from Greg Klein
November 26, 2012
Time to examine
B.C.s secretive OPCC
Legislative committee asked to call an inquiry
into the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
Ive asked a committee of MLAs to call an independent inquiry into B.C.s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. This bipartisan committee was struck to look into Taser use and audit selected police complaint cases handled by the OPCC. The Taser inquiry has received a bit of publicity. The OPCC audit has received almost none.
For reasons that I outlined in detail to the committee [the four submissions are posted here] and have summarized below, I believe OPCC staff have proven themselves to be dishonest throughout the agencys approximately 12-year history. This committees audit will be only the second time the OPCC has faced any official scrutiny. But there are reasons to fear the committee intends to conduct a whitewash. Therefore Ive asked for an independent investigation, by someone from outside the province, and someone with the calibre of Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
Marin conducted a landmark 2007-2008 investigation into Ontarios Special Investigations Unit, which is widely considered Canadas most effective police accountability agency. The concerns that prompted Marins investigation, however, pale in comparison to the brazen dishonesty shown by the OPCC.
Yet B.C.s committee of MLAs has wasted a lot of time. The committee was struck last May but the Taser inquiry didnt start until October. It will be followed by the OPCC audit. The committee must finish its inquiry by December 31 and is not likely to do much work after early or mid-December.
Furthermore, whether in committee or legislature, both the BC Liberals and NDP have voted in lockstep to support the police status quo. They did so in their December 2008 committee decision to appoint Stan T. Lowe police complaint commissioner one week after he announced, as a member of the Criminal Justice Branch executive management, that the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment leading to Robert Dziekanskis death were reasonable and necessary.
Leonard Krog was on the committee that appointed Lowe and specifically praised Lowe for his knowledge of use of force. Krog sits on the current committee as well.
Despite increasing public concern about police accountability, the BC Liberals and NDP unanimously passed Police Act amendments in 2009 that changed nothing of substance. Last spring the two parties united again to create an Independent Investigations Office that doesnt come close to its supposed model, Ontarios SIU.
All that would seem to suggest exceptionally rigid party discipline, possibly at the behest of a powerful police lobby. Marin has written about the power of police lobbyists in Ontario and Manitoba.
The only other time the OPCC faced official scrutiny came from a 2002 MLA committee. That committee did touch on then-police complaint commissioner Don Morrisons refusal to examine Frank Pauls death, which occurred after Vancouver police dumped the unconscious man in a back alley. But contemporary media reports suggest the MLAs were mostly concerned with Morrisons bullying behaviour towards his staff. In the end, Morrison was allowed to resign with a nearly $100,000 payoff.
With a few exceptions, the media have shown very little interest in the OPCC. In a short period of time, B.C.s new Independent Investigations Office got far more publicity that the OPCC has ever received. Much Postmedia coverage of the OPCC comes from the Victoria Times Colonist, which seems to have a policy of printing only what its fed by the OPCC. Media ignorance of the subject is widespread. Most B.C. journalists think the OPCC investigates police.
B.C.s official activists, the government-subsidized B.C. Civil Liberties Association, doesnt hesitate to criticize cops. But probably because of establishment ambitions, the BCCLA will not criticize the bigshots who run our corrupt system of police accountability.
Even now that the IIO is in operation, the OPCC remains the most powerful of B.C.s two police accountability agencies powerful, that is, in its ability to thwart police accountability. Almost all allegations of police misconduct, including many serious assaults and all sexual assaults, will continue to be investigated by other police. The police self-investigations then get a rubber stamp or cover-up by the OPCC. The only exceptions are cases that get advance publicity, the support of an influential organization or caught on video.
Although the OPCC doesnt investigate police, it does have the power to investigate the IIO. That results from a cynical BC Liberal/NDP ploy to evade Thomas Braidwoods recommendation that the IIO come under the provincial Ombudspersons authority. Instead, the legislature put the IIO under the authority of the dishonest, police-friendly OPCC.
This secretive agency is so complacent that it evidently expects to get away with brazen dishonesty. Heres a very brief summary of four OPCC cases that I submitted in much greater detail to the current MLA committee. These cases concern police complaint commissioner Stan T. Lowe and deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods, and their predecessors Dirk Ryneveld and Bruce M. Brown.
The OPCC hired an expert witness
knowing in advance that he always testifies in favour of the police
The OPCC hired self-proclaimed police psychologist Bill Lewinski as an expert witness in its inquiry into the Vancouver police shooting death of Paul Boyd. The OPCC already knew that Lewinski always testifies in favour of police. The OPCC cited Lewinski in its March 2012 report exonerating VPD constable Lee Chipperfield.
The OPCC covered up very serious charges against
New Westminster police constable Sukhwinder Vinnie Singh Dosanjh
The charges against Dosanjh prompted a judge to bar him from possessing firearms when off duty and to order Dosanjh to get psychological treatment. Dosanjh returned to work early this year with a temporary demotion following a three-year, seven-month paid suspension. New Westminsters Royal City Record learned about this despite the OPCC/New Westminster police/Port Moody police cover-up. A New West police spokesperson told the Record that the OPCC signed off on the police self-investigation.
The OPCC helped Vancouver police cover up
a June 2010 assault on a disabled woman
VPD constable Taylor Robinson shoved Sandy Davidsen to the sidewalk for no apparent reason. The media learned about the assault when they obtained surveillance video more than six weeks later. The VPD and OPCC then stated that they learned about the assault soon after it happened. But theres no indication an investigation took place until after the media learned about the assault, over six weeks after it happened.
