column was published in the
Jan. 27, 1999)
in the hot seat
By Leo Knight
heat is rising dramatically on Vancouver's beleaguered police
chief, Bruce Chambers.
tumultuous year and a half in the "corner office" has
been plagued with one controversy after another. Now it appears
the police board is considering whether to exercise its option
on the final year of Chambers' initial contract.
fight the image problems, Chambers hired a media flack, a spin
doctor if you will, at a cost of almost $90,000 annually to the
financially strapped department.
police cars to go to work with. Too bad! But hey, the chief's
got a shiny new spin doctor to buff up his image.
what kind of a message is this sending to the officers who
police the streets of our city and the public who pay the
freight for protection?
I don't get it. The police department of any city needs to
foster good relations with the media. This is how the public who
are represented by the police are able to monitor what the
police do and how they do it.
Vancouver, the police have been ably represented by Const. Anne
Drennan as the official spokesman.
is not there to spin a situation in a certain direction, but to
inform and act as the public voice of the Chief Constable. She
has always done a good job. Recently, however, she has been
dragged into the spin being created to take the heat off the
chief. This certainly doesn't do anything positive for the
credibility she has earned over the years.
spin doctor Chambers hired is Ken Hardie, formerly of ICBC and
the man who steered the NDP propaganda concerning the photo
radar road taxation plan.
already busy doctoring things in a police department spinning
out of control.
released the results of a so-called "morale" survey
last week. The survey questions gave numerical options -- one
being "strongly disagree" and five being
"strongly agree." Yet in the graphs released, the
charted response starts at zero, not one. The overall effect
tends to show the bar graph as longer, ergo more positive, than
the "newsletter" given to members accompanying the
survey's negative results, the spin given is "... the
reorganization last June has not been without a few rough
few rough spots? Such as an insufficient number of patrol cars
such that cops have to wait sometimes as long as two or three
hours before they can go out to do their jobs. Detectives trying
to investigate have to hitch a ride with a patrol officer lucky
enough to get a car. No new uniforms because the allocated money
has been used up in the reorganization. Overtime costing at
least a thousand dollars a day just to cover the holes created
by the re-assignment of staff to fit in with the
few rough spots? Morale lower than python droppings. The union
taking the extreme steps of meeting directly with the police
board, cutting out the chief. Ghost squads -- positions filled
on paper only. Long serving, respected senior officers forced
into retirement. People getting transferred without any apparent
good reason despite community support for them. A police
department in disarray.
few rough spots indeed.
me quote from an e-mail sent to Hardie from a senior member, a
sergeant with 20 years on the job.
chief is living in a plastic bubble or is deliberately trying to
mislead the members."
memo goes on, "... we are unhappy about what it is doing to
the department by way of chronic shortages in staff and the fact
that some of the fine details were never worked out in advance
of some of the major changes. It appears to me that he
(Chambers) thinks he has all the answers and the rest of us are
just plain stupid.
we are all looking foolish in the eyes of the community.
However, nothing will improve until there is honesty in this
organization and open-mindedness to truly listen to other
people's opinions ..."
long serving officer sent a two-pager to Hardie. In it he
offers, "The chief's forums were initially a good idea, but
it became apparent that member participation was not essential.
line; I wish I'd thought of it. But it's truth is very telling.
Chambers was brought to Vancouver from his previous position as
the Chief of Thunder Bay Police, he was given a two-year
contract with an option on the third year. This in itself was
unusual given previous contracts for the position were in
police board has yet to declare publicly whether it will
exercise the option on the third year. Sources within city hall
say there is a move afoot to call it quits this summer when the
two-year deal ends.
week on CKNW, Mayor Philip Owen gave the chief a vote of
confidence. Didn't Brian Burke do the same for Mike Keenan?
to North Van RCMP Drug Section for a successful end to an
bagged up five bad guys, several guns and a whack of dope,
including crack cocaine and 3,500 hits of rohypnol, the
"date rape" pill.
not only that, the million bucks in cash from the small
unassuming house on Whitchurch is certainly going to get the
attention of whose money it really is.
see, a small street-level dope dealer is not going to have a
million in readies. Not in this life or the next. That money
belongs to elements in organized crime. Bet the mortgage on it.
Whether it's the bikers or the mafia, who knows at this point.
But it is organized crime and that's why the Proceeds of Crime
section have been brought into the investigation.
The Mounties did a great job for their part. Now let's see how the courts do with theirs. I'm going to bet they turn a silk purse into a sow's ear.