(and marginal) notes
Political involvement is for designated victims,
special interest groups and powerful individuals.
The rest of us get marginalized
This is a very belated last post to my police accountability project. I actually wrapped it up back in March 2015, and not for the first time. I originally scrapped the project in January 2011 due to its obvious futility. Since then I revived the effort because there seemed to be specific opportunities to bring problems to light. Among them were the inherent weaknesses legislated into British Columbia’s Independent Investigations Office. But my focus has been how B.C.’s Police Act allows the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to act in near secrecy and with zero accountability. The OPCC’s ethically corrupt staff take advantage of that to boost their careers.
But a more important problem turns out to be the characters who make up B.C.’s political and legal establishment, and their sycophantic wannabes in the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society. They treat social justice issues as a con game to be manipulated for their ambitions.
Futile this project was, but not uninteresting. The obvious corruption of police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, his crew and their predecessors, speaks volumes about B.C.’s political culture, legal profession and media.
But, as seen in other cases, a scandal doesn’t become a scandal until people in authority or the media decide to label it a scandal. Some examples include Vancouver’s PHS poverty pimps, senate spending, CBC celebrity/violent misogynist Jian Ghomeshi, BBC celebrity/serial child rapist Jimmy Savile and the racist Rotherham child prostitution industry. Long before these outrages came to public attention they were known to people in authority and/or the media. But those people declined to say or do anything.
Any of those outrages could happen in B.C.
For anyone interested, some key problems regarding police accountability are outlined below, along with some of the efforts I undertook.
Thanks for reading.
B.C.’s widespread ethical corruption—
what’s a marginalized person to do?
Obviously something very crooked is going on when legislative committees representing both the B.C. Liberals and NDP consistently appoint unscrupulous characters like Don Morrison, Dirk Ryneveld and Stan Lowe as police complaint commissioner. Those guys then hire lying ex-cops like Bruce M. Brown and Rollie Woods. Other OPCC staff, like Andrea Spindler and Anthony Parker, suggest the agency is staffed entirely by liars.
Both political parties also supported legislation that imposed serious weaknesses on B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office. That was a subject ignored by the media, which rejected my concerns and instead played up the tremendous support of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. On separate occasions BCCLA spokespeople Robert Holmes and Jason Gratl lied to the media, claiming that the legislation ended the practice of police investigating police. Those lies were widely reported as truth by B.C.’s ignorant media, giving the public false assurances and helping Holmes and Gratl ingratiate themselves with B.C.’s political and legal establishment.
Among my other efforts were submissions to a legislative inquiry into the OPCC. The committee had issued a call for public submissions. But the B.C. Liberal and NDP MLAs met only with police interests and waited until the inquiry was over to inform me that they refused to consider my information. Their laughable excuse was that the submissions weren’t “random.”
That’s one of several examples of how these two otherwise warring parties, in a province notorious for polarized politics, agree wholeheartedly on all issues regarding police accountability. Could that indicate a powerful police lobby? Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin, a former director of that province’s Special Investigations Unit, has written about the power of police lobbies in Ontario and Manitoba. I know of no smoking gun to prove that’s the case in B.C., but there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence.
Getting back to the OPCC, the agency demonstrated its ethical corruption by colluding in the Vancouver Police Professional Standards cover-up of constable Taylor Robinson’s gratuitous violence against a disabled woman named Sandy Davidsen. The OPCC’s corruption extends to B.C.’s political and legal establishment. The two-party legislative committee knew about the cover-up and had the responsibility to act on it. But they refused. Law Society of British Columbia lawyer Beverly Gallagher lied on behalf of Lowe, an establishment lawyer as well as police complaint commissioner. Gallagher’s manager, Katherine Crosbie, supported her.
The BCCLA knows about the cover-up but won’t speak out. I’ve exchanged e-mails with their people. They don’t dispute my facts but remain non-committal, a suitable position for establishment wannabes. For the same reason, the BCCLA won’t speak up about the OPCC’s lack of transparency and accountability. And, as indicated above, the BCCLA lied to support the faulty legislation creating the IIO.
(Are you starting to notice a recurring theme about lying among the B.C. establishment and its wannabes?)
Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King proved himself a shameless poverty pimp who, not for the first time, sold out a client to boost his establishment ambitions. Pivot was in some way complicit in the Robinson cover-up, possibly because of blundering incompetence from Pivot lawyer Scott Bernstein, who originally represented Robinson’s victim. But King, after taking over from Bernstein and telling me he intended to challenge the OPCC’s handling of the case, went on to lavish praise on Lowe.
Underlying all this is an especially compliant media. On issues of police accountability, B.C.’s media report what they’re told by establishment sources and shun outsiders, regardless of the information supplied to them—even on occasions when I’ve neatly packaged everything for them. Like politicians, most journalists have no time for a well-informed individual who’s trying to play an active role in an issue. They grant more credibility to people who disrupt meetings or block traffic, no matter how inarticulate they might be.
With very few exceptions, B.C. journalists will not report critically on the OPCC. As for the public controversy concerning the IIO, most of it’s driven by police interests. B.C.’s compliant media play into their hands.
I think the key to understanding journalists is that they’re highly conventional people. Conventional people don’t think for themselves. In the case of reporters, they seem to evaluate information according to the social status of the source, showing deference to establishment bigshots but also giving voice to people with official victim status or membership in a special interest group.
Reporters marginalize people like myself while dutifully transcribing what they’re told by dishonest sources like the OPCC, the BCCLA and Pivot.
But there might be more to this problem than conventionality. Someone might be ordering the media to back off. Most of the info I’ve brought to light can be easily verified and would make good, interesting news stories, especially if any reporter could find the gumption to question people like Woods and Lowe. Yet journalists almost consistently reject that info. In some cases reporters did show interest only to back down later.
After the 2012-2013 inquiry into the OPCC, Burnaby Now reporter Jennifer Moreau phoned me to say she intended to write a story about how it was handled. But she backed down and instead wrote about a different topic (Taser use) in an article that cast a positive light on inquiry deputy chairperson Kathy Corrigan.
The following year a Vancouver Province reporter expressed interest in my campaign and, without committing himself, asked me to keep the paper informed. But he was later overruled, quite arrogantly, by Province editor Gordon Clark.
For a while the Georgia Straight, a newspaper supposedly outside the B.C. establishment, showed some interest in the info I brought forward. But that changed suddenly, when editor Charlie Smith passed up two great reasons to question the OPCC about the Robinson case—one in which Woods criticized Smith for not contacting him about the issue, the other in which Woods blatantly lied to Smith (and the public) about an important aspect of the case. Smith published the lie unchallenged. He and the rest of the Straight continue to treat Woods as a credible news source. They seem to have banned me from online comments.
As in the question of whether B.C. MLAs submit to a powerful police lobby, there’s circumstantial evidence (although not as much) that B.C. journalists have been backing off when so ordered. But if that’s the case, I don’t know who might be giving the orders.