The Taylor Robinson cover-up

B.C. police complaint commissioner Stan T. Lowe helped
Vancouver police cover up a gratuitous assault
on a disabled woman

 

From June to July 2010, Stanley Thomas Lowe and British Columbia’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner took part in a Vancouver police cover-up of VPD constable Taylor Robinson’s gratuitous assault on a disabled woman named Sandy Davidsen. No investigation began into that incident until more than six weeks after it happened, nearly six weeks after VPD Professional Standards found out and nearly four weeks after the OPCC found out. The cover-up ended only after media learned about Robinson’s actions.

Here’s an account of the events and dates, as well as an explanation of how denials by deputy policy complaint commissioner Rollie Woods (a former head of the VPD unit that conducted the cover-up) and OPCC investigative analyst Andrea Spindler are obviously dishonest. All this information can be verified easily by checking dates and events with Lowe’s Notice of Public Hearing into Robinson, by consulting B.C.’s Police Act regarding how police misconduct investigations must be handled and by noting the media publicity that began on July 22, 2010.

 

On June 9, 2010, Vancouver police constable Taylor Robinson shoved a disabled woman named Sandy Davidsen to the sidewalk for no apparent reason. He later claimed that he thought she was trying to grab his gun. Yet he pushed her from behind.

B.C. police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe’s Notice of Public Hearing (November 12, 2013) states VPD Professional Standards officers learned of the incident by June 11, 2010, when they interviewed the victim. But they did not order a Criminal Code investigation, order a Police Act investigation, or inform B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, all actions that are required by law. Lowe’s Notice doesn’t acknowledge this, but the VPD’s response has to be considered a cover-up.

Perhaps unwittingly, Lowe states in his Notice that the OPCC learned about Robinson’s actions on June 28, 2010, but from the victim, not the police. At that point Lowe and his staff were legally required to order a Police Act investigation into Robinson’s actions and another Police Act investigation into the VPD Professional Standards officers who covered up Robinson’s actions.

Additionally the Police Act required Lowe and his staff to monitor the investigations while they were taking place and provide instructions if the OPCC believed the investigations were conducted inadequately. Lowe and his staff did none of those things. They colluded in the Vancouver police cover-up.

Lowe’s Notice mentions no Police Act investigation until July 27. That was more than six weeks after Robinson shoved his victim, nearly six weeks after VPD Professional Standards found out and nearly four weeks after the OPCC found out. Lowe doesn’t mention the publicity that began July 22, just days before he ordered the investigation.

Robinson’s actions got prominent media coverage that day, after the B.C. Civil Liberties Association released surveillance video. Only after the extensive publicity beginning on July 22 did the OPCC and VPD decide to have Robinson investigated. VPD constable and spokesperson Jana McGuinness acknowledged that Robinson remained working in the same neighbourhood up to July 22. (See July 22 media accounts, for example the Vancouver Sun, which also stated, “No one at the OPCC returned calls Thursday [July 22].”). Had Robinson been under investigation, he surely would have been transferred to other duties or another neighbourhood where he wouldn’t likely encounter his victim.

Clearly the investigation into Robinson was prompted by media coverage, even though both VPD Professional Standards and the OPCC knew about his actions much earlier. No investigation has ever been ordered into the VPD cover-up, in which the OPCC colluded.

Lowe’s Notice provides considerable information about how the Robinson case was handled after July 22 but almost none prior to that date.

Buried in Lowe’s Notice is some mild criticism of the VPD’s “informal investigation” that preceded the Police Act investigation. Lowe’s rather gentle remarks hardly reflect the seriousness of the VPD’s actions. The VPD’s egregious failure to contact the OPCC and to launch a Police Act investigation itself or request a Police Act investigation by another police force has to be considered a cover-up. But as Lowe perhaps unwittingly revealed, his own office learned about the incident on June 28, weeks before he ordered a Police Act investigation. Lowe’s OPCC colluded in the VPD cover-up.

Further evidence of the OPCC’s dishonest handling of this case comes from a letter by deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods (a former head of VPD Professional Standards) posted on the Georgia Straight website on December 5, 2013. Referring to the public hearing that Lowe eventually called into Robinson, Woods claimed that Lowe ordered the hearing “in particular to look into why the police did not notify this office of the pushing incident and instead undertook some type of informal resolution process that is outside of the Police Act.” That statement is so egregiously false that it has to be considered a deliberate lie. Lowe did not order a public hearing into anything regarding this case other than Robinson’s actions. (Again, here’s Lowe’s Notice.) Woods’ brazen claim to the contrary raises the question of why he found it necessary to lie.

A public hearing into the VPD Professional Standards officers would have to be preceded by a Police Act investigation into those officers. Only then could Lowe order a public hearing into them. Lowe would have to issue a separate Notice of Public Hearing that names the officers and details the allegations against them. Lowe did none of those things, despite his duty to do so. Furthermore, Lowe refused my request that he order an investigation.

Woods had no excuse for thinking his statement was in any way accurate. Even if Woods had somehow got his info completely wrong by accident, the OPCC would have been required to issue a public correction. The fact that the OPCC didn’t issue a correction further indicates the OPCC’s dishonesty regarding this case. Woods lied, and he did so on Lowe’s behalf.

The OPCC continued this line of deceit after I launched a formal Police Act complaint to the OPCC against the VPD Professional Standards officers in January 2014. My complaint stated that the time limit should be waived because new information, concerning the dates that VPD Professional Standards and the OPCC learned about Robinson’s actions, had come to light fairly recently, in the November 2013 Notice. The OPCC rejected the complaint, showing how OPCC staff abuse the Police Act for their own purposes.

OPCC investigative analyst Andrea Spindler misleadingly tried to suggest that the OPCC ordered an investigation into Robinson on June 29, 2010, and dishonestly stated that the then-upcoming public hearing into Robinson would be a public hearing into the VPD Professional Standards officers too.

Spindler was repeating Woods’ line of deceit. There has been no investigation into the VPD Professional Standards officers and they weren’t even named in Lowe’s Notice of Public Hearing into Robinson. Even if their cover-up had been mentioned in the Robinson hearing, it could have played only a peripheral role in the hearing. In the end, the VPD’s handling of the matter did not come up at the hearing.

That didn’t stop the OPCC’s continued lies. Woods lied to the media again, in a letter published in the Victoria Times Colonist on November 25, 2016. Among his usual obfuscation and misleading statements, he claimed my “comments regarding delay in a previous Vancouver Police Department investigation into the conduct of Const. Taylor Robinson are equally inaccurate and were debunked at the public hearing into the matter.”

In no way were they debunked. Again, the public hearing into Robinson didn’t address this matter at all. This is another statement so egregiously false that it has to be considered a deliberate lie. And Woods’ lie once again raises the question of why he has to lie.

This textbook case reveals the overall corruption of an agency that operates in near-secrecy. How many other examples are there which Lowe, Woods and their staff conducted in an entirely disreputable manner? The case of Victoria police chief Frank Elsner might be one. Lowe didn’t order a Police Act investigation until after the media found out. This time, Lowe attempted a lengthy rationale for his delay, but nevertheless drew a rebuke from Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson.

As it stands now, nothing can be done about Lowe, Woods or any other OPCC staff involved in the Robinson cover-up. Lowe answers to no one—absolutely no one at all. In practice that immunity applies to his staff too. Their dishonesty is made easier yet by the fact that they work in secret as much as possible.

 

Read more about the Stan Lowe/Bruce Brown/Rollie Woods/OPCC cover-up
of VPD constable Taylor Robinson’s assault on a disabled woman
Read more about B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
Read more news and comment about police accountability in B.C.