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Posts from the ‘Law enforcement’ Category

Frank Elsner, Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins

On August 24, 2015 at 9:30 am, Frank Elsner was scheduled to testify at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in the matter of Bratzer v. Victoria Police Department. I was the complainant.  I had alleged eight instances of discrimination by my employer, all based on the protected ground of political belief.

Frank Elsner’s testimony was not voluntary on his part. I had obtained an “Order to Attend” from the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Central to Elsner’s testimony would have been questions from me about the acceptable boundaries of conduct by a police officer, including social media use.

I also wanted to know why he never modified or withdrew a restrictive set of orders issued by the previous police chief. These orders significantly curtailed my ability to use social media including Twitter. They also limited other off-duty activities such as publicly speaking about the need to reform cannabis laws in Canada. Finally, I wanted to ask him what the police board had done, if anything, to investigate my complaints of discrimination at VicPD.

On August 17, 2015, the human rights hearing began.

On August 19, 2015, Mayor Lisa Helps and Mayor Barb Desjardins learned about the Twitter exchanges and concerns that Elsner may have had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of one of his subordinates. (The source for this date is Chief Elsner’s own petition that he filed with the BC Supreme Court.)

On August 21, the two mayors notified the Police Complaints Commissioner via their lawyer and they asked to proceed with an internal discipline investigation. It appears that their intent was to proceed with a confidential investigation conducted by a lawyer (presumably with client-solicitor privilege) rather than an external public trust investigation.

On August 23, a new testimony date of August 27 at the human rights hearing was confirmed for Frank Elsner by the lawyer for VicPD.

August 28, 2015 was the last day in which new evidence was heard at the human rights hearing. In the end I decided not to call Chief Elsner to testify. Not knowing what had happened behind closed doors, instead I made the difficult choice to place a higher priority on other witnesses.

On September 8, 2015, one day before closing arguments in the human rights hearing, the Police Complaints Commissioner agreed to a less formal, internal discipline investigation of Elsner’s conduct. This decision was based, in part, on discussion Chief Elsner had that same day with the husband under his command. We now know that Chief Elsner deliberately misled this officer, as noted by Retired Judge Carol Baird Ellan in her finding of discreditable conduct:

The husband left the meeting under a false impression as to the nature of the conduct that was the subject of the investigation, and then informed the co-chairs, based on that, that he did not want an investigation. The investigation proceeded internally, in part because of the position taken by the husband.

On September 9, 2015, closing arguments were heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

I can say with certainty that had there been no coverup, and had Elsner instead been suspended pending an external public trust investigation, it would have led to a more truthful and just hearing at the BCHRT. It would have changed the questions I asked of witnesses, some of whom were executive-level police officers at VicPD. I certainly would have required Chief Elsner to testify. And it would have strengthened and clarified my closing argument. One can imagine how difficult it would have been for the Department lawyer to justify why my off-duty use of Twitter needed to be restricted or prohibited, had the chief constable himself been suspended at that time regarding allegations about his own use of Twitter.

Ultimately, five of the eight allegations were upheld by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, resulting in the largest “injury to dignity” award for political belief discrimination in Canadian history.

Fast forward several years. I still do not know whether the police board ever assigned someone to investigate my concerns of discrimination when the complaint was first filed back in early 2013. (If an investigator was assigned, they certainly never contacted me for an interview or to ask clarifying questions.) And to this day, neither Mayor Lisa Helps, Mayor Barb Desjardins or any other member of the police board has ever spoken to me about the discrimination that I endured.

IIO BC announces plan to release concluded IIO files back to the police departments they are tasked with investigating

Imagine you are falsely suspected of having committed a criminal offence at your workplace. A law enforcement agency diligently looks into the matter for six months (or longer).  During this time a shadow hangs over your professional reputation. At the conclusion of the investigation, you are cleared of any wrongdoing. But then, for “training purposes” and “self-improvement,” the constable decides to give your employer a copy of the police investigation.

