IIO spin just putting lipstick on a pig


Now that I’m back from dodging golfballs in the desert rather than raindrops in Vancouver, it’s time to catch up on the IIO and see what’s going on with the so-called police watchdog agency.

It would seem the government has finally had enough of the gong show being run by Richard Rosenthal in that they are not renewing his contract when it expires at the end of the year. On the surface of things that is good, but nowhere near as good as firing him, which they should have done ages ago.

Or better still, not as good as not hiring him in the first instance, as current Ombudsman Jay Chalke did, as Assistant Deputy Minister in Justice, when he re-opened a closed job competition just because Rosenthal enquired about the position.

Apparently, even though I’m told Chalke travelled to Denver, CO, he didn’t manage to learn that his contract was being allowed to wither because of the gong show he created there. I spoke with several senior Denver PD officers, including an executive on the police association.

Rosenthal was hated for the way he treated police there and running fast and loose with the rules and the law trying to prove corruption where none existed. That may have been germane to the conversation prior to Chalke introducing Rosenthal to then Solicitor General Shirley Bond to get her imprimatur.

Frankly, all of this is government trying to respond to the aftermath of the Braidwood Inquiry which in and of itself, was fatally flawed. All of this really comes back to the 2007 death at YVR of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski and the failure of the RCMP to stand in public and say that their members did nothing wrong and acted within the parameters of their training.

My God, they still won’t say it. Despite the fact that the new provincial use of force policy is now dictating new training for all officers and was constructed, as far as I can determine, without consulting with actual use of force experts.

The policy was issued last April and is now the standard for all police officers in BC. I read the policy and there’s is no question it was constructed by bureaucrats to try and govern cops who actually work the streets the bureaucrats wouldn’t dare to walk upon.

Full circle back to the IIO.

They announced two weeks ago they had hired nine new investigators and they still have an open competition to replace a Director of Investigations held by a former CBC radio reporter, herself under investigation for complaints of bullying and harassment.

The IIO tried to spin it like there was a new re-launch. A new beginning. They’ve discovered along the way that investigations they are involved in are complicated so they needed to add some investigators.

In a story run in the Province – BC’s cop watchdog gets more teeth – Salman Azam, the IIO’s Chief Administrative Officer is quoted saying,“We’re all well aware of the first three years of this office were difficult.”

Well, no shit Sherlock. More accurately, it is the worst launch of any organization I have ever seen.

More to the point, it was so bad the government added Azam’s position because of the problems created by Rosenthal. They gave him coaching and had to add layers of bureaucratic support at great expense to the taxpayer simply because Rosenthal proved himself incapable of doing the job he was hired to do and the government could not or would not admit the blindingly obvious.

The government made a bad mistake in their first hire for the IIO and no matter what, no matter the criticism, could not bring themselves to admit it.

Azam went on to say this, “What we want to do is learn from it, build on it, empower our employees, build a level of trust, provide training opportunities, get people really excited about this field.”

Really? Build a level of trust?

In the first instance, police in the province don’t trust the IIO to conduct a competent investigation. That’s a problem.

That becomes a bigger problem when we look at the new hires. One of whom has been declined by several police agencies in Canada for failing “ethical issues,” In point of fact, he was declined by the IIO itself several years ago for failing the background check process, which includes a polygraph.

So, knowing this, I asked Marten Youssef, the Manager of Strategic Communications for the IIO, the following question by email: “Were these new people subject to proper background checks including polygraph exams and were any of the new hires previously rejected applicants?”

I got the following reply: “All of the staff who are appointed as investigators are subject to a rigorous application process which includes a psychological assessment, background checks, criminal record checks and a polygraph exam.”

Well true, I suppose, except for the Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, who has bragged that he was the only employee at the IIO who never went through a polygraph. Pity.

But clearly he evades the salient question. Why?

So, riddle me this; how can police officers in British Columbia be confident in an investigation conducted by an IIO investigator, who himself has been rejected by several police agencies in Canada for not meeting their ethical standards? He’d even been rejected by the IIO itself for the same reason, yet now he is somehow okay?

Bottom line, the IIO are desperate. They are trying to meet their mandate and any competent, credible person who might apply has heard the back story and won’t apply. They carried about 30% vacancy in their Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staffing for much of the past year and have just filled them with their latest hirings. Including at least one person who didn’t make the grade before.

Despite the spin, the IIO is still a dysfunctional organization that is supposed to oversee the actions of police in incidents involving serious injury or death. And government keeps applying lipstick to the pig they created.


Leo Knight


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  1. Can someone name the new investigator who was previously rejected by the IIO and several other Departments? Nice to know that the IIO has basically added the cream of the crap to their cracker jack investigators. The whole experience with the IIO should be a textbook example of how now to do it.

  2. I think civilians need more say in the use of force continuum. Right now it is written by cops for cops, fearmongered to excess by cops.

    Obviously force has its place, but the very little threat or actions by a suspect that allows police to advance into preemptive violence is not correct either.

    We can see the results of police being permitted to guide themselves on use of force, incidents like Drykanski at YVR occur, or the VPD member punching a handcuffed cyclist, or the crap in Terrace right now, which the public has no appetite for because that level of violence by the police is so distasteful when shown on the six o’clock news.

