Monthly Archives: September 2016

Charges against RCMP Constable Ace Stewart in Killing of Five-Year-Old James McIntosh

In a rare instance in the Canadian state context, charges have been brought against RCMP Constable Ace Jimmy Stewart for the killing of five-year-old James McIntosh in Penticton, British Columbia on September 15, 2015. The charges come following an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency tasked with examining all cases of police harm to civilians in the province, almost a year after James McIntosh was killed. Constable Stewart struck James McIntosh with his vehicle while the child was riding his bike in an intersection along with his father and brother. The officer was off duty at the time. Constable Stewart has been charged with driving without due care and attention, under the Motor Vehicle Act. His first court appearance is scheduled to for October 12, 2016 in Penticton.

While the laying of charges is welcomed by many, and represents an almost unheard of decision in cases of police killings of civilians in Canada, it does not mean a conviction will follow, despite the evidence, as the recent acquittal of killer cop Remo Romano in Ontario shows. It may be the charges came in this case because a child was involved or because the officer was off duty (and thus the force can distance this killing from the formal policing role).


Anonymous No More: The RCMP Killing of Anonymous Activist James McIntyre (Activists Killed by Cops Series)

The first decades of the twenty-first century have seen new strategies and tactics of social resistance and activism. Among these have been the largely online actions of groupings like Anonymous, a decentered manifestation of people using online strategies and tactics to confront real world injustices. A global phenomenon Anonymous has inspired and involved activists in the Canadian context as well. While Anonymous is viewed as an online grouping its members live and organize in specific locales where they are active in their communities working on issues of social and environmental justice. And it is in such locales that some have been killed by police and security forces. Such was the case of James McIntyre, a 48 year-old man shot and killed by RCMP, an Anonymous activist who was protesting a destructive BC Hydro megaproject, the Site C Dam. Wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, a popular mask worn during protests, McIntyre, who worked as a dishwasher at a local restaurant in Dawson Creek, was claimed by Anonymous as a comrade. In response to McIntyre’s killing the online activists promised actions against the RCMP and the agency’s national website went down on Sunday, July 19.

McIntyre, a Métis man, who expressed concern for the land and opposition to destructive development projects was described by his cousin Keith LaRiviere as sharing a deep concern for “the soil and our ancestral values” (Trumpener 2016a). McIntyre was opposed to the Site C dam project which is understood by Indigenous communities to be an assault on the land as well as a destroyer of culture and a threat to communities. For McIntyre, as for many activists, the project is simply another example of state and business acting in pursuit of shared interests in profit against the health and wellbeing of nature and Indigenous communities. According to LaRiviere, McIntyre was worried impact of the Site C dam on local Indigenous communities and landowners (Trumpener 2016a).

This killing by RCMP occurred in a twenty-first century context in which much concern has been raised about police violence and repression against protesters, particularly those who oppose environmentally harmful projects. Earlier in 2015 the Canadian government passed new legislation giving police institutions increased powers under a rubric of “anti-terrorism.” This is also a context of growing mobilization, organizing, and activism against ongoing colonialism and for Indigenous sovereignty and against ecological crisis and climate change.

 

The Killing of James McIntyre

On Thursday, July 15, 2015 RCMP officers in Dawson Creek, B.C. shot and killed a man, later identified as James Daniel McIntyre. McIntyre was killed while standing outside of a local restaurant, the Fixx Urban Grill, where a BC Hydro open house on the contentious Site C dam project was being held. Police were responding to calls about disruptive behavior involving another man but encountered McIntyre instead, shooting him after minimal engagement. The incident was at least partly recorded by a witness, Mike Irmen.

Initial reports suggested James McIntyre was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask at the time he was shot. The Guy Fawkes mask (representing the English rebel involved in a plot to blow up parliament) has become a popular and recognizable symbol of protest, particularly as the public symbol of hacktivist grouping Anonymous. The mask has been adopted by activists since its appearance in the popular film V for Vendetta a futuristic, dystopian movie about anti-corporate activism based on the graphic novel of the same title penned by the anarchist Allan Moore. Curiously, McIntyre’s sister, Wanda McIntyre suggested afterward that her brother disliked wearing masks. In her recollection: “He didn’t really like masks. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he didn’t pursue his welding (career), just that claustrophobia of having something on your face. I know that he had a mask that I ordered for him [a Phantom of the Opera Halloween costume]. That’s the only mask I knew he had” (quoted in Wakefield 2016). While there has been no formal confirmation, witness accounts suggested the mask was a Guy Fawkes mask and this would fit with McIntyre’s identification with Anonymous.

Before the protest James McIntyre tweeted from his twitter account @jaymack9:

“Ready 4 our little showdown? Our people r going 2 b in place at that meeting in Dawson Creek(BC Hydro).”

— jay mack (@jaymack9) July 16, 2015

As in other cases, police first gave priority to restraining McIntyre in handcuffs, as he lay dying, rather than offer any medical assistance.

The Independent Investigations Office initially reported, apparently following police, that the man who caused the disturbance at the Site C dam event was McIntyre. Yet it was afterward revealed that McIntyre was not the man who caused the disturbance that apparently led to police being called in the first place. It appears too that police had a mistaken assumption about McIntyre when they encountered him, believing him to be the person who had acted out during the event in the restaurant. This sort of misidentification is a common occurrence in many cases of police causing harm to civilians leading officers to believe someone poses a threat they do not pose and reacting with higher levels of aggression or violence. There is an assumption in such cases that force must be deployed immediately and police act in a prejudicial way in confronting a non-threatening victim.

No further details have been given or clarification offered regarding what threat, if any McIntyre might have posed. For example, it is not clear why, if he posed a threat, no one viewed it as serious enough to point out beforehand or to contact police, while police were contacted simply for someone being loud and apparently wrecking some displays at the meeting. No details have been provided publicly even to clarify how police came to target McIntyre or what led matters to move quickly to a killing by police.

