Prime Time Crime  

(Prime Time Crime exclusive July 23, 2007)

Ian Bush inquest -- a different perspective

By Gary Cameron



People who followed the Ian Bush inquest may have wondered, as I did, why some of the media coverage of Constable Koester was so malicious and one-sided. The first red flag for me was the widely-quoted statement that the constable couldnít possibly have fired his service weapon while his assailant was on top of him as described in the RCMP investigation. However, my 55 year old arm was able to duplicate this without any difficulty. In 1985 when I was a Vancouver police officer I was involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect so perhaps I can shed a little light on several issues some in the media cited as proof that there were problems with the RCMP version of what happened that night.

Significantly, Constable Koester stated that he did not remember shooting Ian Bush. At first glance this might seem odd, but itís actually fairly common. Making the decision to take another humanís life is extremely difficult, so traumatic in fact that historians tell us only 15-20% of soldiers in combat actually fire their weapons at the enemy, even when their lives, or their friendís lives, are in mortal danger. In my case, by the time I arrived at the Emergency Room to have my stab wound treated I could no longer recall shooting the suspect.

Furthermore, itís ludicrous to expect Constable Koester to remember or re-enact all the specific details of a violent struggle, which by definition is fluid and random and next to impossible to chronicle accurately, especially when he was allegedly being attacked from behind. Of course that didnít stop some individuals with agendas from fabricating elaborate scenarios to fit their theory that something sinister happened.

I noticed that some media outlets quoted defense lawyers as stating that the RCMP had somehow given the constable special treatment with respect to his statements. None of the lawyers mentioned that the first thing they tell their clients who murder, rob or rape people is that they should never, ever talk to the cops, and that the cops cannot force anybody to make a statement. They also neglected to point out that, unlike their criminal clients, a police officer involved in a use-of-fatal-force incident will inevitably have to testify before an inquest in the near future anyway, so suggestions that somehow this constable was evading questions are, of course, inaccurate.

Hereís one of the biggest myths propagated by the media. Anti-police activists and lawyers representing aggrieved suspects or grieving next-of-kin, along with their media allies, often justify demonizing individual police officers because they say that police investigating the actions of other officers arenít impartial or thorough enough, although they seldom provide credible evidence to back up their claims. This allegation is nothing more than a red herring. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was created 17 years ago in Ontario to conduct independent investigations of police actions in cases involving death or serious injury. According to recent news reports, those same critics are now flooding the SIU with complaints and claiming through the media that this independent civilian body isnít impartial or thorough enough. Sound familiar?

Some disgusting, outrageous allegations have been leveled against Constable Koester by people whose only experience with violence comes from watching Law and Order episodes on TV. For them, presumably, it is acceptable for police officers to be considered guilty until proven innocent.

In my opinion there are only three possible explanations for what happened that night. Either the constable murdered Bush, discharged his weapon by accident, or fired it in self-defense as he claims. Since there is absolutely no evidence to support the first two possibilities, only the last explanation makes sense. Itís important to note that crown counsel did not approve criminal charges against him, and no credible evidence emerged from the inquest to suggest the constable did anything other than act in self-defense.

Finally, hereís something police officers donít talk about much, although after a few years on the job they know it to be true. From time to time officers will attend a call where something horrendous is going to occur and somebody will end up dying. Thereís usually nothing they can do to prevent it from happening. Itís sudden and itís unexpected and it is always traumatizing for everyone involved. Sadly, even if the officers do the best they can and everything is done by the book they will still have to live with the life-altering consequences. If, that is, they survive the call.


Gary Cameron is the author of Shots Fired

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