Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive April 11, 2011)

A fighting chance

By Bob Cooper




If anyone wants an example of how ridiculously screwed up our system for investigating Officer-Involved shootings has become just look at the incident last Thursday where the RCMP in Prince George tasered an 11 year old who had stabbed a worker in a group home.  If last year’s law enforcement buzzword was “Integrated” then this year’s has to be “Independent”.

Chasing the Holy Grail of Independence the RCMP have called in the West Vancouver Police to conduct the investigation and by the time West Vancouver detectives arrive more than 3 full days will have passed.  This will cause more than the usual problems either actual or perceived, that delay causes any investigation and none of this will change public’s perception one bit because the public are told that  cops are cops are cops and shouldn’t be investigating each other, period.   Perception is controlled by big media and that’s not fair but neither is life.

This is by no means the fault of police chiefs but rather the lack of action by the provincial government in establishing an independent agency to investigate serious incidents involving police as recommended by the Braidwood Commission report last June.  Though I have some concerns about the specifics of Mr. Braidwood’s proposal such as the bar against hiring ex-policemen, I agree (Frank Paul - A few thoughts) that the sooner we hand off this albatross the better.   Amazing how when they want something done in Victoria (HST, bogus tax cuts, $6 million dollar payoffs) it occurs at warp speed and no effort is spared but in this case…….(yawn). 

This leaves the police struggling to maintain public trust and support and individual cops twisting in the wind.  Something tells me this kid will turn out to be the size of Hulk Hogan (if not, he still stabbed someone) and I notice that few have even bothered to ask how his victim is doing but none of this matters because the delay gives the press free reign.  The RCMP will defer all comment to the West Vancouver Police resulting in the most basic questions, like was the kid holding a knife at the time, not getting answered which only makes it look worse.   Most people like and respect the police and the only thing that keeps most of these stories alive is our silence.

A text book ‘How To’ example was the proactive stance taken by Chief Constable Jim Chu in the Van Hubbard case a couple of years ago (Truth will out).  I’ve respectfully disagreed with Chief Chu on the odd issue in the past but I gave him full marks on this one and I stand by that to this day.  The criticism he took from the BC Criminal Liberties Association should be worn like a badge of honor.

The present situation puts police commanders in a difficult situation but a couple of things should be borne in mind.  Firstly, bringing in cops from the other end of the province isn’t going to improve the optics so don’t bother.  Secondly, use the one tool that’s available to you and that’s information.  You don’t have to tell them everything but at least confirm the obvious and answer the basic questions if you can.   Don’t use nebulous terms like ‘serious incident’.   If you shot someone say so because anything else looks deceptive and the press will seize on that.   Most importantly, do it in a timely fashion and you’d be amazed at the results.  It gives working cops a fighting chance in the court of public opinion and they’re owed at least that much.

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.


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011