Police claim they took appropriate steps to de-escalate the encounter. Yet witnesses reported hearing only screaming by police and suggested the encounter was fairly brief before police shot the victim.

There has been no independent confirmation that McIntyre carried or displayed an actual knife at the time police encountered him. The IIO did conclude that a knife was at the scene but did not confirm its connection to James McIntyre. Nor has there been any information provided publicly by police or witnesses to suggest that if McIntyre had a knife he used it in a threatening manner toward police or moved in a threatening way toward the officers.

The man who actually disrupted the Site C event later came forward as Terry Hadland, a Peace Valley wheat farmer who has opposed Site C for decades. He reported that he did not know McIntyre and had not even met the young man prior to the event at Fixx Urban Grill. Yet he now feels a debt to the young man killed in a police intervention meant for him. According to Hadland: “(McIntyre) created a diversion so I could get away. He stepped up and took that shot for me, that’s for sure” (quoted in Wakefield 2016). A terrible and stark realization. And why should anyone be executed by police simply for protesting environmental harm and destruction and in defense of land and communities?

A year after the RCMP killing of James McIntyre and the initiation of the IIO investigation, Terry Hadland says he has never been interviewed by investigators from any service. With disbelief he says: “They have never gotten ahold of me. No, never” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b). Hadland finds this particularly strange given that his actions in tearing up maps and tipping tables triggered the call to RCMP that would result in McIntyre’s killing. In Hadland’s account: “I triggered the whole darn thing because I didn’t want Hydro to get away with smooching up to the public” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b).

After being escorted from the meeting Hadland reported getting in his care and driving directly home. He only heard about the killing the following day. The news hit him hard. In his recollection: “Oh, I was devastated. I felt awfully guilty. I could hardly believe that … it was surreal, especially as I began to realize it was me they were out for” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b).

The lack of any interview with Hadland was not for his lack of trying to provide one. Upon hearing of the killing of McIntyre Hadland says he immediately rushed over to the Dawson Creek RCMP Detachment and spoke with an officer for around 20 minutes (Trumpener 2016b). In his telling: “I said, ‘look it, you guys have been duped, because I didn’t do anything down there for you to go down there and shoot somebody” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b).

Incredibly the police wanted to hear none of what he had to say. He remembers vividly that the police “patted me on the back and sent me home” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b). Police tried to present McIntyre, who had given some cover to Hadland as a threat to him. In classic fear panic language RCMP claimed: “It’s a good thing you were there because maybe this guy was really dangerous. And if you hadn’t been there, and a 911 call made, maybe something else would have happened” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b). This is a revealing commentary and it shows the “us versus them” view of the world in which everyone is a dangerous threat or a victim that so strictly frames police perspectives and impels their often lethal actions.

Terry Hadland still has no idea why he has been neither charged for his actions that evening nor interviewed despite his efforts to have his account heard. He says: “I haven’t heard a word. The investigation, I don’t think it can be thorough until they have spoken to me, and they haven’t” (quoted in Trumpener 2016b).

The long-time Site C opponent, who describes himself as a technically challenged old farmer says he has had no association with Anonymous and did not know McIntyre. Sadly, he acknowledges: “But we are now linked forever, he and I” (quoted in Trumpener 2016).

While still under investigation by the IIO for killing McIntyre, the RCMP undertook a separate investigation of McIntyre. They searched his apartment and seized a variety of personal items. For some reason these included model trains according to Veronica McIntyre. The RCMP E Division did not provide any comment on the status of that investigation in response to inquiries from journalists.

Another Anonymous tweet, from Anarcho Anon, on the Saturday following McIntyre’s killing reported that the apartment at which his family lived was raided by police following the shooting. Police claimed that that raid was unrelated. They offered no explanation about why the raid was carried out so close in time to the killing of James McIntyre or what it involved.

The IIO has refused to identify the officers involved in the shooting. Unlike cases of police killings of civilians in the United States, in the Canadian state context police officers who kill are rarely, if ever, identified publicly. Only in cases in which charges are formally brought by the Crown, which are also extremely rare, will officers be named. This is an issue that critics of police brutality and advocates for greater accountability have long raised.

IIO spokesperson Kellie Kilpatrick has stated that the IIO has not dealt with a case with “as many moving parts and changing landscapes as this one” (quoted in Bein 2015). Kilpatrick suggests that the shooting of James McIntyre is one of the most difficult cases the IIO has ever examined. In her words: “This is the first time that we’ve had such a significant change in the information we’re reporting” (quoted in Baluja 2015). Yet apart from the facts of misinformation from police about McIntyre’s conduct at the event and the misidentification of another person who was the actual reason police were called to the scene, Kilpatrick has not said why the case is so difficult.

The officer who shot McIntyre was reportedly assigned to administrative duties, returning to active duty after a period of six months. An April 7 letter from the Ministry of Public Safety that appeared in a Dawson Creek city council agenda noted that three officers took off-duty sick leave after the shooting Wakefield 2015). The Dawson City RCMP has a total of 25 members.

 

A Climate Change Disaster and Threat to Indigenous Communities: Site C

The Site C dam project is a BC Hydro megaproject planned for development in the Peace River Valley in northeastern British Columbia. The proposed 60 meter high mega dam at Site C would flood more than 100 km of the river valley. In addition to the obvious immediate impacts of flooding critics point to the risks of landslides as banks of the reservoir erode with the passage of time. The Site C dam would be the third dam in the valley, added to two existing dams on the Peace River. A major investment for industrial capital the Site C dam project is valued at $8.8 billion.

