have requested a copy of the RTCC that as we move forward we can better understand the information underlying the IIO’s decision this case.”
He finished off with this: “I want to take this opportunity to again express admiration for the bravery shown by the officers involved in this incident and the professionalism that VPD members demonstrate every day in the performance of their duties. I also want you all to know that the officers involved in this shooting will continue to have the VPD’s complete support through this process.”
These are not the words of someone who thinks any VPD member did anything wrong that day. Quite the contrary in fact.
That no one died that day is about the only good thing. To put a cloud over the actions of the courageous VPD officers involved is shameful.
*To view the video go to theprovince.com
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t criticize another columnist’s opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs. But I must take exception to National Post columnist Brian Hutchinson’s effort appearing in the Post and in the Vancouver Sun. (Questions raised over police shootings; One man ‘lucky he didn’t get shot’)
His premise, resulting from three recent police shootings in BC, seems to be that the the immediate reaction of the police in violent circumstances is to draw their weapons and shoot someone. He then drew out the circumstances from a violent event in Chilliwack in an incident where the police were attacked by a suspect and they didn’t shoot and somehow reaches the conclusion that this was a rare, “unfamiliar” event.
He conveniently ignores the fact that only some of the tens of thousands of contacts police have with the public turn violent and the police deal with that violence by using force to subdue the person who initiated the violence. And they do so on a daily basis without shooting someone.
Simply put, yes there were three police involved shootings in BC in the past two weeks. All are under investigation by the Independent Investigations Office, the civilian investigative agency formed by the BC government to investigate incidents where police use force which results in serious injury or death. But we know nothing more than what was released in terse press releases. We do not know the circumstances in which police used lethal force and neither does Hutchinson. Unlike him, I won’t rush to judgement.
He also ignores the simple truth that in the vast majority of police involved incidents where lethal violence resulted, the police are found not to have used excessive force.
To make matters worse, Hutchinson uses a case where the police didn’t use lethal force as an example of, well, I’m not exactly sure of what. But he suggests they used “proper judgement in a dangerous situation.” I’m not entirely sure where he obtained the use-of-force training that allows him to reach that conclusion. Perhaps from watching those many episodes of Law & Order over the years?
What I do know about that case is that those officers involved screwed up right out of the gate.
The suspect was involved in a car accident where they first encountered him. The attending officer believed the suspect was intoxicated by something and, instead of arresting him for further investigation, instructed a female officer to drive him home. And that’s where the trouble started.
His common law wife claimed he stole a car, presumably the one he was driving at the accident scene. A domestic dispute ensued during which prompted the female member to suggest he grab a few things and leave until cooler heads prevailed.
The suspect then grabbed a secreted black handgun – which turned out later to be a pellet pistol – and pointed it at the female member and said, instead, that she should leave. She called for assistance and an ensuing fracas resulted in which he threw a 35 lb. dumbbell at the head the cover officer, kicked him into a wall causing a hole and a broken hand for the officer, was shot with a Taser by the female member – which had no effect I might add – then got the Taser off the female and tried to deploy it against the police. Oh, and he tried to wrestle the male officer’s handgun from his belt.
They never should have put themselves in that position of risk in the first instance in my view. The suspect had a significant criminal history including the abduction of a female. Surely this was known to the RCMP members before dispatching a solitary female member to drive him home? Equally, there was more they could have done to investigate the possible impairment rather than driving him home.
As for the suspect, as told by Judge Richard Browning in his bail hearing to his lawyer, “The reality is he is lucky he didn’t get shot.” Trust me, the police had every legal right to shoot him and there are those who would argue they should have. That they survived that subsequent altercation is down to blind, good luck not good police procedures.
I did a number of appearances on various media outlets this past week talking about the cluster of police shootings. Is it unusual? Yes. Is it nefarious or an indication of police becoming more prone to using their guns? No, it’s nothing of the sort. In fact, the police use force in only 0.06 per cent of their interactions with the public. And bear in mind that the police see humanity at it’s worst.
Hutchinson also makes this statement in his column: “It can’t be presumed police will investigate themselves fairly in such cases.” I cringe whenever I hear something like that.
