Investigation of VPD officers
Paul Boyd was shot to death two years ago,
but no decision has been made regarding charges
A guest column by David Eby in the Vancouver Sun, Sept. 4, 2009
Paul Boyd was shot and killed by Vancouver police at Granville and 15th Avenue in August 2007.
Handout photo, Vancouver Sun files
More than two years after shooting a mentally-ill man to death on Granville Street, involved Vancouver police officers are still waiting to find out whether they will be criminally charged.
After promising a final decision in the early August 2007 shooting by the end of August 2009, the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) of B.C. has changed course and said that its not deciding yet, and theres no date set for a decision.
The file remains open. The clock keeps ticking.
Last time I spoke with a CJB rep, in early August, the delay was due to the file being really big. Today an expert report has yet to be received that was expected by the end of the month. In August 2010, the office dog will be blamed for eating the CJBs file, which was totally done, and they were so just about to make an announcement, but that darn dog.
Paul Boyd, an animator, died after being shot multiple times by VPD officers. He apparently had a chain with him, and accounts vary about whether the chain was a bicycle combination lock or the chain that attaches to a crank on a bicycle.
We dont know how many times he was shot.
We dont know how many police officers shot him.
We dont even know what the official version of events is, was, or is expected to be beyond the VPD media lines released at the time of the shooting.
There has been no coroners inquest, despite the fact that one must be held, by law, because there has been no decision on the criminal aspects of the case. An inquest hasnt even been scheduled.
Witnesses who saw the incident two years ago will be expected to testify at both the inquest and any criminal trial that might need to be scheduled, whenever that would happen, if they can even remember what happened.
There has been no discipline for the involved officers, if that were required, because that, too, depends on the criminal assessment being complete. The involved officers are surely still on duty, including the police officer(s) whose conduct was so bizarre that it has taken two years for highly trained senior government prosecutors who specialize in criminal law to decide whether or not to proceed with criminal charges. Not a good sign.
Boyds family is now past the two-year limitation period to sue the involved officers personally, if that were appropriate and there were any point under B.C.s archaic wrongful death laws.
The Crown is now 18 months past the six-month summary offence limitation period to charge any involved officers with a less serious offence (the Canadian equivalent of a misdemeanor). That option is gone. Just the big sticks, indictable offences (Canadian felonies), remain as charging possibilities.
The Crown assessment in these matters is always: (1) Whether it is in the public interest to prosecute; and, (2) There is a reasonable possibility of conviction.
Kind of undermines ones confidence, doesnt it, to know that delay on the part of the Crown could form part of the basis for deciding not to go ahead?
All of the witnesses are known. All of the shooters are known. All of the ballistics are available. How much coin flipping can be going on at CJB HQ?
Heads is charge, tails is dont charge.
Wait, what did you say heads was? Lets start again.
David Eby is executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
He is also a blogger on the Vancouver Suns Community of Interest blog.