Monday, September 16, 2019

Another over-reach by the IIO

I played golf with a few of my former VPD colleagues last week, all retired now, but with Major Crime and/or Internal experience and one, retired as the Inspector running the VPD Traffic Section. As we sat down for a post game libation, I got a press release from the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) saying charges of Dangerous Driving causing bodily harm had been approved against a Nanaimo Mountie, Cst. David Buchanan. My immediate thought was that he’d been ordered to shut down a chase and hadn’t, risking lives of pedestrians as he careened down the sea wall in the Port of Nanaimo. But no, nothing of the sort apparently. As I read the release further, it turns out the CJB believe that he was in a pursuit involving a scooter. A scooter? You know, something like a Vespa. A scooter, capable of burning up the pavement at something between 50-60 KMH. Again, my mind conjured up a chase on a sidewalk with pedestrians diving out of the way.  But no, no such thing. This occurred around eleven o’clock on a wet, rainy February night in 2016. When I told my golfing companions that the charge involved the interaction with a scooter, the speculation began as to what the officer might have done to get over the bar to be charged criminally with Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm. All suggestions involved innocent members of the public being put at risk by the actions of the officer. I began to look into the circumstances and the...

A crisis of confidence

News of the imminent departure of the Chief of Investigations of the Independent investigations Office (IIO) John Larkin was broadcast to staff of the IIO last Monday morning. Curiously enough, staff coming to work also noticed that the office of Director of Investigations Allison Hemming-Cook had apparently been cleaned out on the weekend. Her status seems murky. Staff think she’s on sick leave. If so, why clean out her office? Hemming-Cook says she is returning on June 20th following her impending marriage and honeymoon apparently to well-known Vancouver lawyer Monty Carstairs, QC. Which sounds like a vacation not a sick leave. I tried to get clarification from Marten Youssef, nominally the Acting Director of Communications for the IIO. All he would provide was the vanilla response, “The IIO will not be providing comment on any personnel matters.” What that triggered, instead of a clarifying communication to the staff, was an email saying the word had gotten out and Youssef got himself on the news that night to try and spin his way out of my questions. So, the staff there are left in the dark. Is there an open slot for a new Director of Investigations or isn’t there? If it’s a sick leave, how is it that a finite date for return has been set as stated by Hemming-Cook? The word in the office is that she was told in no uncertain terms to take sick leave. Whatever the reason, staff relations there appear to be the messiest they have ever...

Reports are scathing of the RCMP, but little will change

Two reports were released Monday by the Public Safety Minister in Ottawa. The first, was written by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and can be found here.  The CRCC broadly reviewed workplace harassment and bullying in the Force. The other was authored by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. It looked at four particular cases where harassment lawsuits were filed individually by female members Catherine Galliford, Alice Fox, Susan Gastaldo and Atoya Montague. That report can be found here. The RCMP has had both reports for several weeks but thus far has had little positive reaction to either report both scathing in their criticism of the Mounties essentially saying the organization is  dysfunctional and the harassment and bullying was systemic. Where have we heard this before? I have long described the RCMP as “144 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” These two reports just reinforce that statement. None of this is new. There have been a number of reports over the past decade or so and successive commissioners have mouthed all the platitudes including the current one, Bob Paulson, who has been described by a number of officers to me as the biggest bully of all. I cannot argue. Indeed, Galliford told me this is the fifth such report she has participated in. Both reports recommend some form of civilian oversight for the Force. If that is to happen then the RCMP Act will require the appropriate amendments, if not re-written in its entirety, given the recent union certification application made...

Even basic cases seem beyond IIO’s capability

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...

IIO complaint nothing but sour grapes

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...

Police watchdog puts cloud over courageous cops

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,...

