Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive April  7, 2015)

A Lot to Answer For 


By Bob Cooper

It takes a good deal to shock me but when I read Leo Knight’s column on the weekend (IIO investigation flawed but cop still charged with murder) mission accomplished.  The failure of IIO investigators to interview the hostage is bad enough but what’s far worse is the fact that no IIO bosses caught it.  Worse yet, the Crown (which always nit-picked our cases to death in Charge Approval) missed it as well.  Even when the hostage, Tetiana Piltsina, went and tried to tell her story no one at the IIO called her back.  While the lapse is shocking it’s really not surprising.  Inexperience, combined with poor leadership, short-staffing, and bad morale tends to produce this sort of thing. 

While Mehrdad Bayrami was holding a gun to the head of Ms. Piltsina, he told her that he would be leaving there in a plastic bag and that he wasn’t going to jail.  Clearly, he intended to either kill himself or get the police to do it.  The average reasonable person would think that’s a pretty important piece of information for the Crown to have before them when they were deciding the case but the IIO apparently feels otherwise.  More on that shortly. 

When I worked in the Internal Investigation Squad in the early 90s our work was scrutinized far more closely than any other squad I was assigned to.  The NCOs read each file line by line to ensure that all viable lines of investigation were canvassed and also looked for typos and grammatical errors.  If I turned in a case with such a key piece missing it would come back at me like a rocket.  Making a mistake like that twice would result in your suitability being re-assessed and rightly so. 

We viewed this work as a sacred trust because the quality of your investigations could affect a policeman’s career.  I can recall sitting alone in the office after hours agonizing over a single phrase in a report I was writing and most of those cases were minor by comparison.  PC MacWilliams’ very freedom is on the line here but no one could be bothered. 

When I was contacted by Dan Fumano, a reporter for the Vancouver Province, I told him I couldn’t imagine why Ms. Piltsina wasn’t interviewed.  This morning the other shoe dropped as I read the following (which conjured up a vision of someone in quicksand thrashing about for a branch to cling to):  Starlight Casino hostage says cop who shot her abductor is a 'hero,' and shouldn't have been charged with murder.   

IIO spokeswoman Kellie Kilpatrick couldn’t confirm information about which specific witnesses had been interviewed or not.

“Our focus is on the actions of the police officers, not of the affected people, who in this case is Mr. Bayrami,” Kilpatrick said. She added that while the matter was before the court she was “not able to provide a comment specifically on what investigative steps were taken.”

In short, they didn’t do it and if that’s their defence it says a lot about the investigative mindset inside the IIO and none of it good.  Their focus (read Tunnel Vision) is on the cops.  Period.  Whatever the “affected people” did to bring the police there and what they did after the police arrived is irrelevant.   Anyone with the power of reason knows that the two things are inextricably linked but no.   Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.  Look over here.  This instant.

Another extremely odd aspect of this case is the Crown proceeding by Direct Indictment where the accused doesn’t get a Preliminary Hearing and goes right to trial.  Direct Indictment is designed for the most serious cases where there is a high probability of witness tampering or other interference with the administration of justice.  It is used very, very rarely and requires the consent in writing of the Attorney-General or the Deputy Attorney-General. 

In the years I spent in the Asian Organized Crime Squad we asked for Direct Indictments on at least 6 cases, all of which more than met the criteria, and I think we got approval on one.  PC MacWilliams isn’t a gangster.  He’s a policeman who was just doing his job but is inexplicably being denied a fundamental right afforded to 99.9% of society’s worst criminals.  The section dealing with Direct Indictment does not require the Attorney-General to supply reasons but the circumstance here scream out for answers and the refusal to provide them has the strong smell of a process that’s agenda-driven and gratuitously oppressive.

Both the IIO and the Crown have a lot to answer for but at the moment the Crown is stuck with this mess.  If they had any sense they’d cut their losses, enter a Stay, and avoid looking like complete fools or worse. 

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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