Prime Time Crime


Letter to the Editor

Aug. 19, 2004

You may have seen the article in Wednesday's Vancouver Sun referring to a letter the Mayor had written concerning the Berg incident.

Since the Sun chose not to run the letter, we will.

The Editor

The Vancouver Sun

200 Granville Street

Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3

Dear Editor:

Re: Why there must be a full criminal probe into the Berg incident

During my career as an RCMP officer, I was required to arrest armed and dangerous criminals. As a citizen caught up in the armed robbery of a clothing store, I've looked down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun.  As provincial coroner, I presided over many, many inquests.

These experiences give me a unique perspective on the recent controversy over the death of Jeff Berg -- an insight into the concerns of the police, the feelings of the victims of the armed home invasion that occurred that day, into the processes of law that protect the public interest in such cases and the painful loss felt by the family of the deceased.

Certain facts in this case cannot be denied.

One is that a single police officer, responding to a frantic 911 call, intercepted four individuals racing from a crime scene in a car.  Acting without backup, he stopped them until other officers could arrive.  This was a courageous thing to do.

A second fact is this: Jeff Berg, despite orders to remain in the vehicle, came out through the passenger window and engaged in a struggle with the police officer.  Berg died in the wake of this struggle, while in custody. These facts, on their own, led automatically to a coroner's inquest.

A third fact: Jeff Berg died from a traumatic aneurism. This injury is extremely rare and can be caused from minimal force. There were no other life threatening injuries found at autopsy.

A fourth fact: an exhaustive coroner's inquest resulted in a finding of homicide.  Homicide is a neutral term denoting neither fault nor blame. The jury did not recommend a criminal investigation. They could have done so, had the evidence warranted.  The jury made practical and thoughtful recommendations which will be reviewed by the Vancouver Police Board.

A fifth fact: The Police Complaint Commissioner is poised to continue his own review of this case and Crown Counsel may review the findings of the inquest as well. At least one and perhaps two more public processes could examine this matter.

Finally, an opinion: My heart goes out to the family of Mr. Berg.  However, every day, police officers confront dangerous situations completely outside our normal experience that require split-second decisions and sound judgement.  We hold them accountable for these decisions, as we should.

I believe that is what is happening in this case.  We should accept the findings of the inquest and be thankful we have both an excellent Police Department and the legal means to keep it that way.

Yours truly,

Larry W. Campbell

MAYOR (Vancouver)

Berg started the fatal fight with a VDP cop

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