It sounds like a lawsuit in the making, doesn’t it? Yet this is what the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia is now promising to do:

Surrey – The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) today announces that it accepts the jury’s recommendations in the B.C. Coroner Service’s inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of Phuong Na (Tony) Du in Vancouver, on November 22, 2014.

The first recommendation is that the IIO should automatically release its files to the involved police service agency at the conclusion of the IIO investigation. This will help the police agency determine whether any of its existing practices, procedures, or policies should be changed or improved.

The IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald is committed to releasing IIO investigative files to the appropriate agency at the conclusion of each matter, subject to potential privacy and other related issues.

The word trust gets thrown around a lot these days. But I do wonder if this new approach has the potential to undermine public trust in the IIO BC:

  1. What is the likelihood that some witnesses will refuse to talk to the IIO, knowing that the IIO investigation is going to be handed over to the police?
  2. Will a police officer still be candid and honest in an interview with the IIO, knowing that his boss is going to get a copy of the IIO’s investigation?
  3. How does the IIO ever hope to pursue criminal charges in old cases that develop fresh evidence, when they have already handed their investigative materials over to the police agency they were investigating?
  4. Who actually gets a copy of the IIO BC investigation? The police board? The police chief?  Professional standards?  The subject officer’s direct supervisor?  The subject officer? The witness officers?
  5. What kind of obligations does this place on the receiving police agency? Once the IIO investigation is handed over to the police agency, will they be subject to FIPPA requests? What about the discovery of documents in civil lawsuits? What about McNeil disclosure?
  6. Why is the IIO planning to reveal its investigative techniques to the police agencies that it investigates?
  7. Why does the IIO believe it is ok to criminally investigate someone for their actions and then hand a copy of the investigation to their employer?
  8. Given the above, will police agencies have the option of refusing to accept delivery of investigative files from the IIO?

This is new territory. Perhaps there is a way to make it work. Stay tuned for further developments.

An open letter to Marci Ien about racial profiling

This is an open letter to CTV’s award-winning broadcaster and talkshow host Marci Ien. It was written in response to her misleading claim that she was racially profiled by police. I’m not the author. It was posted to Craigslist Toronto yesterday and signed by Richard Huggins. This document is the first I’ve seen that truly conveys how much hurt and damage has been caused by Ms. Ien’s allegations.  Here is an excerpt:

Dear Marci Ien,

As a police officer who is mixed with Caribbean and European ancestry I’m curious to know what your opinion is on a “person of colour” (as you put it), who is also a police officer. Reading your account of what I considered to be a routine and frankly quite boring traffic stop (though having a door open on a car I was approaching may cause my heart to skip a beat); I was baffled as to how you were able to build this up into an issue of racism.

I was born in Toronto, and though life has pulled me away, my family still lives in Toronto and it will always be home. You’ve mentioned the “Black Community”, and I’m curious to know who exactly that community consists of. Does it include people with mixed ancestries? Blacks who are police officers? Is your Black community restricted to the confines of the Greater Toronto Area, or does it stretch coast to coast? If it includes all of these, I would like to know what your thoughts are on the many police officers “of colour” working in our diverse police agencies across the country. I can assure you, you do not speak for us, nor do you have the right to imply that you represent us. Police officers aside, I have spoken with many other people of colour who share the belief that you do not speak for them. So please stop. openmind_heather_mallick

I’m concerned about the possible damage your story has had on the youth and new immigrants to our country (who may be fleeing violence from police in their own countries), if your opinionated story is read as fact. Your position as a well-known journalist seems to have allowed your opinion to be taken as fact by many people. Your recent article presents a story through only one lens, and that is one of racism. As you are a journalist in this country I would argue you have a greater responsibility to present facts from multiple lenses. But perhaps journalism has changed in this country and it’s no longer required to thoroughly investigate a situation. Don’t get me wrong you are able to express your opinion, but as a journalist your delivery can play a crucial role on how it is received (as fact or opinion).

Some people think that because someone is the loudest, they must be correct. This is simply not true and can also lead to social injustices when people are judged too early without facts being uncovered. There are several “loud” people who are simply uneducated. Yet people seem to hear them more often because of how loud they shout their opinion. If you hear an uncontested opinion long enough it begins to sound like fact.

