Competence at heart of VPD / IIO court petition


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.


Leo Knight


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  1. Hey Leo,

    Phew! Thank you for this post. This is scary. Why is this happening? Not enough resources in IIO? ‘Leadership’ gone awry? Toxic relationships? Egos bouncing every which way? etc etc etc

    How would you fix it…If you had a say?

    Are you free to meet next Tuesday, March 28 at the Sylvia at 1:30pm or at a convenient time for you?

    Shirley Heafey

  2. And this dear folks is what you get when you hire people to investigate that have never had to investigate complex criminal cases, no idea what major crime case management is about, and have never been to an emergency situation outside of running to the bathroom to relieve themselves. This group still runs around inside a box of Cheerios looking for the zeros.

  3. I struggle to see a similarity that you see to Robert dsikanski at YVR.

    YVR stank from the get go…. nobody was injured, the RCMP were taser crazy, over reliant on TASER internationals training and beliefs that’s TASERs were harmless, an excess of electrical and physical force was used. Robert was unarmed, a nuisance at the highest threat assessment. The RCMP were poorly led and incompent with incompetent training. They killed someone and then lied. Hopefully a different era.

    Canadian tire was different. Well played by Vancouver police. It never stank right from the beginning. The offender had a legitimate weapon, and was using it… people were hurt….. it was more than an angry ESL middle aged unfit man with a stapler.

    Vancouver police don’t have anything to fear like the Mounties did. They don’t need to cover their tracks. If there is mistakes in their recollection it will
    Be understood, it was a stressful situation…. unlike the stapler at YVR.

    Please don’t lump these two together too much….. one caused the IIO to be formed, the police response was so Poor. The second points only to ways the IIO can improve…. and I’m sure they will.

    • I’m sorry Kenny, but you’re wrong. Perhaps you need to read up on what really happened at YVR. The members acted as they were trained to do. They did not lie. The RCMP scapegoated them for political reasons. It is a travesty of justice.

      • Sadly the YVR matter was a media circus and the members involved were crucified by the misinformation campaign that was never challenged by the Force. In my observations, the higher ups in the Force rolled over and played dead. Been a common theme for the RCMP for almost 20 years. Things were getting better with the interaction of the media and policing agencies and then at the turn of the century things went sideways.

    • “The second points only to ways the IIO can improve…. and I’m sure they will.”

      Uh Kenny, if I were you I wouldn’t be holding my breath. They’ve been around nigh on 5 years now & instead of improving they’ve only gotten worse,

  4. They’re similarities to this incident and The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo. 40 FBI investigators converged trying to manufacture a case against the police.
    Well written article, precise & to the point. This is truly the era of the “War on Police”.

  5. This mess rests squarely on the shoulders of the Ministry of Justice. In their knee jerk reaction to the YVR incident they created the IIO with no competent planning or implementation. This was reflected by the poor choices that were made in the hiring process of IIO executives. The lack of due diligence on the part of the MOJ resulted in an organization that was being run by incompetent executives who lacked the necessary management and leadership skills. The shortcomings were brought to the attention of the Premier and Attorney General who instead of taking corrective action chose to bury their heads in the sand and allowed the insanity to continue. The end result has been an organization built on anti-police ideology run by autocrats who know they will never be held accountable. It was (and still) clear that the MOJ does not want to admit that they made a mistake and will do whatever they can to protect themselves. The police have rightly concluded that when it comes to dealing with the IIO there is no level playing field.

  6. A couple points for consideration, one has to wonder why it would take the IIO five hours to respond to the location of this event. When they started up they purchased 20 some Ford Taurus Police interceptors with all the bells and whistles, well lights and sirens. Hell they could have even walked across the street from their office and taken the Sky train. I suspect the reality is likely due to the excessive micro management style prevalent in that organization.

    I also don’t understand where the IIO thinks it’s authority to seize all, and everything, the officers whether or not they were actually involved or not, comes from. They certainly don’t seem to understand the legal authority to make such seizures, without warrant or power of arrest all they can do is ask for cooperation. I understand that the involved police service can offer issued equipment if they choose to do so but I have heard the IIO has asked for personal cell phones and even watches and jewellery.

    And if what you say is true about the IIO advising every one there of their rights under the charter how can they then cry foul when those same people exercise those rights. The IIO can’t have it both ways, they want to compel a statement from a “witness” officer and then try to find some minor infraction so that they can forward the file to crown and wash their hands from the actual decision involving the use of force.

    In an ideal world the government would take note of all of the issues surrounding this organization and take steps to correct the dysfunction. But I am not holding my breath, after all they created it and ignored all the “red” flags that started popping up from the very beginning.

    Keep up the good fight Leo

  7. It is quite clear the IIO staff have no investigative background. A police officer who is forced to use deadly force in an incident has now become a Homicide suspect. Even if fully justified or not, the officer(s) involved are Homicide suspects until the investigation is completed and reviewed. The officers will generally want to explain their actions as I believe no one as a first responder looks to be the person involved in taking anyone’s life. Thus, these people are to be treated with the same rights as anyone else and right to counsel and a proper legal defense. For the IIO to believe they can “force” a statement from the person(s) involved is more ridiculous than there inception.


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