Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Jan 1, 2015)

Smoke and Mirrors


By Bob Cooper

Last Saturday 23 year old Naverone Woods, who was apparently suffering some sort of mental disorder, was shot to death by BC Transit police in a supermarket in Surrey. 

This is the first 2 paragraphs of the Canadian Press story on the shooting: 

SURREY, B.C. - The death of a distraught man in a grocery store in Surrey, B.C., is prompting renewed scrutiny of police training and the jurisdiction's unusual policy of allowing transit officers to carry guns.  Transit police responded Sunday to a call about a disturbance in a Safeway store in the north Surrey community of Whalley. The officers fired their guns at a man who later died of his injuries. 


Were it not for a synopsis issued by BC Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan, readers would be left to wonder whether this young man was simply shot for causing a disturbance.  Not a mention of the knife he was brandishing as he chased a Safeway employee down an aisle.  Fortunately, two Transit cops who happened to be nearby entered the store, confronted and distracted the man whereupon he turned and began advancing on them and was shot and killed. 


It’s an old strategy practiced by certain media outlets where what’s printed is factual but key parts are deliberately left out changing the story to fit an agenda.  Just the latest in a long series of deceitful phrases like ‘unarmed black teenager Michael Brown’, describing George Zimmerman as white, editing black cops out of the video of Eric Garner’s arrest, and the biggest whopper of all, ‘black motorist Rodney King’.


In this case, Ms. Drennan had apparently violated a policy giving the IIO exclusive prerogative over the release of information and she was quickly rebuked by a Kellie Kilpatrick of the Independent Investigations Office in a public & rather catty fashion.  This leaves the cops and their agency twisting in the wind for months when the case should be wrapped up in days and the cops given commendations.  The BC Chiefs of Police should be having another look at this protocol because their people are getting the short end of the stick. 


CKNW then runs an ‘end of year’ story about how busy the IIO is as if cops were shooting people on every street corner but fails to mention that they wouldn’t be so overwhelmed if almost half their investigators hadn’t resigned or been fired by Director Richard Rosenthal.  Sounding like Captain Queeq in The Caine Mutiny, Rosenthal denied any responsibility blaming the situation on “a group of disaffected staff”.  You could almost hear the steel balls clicking.  The poster boy for Accountability isn’t so fond of it himself.    


An important but overlooked factor in this story is the reason the Transit cops took the call in the first place which is the long-standing manpower shortage in the Surrey RCMP Detachment.  Newly-sworn Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner promises 100 new Mounties (yawn) AND a $200,000 Director of Public Safety.  In case this sounds familiar cast your mind back about 7 years to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and his appointment of a $300,000 ‘Civil City Commissioner’.  Remember all of his accomplishments?   Don’t worry, trick question, neither does anyone else - Civil City Commissioner's progress report.  Watch for history to repeat itself as this turns into more welfare for some other friend of the BC Liberals.


No officer-involved shooting would be complete without hearing from the BC Criminal Liberties Association who would like to see our guns beaten into plowshares.  Micheal Vonn of the BCCLA wonders why the Transit cops need guns saying they’d “like to know how often those arms are used, in what circumstances, the appropriateness of the uses, etc”.  Well, Ms. Vonn, they need them for when berserk people with knives attack them in supermarkets.  In fact, they were used on Saturday and saved the life of a Safeway employee, who knows how many customers, and 2 cops.  Ms. Vonn said her organization saw no proof that transit officers needed firearms when they were first introduced.  Now they have it.


The real villain here is the provincial government which closed Riverview Mental Hospital in the 80s.  I’ll acknowledge that the closure itself occurred under the NDP, many of whom are as detached from reality as some of the poor patients they tossed into the street.  All you need to sell something to the NDP is to include the words ‘progressive’ or ‘enlightened’ in the pitch.  That said, their successors in the Liberal government have had decades to fix this and haven’t lifted a finger to do so.  They’re promising 40 beds on the old Riverview site which is a drop in the bucket and, like Mayor Hepner’s 100 new Mounties, I’ll believe it when I see it.   


I wrote this - Policing and the mentally ill - back in 2008 and not a thing has changed.  Chief Jim Chu has led the charge on the disgraceful lack of care for the mentally ill and the government’s refusal to institutionalize those who are a danger to themselves or others.  One of his greatest strengths is the ability to present a compelling and well-researched case, so far to no avail.


Unlike their brethren across the floor, the BC Liberals are very much in touch with reality and will look you in the eye and deny that a problem exists.  And why not?  This way they don’t have to raise taxes and when tragedies like this inevitably occur short-sighted people blame the cops.  Win-win. 

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 2014