The Peace River Valley is the home of Treaty 8 First Nations, their hunting, fishing, and trapping grounds. The area is one of the most significant wildlife corridors in the migration corridor from Yellowstone to Yukon (Wilderness Committee n.d.). It is also the site of important old growth boreal forests. The development of the Site C project represents a direct threat, an assault really, on Indigenous communities, cultures, lives, and survival.

The land under threat of flooding is also among the most important agricultural land in northern British Columbia. It is noted for having the only class one soil north of Quesnel (Wilderness Committee n.d.). Many farms will be destroyed if the project goes through. The destruction of such significant agricultural land has raised serious concerns in a period of growing encroachment on agricultural lands. This concern is added to broader concerns about food security particularly for Indigenous communities, and given the destruction of wildlife habitat and food sources on which Indigenous people rely. The project will also submerge valuable carbon sinks (Wilderness Committee n.d.). Mainstream environmentalist David Suzuki has identified the Site C project as a climate change disaster (quoted in Prystupo 2016).

The British Columbia Liberal government claims that it needs the energy provided by Site C to meet provincial needs. Yet this is a political claim. The needs being met are not those of local or provincial residents (regular individual civilians) but rather the desires of multinational capital in the province. In particular the project is about meeting the energy demands of extractives industries, the oil, gas, and mining companies. BC Hydro reports conclude that current demands can be met through energy conservation. Attention can also be given to alternative energy forms. Site C is a public subsidy to the extractives companies. As the Wilderness Committee puts it: “It’s an $8 billion taxpayer subsidy to a dirty fossil fuel industry that needs cheap energy to expand” (n.d.). Incredibly, the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel found that not only was the need for the electricity to be generated by the project not clearly demonstrated but the alternatives to the project had not been assessed. Critics suggest that they were not even considered because the interest is not in meeting residential demands but rather is solely concerned with industrial demands of corporations.

Site C was granted environmental assessment approval by the governments of British Columbia and Canada on October 14, 2014. This despite the fact that the Joint Review Panel concluded that Site C would cause irreparable damage to local First Nations communities and fish and wildlife populations (Wilderness Committee n.d.). The BC Liberal government approved construction of the dam on December 16, 2014.

As the prospects of legal challenges from multiple constituencies arose the Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark stated, in anti-democratic fashion, her intention to get construction on the dam “to the point of no return” before a political election in May 2017 could lead to a change in government and possible repeal of the project. BC Hydro has estimated that by the time of the election around $4 billion of construction contracts will be locked in place (Hunter 2016). As of September 2016, construction has moved well along despite opposition.

Scholars and scientists have also raised grave concerns about the Site C project, in terms of environmental impacts and in terms of government obligations to seek and achieve informed consent from Indigenous communities prior to any possible development and to meet Treaty obligations more broadly. In May of 2016 more than 200 high profile Canadian scholars signed a letter expressing their deep concerns about the Site C approval process. The elite Royal Society of Canada wrote a separate letter directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on the federal government to halt construction on the project. The letter from “Concerned Scientists” outlined their intersecting concerns in the following language: “Our assessment is that this process did not accord with the commitments of both the provincial and federal governments to reconciliation with and legal obligations to First Nations, protection of the environment, and evidence-based decision-making with scientific integrity” (quoted in Cheadle 2016). The federal government rejected the appeal and the Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced that the government had “no intention to revisit the Site C environmental assessment” (quoted in McCarthy 2016).

The Treaty 8 First Nations from the Peace River Region are actively and courageously opposing the Site C project. They are defending their communities, cultures, land, and Treaty rights against interests of major multinational capital, local corporations, and provincial and federal governments in Canada. In April of 2016 BC Treaty 8 First Nations filed a legal challenge to the project with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Both the BC Treaty 8 First Nations and the Peace Valley Landowners’ Association have undertaken legal challenges to the project in the federal court of Canada. BC Hydro attempted to have these cases expedited to allow them to continue on their 2016 construction schedule. The court dismissed their request. Court challenges are also being brought by Alberta Treaty 8 First Nations. The Blueberry River First Nation has brought forward a “sweeping challenge” which gets to the heart of Canadian state and Indigenous relations in Canada. Their case cites “a century of broken treaty promises to be able to continue practicing their traditions on the land” (quoted in Gillis 2015).

These are some of the stakes in this important twenty-first century struggle. The battles over Site C raise current issues of colonialism and decolonization, land claims, Indigenous sovereignty, ecological integrity and climate change, and social justice. These are the issues that motivated James McIntyre to oppose the Site C project and to take an active stand in doing so. Inevitably these are the struggles that he put his life on the line for. In the support of government and corporate interests and against Indigenous, social, and ecological justice the RCMP were willing to kill. And did kill.

Keith LaRiviere has continued to act and speak out against the Site C dam since his cousin’s killing. LaRiviere has participated in protest events such as the Paddle for Peace, a canoe demonstration against Site C in 2016. And this matters to him, not only for James but for the land and community. In his view: “It’s not just a family issue, this is an environmental issue” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a). And it is an issue that has galvanized broad support in defense of the land and communities and against Site C. Against the community opposition the supporters of Site C are largely the state and capital.

This is a message that James McIntyre was working to get out. The RCMP silenced that particular voice but the message continues as has community organizing against Site C. As LaRiviere suggests: “He was worried about the Peace country being destroyed by another dirty project. If that’s Jim’s message, don’t stifle his voice” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a).

In response to the killing of McIntyre, BC Hydro postponed several scheduled job fairs for Site C that were to have been held in northern British Columbia that month. The postponed job fairs were scheduled for the communities of Chetwynd, Fort St. John, and Tumbler Ridge. They also said they would review their policies and procedures around public meetings. In public statement BC Hydro announced: “BC Hydro is currently evaluating its policies and procedures for public meetings. The postponement of the job fairs will give us time to complete this task…Our intent is to ensure the safety of our staff and members of the public” (quoted in CBC News 2015b). This move was viewed by many commentators and opponents of Site C alike really as a measure to keep opponents out and critical voices from being heard.