If your only tool is a hammer, it’s likely that you will view all your problems as nails. This is similar to looking at a situation through a “racism lens”. If you’re looking at a situation from the belief that it is stemmed by racism, then the result will be that you connect all your experiences in that situation to racism.

If you choose to educate yourself on policing in this country you’d find that the racism problem, which is so loudly spoken of, is not what you think. I’m hoping that this letter gives you, or anyone else who feels like reading it, a better understanding of your interaction.

Based on your article, it is clear to me that you are not educated on the roles and actions of police officers. This does not mean you yourself are not educated, but that your experience in situations like these is minimal or has been misunderstood because of the lens you are viewing it through. I don’t blame you for your lack of education in situations like these. I think many people have similar fears and misunderstandings around police operations. I know I did before I was a police officer. It came from a lack of education. Perhaps nobody is to blame for this or perhaps everyone is to blame. One could argue that our society takes minimal efforts to educate people on interacting with police. Others could argue that there is nothing stopping individuals from educating themselves on specific topics. I think it’s a mixture of both.

When I was briefly a School Liaison Officer, I developed a short program to deliver to high school students. I explained the various roles police had in a Canadian society and ways to interact with police so that the interaction was smooth for both parties. It was no surprise to me that a lot of the misconceptions students had around police came from movies, television shows and American news agencies. I can not stress enough that most movies and television shows depict an inaccurate account of policing.

We also do not have the same culture as the United States, but students would often quote American terminology or American stories for recent examples of police conflict. Again, it’s hard to fault the students for these beliefs. When lacking experience, many people seem to resort to what they’ve seen on television, when forming their beliefs. If we’re flooding our brains with Hollywood movies or the problems of another culture, it’s easy to get confused.

I would like to give some insight as to what may be going through a police officer’s head. Remember I cannot speak for all police officers. Each police officer is different with their own experiences, styles, strengths and weaknesses, but this may help with a broader view.

The most dangerous situation for a police officer to be in is while conducting a traffic stop. Most police calls involve someone giving the officers information on what they’re being called to, and who’s involved. This is often not the case for a traffic stop. Most of the time the license plates will match the vehicle and the driver will have a valid driver’s license and are able to provide their correct information (Routine Stop). However there are times when none of these add up and the officer is in danger. The officer does not know the stop is routine for certain until the interaction is finished.

Let’s look at your interaction…

Please follow this link to view the remainder of Richard Huggins’ letter. It is worth reading every word. One can only hope that Shree Paradkar, Heather Mallick, Scott Laurie and others who have condoned Ms. Ien’s attention-seeking behaviour will take the time to do so.

Racial profiling: Does Marci Ien at CTV News have any credibility?

Marci Ien recently wrote an essay in the Globe & Mail, claiming she had been racially profiled during a traffic stop by the Toronto Police. Her key allegations are:

  • It was Sunday evening and she was driving home
  • A police officer pulled her over just as she arrived at her house
  • She got out of her car to approach the officer and ask what he was doing
  • He told her to get back in her car (twice)
  • The officer approached her vehicle and she opened her door
  • He told her to close the door and roll down the window
  • The police officer told her she was being recorded
  • The police officer told her she had rolled through a flashing red light
  • The officer went back to his cruiser with her driver’s license & registration
  • She felt powerless and frustrated
  • When the officer returned he gave her a warning
  • She demanded he take specific enforcement action: “If I’ve done something wrong give me the ticket. I’m prepared to pay it.”
  • She told him this was the third time she had been pulled over in eight months
  • She attempted to engage him in conversation about racial profiling
  • The police officer politely bid her goodnight and left.

What Marci fails to disclose is that she has a history of manipulative behaviour, road rage, poor driving, speeding and getting pulled over. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Marci Ien. It was published by the Globe & Mail on December 29, 2005:

Ien confesses she likes speed sometimes. She has been stopped by police a few times, but nailed only once. Her secret: “I flash them a smile. I don’t know if it’s the Marci Ien thing, but it’s like, ‘Did you know you were going . . .?’ Yes, I did. I won’t do it again. ‘Okay, that’s fine.’

