Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘VPD

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

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

Outgoing IIO chief won’t be missed

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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.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

August 18, 2016 at 12:19 am

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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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Police watchdog puts cloud over courageous cops

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*To view the video go to theprovince.com

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

August 29, 2015 at 6:03 pm