A moderate environmental group, the Wilderness Committee, also decided to cancel a protest planned for the week McIntyre was killed outside of BC Hydro’s Vancouver offices. This was a strange choice given that McIntyre was killed opposing a project the Wilderness Committee also opposes. A better option might have been to protest at an RCMP detachment in the Metro Vancouver area. That would have honored McIntyre’s commitment and sacrifice.

 

On Anonymity

Anonymity has become a marker of modern life in industrial capitalist society and the mass politics of liberal democracy. Anonymity is built right into the key structures and institutions of everyday life in modern capitalism. In work, people are anonymous producers playing a part that is often indistinct, general, replaceable, lacking the uniqueness of skilled, artisanal work. This is an aspect of the alienation from labor that Marx so famously addresses.

In politics, mass democracy renders political action, by definition, an anonymous, nameless, unidentifiable, indistinct activity behind a screen at a ballot box every four or five years. The political actor, rendered as a voter, is further made anonymous between elections in the mass regurgitation of incessant, nameless poll results.

In the urbanity of capitalist life, which has now, for the first time in human history, compelled most people on the planet to live in cities, residents live in close proximity to people they do not know, who do not know them, and experience literally thousands of anonymous interactions with people every year, from buying a newspaper, to getting on the bus, to attending a concert, to simply passing in the street.

Anonymity finds perhaps its most idiomatic or iconic moment in time spent online in which people can post intense, intimate feelings or thoughts in forms, such as online comments, twitter, or websites and blogs, which are strictly anonymous.

It is perhaps characteristic of the age and social structure of contemporary capitalism then that activism has taken the form of anonymity and the anonymous. Indeed, perhaps the most striking political formation or manifestation online is quite literally known as Anonymous. This makes sense both because the internet allows for anonymity but is also representative of the surveillance powers of the capitalist state and corporations that seek to destroy anonymity and name and identify anyone who goes against the state capitalist consensus of accumulation, exploitation, and compliance. Anonymity offers the activist the mask of secrecy and privacy that the state is so determined to deny.

Anonymous is the name of a decentered, loose affinity group of online activists and hackers. Their decentered nature means they are largely formless and structureless. As communications scholar and McGill University Professor Gabriella Coleman suggests: “Anonymous is a little bit hard to define, because it’s a collective name that anyone around the world can take” (quoted in Early Edition 2015).  They share mostly an action orientation and an identity, important narrative practices, and symbolism. It is a banner that can be adopted by diverse users as needs and circumstances arise (Shantz and Tomblin 2014).

By their nature in being an anonymous grouping that seeks privacy and avoidance of security their members are largely unknown, nameless, unidentifiable. Gabriella Coleman suggests that what is known of the demographics of the grouping places most of its members as youth between the ages of 15 and 35. Much of the demographic information known about Anonymous comes from those members who have been arrested. Thus, that information might say more about the people who are caught than about the broader participant group.

Anonymous provided James McIntyre an ideal expression for political action. It reflected his introverted nature and love of privacy. It reflected his preference of being alone, unidentified, rather than being a public figure or socially recognized. Keith LaRiviere identified his cousin’s major characteristics as “isolation and [a] huge brain” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a). This, it would seem are major characteristics of many who find affinity with, and/or act on behalf of, Anonymous. For LaRiviere: “Making a statement with that mask makes all the sense in the world to me for Jim, because he was alone in his life,” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a).

Anonymous activists approach activism through a mix of new and old tactics from denial of service attacks and hacks to whistleblowing or public shaming.  Coleman notes that Anonymous was initially known primarily as a prankster grouping gaining notoriety for internet pranks. Since 2008 they have turned to direct action and political campaigns, projects, and interventions. Among the issues they have become known for taking involve state or corporate intrusion on privacy, issues of censorship, opposition to surveillance, and matters of free speech.

With the emergence of Black Lives Matter and movements against police brutality since the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the group has actively supported civilians opposing police violence. Operation Ferguson provided support for protesters speaking out and mobilizing against the racist policing practices of the Ferguson force that killed Michael Brown. They have worked to see the names of officers involved in the killing of civilians released publicly. They have also brought attention on disruptive and interfering police officials and police association representatives who have operated to shield police who kill civilians or who eek to blame the victims. Since Ferguson this work has continued in cases involving police harm to civilians in the United States and Canada.

In terms of activism Anonymous has been most well-known for DDOS, or distributed denial of service, attacks in which overwhelming traffic is directed to a target website causing the server to shut down. The site becomes inaccessible. This is a way to shut down an offending institution’s online venues and potentially cost money, supporters, and/or sponsors. Anonymous has also publicized confidential documents and publicized information in a form of whistleblowing to the public (Shantz and Tomblin 2014).

More recently the group has turned to doxing. This practice has been used to “out” offending individuals by releasing their names and private information such as phone numbers or home addresses. This particular tactic has been used in cases of police violence to name relevant officers involved. Anonymous usually follows through on its threats in cases like the policing killing of James McIntyre. Although it might be noted that the impact is usually one of publicity or shaming more than severe consequences for government or corporations. As Coleman suggests: “They don’t usually make a call and then do nothing. Many times they will exaggerate what they will do” (quoted in Early Edition 2015). In Coleman’s assessment, in a case like this the most credible and impactful threat would likely be doxing.

In one particularly significant action against Canadian government and security forces Anonymous took responsibility for shutting down the websites of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Canadian government’s spy agency, in an appeal for Canadians to oppose Bill C-51 in 2015. C-51 is a repressive piece of legislation that became law as the Anti-Terror Act of 2015. It contains provisions that give CSIS investigative powers, allow for the criminalization of so-called bad thoughts only (rather than terrorist actions), and allows for the criminalization of economic activity such as strikes, boycotts, or blockades. It also extends possibilities for criminalization of protests, particularly those against energy projects. The law also gives police additional powers to arrest people pre-emptively.