The OPCC used obviously dishonest tactics to dismiss a complaint
I made against three Vancouver police officers in June 2006
Among other problems, the OPCC lied about the Criminal Code, refused to act on a VPD breach of the Privacy Act, used highly subjective reasoning and held wildly contradictory statements against me. These problems are not a he said/she said matter. They come through clearly in the OPCCs own correspondence.
Additionally, the OPCC deleted its online archive of news releases prior to February 2012, when the Sukhwinder Singh Dosanjh case came to light. The OPCC also stalled for 10 and a half months before releasing its 2011 annual report. The report summarizes just 12 out of 1,151 cases and is written in cop jargon.
Unlike Ontarios SIU, OPCC staff dont answer to the provincial Ombudsperson or anyone else. It shows in their work. This committee will be only the second time the agency has faced official scrutiny. For a number of reasons including rigid party discipline, theres reason to doubt the committees intentions. The problems emanating from the OPCC are much worse than those that prompted the Ontario Ombudsmans investigation into the SIU. We need a similar investigation into the OPCC, conducted by someone from outside the province, and someone with the calibre of Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
Backgrounder: My November 23 appeal
to the legislative committee
November 23, 2012
from Greg Klein
To all members of the Special Committee to Inquire into the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons and to Audit Selected Police Complaints:
Im writing to request that your committee call for an independent investigation into the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. I believe the problems emanating from the OPCC are much more serious than this committee has the time, power or will to deal with.
Ive sent you four cases [posted here] which show a pattern of not only bias but outright deceit among OPCC staff including police complaint commissioner Stan T. Lowe, deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods, and their predecessors Dirk Ryneveld and Bruce M. Brown.
In addition, I understand youve been given information stating that the OPCC rubber-stamped and covered up a Saanich police investigation into four other Saanich officers who pinned an unarmed, non-violent university student face-down on the floor of his own home and Tasered him five times in 40 seconds, causing the victim to spend 16 days in hospital and undergo several months of recovery; that the OPCC later hired Ross Poulton, the Saanich officer who conducted the internal investigation; and that Dirk Ryneveld, the police complaint commissioner at the time, now does legal work for Saanich police.
I dont need to repeat information from the three submissions I sent you on September 11, 2012 (and re-sent on October 4) and the fourth submission on November 20. These cases strongly suggest that throughout its history, the OPCC has shown a pattern of secrecy and dishonesty.
The problems that led Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin to investigate that provinces Special Investigations Unit, leading to his September 2008 report Oversight Unseen, werent nearly as serious as those manifested by the OPCC. Yet the OPCC continues to get away with obvious dishonesty. In doing so, the agency is a smear on the integrity of all public officials and agencies in B.C.
Incredibly, your committees inquiry will be only the second time the OPCC has ever faced official scrutiny. The other time was 2002, when another bipartisan committee of MLAs looked into then-police complaint Commissioner Don Morrison. That inquiry resulted from a staff mutiny. Contemporary media accounts reported that the committee did hear that Morrison refused to look into the Vancouver police involvement in Frank Pauls death. But the inquiry seemed mostly concerned with Morrisons bullying behaviour towards his staff.
At one point the committee considered letting Morrison keep his job provided he took management training. That might have addressed his behaviour, but not the ethical problem shown by his inaction on Pauls death. In the end, Morrison was allowed to resign with a nearly $100,000 payoff.
Ethically, theres no indication anythings improved at the OPCC. Again, I need not repeat the info I sent you earlier. But Ill emphasize that the brazen nature of the OPCCs dishonesty suggests both complacency and arrogance. They expect to get away with this. Certainly theyve faced no official scrutiny for 10 years.
Id like to believe that your committee will provide that much-needed scrutiny. But will you? Whether in committee or legislature, both of your parties have voted in lockstep, repeatedly supporting the police status quo.
That happened, for example, with a previous MLA committee (which included your fellow committee member Leonard Krog) that appointed Stan Lowe police complaint commissioner. Inexplicably, the committee made the decision despite the fact that Lowe was a member of the Criminal Justice Branch executive management that unanimously decided to exonerate the four RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanskis Taser-related death. One week after Lowes announcement that the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment were reasonable and necessary, Krog praised Lowe for his knowledge of appropriate use of force.
Lowe also claimed Dziekanski was resisting arrest, when in fact he was writhing in pain. Lowe tried to smear Dziekanski with irrelevant information that the RCMP dug up in Poland. And a committee of MLAs unanimously decided Lowe was the best candidate to oversee the police.
The result of that decision comes through clearly in some of the info Ive sent you.
In fall 2009, despite growing public concern about police accountability, both your parties united to support Police Act revisions that changed nothing of substance.
Last year both your parties united to support an Independent Investigations Office that doesnt come close to its supposed model, Ontarios SIU. Ive previously sent you detailed info on that topic.
I think all of that indicates exceptionally rigid party discipline. It defeats the public will and the democratic process.
Is there an MLA among you who isnt under enormous pressure to conduct a whitewash of the OPCC? If not, do you actually have the time and the power to conduct a thorough inquiry?
Again, the problems regarding the OPCC are considerably worse that those that prompted the Ontario Ombudsmans investigation into the SIU.
Im appealing to this committee to call for an independent inquiry into the OPCC, by someone from outside the province, and someone of the calibre of Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.