Note: Except for minor updates to this Web site, I’ve wrapped up my police accountability project for reasons outlined here. But Rollie Woods’ promotion to deputy police complaint commissioner, and the Vancouver Courier’s mostly one-sided story praising Woods, prompted me to add the following post.

Rehabilitating Rollie Woods (II)

A media puff piece praises the latest corrupt ex-cop
to be named B.C.’s deputy police complaint commissioner

April 4, 2011, updated April 5, 2011
Rollie Woods, B.C. deputy police complaint commissioner and an ex-Vancouver police officer, squirms during an interview with ‘A’ News in Victoria. But Woods got very favourable coverage from the Vancouver Courier’s cop groupie, Mike Howell — despite the fact that while heading VPD Professional Standards, Woods took charge of dishonest investigations that ignored evidence in favour of complainants, ignored important aspects of complaints, knowingly accepted false or obviously unreliable evidence against complainants, conducted heavy-handed interrogations to try to intimidate complainants into changing their statements, used vague, highly subjective or otherwise unsupportable judgements to cast doubt on complainants and support police, and came to decisions before even interviewing complainants. If that’s not bad enough, Woods made up the Criminal Code as he went along. He got away with lie after lie after lie knowing full well his cronies at the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner fully supported his corrupt work. B.C. police complaint commissioner Stan T. Lowe hired and promoted this brazen liar to ensure that a dishonest cop culture prevails at the OPCC.

 

In one sense, Mike Howell’s April 4, 2011 Vancouver Courier story provides an extremely rare example of the mainstream media casting a critical eye on B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. But the critical comment turns out to be a token gesture in an otherwise overwhelmingly positive article. For the most part Howell wrote the article from the OPCC’s point of view. That’s how the mainstream media normally cover OPCC issues, on the very rare occasions that they cover them at all.

The big surprise, however, is that the critical comment, muted as it is, comes from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. So far the BCCLA’s silence on this subject has been deafening.

So we’re told that BCCLA executive director David Eby has nothing against Rollie Woods, just concerns about the “perception” of an ex-cop being appointed deputy police complaint commissioner to replace another ex-cop who just retired. But the problem with Rollie Woods is much more serious, and much more objective, than “perception.”

Eby also notes that Woods is a former VPD officer, obviously a concern when so many complaints to the OPCC involve the Vancouver force. Did Eby not mention that Woods is also a former colleague of Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich and Victoria police chief Jamie Graham? Or did Howell fail to report that?

Most of Howell’s story consists of self-serving OPCC fluff. He relates Woods’ claim “that more than half of the staff at the commission are not former police officers.” That’s certainly news to me. Are these the people who actually review cop-on-cop investigations? If so, is he including people like Tom Collins?

Howell’s own research (assuming the self-serving Woods didn’t “feed” him this info) seems limited to digging up remarks in which former police complaint commissioner Dirk Ryneveld praised Woods. Well of course he did. The OPCC works very closely with Vancouver police to cover up police misconduct. That was true during Ryneveld’s time and it’s almost certainly true now.

Howell even lets Woods spin the disturbing fact that there were no discipline hearings or public hearings against Vancouver officers while he headed VPD internal investigations. That’s cause for alarm, not self-praise.

Not surprisingly, then, Howell lets this nauseating statement from Woods go unchallenged: “I stand on my record that I was objective and I showed that police could investigate the police.” But this is part of his disreputable record: Rollie Woods is a liar who makes up the Criminal Code as he goes along.

I stopped reading Howell’s stories regularly years ago so I’m not familiar with his recent work. But even before I took up this police accountability project, I noticed he often wrote positive stories about the police — so often that I wondered if his father or someone else close to him was a police officer.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing positive stories as long as they’re accurate and balanced. This story isn’t. But what most concerns me isn’t this one story but the mainstream media overall. They almost never scrutinize the OPCC, instead letting the OPCC-friendly Victoria Times Colonist write puff pieces that are even worse than Howell’s.

Quite possibly the Courier and Times Colonist stories result from a slick PR strategy that targets compliant journalists. We might see more of the same in other media, possibly to smooth the way for B.C. to put Thomas Braidwood’s proposed Independent Investigation Office under OPCC jurisdiction, thereby thwarting Braidwood’s intentions.

Speaking of other media, in a story by one of Vancouver’s best journalists, Neal Hall, the Vancouver Sun ran a blue-moon critical statement about the OPCC — but deleted it soon after. Here it is, from an online story that appeared the afternoon of March 29:

“Critics of the OPCC have said there are too many former police officers work [sic] for the agency.”

Was that too outrageous for the mainstream media? Later that day it was deleted from another online version, the same version that appeared in print. Maybe the Sun cut that sentence for space. But it did find room for this:

“‘In 1986, we came here for Expo and fell in love with the city,’ Woods recalled Tuesday. He is married with three children.”

Hardly pertinent to the issue of police accountability — but that’s the case for most of B.C.’s mainstream media coverage.

 
Read more about the Stan Lowe/Bruce Brown/Rollie Woods/OPCC cover-up
of VPD constable Taylor Robinson’s assault on a disabled woman
Rollie Woods lies to the media:
His dishonesty provides more evidence of an OPCC cover-up
Rollie Woods lies to the media again:
His dishonesty provides yet more evidence of an OPCC cover-up
Read some under-reported (or completely unreported)
facts about police accountability
Read some often-reported fallacies
about police accountability
Read a point-by-point comparison of police accountability in B.C. and Ontario
(something the media should have researched long ago)