While primarily viewed as an online phenomenon, every once in a while we are reminded that any activism also occurs in the real, material world where all activists must live, work, love, and play. This fact is violently reinforced when, as in James McIntyre’s case, an Anonymous member is killed by a security force. After the RCMP killing of James McIntyre, Anonymous claimed that McIntyre was the fourth of its members to be killed by security forces around the world in four years.

 

An Anonymous Life

McIntyre’s friends and family described him as a gentle, quiet man who did not interact much with people directly. He was said to be quite intelligent and thoughtful. McIntyre was said to be very close with his family regularly attending family gatherings. He had only moved out and into his own apartment a few years before police killed him. Even then, a devoted son and family member, McIntyre rented his apartment a floor above his mother’s apartment. McIntyre’s mom, Veronica, said he often talked about the Site C project which greatly troubled him.

James McIntyre was raised along with four siblings by Veronica, a single mother. He spent his early years in the Dawson Creek area attending elementary school in Pouce Coupe and Central Middle School in Dawson Creek. The family moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta where McIntyre graduated from St. Joseph Catholic High. Following high school James joined his brothers in the trades, working several years as a welder primarily at mills in northern British Columbia and Alberta. (Wakefield 2016). McIntyre returned to Dawson Creek in 2008. He worked at Chances Casino and Le’s Family Restaurant.

An afficionado of model trains from an early age, McIntyre used the internet to connect with model train enthusiasts from all over. In the words of his sister Wanda McIntyre: “He was train crazy. His apartment was kind of small so he couldn’t have a big layout. He got a computer I think probably for the train aspect” (quoted in Wakefield 2016). His interest in model trains and use of online media to discuss them may have opened new venues for his broader interests in environment and land.

Unassuming and a dedicated worker, McIntyre had received notice in the local newspapers only once, for winning an employee award for his work as a dishwasher, before his sensational killing by police garnered international media attention. McIntyre worked as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and casino and apparently loved the job as it afforded him time to himself away from the attentions of others.

Family described McIntyre as “straight edge,” eschewing smokes, drugs, and alcohol. According to his cousin Keith LaRiviere: “He didn’t go out and play. He didn’t join the baseball team with us. He didn’t drink. He didn’t have a girlfriend. He didn’t drive a car. He wouldn’t cross the road except at a crosswalk. He was soft” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a). McIntyre was a hard worker who saved his money largely to attend model train conventions, attending events in Prince George, Berkeley, California, and Reno, Nevada (Wakefield 2016). The owner of Le’s Family Restaurant, Le Nguyen described McIntyre as a “normal guy” (quoted in Wakefield 2016).

Committed to environmental care, McIntyre developed his own recycling program to sort bottles and cans at work in the absence of an employer developed program. McIntyre recycled the materials at Chances Casino taking them to bins outside a Walmart near the casino. According to his sister Wanda McIntyre: “He was very much an environmentalist, he was always trying to recycle and do stuff like that, but he wasn’t an extremist. I don’t know how he even found out about it, whether he knew someone who was into it and brought him into the fold, I had no idea. He never talked about it to me” (quoted in Wakefield 2016). His mother shared this perspective. She knew her son was concerned about the environment but did not speak with him about how and why he came to be actively concerned about the Site C project specifically. In her recollection: “I don’t know why he got involved with that Site C dam. He was concerned about that. I guess it was just the environment, and he felt for the people there. (That’s) why he voiced his opinion” (quoted in Wakefield 2016).

 

Anonymous Responds

Anonymous identified McIntyre as a “fallen comrade.” The response by Anonymous to the police killing of James McIntyre was named “Operation Anon Down” and was designed to achieve “justice (and vengeance if necessary) for our fallen comrade in Dawson Creek” (Early Edition 2015). They released statements calling for accountability for the officers involved. They tweeted messages directly to the RCMP.

“Ohai @rcmpgrcpolice we would like to report a murder of one of our comrades by some of your officers. Shall we expect justice or cover up?

7:45 PM – 17 Jul 2015”

The Anonymous statement after the killing of James McIntyre went further:

“In their statement, Anonymous also said that “an RCMP officer mercilessly shot and killed a masked anon without provocation or cause,” and “if Canadian police were as brave as Canadian nurses they could deal with people with knives without hiding behind bullets.”

“We will most certainly avenge our own,” the group said, adding that they will also fundraise to cover the costs of the burial of their fallen comrade.

“If we do not receive justice, rest assured there will be revenge,” they said. “Behind this mask is an idea, and ideas are bullet-proof.” (Bein 2015)

 

In response to the RCMP killing of James McIntyre, Anonymous called on people to protest at RCMP headquarters in every province. The day after Anonymous released a statement on McIntyre’s killing, the RCMP’s national website was shut down for several hours. RCMP sites in British Columbia and Dawson Creek also crashed on the Sunday following McIntyre’s killing (CBC 2015a).

Then Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the threats were taken seriously but offered little insight into the government response. In a public statement he offered this platitude on passive democracy: “There are many ways this country enjoys freedom to express our democratic views. I invite those who want to express their views to use democratic ways. Those who don’t expose themselves to face the full force of the law” (quoted in Kane 2015). The government said it would leave matters of investigation to the Independent Investigations Office, a strange response since that agency only looks into harms caused to civilians by police. It has no mandate to investigate perceived threats to government websites.

Indeed, the RCMP did carry out some investigation into social media activities of Anonymous following their threats on the RCMP website. Minister Blaney did note that the government viewed security issues as a priority and dedicated funding to work with capital (private businesses) to target electronic threats. This made clear the role of government in acting as a security service for capital (at working class taxpayer expense). For the government, according to Blaney: “We are constantly monitoring cyber security and cyberattacks” (quoted in Kane 2015).

