Next month the Independent Investigations Organization (IIO) turns four since it commenced operations in 2012. Two days before the anniversary will be the last day for its first Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Richard Rosenthal.
Rosenthal was hired with much fanfare back in December, 2011 in a major announcement by the Premier Christy Clark and then Solicitor General Shirley Bond as well as several municipal police chiefs including then VPD Chief Jim Chu, then West Vancouver Chief Peter Lepine and Assistant Commissioner Fraser MacRae representing the RCMP.
They all stood in front of a big sign that said “Increasing Accountability.” Bond defended the hiring of an American because of his “experience” saying he had a strong track record in building these kinds of organizations which, in itself was not true. In fact, Rosenthal had never supervised more than five people in his career let alone led a start-up of more than 30 people.
In point of fact, Rosenthal did not even apply for the job within the requisite time frame in the original job posting which said the posting closed on August 16, 2011. Rosenthal only “applied” directly to then Assistant Deputy Minister in Justice, Jay Chalke, after he’d been informed his contract in Denver would not be renewed when it expired in the winter of 2012. Why Chalke re-opened the posting is anyone’s guess? Chalke is now British Columbia’s Ombudsman.
The fact that Rosenthal was a lawyer and a former Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles and was involved in police oversight in Portland and Denver was much-touted by the government as a reason for his hiring. Yet, he was spectacularly unsuccessful in the launch of the IIO and is in fact leaving prior to the expiration of his initial five year contract.
Rosenthal claims he is leaving of his own volition to pursue a PHD in Criminology at Simon Fraser University. Whether that or because the government declined to renew his contract given the tumultuous four years under him is moot really. The fact that he is gone, or soon will be, is good.
It is interesting to note that as one of his final acts he had senior management conduct a leak inquiry by searching every single employees’ computer simply speaks volumes about his lack of leadership skills. Presumably, he wanted to determine who was leaking information to the media, primarily yours truly. It would seem nothing of note was discovered despite their best efforts.
So, four years in and what is there to show for their efforts? Not a lot. They managed to alienate the whole of the police community in BC with the charging of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams for second degree murder in the shooting incident at the Starlight Casino in November 2012. MacWilliams was merely doing his job that day and to face a charge of murder was absolutely obscene. Fortunately, clearer minds prevailed and the charge was stayed last summer, but not before putting MacWilliams through hell.
The IIO has turned over virtually all of their original experienced investigators hired and paid for the privilege through severance with many taxpayer dollars.
They’ve been through a couple of investigations conducted by the PSA, essentially the government’s HR department, resulting from staff complaints of bullying and harassment. Employee surveys revealed huge disconnects between front-line staff and senior management. Rosenthal was being openly mocked by subordinates. Frankly, it was an absolute shit show.
His heir apparent, lawyer Clinton J. Saddlemeyer, appointed acting CCD in Rosenthal’s absence in 2015, was suspended for wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to the staff Halloween party when the IIO was investigating the shooting of an Anonymous activist wearing the same mask at the time.
Far from being transparent and swift, they are taking up to a year and a half to complete the average investigation. Just last week on August 9th, they put out a public notice seeking witnesses to an event that occurred last August 13th, 2015 in Burnaby. Really. A year later they suddenly discover there may be some salient witnesses to an event? It’s stunning really. Shouldn’t that be one of the first steps they take? You know, when memories are fresh and details clear?
The challenge for anyone taking the reins at this moribund and incompetent organization is huge especially given its mandate. Thus far, the government has not announced who is to take that challenge. Considering they announced back in January that the search had commenced.
For all their gurgling about the importance of having a lawyer with experience in police oversight at the time of Rosenthal’s hiring, my sources are telling me that a career provincial government bureaucrat will be named as CCD shortly. Whether permanent or interim is not known.
This particular bureaucrat rose to high levels in the civil service and retired in 2013 after a full career and is currently acting as a management consultant. So apparently, the reasons for hiring Rosenthal no longer apply.
I wish the new CCD well and truly hope that the competence and transparency level of the IIO can be hugely improved. Sadly, I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who understands transparency and few who were actually competent leaders who could inspire subordinates, but there’s always a first time.
In the interim, adios Richard Rosenthal. You’ve long overstayed your welcome.
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