Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Heads we win, tails you lose

In 2008, the federal Department of Justice and senior RCMP officers considered boycotting the Braidwood Inquiry into the homicide of Robert Dziekanski.

Based on internal emails obtained through FOI, the Vancouver Sun reported that RCMP Chief Superintendent Richard (Dick) Bent, E Division Deputy Criminal Operations Officer, discussed concerns about participating in the Inquiry with the RCMP's second-in-command in Ottawa. Bent claimed that part of him wanted to be transparent and cooperative but said there was a larger issue of jurisdiction. He also said that Paul Kennedy, the allegedly independent Police Complaints Commissioner, agreed that the province had no authority to investigate or hold inquiries into federal departments.

However, the top Mountie in BC, Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, wrote, "Frankly, I don't care what Ottawa's position on it is at this stage. The provincial force will co-operate." In an internal e-mail with that statement, Bass wrote: "I think we should avoid any legalistic jargon which leaves any room for suggestion that we may opt out at some point or under some circumstances."

Media spokesperson Tim Shields added it is the B.C. RCMP's policy to participate in any provincial inquiry it is asked to attend. "…We have a moral duty to be transparent, open and accountable to the citizens of British Columbia."

Today, we learned that the Braidwood Inquiry has served notice of possible misconduct findings to each of the four RCMP officers involved in Dziekanski's death. In response, RCMP lawyers filed an action in BC Supreme Court, arguing that jurisdictional issues should prevent Braidwood from making any findings of misconduct against the officers.

So, in another test of sincerity, despite the instruction of Deputy Commissioner Bass, the RCMP has now recognized circumstances that require it to opt out of the "moral duty to be transparent, open and accountable." They will say this is not our choice, it's a move of lawyers defending individual officers. That defense will ring hollow because the RCMP pays for this court action aimed at preventing honest and complete reporting to the public. Citizens can't hear the truth and will pay for its suppression. Good deal for some people.

I wonder how police would react if a common criminal stated, "I won't show up for trial unless not guilty is the only possible verdict."

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UPDATE - June 9 2009

CBC News reports at 8:17 PM:

Sgt. Tim Shields, the RCMP's official spokesman in B.C., said . . .

"The position of the RCMP is that the RCMP will co-operate fully with the inquiry and is also recognizing the jurisdiction of the inquiry as having authority," Shields told the CBC's Terry Milewski.

Asked why the lawyers for the four men were arguing the contrary, Shields said: "These lawyers are representing the four officers; they're not representing the RCMP."

While Shields acknowledged the lawyers are paid for by taxpayers, the force itself has no power to stop them from contradicting RCMP policy.

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The response by the RCMP was predicted here last night.

Shields claims the police force has no power over conduct of the lawyers they are paying. However, video witness Grant Fredericks' late appearance at the Braidwood Inquiry, without advance notice, was justified because he could not begin analysis until the RCMP approved funding. Now, we are asked to believe that the RCMP exercises purse strings control for some things but not others. Of course, police management was taken by surprise with this development. Right?

In fact, during the entire Dziekanski affair, each time the RCMP has been challenged to choose between honorable action or devious and disingenuous behavior, honor has been given last place.

The National Post got it right when it editorialized:

"To argue the validity of the Braidwood jurisdiction at the last possible moment is tantamount to a person walking out on a game when he faces checkmate on his next move."

The Globe and Mail concludes:

"Sadly, the attempt to muzzle is consistent with the RCMP's practice of denial, obfuscation and falsification ever since Mr. Dziekanski's needless death."

Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun writes:

"No wonder the Mounties are trying to dilute Braidwood's report before he gets a chance to write it.

In doing so, however, they have revealed themselves for what we had grown to suspect after their testimony: They are cowards who even today are afraid to face the music.

They also have revealed their better-late-than-never apologies issued during the inquiry to be more insincere than even cynics suggested.

How can they possibly defend this attempt to derail a disinterested inquiry into a tragedy that has captured global attention?

If these officers had such serious constitutional qualms about Braidwood's jurisdiction and questions about his authority, they should have raised them before they took the stand and shocked the world with their incredible testimony.

This latest manoeuvre to forestall the inevitable is tawdry."
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