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...

IIO investigation flawed but cop still charged with murder

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), who investigated the police shooting of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami on Nov. 8th, 2012 at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster likely didn’t know that Bayrami knew he was going to die that day, whether by his own hand or ‘suicide by cop.’ Bayrami laid in wait for a woman who was employed at the Casino and when she arrived, he kidnapped her at gunpoint. She fought back and he fired his weapon three times grazing the woman twice, once in the head and once on her back.  He then dragged her nearly 500 metres toward the highway at the casino entrance. There he was met by New Westminster police who were responding to a 9-1-1 call from casino security who had witnessed the whole event on CCTV. NWPD contained the armed assailant who still held his female hostage and called for the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT). A five-hour stand-off ensued which only ended when Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, a member of the MIERT, fired one shot. MacWilliams was designated ‘lethal’ in his position as the covering sniper officer while the designated ‘non-lethal’ officers broke cover with ARWEN guns which fire so-called ‘plastic bullets.’ MacWilliams fired the lethal shot when Bayrami pointed his weapon at police. It all happened very fast in real time. And yet the IIO has charged this officer with second degree murder for doing his job. But, in doing their investigation they didn’t know that Bayrami intended to die that fateful morning....

Mountie’s perjury conviction a travesty

The conviction last week of former RCMP Corporal Monty Robinson on a charge of perjury troubles me greatly. As I have said before when discussing the events of that night at YVR, the death of Robert Dziekanski was tragic. But, the police officers acted according to their training and were within RCMP policy concerning the use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEW) or Tasers as they are more commonly known. And, for all the stuff and nonsense that has occurred in the intervening time, nothing changes that salient fact. There was a comedy of errors in the aftermath of all of this that made the RCMP look bad. It started with Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, a Media Relations Officer (MRO) with RCMP ‘E Division’ Strategic Communications at a press briefing given hours later at Richmond Detachment. He gave factually inaccurate statements that, in retrospect, were more spin than lies. But the damage was done and when the Pritchard video surfaced publicly made it appear as though the Force was engaged in a cover-up. That was made worse after Lemaitre was removed as MRO and the matter was handed to Cpl. Dale Carr, the spokesperson for IHIT who had taken conduct of the investigation as a death in police custody. For whatever reason, the RCMP brass decided not to correct the record and left the MRO to dangle in the wind. Meanwhile, the media frenzy built and the downward spiral continued, giving birth to the Braidwood Inquiry, the IIO and culminating with the conviction of Robinson...

Abbotsford ‘corruption’ story much ado about nothing

The latest fusillade in the politics of policing was fired today by the Police Complaints Commissioner, Stan Lowe, when he sent out a media release headlined “Disclosure of Investigation Pursuant to Police Act” A press release about an investigation not yet complete? Allegation are allegations, proof is an entirely different thing. Then it used this explosive language. “To date, the investigation involves 17 members of the APD and includes 148 allegations of misconduct under the Police Act. The allegations of misconduct include allegations of Corrupt Practice, Deceit and Neglect of Duty pursuant to the Police Act.” Sounds serious indeed. It generated headlines across the country like this story in the Toronto Sun: 17 BC cops under investigation for misconduct And this one in the Vancouver Province: ‘It’s going to be a circus’: Probe of Abbotsford Police Department corruption could unravel successes in fight against gangs Corruption? In reality, one of the 17 officers is Christopher Nicholson who has already been charged criminally in May of 2013. And 58 of the 148 allegations mentioned involve Nicholson. The rest are questionable paperwork resulting from an audit conducted by Vancouver Police Department investigators at the request of Abbotsford Chief Constable Bob Rich as a result of the Nicholson investigation. Major police corruption story? Not hardly. So much so that Rich held a hastily called press conference in front of police HQ saying that not one of the other 16 police officers has been removed from duty. That speaks volumes. Here’s the raw video of the press conference: www.youtube.com/embed/q0kEsQnCIiI There’s no question...

Public, police deserve to know why charge laid against cop

Last week the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in Victoria released a statement saying that no charges would be approved in a case involving a relatively minor motor vehicle accident. That isn’t surprising, based on the facts where a female RCMP member was trying to effect a traffic stop and a motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction dumped and the rider suffered a broken leg. The IIO investigation tried to allege that it was due to the mountie, who had lights and siren activated, had somehow contributed to the accident and therefore would have been charged with something like drive without due care and attention. Which, of course, is nonsense and so said the CJB. But what was interesting to me was the media release was six pages long and 3,134 words explaining why they were not going to charge the police officer. Yet, in the case of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams who was charged with second degree murder, the media release consisted of a single page and was 414 words in length and said absolutely nothing about why this extraordinary charge was laid against an ERT officer doing his job at an armed hostage taking situation. The last media release by the CJB was on January 14 in a case where the IIO tried to get charges laid against two dog handlers in incidents where the suspects were bitten in the course of the arrest. In that release, also announcing no charges would be laid, the CJB made the announcement in...

Leadership inquiry into IIO about time, but many questions remain

It seems the chickens are coming home to roost for the IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal. The BC government has finally launched a probe into senior leadership. According to a story in the Victoria Times Colonist (BC government launches investigation into civilian police watchdog) the decision to involve the Public Service Agency, essentially the Human Resources department for government, was made by Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe after receiving numerous complaints. It’s about time. I wrote that Rosenthal should be fired last June for his horrible leadership and the resulting problems in the IIO. (IIO needs a leadership to be successful) Since then more investigators have resigned and the morale within spirals ever lower among those that remain The IIO is desperately trying to hire more people to fill the gaps and meet their statutory obligations. But the reality is that the only people with the requisite expertise who would work for Rosenthal are those who are desperate for a job or haven’t done their research. And there’s the rub. Without that expertise how is any police officer expected to have any faith they will be given a fair shake if they are involved in a serious incident? If you have investigators who don’t know what they are doing trying to handle, for example, an officer-involved shooting, essentially a homicide investigation, how can the police or the public be confident in their results? Every former IIO investigator I have spoken to describe a workplace mired in poor morale, bullying leadership and...