Saturday, August 02, 2008

See No Evil, Hear No Evil - Do...Apparently Nothing

The Calgary Police Commission has found a way to metaphorically kick itself in the groin as evidenced by comments from the Commission chairman regarding the recent resolution of the outrageously long-lived citizen complaint of one Nancy Killian-Constant:

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/city/story.html?id=df016465-b504-4301-89ca-fd696e9a2091&p=1

Now, let me be fair here...Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson has demonstrated tremendous skill and judgment in bringing this matter to a close in such a way that has prompted the complainant to state that she is, "...inspired and impressed with the Calgary Police Service."

Chief Hanson has demonstrated that by doing what ought to have been done right from the outset - apologizing and taking responsibility for what was at best police incompetence in an unlawful tactical entry of an innocent family home - even very bad mistakes can be forgiven.

But the feel-good nature of a Chief of Police making amends for the behaviour of his officers - which included highly suspect notebook alterations and a memo regarding same being exchanged at the upper management levels of the service - does not allow the Calgary Police Commission to join in the accolades.

The Calgary Police Commission is supposed to be an independent civilian watchdog which holds the Calgary Police Service accountable:

http://www.calgarypolice.ca/about/commission.html


Well, it may have civilian members, but this case makes the Commission look neither independent nor like a watchdog...maybe the "oversight" they talk about in their mission statement to them means failing to look at the Calgary Police Service as opposed to monitoring it?

Let me highlight just what I mean.

The Calgary Police Service has fought long and hard for 8 years against the efforts of Ms. Killian- Constant and her family to get justice for being victimized by the absolute rudder-less ship that was the group of sworn police officers who violated their home.

This long battle was waged by the Calgary Police Service notwithstanding that there was never any legitimate dispute that they messed up huge when they obtained and executed a dynamic entry search warrant for a drug operation that didn't exist based on an unverified tip from an individual who was feuding with the Killian-Constant family at the time.

Where was the oversight of the Calgary Police Commission during those 8 years? Why were the independent citizens not intervening and making then Chief Jack Beaton and the officers involved take responsibility? Why were the victims being victimized again?

Why was the Calgary Police Service given free reign to apply to the Law Enforcement Review Board asking for $15,000.00 in legal costs to be paid by Killian-Constant due to her "frivolous and vexatious" pursuit of her claims of wrongdoing only to a couple of years later have the Calgary Police Service enter into a secret settlement agreement with the family, topped cherry-like by a public apology from the Chief of Police?

The Calgary Police Service was either wrongly fighting the battle then, or they have wrongly thrown in the towel now...I think that the citizens of Calgary are entitled to know which it is.

For its part, the Calgary Police Commission had this to say:

Calgary police commission chairman Denis Painchaud said the Killian Constant case also highlighted the need for better public oversight of the police.


"Obviously, you have to give a lot of credit to Miss Constant and their family. They were persistent, courageous and diligent," he said. "It was frustrating for us, but hats off to her for staying with it because, at the end, everybody learned from this."


What?!?!?!

Well, who does the Commission think ought to take the blame for there not having been "better public oversight"? And now what the service called frvolous and vexatious (which the LERB agreed with) is called persistence, courage and dilligence which is deserving of "alot of credit"? Take our ceremonial white hats off to Nancy for "staying with it"..."it" presumably referring to the previously-dubbed frivolous and vexatious complaints?

This doublespeak is truly remarkable for its level of absurdity.

And who is the "us" that were frustrated by Ms. Killian-Constant? See, if she was right about the improper police conduct (as the Commission chair suggests in his thanking her for the learning experience) then why would the Police Commission be frustrated by that? Again, the perception is that the Commission has aligned itself in its identity with that of the Police Service...rather than as its watchdog.

In my view, while this settlement represents a positive for the individual complainants, it does nothing to garner public confidence in the citizen complaint system...it does just the opposite. How many average citizens would have the financial and emotional resources to pursue their righteous cause through 8 years of hell? What if the police service doesn't give up so easily next time?

No, it seems to me that we are the point where if you want police accountability, go get it yourself...I mean, let's face it, that's exactly what Nancy Killian-Constant did. Did the office of the Chief of Police provide it? No. The Calgary Police Commission? Hardly. The Law Enforcement Review Board? Well, I guess we'll never know since those proceedings were ended by the settlement.

And sadly, we are not alone in this state of official police non-accountability:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=506a36a6-bbc2-4f8a-a941-46d2a1d0b85c

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society will no longer refer people claiming to have been wrongfully abused by Vancouver police to the office of the police complaint commissioner.


In the past, both organizations would help people make complaints to the OPCC, but that process didn't work, policy directors for both groups said Thursday.
"The system is broken. People don't have confidence in the process and they feel they aren't being treated fairly," said the B.C. Civil Liberties Association's Michael Vonn.

...

While the boycott is in place, Pivot and the civil liberties association will process allegations against the police through small claims court.

Five such claims have been launched by Pivot within the past year, said King. Two were settled out of court while in July 2007 a third resulted in a successful action against a police officer for unlawful detention with a judgment of $5,500 being awarded, he said. Two of the cases are still to be dealt with, he said.


"There have been monetary settlements and we feel that when a judge makes a ruling -- and it's public -- then the police department will take the incidents a lot more seriously and dish out more appropriate punishment to the officers," said King.


I can't disagree with that.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, it makes one wonder what other matters of a similiar nature the Police Commission has failed in their mandate to over see.
I think there is much that happened under the former Chief jack Beaton that if it ever came to light it would shake the publics confidence in the Calgary Police Service to the core.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings,

We are making a film about the CPS and all their scandal over the last ten years and the blue wall of silence.

Would you be interested in giving your point of view on film. We would love your insight and interview in this film, because you are a lawyer, you look camera ready and as I read you are articulate...

Please respond,

Lance
lrattie@netscape.net

2:05 AM  

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