B.C.s mainstream media
just cant get it right
Once again the BC government fools
our fourth estate about police accountability
Oct. 23, 2011
Its no news that the Vancouver Sun and Province screwed up, as they almost always do on this topic. The hopelessness of our mainstream media is part of the reason Im about to conclude this project, after having revived it temporarily. But, for the record, heres an account of the latest journalistic screw-up.
On Oct. 12 the BC government announced that the provinces Criminal Justice Branch will use special prosecutors or external private practice lawyers or criminal justice branch prosecutors from other regions when considering charges against police.
The media didnt question whether Crown attorneys from another region would be any more objective than those working in the same region. Not did the media ask whether private practice lawyers, the supposedly independent prosecutors chosen by the CJB or the government, would in fact be independent.
The media missed an additional problem: The government snuck in an announcement that it has delayed implementing the new Independent Investigations Office.
The media also let David Eby, one of B.C.s official activists, switch the subject from police accountability to addiction services.
Crap journalism, all around.
It was time for a government announcement, no matter how bogus. With so much attention focused on the first day of the Robert Picton inquiry, the BC Liberals evidently wanted the appearance of decisive action. So someone told Attorney General Shirley Bond to make the Oct. 12 announcement. (She couldnt have come up with a policy decision or a political announcement on her own.) Deputy attorney general David Loukidelis was also on hand, probably because Bond, a pay-and-perks BC Liberal careerist with no law degree and at best average intelligence, doesnt know what shes talking about.
Much of the announcement repeated last Mays IIO media splash. (The Vancouver Province lapped this up as if it was indeed something new.) This time, however, the government also stated that its taking up a recommendation from William Davies inquiry into Frank Pauls death that the CJB will use Crown attorneys from different regions or lawyers from private practice to evaluate charges against police.
(I havent had time to compare Davies recommendations with the governments announcement. Given the way the government snowed the mainstream media about its response to Thomas Braidwoods recommendations, its possible theres much more to criticize than this one statement.)
No one has questioned whether the CJB should be involved at all. These are the same people who wholeheartedly supported every brutal RCMP action that led to Robert Dziekanskis Taser-related death.
So the CJB will solve the problem by using Crown attorneys from a different region? The RCMP killed Dziekanski at Vancouver airport. The CJB Crown attorneys who supported the RCMP work in Victoria.
Special prosecutors will solve the problem? Richard Peck is a special prosecutor.
Peck reviewed the CJBs Dziekanski decision while at the same time working for the CJB on another case, putting him in an obvious conflict of interest. At the outset of his Dziekanski review, Peck strongly implied that he intended to decide that the CJB made the right decision. Peck has also worked for the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, representing them at the Frank Paul inquiry. The OPCC is led by Stan T. Lowe, the former CJB Crown attorney who infamously announced that the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment inflicted on Dziekanski were reasonable and necessary.
As expected, Peck endorsed the CJBs Dziekanski decision. That makes him eligible for more of these extremely lucrative special prosector gigs.
But in reporting the government announcement, the media ignored these problems. They asked no difficult questions, offered no critical perspective.
Ontarios Special Investigations Unit, by the way, can lay criminal charges against police. Thats one of several crucial ways in which B.C.s IIO falls far short of Ontarios SIU. We dont need the CJBs involvement at all. Thats never occurred to B.C. journalists because few of them know anything at all about the subject.
The announcement also stated that the IIO will begin investigating police by June 2012. The governments May 17 announcement, however, said the IIO would do so by December 2011.
Thats just the latest in a long string of delays. But the media missed that problem too.
The Vancouver Province actually ran this headline:
Police will no longer probe police: A-G Shirley Bond
Complete and utter bollocks. The IIO will investigate deaths and the most serious injuries. Police will continue to investigate the vast majority of cases, involving less serious injuries and other offences. Except for some incidents that are caught on video or get advance publicity, the investigations will be rubber-stamped by the ex-cops at the OPCC.
Those ex-cops will have authority over the IIO.
Both the Sun and Province allowed David Eby to switch the subject from police accountability to addiction services. As the main spokesperson for B.C.s official activists, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Eby should have pointed out what the media were missing. Instead he shifted to a topic thats not even a civil liberties issue. In doing so, he helped the BC Liberals fool the media.
If addiction is Ebys concern, fine. He can become an advocate for addicts. But because the media have granted him a near-monopoly on critical comment about police accountability, I wish hed talk about police accountability.
Getting back to the media, I have to acknowledge that they do let me make factual statements and express my point of view in published letters. Heres one that appeared the same day as the governments announcement. Too bad their own reporters disregard anything printed in the letters section. Thats a shame because their news stories have much more impact than letters. Nevertheless B.C. journalists ignore important, accurate information thats vital to this topic.
And so does the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.