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 4,144 words.
In the one before that, on Dec. 23, 2014, the CJB announced no charges in the case of an Abbotsford police officer who made an arrest during which the suspect suffered a broken finger.The CJB used 3,357 words for that particular announcement.
Lots of talk about why no charges would be laid in relatively minor incidents but precious little in a singular case where a charge of murder was laid against a police officer engaged in the execution of his duty. This makes no sense. If the public deserves to know why a charge wasn’t laid, surely it is entitled to know why a charge was laid.
Equally, the police community needs to know. As it stands now in the MacWilliams case the thousands of police officers in BC don’t know why MacWilliams was charged when for all appearances he did the job he was paid to do on that fateful day in November, 2012.
In not telling them why, the CJB risks the possibility of a police officer hesitating, second-guessing what he or she is doing instead of following their instinct and training. That hesitation could cost someone their life.
In December the President of the BC Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, had this to say on the subject of a police officer being charged with murder in the execution of his or her duty: “The expectation is that police officers respond proactively to protect the public, if in responding proactively we are going to now face these kinds of charges, I worry that police officers will hesitate to intervene in circumstances like these, and if they do hesitate than that means the safety of the public is at risk.”
He went on to say that the charge against Macwilliams was “absolutely unconscionable.”
I have to agree with Stamatakis but it is equally unconscionable not to tell the public or the policing community why this is being done.