All police agencies have a Professional Standards Section and a Major Crimes Section. Unlike those at the IIO, they are professional investigators who know their job is to find the truth, wherever that may lead. Any suggestion to the contrary is insulting.
And finally, the police are held by society to a higher standard. That is as it should be. They know it and if someone tarnishes the badge they all feel it. That person is shunned, not protected, by all those who do their best to serve the citizens the best they can every day.
Hutchinson’s column is disingenuous, at best. Not what I would normally expect from someone with his experience and skills as a writer. It seems like mere sensationalism.
Dr. Christine Hall, an experienced emergency room physician, released a report earlier this month detailing her findings from a study of incidents when the police interact in a violent manner with the public.
You likely haven’t heard of Dr. Hall or her study. The bulk of the mainstream media ignored her largely because she found that despite all the interactions police have with members of the public, less than one tenth of one percent turned violent and in most instances the police are restrained in their response and do not use excessive force. And unfortunately, supporting the police, for the most part, is not what is done in the mainstream media. It’s unseemly. After all, the police keep secrets from them. They must be covering something up.
Oh dear, whatever will David Eby of the BC Civil Liberties Association do now? His delusional perception that all police are jack-booted enforcers of the Establishment has been – horrors – wrong!
Eby is still perplexed why there haven’t been any complaints to his organization about police brutality during the Stanley Cup riot of June 15. Hint: the police were very restrained and the knobs weren’t. Most of Vancouver wished the VPD might have been a little less than professional and would have got some societal payback for every embarrassing waste of good oxygen who took part in that shameful event.
But the VPD, as an organization, is made up of professional men and women who want to help society, to make a difference.
Dr. Hall, now based in Victoria, examined hundreds of thousands of interactions between the police and the public over the past four years. She identified fewer than 1,200 incidents of use of force among 1.8 million police-public interactions. She says the vast majority of the incidents when police had to use force involved people who were drunk, mentally disturbed, or violent in their own actions toward the police.
The reality is that people are the authours of their own misfortune in the vast majority of cases and Dr. Hall’s study shows exactly that. The police are not society’s enemy. They protect us under the most trying of circumstances and every time they are forced to be violent they have to listen to the bleating of fools.
And the mainstream media dutifully record every syllable while Dr. Hall is largely ignored.
By now we have all seen the video of the Victoria police breaking up a nasty fight in the downtown core and during the arrests one police officer is seen kicking two different men. On the surface, the video looks damning of the officer who has since been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
But on closer inspection it is clear that in the first situation an officer is struggling with one man trying to get him secured and the officer wearing the yellow jacket kicks the individual to get him to stop struggling. The second is similar in that you can see one officer trying to get handcuffs on the individual who, I should mention, is 6’5″ and 250 lbs. The kicks are delivered in the context of securing that individual with handcuffs. As soon as the man puts his left hand behind his back, ostensibly in surrender, there are no further blows struck and the handcuffs are applied.
And here is the problem in a nutshell. The police are allowed, by law, to use as much force as is necessary to execute their duty. When they do, they must be prepared to justify that use of force and they are criminally responsible for any excessive force. The police know this and accept it as part of their job. The test in each and every case is the key.
For the purposes of this test, it is impossible to judge simply based on the video. Whether this officer was justified in using force and indeed, if he was, was the force excessive, are questions which can only be answered in a full and thorough investigation. Which will involve speaking with all involved and putting together a much bigger picture than the video allows.
There’s no question that the advent of citizen journalism means the police have to be very careful in their public interactions. Long gone are the days when “street justice” can be administered to an uncooperative knob no matter how desperately he begs for a smack in the yap. We expect our police officers to protect us. We also expect our police officers to be professional in their dealings. But, the use of force by a police officer is not, in itself, a matter for a public outcry every time something apparently violent is posted on You Tube.
Protecting the public means the police have to go into situations the rest of us would run from. To do so means they sometimes have to use the force the law allows and what is considered reasonable force is determined on a case by case basis. That determination should never be made on the basis of a few seconds of video taken by a citizen journalist because inevitably the context is not complete.