Police watchdog puts cloud over courageous cops

On Thursday, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) issued a media statement saying the Acting Chief Civilian Director has made a report to Crown Counsel in relation to an incident involving the Vancouver Police.  Essentially they are saying one or more of the officers involved in a shooting on June 10, 2014 “may” have committed a criminal offence. Yet again, we see the IIO overreach is what should be a cut and dried case. Let’s look at just how cut and dried. At approximately 11:10 in the morning Gerald Mark Battersby, 61, pumped multiple shots with a .357 revolver into 52 yr. old Paul Dragan outside the Starbucks at Davie and Marinaside Cres. As it happened, a couple of VPD officers were just pulling up in front of Starbucks, drew their weapons and challenged Battersby who replied by shooting at the police then fleeing on a bike onto the Sea Wall towards Science Centre. Police gave chase and called for cover units to try and block Battersby from the other side. During the chase more shots were fired. Once at Science World, Battersby was engaged by members of VPD. More shots were exchanged. A female VPD member was trapped in her police car as Battersby shot into it, wounding her with flying glass. Another officer using the police car for cover got caught as Battersby chased him around the car firing as the officer tried to desperately find cover. Battersby was armed with a six shot .357 revolver. He’d already re-loaded at least once,...

Hindsight is 20/20 in YVR case

Two of the four RCMP officers involved in the incident at YVR that resulted in the tragic death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski were found guilty of perjury in bizarre decisions and given custody sentences. I don't believe either will serve any time at all. And the reality is that none of the four needed to be put through the hell that they have these last seven years. Both Cpl. Monty Robinson and Cst. Kwesi Millington have filed appeals of their convictions and given the other two Mounties involved were acquitted at bar and the Crown appealed one and was soundly defeated in the Court of Appeal, it seems likely the appeals will be successful. At least I hope that will be the case. I have stated this before and will say so again; not one of those four officers did anything wrong. They responded according to their training and the RCMP policy such as it was at the time. For them to be in criminal proceedings at all is a travesty. Let alone for the trumped-up charges of perjury. Throughout, the media narrative has been relentless all based on misconceptions that could have easily been cleared up had only the RCMP as an entity, done a better job of communicating with the public instead of hunkering down in the bunker, so to speak, and hoping things would blow over. The fall-out of those bad communications decisions resulted in the convictions against two of those members for perjury, mind you, nothing to do...

Column on police shootings disingenous

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t criticize another columnist’s opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs. But I must take exception to National Post columnist Brian Hutchinson’s effort appearing in the Post and in the Vancouver Sun. (Questions raised over police shootings; One man ‘lucky he didn’t get shot’) His premise, resulting from three recent police shootings in BC, seems to be that the the immediate reaction of the police in violent circumstances is to draw their weapons and shoot someone. He then drew out the circumstances from a violent event in Chilliwack in an incident where the police were attacked by a suspect and they didn’t shoot and somehow reaches the conclusion that this was a rare, "unfamiliar" event. He conveniently ignores the fact that only some of the tens of thousands of contacts police have with the public turn violent and the police deal with that violence by using force to subdue the person who initiated the violence. And they do so on a daily basis without shooting someone. Simply put, yes there were three police involved shootings in BC in the past two weeks. All are under investigation by the Independent Investigations Office, the civilian investigative agency formed by the BC government to investigate incidents where police use force which results in serious injury or death. But we know nothing more than what was released in terse press releases. We do not know the circumstances in which police used lethal force and neither does Hutchinson. Unlike him, I won’t rush to judgement. He also...

Despite charges stayed, more questions remain in Starlight Casino case

The announcement yesterday by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in BC outlining that second degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams were stayed and the accompanying explanation did little to clarify why charges were laid in the first instance. In fact, it speaks more to the incompetent investigation done by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Or perhaps something more nefarious. In the media release the CJB attached an 8 page document they called "Clear Statement." Well, it was anything but. In it, CJB says as a result of the charge being laid, Crown prosecutors conducted "exhaustive" interviews with police officers at the scene at the Starlight Casino on November 8, 2012 and this led them to the conclusion that this case did not meet the charge approval standard in the province. Well, in the first instance, doesn't this really say that the investigation conducted by the IIO was sub-standard? Why wouldn't they have surfaced this information during their interviews? Information such as the suspect's finger was on the trigger when the gun in his hand moved to horizontal? Information such as there were other officers who had moved their fingers from the finger guard to their own triggers and would have also shot had MacWilliams not shot first? These are no small matters. The information from the witnesses didn't change. It's more likely IIO investigators never asked the right questions. Why then, becomes the next question. Was it the incompetence of the investigators or perhaps, they were trying to come to...

Were the YVR Mounties scapegoated for political reasons?

The more time I spend looking into the case of the four RCMP officers who responded to a call to YVR in October, 2007 which resulted in the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski, the more it appears they were railroaded, or scapegoated if you will. The YVR four have been put through the ringer in this, pawns in a political game of blame, cultural ass-covering by their employer, the RCMP, and ultimately had their lives changed utterly and their careers effectively ruined. And two of them still face perjury convictions that are at best, a flight of fancy. Yet, all they did to deserve this was their job. Regular readers will know that I have said publicly that they responded according to the way they were trained. The question then becomes “why?” The mess started with then Media Liaison Officer (MLO) Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre released information which contained some factual errors and extrapolations or assumptions he should not have said. The problem is not specifically with some inaccurate information in the ‘fog of war’ and all that, provided to Lemaitre in his initial briefing. That can be corrected as more information came to light as the investigation progressed. The problem was that the RCMP knew at the time that it was inaccurate and stood mute. They then exacerbated the problem when the officer in charge of the section responsible for the investigation, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), Wayne Rideout, made a conscious decision not to correct the public record. That decision made...