 

Conclusion: The Death of Truth

According to Keith LaRiviere: “Jim didn’t deserve to die in a brutal manner. The man lying on the ground was not a criminal. He was a victim of police violence” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a). Wanda McIntrye cannot say what the family would hope to get from any investigation into her brother’s killing. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, her brother will still be as dead. In her words: “We’re still in shock. I guess the outcome is what the outcome is, whatever we say or do. It’s not going to change the fact” (quoted in Wakefield 2016).

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead appears to share the perspective that this killing did not need to happen. In his words” Somebody lost their life yesterday, senselessly in my view, and I just hate the fact that it happened in my community” (quoted in Baluja 2015). People in British Columbia have long raised questions about the disproportionate use of lethal force by police, RCMP in particular, in small towns and especially small northern towns.

The details of his killing by police, as is typically the case with regard to police killings of civilians in Canada, will likely not come out publicly. As James McIntyre’s cousin Keith LaRiviere is left to conclude: “The truth is with Jim. The truth is with a dead man” (quoted in Trumpener 2016a). Wanda McIntyre is left with a similar feeling. In her view: “There’s no answers, and the only person with the answers is gone” (quoted in Wakefield 2016).

While appreciating the sentiment involved, that is not entirely true. RCMP officers involved in the shooting, and certainly those who killed James McIntyre, surely have some answers as to what happened that night in Dawson Creek. But, as is typical in the Canadian context when police kill civilians, the police are not required to provide those answers and there are virtually no mechanisms for a thorough, truthful reporting of events anyway.

 

Further Reading

Baluja, Tamara. 2015. “Dawson Creek Police Shoot Man Who Refused to Throw Away Weapon, Witness Claims.” CBC News. July 17. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/dawson-creek-police-shoot-man-who-refused-to-throw-away-weapon-witness-claims-1.3158360

Bein, Sierra. 2015. “Everything We Know about the Death of an Anonymous ‘Comrade’ in RCMP Shooting.” Vice News. July 20. http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/everything-we-know-about-the-death-of-an-anonymous-comrade-in-rcmp-shooting

CBC News. 2015a. “Activist Group Anonymous Vows to Avenge Dawson Creek Shooting.” CBC News. July 18. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/activist-group-anonymous-vows-to-avenge-dawson-creek-shooting-1.3159093

CBC News. 2015b. “Site C Job Fairs Postponed after Man Shot Outside Dawson Creek Meeting.” CBC News. July 22. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/site-c-job-fairs-postponed-after-man-shot-outside-dawson-creek-meeting-1.3162600

Cheadle, Bruce. 2016. “Royal Society of Canada, Academics Call Site C Dam a Test for Trudeau Liberals.” The Canadian Press. May 24. http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/royal-society-of-canada-academics-call-site-c-dam-a-test-for-trudeau-liberals-1.2914588

Early Edition. 2015. “Anonymous: What Is It and How Serious Are Its Threats?” CBC News. July 21. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/anonymous-what-is-it-and-how-serious-are-its-threats-1.3160906

Gillis, Damien. 2015. “Landowners Launch Site C Dam Court Challenge, First Nations Next.” Common Sense Canadian. http://commonsensecanadian.ca/VIDEO-detail/landowners-launch-site-c-dam-court-challenge-first-nations-next/

Hunter, Justine. 2016. “Site C Not the Best Choice for B.C.’s Energy Needs, Report Author Says.” Globe and Mail. March 4. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/site-c-not-the-best-choice-for-bcs-energy-needs-report-author-says/article29024804/

Kane, Laura. 2015. “Safety Minister Says Anonymous Threats against RCMP Taken Seriously.” Canadian Press. July 21. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/safety-minister-says-anonymous-threats-against-rcmp-taken-seriously-1.3162661

McCarthy, Shawn. 2016. “Ottawa Pushes Ahead with Site C Dam amid Opposition among Academics.” Globe and Mail. May 24. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/royal-society-of-canada-academics-call-on-ottawa-to-halt-site-c-project/article30127279/

Prystupa, Mychaylo. 2016. “Site C is a Climate-Change Disaster, Says Suzuki.” The Tyee. February 23. http://thetyee.ca/News/2016/02/23/Site-C-Climate-Disaster/

Shantz, Jeff and Jordon Tomblin. 2014. Cyber-Disobedience. Re://Presenting Online Anarchy. London: Zero Books

Trumpener, Betsy. 2016a. “Unmasked: The Face of Anonymous Activist Shot Dead by RCMP.” CBC News. July 14. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/anonymous-activist-was-gentle-innocent-metis-man-says-cousin-1.3677750

Trumpener, Betsy. 2016b. “Retired Farmer Whose Site C Protest Triggered RCMP Shooting Never Interviewed by Investigators.” CBC News. July 18. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/retired-farmer-linked-to-r-c-m-p-shooting-of-anonymous-james-mcintyre-never-interviewed-by-iio-1.3684141

Wakefield, Jonny. 2016. “’I Will Never Know What Got Into Him’: One Year Later, Family Members Masked Man Shot by RCMP.” Dawson Creek Mirror. July 14. http://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek/i-will-never-know-what-got-into-him-one-year-later-family-remembers-masked-man-shot-by-rcmp-1.2297766

Wilderness Committee. n.d. “Stop the Site C Dam.” https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/sitec


Killer Cop Remo Romano Acquitted in Killing of Teenager Natasha Carla Abogado

It is extremely rare in the Canadian state context for a police officer who kills a civilian to face charges. Even where charges are pursued in court killer cops are almost never found guilty by the system they uphold, protect, and service. The verdict in the case of York Regional Police officer Remo Romano who killed pedestrian Natasha Carla Abogado (18) on the evening of February 12, 2014 while speeding offers yet another sad case in point. On September 2, 2016 a jury declared Romano not guilty of dangerous driving causing death. Their decision came after seven hours of deliberations.