Murder charge against cop a travesty of justice

Since I started looking at the circumstances surrounding the murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams the biggest question that remains unanswered is why. Last week in a discussion with me on Global’s Unfiltered with Jill Krop, former Crown Counsel Sandy Garossino tried to explain the charge approval process as it is practiced in BC. In a nutshell, she explained that for a charge to be approved it must have a “substantial likelihood of conviction” and “be in the public interest.” If a police officer abuses their authority then certainly it would be in the public interest to charge them. But in this case, MacWilliams was on a tactical call out with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response team to a shots fired, hostage taking call. After MacWilliams and two colleagues heroically affected the rescue of the hostage, a then employee of the casino who was arriving for work, a stand off ensued which lasted five hours. All the while Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, was waving a pistol he had already fired three times. In fact, he ejected the clip late in the incident, leaving one round in the spout and pointed at one of the ERT officers held up one finger and said, “I only need one.” So, with the means and the stated aim, the police tried to arrest and disarm the suspect using a tactical, non-lethal approach using a flash bang and an ARWEN gun. As the “non-lethal” officers broke cover, they were covered by MacWilliams, designated in a ‘lethal’...

More questions in case of cop charged with murder

The more the extraordinary 2nd degree murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams in the 2012 death of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami is looked into, the more it appears to be the railroading of a good, young police officer. Murder is an extraordinary charge to be laid against a police officer engaged in executing his or her duty. It is even more extraordinary when laid against an officer working as an ERT (Emergency Response Team) officer. There are so many aspects of this story that haven’t been told and I’m sorry to say so many apparent gaps in the investigation conducted by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that one must question whether ulterior motives or politics played a part in laying a charge of murder in this case. MacWilliams was a member of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT) on November 8th, 2012 when, at the start of his shift, his phone went off alerting him to a call-out after shots were fired and a woman was taken hostage. MacWilliams was the first MIERT officer to arrive on scene at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster. Within the first half-hour, the ERT members arriving set up their containment process which limited the armed suspect to a small patch of pavement on the sidewalk just outside the casino parking lot. MacWilliams then noticed the hostage had created some separation between herself and the armed suspect. Throwing caution to the wind, MacWilliams and two other officers broke cover and ran towards danger. They deliberately put...

West destroying themselves

Ten years after 9/11, much of the free world paused to remember and remind us to "Never forget." It truly is hard to forget that day for those of us old enough.  It was one of those history-making days that transcended everything running parallel, like the day JFK was shot or the landing on the moon for the first time.   But as I reflected on that day I was struck by a dichotomy; how far we have come in defeating the enemies of the West and how it may not matter if politicians don't get their head around our spending problem.   The people who hijacked those planes were bent on their mission to ultimately destroy America and the West.  In many ways they needn't have bothered.  We have been destroying ourselves from within for a long time. Unless and until western governments get control of their fiscal deficits, they will accomplish what Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never could. We simply cannot afford to support so many politically correct causes and sacrosanct programs such as our healthcare system.   Equally, we cannot afford the ridiculous demands of groups like the BCTF and other public sector unions in their contract talks.  Where in the world do they think the money will come from?   The unions who drive the debate of the left in this country seem to think that there is no end of money available if we only tax the rich more.  Oh, and those damn corporations. And most especially banks and...

Security budget anger mis-directed

Much is being made about the upcoming international gabfest coming to Toronto later this month. The G8 and G20 conferences will cost around a billion dollars to secure according to media estimates. Which may or may not be true. As an example, every dollar in salary of every member of the Armed Forces or police officer seconded to the events is calculated in that cost. But since they were going to earn those dollars regardless of whether they were assigned to G8/G20 I'm not sure that's fair to account in with those costs. Equally, much has been made about the $2 million man-made lake designed to provide a rural Canadiana backdrop for international media. Turns out the lake will only cost $57,000. The balance is on time, materials and labour to build the media pavilion. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? A $2 million dollar man-made lake sounds much better to the baying media hordes desperate to inflict damage on a "scary" Prime Minister. This is not to say this isn't a colossal waste of money. At a time when the deficit is running at $48 billion and the national debt is soaring at over half a trillion dollars, I question any public spending that is not absolutely necessary. But, for good or for bad, this country's government had committed to hosting the leaders of the free world and given the current geopolitical climate, we must ensure their well-being. But,the irony is that the bulk of...

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