“My husband always makes fun of me because he goes, ‘I can’t get away with that. Guys don’t get away with that!’ But women, you know, sometimes you have to do what you have to do,” she says, flashing her trademark pearly whites.

After Blaize was born, Ien temporarily adopted a new driving style.

“I was travelling with my little girl and she was in her car seat and I was coming out of a strip mall and waiting to make a left turn. There was a car behind me and I was being extra cautious. I had a newborn in the car. Traffic was heavy and I was probably waiting a good two minutes.

“The person behind me started to get upset, thinking I should have gone a long time ago so they started to honk. I was so upset. I literally turned off the ignition, holding the keys in a rage, I went up to her and then told her off. ” ‘I have a newborn in the car so I’m being a little extra cautious, if you don’t mind!’ ” she says, the tone of her voice escalating. “The poor woman looked so scared. And then she said to me, ‘I’m so sorry, of course you should.’ And then said, ‘Aren’t you Marci Ien? I watch you every morning.’

“It was awful. I was so upset. It was really embarrassing,”

Marci was 36 years old when this interview was published. Old enough to know better. She is now 48 years old. As an award-winning journalist with CTV News, Marci Ien wields a national megaphone. This week she used that megaphone to make serious accusations of racial profiling against the Toronto Police Service.

There is a credibility gap between her claims in the Globe & Mail this week, and the insights she provided into her temperament and behaviour in the same newspaper twelve years ago. The woman who accosted another driver in a rage is now surprised that a police officer, witnessing similar behaviour, would direct her back into her vehicle. The woman who boasted about speeding now claims she doesn’t understand why she keeps getting pulled over.  The journalist who bragged about using her looks to get out of traffic tickets now claims that not getting a ticket is a sign of racism.

I feel awful for the Toronto police officer who has been victimized by her attention-seeking behaviour.

UPDATE – Toronto Police Staff Superintendent Mario Di Tommaso has now publicly contradicted Marci Ien’s misleading claims:

Note: The opinions expressed on this blog are my own, and do not represent the views of my employer or any other organization.

CHEK News – Insensitive and Gratuitous

Most journalists work in their profession for noble reasons. Most of them intend to do the right thing. But sometimes – just like some police officers – they become jaded and numb to what they see on a regular basis. Media outlets are uniquely positioned in terms of their ability to inform millions of people. A gratuitous and insensitive decision by a journalist can lead to more grief and trauma, and foster a more cynical society.

The following has been submitted to the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council in relation to a CHEK News segment that was broadcast on September 11, 2017:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

I am writing to express my concern and disappointment regarding the decision by CHEK News to broadcast security camera footage of a fatal motorcycle collision.

The news clip even included a close up / enhanced replay showing [graphic description of collision removed].

The clip was broadcast on the 5pm news. No viewer advisory was shown before the clip. The clip currently remains on the CHEK News web site: [link removed]

Following the CHEK News broadcast, the police department investigating the collision took the rare and unusual step of publicly criticizing CHEK News by posting the following message on Twitter:

@Saanich Police: “Can’t believe you obtained the video & then aired the death of someone on your newscast. Insensitive to the #yyj family, friends & coworkers”

I wish to echo the concerns expressed by the Saanich Police Department.  It is one thing to show the aftermath of a collision, it is another matter entirely to broadcast the serious injury or death of a motorcyclist on the air.

I note that in a decision released earlier this year, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council determined that a violent sci-fi show should be broadcast at 9pm instead of 8pm. The CBSC also determined that the show required viewer advisories. I would respectfully suggest that the same criteria – at a minimum – should apply to a community television station that wishes to broadcast the death of a real person who lived in that very same community.

I believe that CHEK News violated the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993):

6.1 Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.

6.2 Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.

6.3 Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.

Please note that I am submitting this complaint as a concerned citizen. These are my own personal views and they do not represent the official views of any organization or employer.

Thank you,

David Bratzer