 

The Killing of Carla Abogado by Remo Romano

Detective-Constable Remo Romano (44) was driving an unmarked pickup truck at an incredible speed of 115 km/h, nearly double the 60 km/h speed limit, when he struck Abogado, killing her. The young victim was thrown approximately 80 meters and was declared dead on the scene in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. Notably, Constable Romano did not have his sirens or lights activated (Yuen 2016a). At the time he hit and killed Abogado, Romano was part of a surveillance team, Project Litterbox, investigating a series of non-violent commercial break-ins involving major Canadian capitalist enterprises such as Shopper’s Drug Mart, according to details provided to the jury (Hasham 2016). They were said to be stealing…perfume (Mandel 2016). Far from being a threat or crucial pursuit situation, Romano had simply fallen behind the other officers in his team and was speeding to catch up to them when he struck Abogado who had just gotten off a bus on her way home.

Crown prosecutor Perlmutter informed the jury that the surveillance operation Romano was involved in at the time he killed Abogado was only involved in intelligence gathering and was by no means dangerous nor urgent (Hasham 2016). Certainly it was not a matter of life and death urgency that he catch up with his team (or he might not have been so lax in falling behind in the first place). According to Perlmutter: “(He was) not entitled to drive at those speeds, to put himself in position where he did not have the time and space to respond to a jaywalker. This did not justify the risk to the public” (quoted in Hasham 2016). And we might stress again that this was an operation in which the police were providing essentially private security services for Canadian capital. Revealing once more that essential and unwavering connection.

The Crown’s collision reconstruction expert informed the court that a car going more than 80 km/h would likely have hit Abogado but at a slower speed, that car could have been able to stop or swerve to avoid impact instead. It was also noted that anyone jaywalking would have estimating oncoming vehicles traveling at the speed limit of 60 km/h (Hasham 2016).

 

Blaming the Victim

Romano cynically blamed the victim on the stand stating: “She made the choice to step out in front of my vehicle” (quoted in Yuen 2016a). An incredibly callous and self-serving assertion.

Defense lawyer Bill MacKenzie also blamed the victim for jaywalking rather than using a crosswalk. He cynically called the killing a “tragic accident” and went on to blame her clothing choice (quoted in Hasham 2016). Even more MacKenzie used the old ploy of tempting a jury to feel sorry for an officer who would be disgraced by being convicted. He further suggested that there is a disjuncture between the identity of officer and the identity of criminal as if the two are mutually exclusive. And he slyly suggested to the jury that they did not want to be responsible for effecting such an outcome for a supposed community servant. In his words: “At what speed does he go from being a police officer serving his community to a convicted criminal?” (quoted in Hasham 2016).

Constable Romano suffered panic attacks and was prescribed the anti-anxiety medication later found in his bag at the site of the crash (Mandel 2016). He claimed it was “just there for security” and insisted he had not taken any the night of the crash (Mandel 2016).

 

A Family Devastated

This decision comes in Romano’s second trial. At an earlier trial in May, a jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict following two days of deliberations (Hasham 2016). Abogado’s family, who sat through both trials left the courtroom without common following the September verdict.

Carla Abogado’s father, Guillermo Abogado, expresses only disappointment with the verdict that has left the family further devastated. He worries for what the decision will men for other victims’ families as well. In his words:

“My whole family was very upset, we were expecting a guilty verdict. From Day 1 until now, it’s very hard for us. The jury are allowing the police officers to use 115 km/h on a busy street, near a hospital and subway station. I hope they have a conscience because it may happen again now. They’ve set a precedent. They’re allowing every police officer to do it again.” (quoted in Yuen 2016b).

The dissatisfaction with the court system is echoed by Paula Abogado, Carla’s sixteen-year- old younger sister. From her perspective: “With this, we were trying to find a little bit of closure, but now what are we going to get out of this? Every time there’s a trial we always get a reminder and it just brings us back to this place where we have no time to heal” (quoted in Yuen 2016b). Sadly this is the disappointing outcome experienced by almost all families of victims of police violence in Canada who expect justice through the court system.

Guillermo Abogado noted the difficulties and frustrations that families face when the killer of their loved one is a police officer. As he reflects, painfully: “We’re fighting a police officer, they have lots of support. I felt it was scripted. He faced the jury and was crying to get the sympathy of the jury. Maybe they felt it worked last time, so they’ll do it again” (quoted in Yuen 2016b). History in such cases in the Canadian context shows they do.

The Abogado family is also pursuing a $2.2 million civil suit against the York Regional Police.

 

Conclusion

The verdict while not shocking given the historic lack of accountability for police officers who kill civilians did seem to skirt all reason. As the Crown prosecutor Philip Perlmutter laid out, Romano ignored the obvious and foreseeable risks of driving at such speeds through a residential area with both a seniors’ center and bus stop en route (Hasham 2016). According to Perlmutter: “(Abogado) died on account of a fatal combination of Mr. Romano’s excessive speed and lack of attention” (quoted in Hasham 2016). In support of business interests. And once again a killer cop is let off the hook despite what logic dictates.