    The cops should get with the program, and be wearing body cameras and bringing decent evidence to the table to justify their actions with reasonable acceptable use of force. Everyone has a camera on cops now, and it’s sad that it’s taken so long for modern handheld cellphone cameras to hold police accountable.

    • And your comments are typical of those who can’t, won’t or would rather snipe from the sidelines. Here’s an original thought…walk the walk first, then talk the talk. Butterfly nets and candy cane dreams will survive on a use of continuum chart for about as long as it took for me to reply to your oversimplifications. Your logic is the same sad foundation that is driving the IIO. No experience equals no credibility. But hey! Thanks for showing up!

      • Ouch, but I’m smiling. Well put Rick. So many arm chair quarter backs have an opinion based on a media spin and suddenly they’re an expert with an opinion. Yup there are a few bad apples, but there are a ton doing good work keeping you safe Ken. Sleep safe. Your welcome.

  3. The polish traveller was out of line in a airport when people should act up. His death was purely of his action and deserved full course of its action. The RCMP officers should have not found at fault nor an enquiry. In any other country, the police would have been justified. As to the investigator in question, you have ranted so long that it it has become more of a personal vendetta than justification to capture the reader to your point. The fella in question could sue you for dafammation and character assissination. I dont disgree with your view but best if you found someone who is great at journalistic writting who can provider better assistance and have connection in the media like 60 minutes or Global News spotlight like 360.

    • Clearly there are mostly police on here, and so these are the responses that I would have expected. All the more reasons that police require more oversight from the stakeholders (civilians) than they do now.

      That Rick jumps quickly to butterfly nets and candy canes shows a lack of maturity and an inability to rationalize the issue from anything but a tough cop vs the dangerous world attitude that frankly is unsubstantiated most of the time. Your training has failed you, and most people you engage with do not need the level of BS and violence that you advocate for tiny small threats. And yes, I have worked alongside cops and watched cops needlessly take the violence up far too many notches and talk themselves into getting punched or worse.

      That Mal figures the traveling Pollack was fully responsible for his death in a public airport demonstrates a flagrantly damaged mind. It was police training and mentality that killed him, not his actions. There was no reason to go to that level of force that quickly, he was fine where he was for a number of minutes (and had been for minutes prior to the RCMP arrival). The police made no attempt to deescalate, they just went to combat and used their new tools as taught by the Taser manufacturer. In hindsight clearly it was bad policy, because it has now been changed. It was clear that the police were only too happy to use their new tortuous toy needlessly.

      Anyways, you’ve heard all this before and you won’t change until there is some civil or criminal liability forced on you when you injure or kill someone. I don’t want to see anyone jailed who isn’t a danger to society, but some cops need to be for this reason, and sadly to send a message to their brothers in blue to stop injuring and killing stakeholders with excess use of force.

      I’m sure a cop behind bars will be welcomed with open arms (with closed fists) by many inmates after their past dealings with the blue gang.

      • Quite clearly Ken you are someone with grudge/animosity against the Police.

        Your argument about Dziekański is completely uninformed. Here we have a huge guy who has disappeared for six and three quarter hours within the “secure” arrival terminal (CBSA were never held accountable for that time) then he becomes violent, has every opportunity to leave the airport but doesn’t and barricades the door and starts throwing furniture and computers around!!

        If I was the responding Officer and had observed this I would have reacted the exact same way. His presence, mental and physical demeanor and aggressiveness were correctly assessed by the responding Officers.

        The fact that he died during the arrest has got to be laid squarely on his own actions and his refusal to comply without initiating violence.

        Your civil and criminal liability jibe doesn’t wash too clearly either, I am sure you have read the columns above your support of a completely corrupt system to justify your own means is quite frankly astounding! For someone who wants to see clarity and openness its a strange road to go down.

        If you don’t like the posts here Ken, feel free to leave, don’t let the door hit you in the backside when you do!!

  4. What is interesting are the statistics provided in the news item linked to this section. In approximately 3.5 years with approximately 34 investigators, 156 investigations were conducted that has resulted in “two pleas.” It would be interesting to know what these two pleas pertained to; were they criminal code or motor vehicle act offences. In any event, even assuming that both these pleas were to criminal code offences, these statistics clearly show that the police are not “out of control” as some people would suggest. In fact, in my opinion these statistics actually show the opposite.

    Quite frankly I am not surprised at the actual number of cases where the cops were found guilty (2 in 3.5 years). I do not have the statistics but I wouldn’t be surprised if more cops were charged in BC when investigations were conducted by the cops. However because of optics,I support the concept of having civilian controlled IIO. I think it is better for all concerned.

    However, I suspect it was a mistake going south of the border to find a person to administer the IIO. There are many excellent judges and lawyers, that have criminal experience, in Canada that could have been selected but I believe it was the politics of the day that may have contributed to what I believe was a mistake. I think they also have to revisit the standard of “might have” committed an offence to submit a report. However, I think the main problem is hiring competent investigators. With all due respect being a securities commission investigators or a courners’ investigators or journalists does not “cut the mustard.”


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