Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Mar. 30, 2009)

Truth will out

By Bob Cooper



While I was still trying to sort out what my column would look like, my friend, former colleague, and master wordsmith, Leo Knight, wrote his as effortlessly as if he’d just sat down to the piano.  I refer to Reality at odds with picture painted by media in police shooting which he posted last Sunday.

Leo pretty much said it all and I would simply add that I’m most impressed with the leadership and courage of Chief Chu in sticking up for the troops.  It took a lot of balls to do what he just did and he’s outshone a lot of his predecessors by doing it.

For decades we suffered under more traditional Chiefs who remained silent and kept repeating the mantra to us that we had to respect the process and that we would be vindicated in the end.  All the while the news media, fuelled by all the cop-hating commentators and special interest groups were freely spewing their lies and wild speculation and generally ‘having their way with us’ and we had to sit there for months and just take it.  What those Chiefs didn’t realize was that ‘the end’ was way too late.  The damage to both the Department’s reputation and morale was done and no amount of truth could undo it.  I’m glad they’re finally learning this.

A classic example was the incident on Commercial Drive in 1992 when ERT dragged 2 young men out of a house on a drug warrant.  It turned out some of the information was faulty and they were innocent but ERT had no way of knowing that.  One of them spoke limited English and refused to take his hands out from underneath him.  The ERT member nearest him kicked him once and punched him once in the ribs in order to gain compliance.  This is a perfectly legitimate tactic that ERT members are trained in because it’s considered better than getting into a wrestling match with someone when you’re carrying a machine gun.

A neighbor caught this on video from a nearby balcony and gave it to then BCTV.  By playing the tape almost in a ‘looping’ fashion they created the impression of a flurry of kicks and punches and made sure the video ran on at least 3 newscasts before turning a copy over to us.

What did we do?  Instead of simply coming out the next day, explaining the tactic, apologizing to the 2 young men (and cutting them each a cheque) and putting an end to the matter, we launched a massive, costly, six month investigation believing that the public would be hugely impressed with our thoroughness and disgusted with the news media when the truth came out.  As those who were around at the time will attest, it didn’t quite work out that way.

These situations are best resolved with dispatch as illustrated by the recent incident outside the Hyatt Regency.  Robbery, Assault, and racism to boot.  These were some of the worst allegations levelled against Lower Mainland cops in decades but the VPD Robbery Squad detectives cleared the case in a week and the press dropped it like a bad habit.  I can imagine the pressure the Abbotsford detectives are under and I hope they’re able to maintain focus, stick to what’s important, and get this done quickly (i.e. – don’t bother with minutiae like getting her training records – she’s demonstrated she can shoot, no issue there, let’s move on).

The Chief showed the compassion of a strong leader by extending his condolences to Mr. Vann Hubbard’s family in Illinois and they responded in kind by launching a lawsuit facilitated by their fellow travelers, Pivot and the BC Criminal Liberties Association to advance their collective agenda of having a civilian agency investigate the police.   As I’ve said many times, no good deed goes unpunished.

As an example I’d cite the Department’s past efforts to engage groups such as Pivot, the BCCLA, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, etc.  My boss in my brief pre-retirement stint in Professional Standards tried to form a relationship with Mr. Eby and Pivot.  He was doing so with the best of intentions but I cautioned him (I may have used the words “you’re crazy”) that these groups are solely dedicated to obstructing and enfeebling the police, just the nature of the beast.  They only want the relationship because of the legitimacy it confers upon them.  You may have to deal with them from time to time but don’t ever think they’re your friends.  I think I placed a wager in this regard.  I’ll collect the drink this summer, RW.

So David Eby is upset that the truth got out.  Of course he is.  The truth doesn’t serve him well in this case, in fact it’s rather shredded his credibility along with that of most of the witnesses who have been critical of the police including the drug-dealing criminal who said the officer fired 4 shots.  Then there was Mr. Eby’s little pothead friend who was similarly critical and claimed to have videotaped the whole shooting with his cell phone only to have it erased by a cop.  Now, an examination of 3 different high-quality videos fails to reveal him anywhere in the scene.  Hey, maybe he is telling the truth and he’s just one of these spooky people you hear about in ghost stories who doesn’t show up on film.

Speaking of credibility, I’d also remind readers that Mr. Eby is among the cadre who would have us all believe that the police will swoop down just prior to the Olympics and round up all the homeless people for unpaid J-Walking tickets, load them on to railway cars with bars of soap and ship them off to ‘the showers’.

No, Mr. Eby would far prefer that the truth be suppressed. Far better to let the police twist in the wind while public trust and confidence is unfairly eroded.  He implies that releasing the information could prejudice witnesses who haven’t yet been interviewed.  Given that it’s been over a week since the shooting, any witnesses who haven’t yet been interviewed probably aren’t too important and you can bet if that video showed the police in a bad light he’d be shopping it to every newsroom in the city.  The hypocrisy is breathtaking but in Mr. Eby’s world the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply to cops.  Ever inventive, he cites this as an example of why the police shouldn’t investigate the police.

Mr. Eby, bring investigators from Mars if you want.  You’re the only one afraid of the truth.  Just know that cops are way past the point of sitting back and  ‘taking it’ anymore. 



Chief Constable Chu's memo to VPD members

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009