Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Feb  17, 2011)

Much ado about nothing

By Bob Cooper




Victoria’s Chief Constable Jamie Graham has long been known for a quick, spontaneous wit.  In simple terms he’s a man who says what he thinks when he thinks it.  I’ve always preferred working for bosses like that because they can make decisions without over-analyzing and you know where you stand with them.  What you see is what you get.

Spontaneity can, however, lead to the odd gaffe.  One of Chief Graham’s most memorable occurred when he was Chief Constable of Vancouver where he was given to sending out e-mails to the entire force on the spur of the moment.  Not wanting to burden his staff, the Chief would type the e-mail himself and hit the Send key without having his secretary or Executive Officer proof-read it.  Had he done so on one occasion while outlining the importance of maintaining the ‘public trust’ they likely would have caught the missing ‘L’.  Reminds me of a famous Freudian slip when British Defense Minister John Spellar rose in Parliament to say that “these cuts in the Defense Medical Service have gone too far” but an errant ‘n’ crept into his delivery.  Both led to a lot of laughs and proved nothing more than the people involved were human.

Fast forward to November 2009.  Following an anti-Olympic protest in Victoria which turned violent, Chief Graham was addressing a Security Conference in Vancouver.  In typical style he joked that the activists had rented a bus and “there was a cop driving the bus”.  This earned him a complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner by Bruce Dean, the jist of which was that the Chief’s remark jeopardized the undercover officer.

If the description of Mr. Dean as an activist is accurate, common sense would dictate that he should be sending the Chief a ‘thank you’ card and that the complaint was nothing more than a fishing expedition to gather intelligence on police tactics.  It was the sort of thing that used to be dismissed as ‘frivolous and vexatious’ however common sense and discretion were removed from the Police Act a long time ago.  Mr. Dean’s complaint was assigned to Kelowna RCMP Chief Superintendent Don Harrison who gave it its due consideration and determined it was unfounded.

Enter the BC Criminal Liberties Association who complained that Chief Supt. Harrison’s investigation was ‘flawed’ (translated – keep abusing the process until you get the result you want) and the OPCC assigned Chief Supt. Rick Taylor of the Burnaby RCMP to conduct an entirely new investigation.  Lefties don’t like men like Chief Graham who talk back to them as he did in the Pivot investigation.

Pause for just a moment and consider the cost of this nonsense.  Both investigations consumed months of effort of two high ranking Officers who presumably had better things to do.  It would have involved travel, hotel rooms, meals, etc. at a time when police budgets are stretched to the limit.  Now balance that against the subject matter.  An ill-chosen remark?  Perhaps, but to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, there are those who can’t distinguish a bicycle accident from the end of civilization.

At the end of the day the BCCLA got their pound of flesh and Chief Graham is facing a reprimand for ‘discreditable conduct’.  If I were him I’d frame it and put it up in my office to show visitors.

Bruce Dean told the press he’s pleased with the results of the investigation but called the proposed discipline a ‘slap on the wrist’ and asked “What does he have to do to lose his job”?  After four decades of public service, one would hope it would have to be a little more than telling a joke.

Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.


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