column was published in the
Mar. 31, 1999)
AG's crime agency boss a good appointment
By Leo Knight
General Ujjal Dosanjh took the first step toward national
respectability in the way we fight organized crime last week
when he announced the appointment of Bev Busson as Chief Officer
of the fledgling Organized Crime Agency of B.C.
the parameters of the new organization have yet to be worked
out, the message coming from the press conference introducing
Busson to the assembled media was positive for a change.
has been a very turbulent year for the law enforcement community
in the wake of the arrest and subsequent conviction of
provincial Special Constable Phillip Tsang, the former Royal
Hong Kong police officer cum taxi driver, hired in 1993 by the
now deposed Peter Engstad, then director of the Co-ordinated Law
Enforcement Unit (CLEU).
arrest triggered the formation of a review committee to look at
how the province fights the growing menace of organized crime.
The committee, chaired by former Deputy AG and Ombudsman Stephen
Owen, investigated the operations of CLEU and attempted to
determine its collective effectiveness.
committee's report, not including appendices, runs over 70 pages
long and is a frightening read.
analysis of the magnitude of the problem and its subsequent
recommendations reveal how far the problem of organized crime
has come since CLEU was first formed in 1974 and how inadequate
our response to the problem has been.
members Owen, former Vancouver Chief Constable Bob Stewart and
retired RCMP Deputy Commissioner Richard Bergman struggled to
get a handle on the "magnitude of the organized crime
problem," and in the end could not come to grips with the
exact size of the enigma.
speaks volumes about the failure of Engstad since he assumed
control of CLEU in the latter part of the '80s.
the executive summary of the document obtained by the North
Shore News the committee said: "As a first step in
combating organized crime, British Columbia should develop a
more accurate and detailed picture of the scope and magnitude of
crime group activities."
this statement indicates the existing intelligence profiles is
just not good enough. Chapter 2 of the report states: "The
committee discovered that no detailed quantification of British
Columbia's organized problem exists."
a strong condemnation of Engstad's reign as director of CLEU, if
after more than a decade in charge, there had not been a
specific analysis of the very problem they were tasked with
that Engstad was relieved of his duties last November, two
months after the report was filed and is now part of the First
Nations treaty making process, one can only wonder what pitfalls
lie ahead in that political minefield.
the report is written in "bureaucratese," it contains
enough strongly worded conclusions and recommendations to place
the blame squarely at the feet of the CLEU leadership and
what the committee identified as "several key obstacles to
an effective response (to organized crime)":
co-ordinated response to organized crime, which CLEU originally
provided, has been lost."
is trying to do too much with too few resources.
CLEU leadership, a lack of accountability and workplace conflict
have undermined morale in all ranks.
of a comprehensive funding agreement and a steady erosion of
federal and provincial funding for anti-organized crime
initiatives have weakened intelligence, operations and policy
committee made 23 recommendations in the report. Salted
throughout the report is the strong urging for the provincial
government to pay attention to the problem and provide
"increased" or "adequate" funding for the
law enforcement efforts.
the report also tells the politicians and the bureaucrats to
stay out of areas they know nothing about, a shot at Engstad and
his civil servant cronies who wrested control from the
professional police officers over 10 years ago.
14, 15 and 17 stress the importance of having police officers in
charge of operations and intelligence divisions. It also
recommends the political arm be relegated to being responsible
for the "development of policy relating to organized
separation between policy and operations is paramount in
ensuring the new agency does not become mired in the politics of
empire-building which plagued and ultimately destroyed the
overall effectiveness of CLEU.
the revelations concerning the scandal plaguing the premier with
the references to organized crime, internet gambling and video
lottery terminals, all said by the Owen report to be under the
control of the Hells Angels and other aspects of traditional
organized crime, the separation is absolutely crucial to ensure
the corrupting tentacles of these organizations can be kept
the transition between the current structure of CLEU and the new
Organized Crime Agency is going to occur is still up in the air.
newly appointed chief officer is going to take some time in the
first few months to get the lay of the land, so to speak, to
determine what the most effective path will be.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bev Busson is a highly respected,
professional police officer by all accounts.
officers I have spoken to who have worked with her in the past
are pleased with the appointment. At the press conference she
indicated her priorities are going to be focused on enforcement
rather than intelligence, which would seem to be a return to
what made CLEU a much more effective organization in its first
decade and a half of existence.
AG has made the right first step in bringing Busson on board.
can only hope he continues on the right foot by following the
other recommendations in the Owen report and gives the
appropriate funding and resources to allow the police to finally
get a handle on the rising tide of organized crime in British
To do less will reduce the new agency to nothing more than window dressing, something we have seen far too much of in the past 10 years.