Much shame to go around in Dziekanski case but none of it on attending RCMP members

Last Friday, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed Crown’s appeal of the acquittal of RCMP Cst. Bill Bentley, the first of the four Mounties tried, who was involved in the 2007 incident at YVR which ended with the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski. All four had been charged by the Crown with perjury arising from their testimony at the subsequent 2009 Braidwood Inquiry. The Crown tried to argue that the four members colluded in essentially ‘getting their stories straight.’ The Appeal Court Justices agreed with Mr. Justice McEwan, the trial judge, who had this to say on the subject at trial: “I can only say that the evidence does not go that far (collusion). The Crown has not shown that in any particular way Mr. Bentley made a false statement knowing it to be false and with intent to mislead the Inquiry. The Crown has advanced a suspicion based largely on circumstantial evidence. As to each particular, however, and as to the indictment taken as a whole, there are other explanations, inconsistent with the guilt of the accused that remain open on the evidence.” Yet, in the decision by Mr. Justice Bill Ehrcke who tried Cst. Kwesi Millington and found him guilty, said on the matter of collusion, “Indeed that it is the only rational inference available on all the evidence.” Well no actually. It could be because the officers were telling the truth. Inference is not evidence and in fact, the evidence showed there was little or no chance of collusion. Without regurgitating...

Taxpayers on the hook for oversight prosecutions without oversight

I spent the day last week at the sentencing hearing for RCMP Cst. Kwesi Millington who was convicted of perjury on Feb. 20, 2015 arising from testimony given at the 2009 Braidwood Inquiry into the death at YVR of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski. The Crown and the defence both made their cases with the Crown seeking a jail term between 24 and 36 months and defence requesting a conditional sentence of one year. Mr. Justice Bill Ehrcke reserved his decision until June 22, 2015. Earlier this week I opined in this space that this whole process was a charade. Indeed, I was correct.  Having said that, by charade, I meant not meaningful given the likely appeal which would negate anything the judge pronounced pending appeal. Ravi Hira, QC, the defence counsel, said at the start of his argument that he had already prepared the documents to file an appeal of the conviction, so the sentencing arguments made were really just going through the motions. I realize that sentence pronouncements often have an effect in criminal appeals, in this case I think it would not be germane to the salient question of the difference between wrestling ‘to’ the floor or ‘on’ the floor. Because really, that’s what al of this is about. Given the acquittal last week of Cst. Gerry Rundel and the reasons given for that judgement, it seems most likely that an appeal will succeed. The circuitous logic and inferences drawn in the absence of actual evidence by Ehrcke, it seems to...

Convictions of police in YVR case a charade

Last week, RCMP Cst. Gerry Rundel was acquitted in BC Supreme Court on charges of perjury resulting from his role in the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR.  Tomorrow, Cst. Kwesi Millington will be in the same court for sentencing  after being convicted a little over a month ago  on the same charge based on the same fact pattern. How is this possible you may ask. Well it happened twice. Last summer Cst. Bill Bentley was also acquitted of perjury arising from the same fact pattern and last month Cpl. Monty Robinson was convicted. As an aside, and I am not suggesting anything untoward, merely making an observation, but how is it that the two non-white officers are convicted but the two white officers were acquitted? (Millington is black and Robinson is native while both Bentley and Rundel are white.) Just asking. But in some ways this is fitting considering what a dog’s breakfast this has been from the beginning. It started when RCMP spokesman Pierre Lemaitre held a morning press conference and gave fuzzy details about what happened to the media and later seemed factually inaccurate after the public surfacing of the “Pritchard’ video, a cellphone video perspective of the events of that night. And I might add, a video that was seized by Cst. Rundel in the aftermath of the incident. So, the officers knew when they gave their statements that video of the event existed. Think about that. The RCMP, as an entity, failed utterly in Media Relations 101 out...

Transparency for the police but not for watchdog

In the two and a half years since the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) opened they have been the subject of many complaints including: harassment, bullying and incompetence. Of the roughly 50 staff members put together by Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal, about half have left either of their own volition or have been forced out as was the case with several former police officers who stood up to Rosenthal’s nonsense. Rosenthal you see, was entirely unqualified for the job he now holds. He is an American lawyer who worked as an assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles when he was assigned to interview an LAPD corrupt cop surfaced by the department’s Internal Affairs Department, named Rafael Perez. Perez was done. The department had his balls for bookends so to speak. So he did what all scumbags do, he tried to rat out everyone he knew in the LAPD’s Rampart Division to deflect attention from himself and perhaps cut a deal. Rosenthal was assigned to take his statement. That’s it. That’s his claim to fame. Albeit, he has embellished the story over time positioning himself as the guy who took down the “Rampart Division” scandal. In reality, there was just one corrupt cop that the LAPD’s Internal Affairs took down. But he managed to parlay that into a career as a “Civilian Oversight” expert of police. He went on to Portland, Oregon to act as a reader, essentially, reviewing internal investigation files. From there he moved to Denver, Colorado where he managed a...

IIO ignores truth to get prosecutions of cops

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...