Prime Time Crime  

(Prime Time Crime exclusive June 18, 2007)

Probe Of Chief Constable a waste of time, energy and taxpayer's money


By Bob Cooper



Back in the early 1970s Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin used to give out a weekly tribute known as "The Golden Fleece Award" for the biggest waste of taxpayers' money.  This included such beauties as the Air Force paying $600 for a single toilet seat and that sort of thing.  Were that award ever bestowed in British Columbia, two of this year's finalists would have to be the Frank Paul Inquiry (which would certainly take top prize in the category of Sleazy Political Opportunism) and now the decision by the OPCC to launch its latest investigation into Chief Constable Jamie Graham.

For those unfamiliar with the background, the Pivot Legal Society set up shop in the Skid Road (I'm off the job now & no longer have to say "Downtown Eastside") in order to solicit complaints against the Vancouver Police.  After reaching out to every drug addicted criminal who crossed their bow, to no one's surprise, they got a few takers.  They assembled 50 or so 'affidavits' alleging all manner of abuse, 'torture', and other vile conduct by the lads in District 2.  It's worth pointing out that these 'complainants' are the same sort of people that these lawyers would make mincemeat out of in court on any other day on the issue of credibility.  Regardless, Pivot demanded an investigation and the powers that be fell all over themselves to accommodate them.  The RCMP were brought in and wasted no time assembling a special team of investigators.  Legitimate criminal investigations had to be put on the back burner.  The team leased cars, office space, cell phones, etc., all on the public dime.  No matter.  What Pivot wanted, Pivot got.  Come to think of it, this investigation would itself have been worthy of the 'Golden Fleece' considering what it was based upon and what came of it. 

The Vancouver Police offered to dedicate an officer to function as a liaison between the RCMP team and the VPD in order that the investigation would proceed smoothly and efficiently.  The RCMP declined this offer and instead marched into the Department like a bull in a china shop.  Armed with these 50 'affidavits', they began reading cops their rights and demanding statements.  To their surprise, some members took them up on those rights including the right to consult counsel.  This is essentially what was later to be termed as "lack of cooperation".

In Canada, police officers have the same rights as the murderers, rapists, robbers, and thieves that they arrest on a daily basis.  Liberals hate this and it was obviously an oversight on the part of the framers of their beloved Charter but, well, there you are.  Pivot doesn't much like the fact that cops exercised their rights and that Chief Graham didn't order them not to.  My legal training may not match that of Pivot lawyers but even I know that no such order could serve to deprive these members of rights guaranteed under the Charter, even if the Chief were inclined to issue it.  Sorry boys, but you can't have it both ways.

At the end of the day the RCMP issued a report which was critical of the Department and concluded that a small number of the 50 allegations were 'substantiated'.  In this case 'substantiated' essentially meant uncontested because the members chose to exercise their rights.  This would be the rough equivalent of me standing up and saying the earth is flat.  If no one challenges my assertion then it stands and is 'substantiated'.

When the report was delivered to the Chief he exercised an option which had been heretofore absent from the process known as common sense.  In order to resolve this small number of outstanding allegations he appointed a 3 man team to review them.  This sent the Complaint Commissioner into orbit.  He publicly criticized the Chief for not going with the program, blindly accepting the RCMP report, and getting on with the kangaroo court.  In the meantime, when the members were treated in a professional manner and shown some respect, virtually all of the outstanding questions were answered.  While discipline was imposed on a couple of minor issues, despite the horrendous allegations of 'torture' contained in 50 'affidavits' not a single Vancouver police officer was charged with a crime.  Not one.

Perhaps I'm missing something here but could someone please explain what the Chief did wrong?  As a young Detective I was always taught that an investigation is simply a search for the truth.  If one approach doesn't yield the truth you change tactics and try another and keep trying until all reasonable lines of investigation are exhausted.  All the Chief did was further the search for the truth by employing a different approach when the initial one failed.  But I forgot, the truth means something different to lawyers than it does to the rest of us.  To them the only acceptable truth is that which benefits their client.  Any other truth is to be suppressed by any means available.  Most would call that dishonest.  Since 1982 the law has called it the Exclusionary Rule (To all my lawyer friends, no criticism of lawyers here).  Rather the fault lies with the system that allows, dare I say encourages, this sort of mindset and strategy)

The Chief, to be sure, has his faults but lacking balls isn't one of them.  Pivot didn't like this so they complained that he refused to order his cops to waive their rights.  Remember, in a perfect liberal world, the only ones who get rights are other liberals.

By the time this arrived on the Mayor's desk, the Chief had announced that he would retire in August rendering any Police Act proceedings moot.  Even the Mayor understood this.  Merit or lack thereof aside, it makes launching an investigation a senseless waste of money.  Not to mention the burden it will place on whatever under funded, understaffed outside police department draws the black marble.  Then again, in this city political correctness trumps common sense every time.

Consider for just a moment the amount of public funds that have been squandered thus far on the Pivot case, Frank Paul, Richard Bagnell, and God knows how many other left wing cause celebres.  No matter that all of the facts are known, if the facts don't suit the agenda of (insert name of special interest group here) keep at it until they do, expense be damned.  While the city runs critically short of cops and people are dying in hospital hallways a seemingly limitless amount of scarce tax dollars flow into lawyers' pockets because of these sacred cows.

In the face of this, the Chief showed character, courage, and frankly, a lot of class.  He could easily have knuckled under to the OPCC, tossed these cops under a bus, and saved himself a ton of grief.  I know past Chiefs who would have done so in a heartbeat.  For that he'll walk out the door in a couple of months with the respect of the rank and file and his head held high knowing that he's leaving the Department in much better shape than it was when he arrived.  He'll be well out of this and collecting his pension while this foolishness runs its course.

Chief, you may have come from the outside but you took the reins and stood up for the troops when the chips were down and that truly makes you one of us.  Well done sir.

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