When statements made by the female hostage in the November, 2012 hostage taking / standoff at the Starlight Casino first appeared in this space on Sunday, much attention followed. What Tetiana Piltsina said in support of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams is important. And fair enough. He deserves support from the woman whose life he and two other officers saved.
But lost within the media coverage is a stunning admission by Kellie Kirkpatrick, spokesperson for the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).
When asked by Province reporter Dan Fumano whether the IIO had interviewed the female hostage at the centre of things on that fateful day, she provided this: “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.”
Without saying so, she admitted that it doesn’t matter what happened before police took lethal action, it only matters what police did.
So, according to Richard Rosenthal, the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, context doesn’t matter. Events that lead up to an officer-involved shooting don’t matter? Whatever contributed to the taking of a life is incidental?
What is this, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour?
Bob Cooper, a former Sergeant in Vancouver Police Department’s Homicide Squad and who retired as an acting Inspector in Internal Affairs, was exceptionally critical of the IIO’s lack of competence in this matter. (Read his piece here)
Cooper refers to inexperience, poor leadership, short-staffing and bad morale as contributing factors to shoddy investigation practices. All of which is true. But, with all due respect to Cooper, I suspect it has more to do with Rosenthal’s philosophical view on what his role is.
Rosenthal is an American lawyer. He worked for a while as an assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles. It was when he was there that the LAPD Internal investigators began unravelling what would become known as the Rampart scandal. Rosenthal portrays himself as the slayer of cop corruption using his involvement in that particular affair. He even has a mug shot of the only person convicted of anything in that, Rafael Perez, on his wall at his IIO office.
Well, here’s the reality. Perez was a corrupt cop. LAPD determined this without any help from Rosenthal. When investigators confronted him, Perez, like all criminal rats, tried to help himself by fingering others. Rosenthal was assigned to take a statement in which Perez made a whole lot of fabricated allegations against other Rampart officers. It was all bullshit but Rosenthal swallowed it all, hook, line and sinker.
All the officers fingered by Perez were either not charged, charged and later not convicted or convicted and overturned on appeal. Perez is the only person left standing when the music stopped in the Rampart affair. The widespread corruption existed only in the fabrication of a bad cop whose nuts were in a vice .
That’s Rosenthal’s claim to fame.
And so he is now on our doorstep, hired in part under the authority of Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe, the same person who, coincidently, signed the Direct Indictment of Cst. Jordan MacWilliams. Not to suggest any ulterior motives, but one does wonder.
He was part of the process to hire an American with no knowledge of Canadian law to oversee the investigation of the actions of police officers involved in serious injury or fatal events.
So, I’m sure due diligence was done and determined that Rosenthal actually knew about major case management in serious investigations right? Well, no, one suspects not actually.
Rosenthal has zero experience in major case investigation. In Portland, Oregon his job was, what the RCMP would call a ‘reader.’ He read reports for quality control and flagged potential ‘issues.’
In Denver, he oversaw a staff of four. And that ended in complaints and lawsuits. He has never in his life been responsible for a staff of 50 as he is now and has been the subject of so many complaints and problems that his staff is turning over faster than a flapjack.
As a leader he is, well, he just isn’t. As an investigator, well, he isn’t that either.
So, what is he? Well, it seems clear he doesn’t like police. It also seems clear he believes his mandate is to prosecute cops. Where, from my perspective, I would think the mandate of a civilian oversight agency would be to find the truth. It’s an important distinction.
For a bit of delicious irony, when Rosenthal was the ‘Independent Police Monitor’ in Denver, he got into a pissing contest with Denver’s Manager of Safety, Alex Martinez. Rosenthal said in his report examining Denver’s Internal Affairs Bureau, they had a bias because they didn’t ask the right questions, did not interview the right people, and did not investigate quickly enough.
A good cop is charged with murder and Rosenthal’s so-called investigators haven’t spoken to casino security who called 9-1-1 that morning, were watching events unfold live and in real time on their CCTV monitors, let alone asked for a copy of their video footage. New West PD has a copy. As does the Coroner’s office. They haven’t spoken to the hostage at the centre of this whole thing to try and understand what actually happened. And who actually had information that speaks to the suspect’s state of mind.
Had they done that, they might have actually understood that the suspect in this movie knew he was going to die that day. He was the author of his own misfortune. That should be the end of this discussion. But it isn’t.
The end of this discussion will occur when the provincial government realizes what a mistake they have made and they send Rosenthal packing back from whence he came.
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