 

Further Reading

Hasham, Alysha. 2016. “York Cop Acquitted in 2014 Death of Jaywalker.” Toronto Star. September 21. https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2016/09/21/york-cop-acquitted-in-2014-death-of-jaywalker.html

Mandel, Michele. 2016. “Just who is York Cop Crying for? Blames Jaywalker for Her Own Death.” Toronto Sun. September 15. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/09/15/just-who-is-york-cop-crying-for-blames-jaywalker-for-her-own-death

Yuen, Jenny. 2016a. “York Cop Acquitted in Jaywalker’s Death.” Toronto Sun. September 21. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/09/21/york-cop-acquitted-in-jaywalkers-death

Yuen, Jenny. 2016b. “York Cop’s Acquittal in Death Devastates Pedestrian’s Family.” Toronto Sun. September 22. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/09/22/york-cops-acquittal-in-death-devastates-pedestrians-family

 


Woman Killed in Crash during Pursuit by Winnipeg Police

A woman has been killed when the van she was a passenger in collided with a pickup truck and rolled over during pursuit by Winnipeg police on Boyd Avenue near Sinclair Street in the Burrow’s neighborhood. The crash occurred on September 13, 2016. The victim was one of five people, including another woman, two men, one of whom was the driver, and a 17-year-old boy, who were in the silver van that crashed following initiation of police pursuit. The four other occupants of the van are in stable condition in local hospital. The driver of the pickup truck was also in hospital in stable condition.

According to Winnipeg police spokesperson Constable Rob Carver, whose statements have not been independently confirmed: “The incident appears to have started when a general patrol unit in the area observed the vehicle with five individuals in it and decided that there was a reason to initiate a traffic stop. Overhead lights were activated and … the vehicle immediately fled and collided with the half-ton” (quoted in CBC News 2016). Curiously Carver went on to suggest that “[w]hile it is a pursuit by a technical definition, we did not actually apparently pursue the vehicle” (quoted in CBC News 2016). However, a short pursuit is still actually apparently a pursuit nonetheless. And in this case one with fatal consequences. No other details have been released by police or independent witnesses. Police have not revealed why they decided to pursue the vehicle in the first place.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which examines all incidents of harm to civilians by on-duty and off-duty officers in Manitoba, is investigating this incident which resulted in the death of the woman passenger. The victim has not yet been named publicly.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2016. “Woman Dead after Van Fleeing Officers Crashes, Winnipeg Police Say.” CBC News. September 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/boyd-sinclair-crash-winnipeg-1.3760853


Constable Montsion’s Somali-Canadian Problem: The Killing of Abdirahman Abdi

Constable Daniel Montsion is one of the Ottawa Police Department officers who killed Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian man well known and cared for in his neighborhood. Numerous witnesses to the police killing of Abdi have reported that the officers involved over-reacted with extreme violence against the man despite appeals from neighbors not to hurt the man who struggled with mental health issues which neighbors were aware of. So it is rather disturbing to find out that Constable Montsion was policing a neighborhood of Somali migrants despite having previously, by his own admission, “panicked” during a violent takedown of another Somali-Canadian man in the city.

News of this previous incident of panic in the presence of a Somali-Canadian man was released as part of a court decision acquitting Abdullah Adoyta, (25) on gun charges following an arrest by Montsion. Notably, the judge in that case raised concerns about the reliability of Constable Montsion’s sworn testimony regarding the 2014 police raid that resulted in the arrest of Adoyta. Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse noted that Montsion’s story conflicted both with Adoyta’s account and with the testimony of a senior officer on key points (Dimmock 2016).

During the raid and arrest of Adotya, Montsion was one of seven Ottawa police officers to attend the apartment on a raid of supposed gang members. Montsion reported grabbing Adotya’s forearms, raising them up. He claimed that as he did so the man’s raised shirt revealed the silver grip of a semi-automatic handgun. In response to this Montsion said he “sort of panicked” and began kneeing the young man while taking him to ground on the floor of the apartment. Montsion said that in this he did not see the gun fall out and only found it after moving the man while on the floor. He specifically said that he saw the gun only after the man was in handcuffs.

Judge Labrosse did not accept Montsion’s stated version of events. On one hand, his story conflicted with the testimony provided by Sergeant Mark MacMillan. MacMillan reported grabbing the gun before Adoyta had been arrested. Notably MacMillan said that he was so fearful for officer safety that he grabbed the gun with bare hands rather than use gloves to preserve DNA and fingerprint evidence (Dimmock 2016). The judge rejected this also not accepting that officer safety in that case overrode the necessity to preserve evidence.

Even more, Labrosse found that the “manner in which (Adoyta) was taken down, with Const. Montsion raising Mr. Adoyta’s arms in the air and seeing the handgun in Mr. Adoyta’s waistline is difficult to both understand and accept” (quoted in Dimmock 2016). The judge found further that Montsion and MacMillan provided opposed views of the takedown of Adotya. While Montsion claimed a struggle, MacMillan suggested there was none, even telling the court that Montsion held the handgun casually. According to Labrosss: “This is inconsistent with the evidence that Const. Montsion was struggling with Mr. Adoyta” (quoted in Dimmock 2016).

Judge Labrosse concluded as well that Montsion had confused the large, silver Gucci belt buckle worn by Adoyta with a pistol grip. While Montsion claimed he saw a silver grip the grip of the gun provided by police was actually black. Montsion made no mention of a belt buckle.

For his part Adoyta reported that he did not reside in the apartment targeted by police but had merely been invited there by a tenant. He said that he complied with police but was grabbed by Montsion and knocked to the side of a couch. The officer yelled “gun” around ten seconds later and then started kneeing and punching him. It was only then, wth Montsion pulling his hair, that Adoyta saw a gun on the floor some foot and a half away from him (Dimmock 2016). He reported a real need to protect himself from Montsion, not resisting arrest.

Labrosse noted that Adoyta had not seen a gun on the floor before the police entered. Adotya did not suggest that the gun was planted by police. He did ask police to do a fingerprint test to show his innocence with regard to possession of the gun.

Others might wish to ask such a question of planted “evidence.” So too will people have to decide whether to ask about the circumstances of panic in Constable Montsion’s aggressive arrests of two Somali-Canadian men and what role racism or anti-Somali sentiment might have played in his behavior toward those men.

Constable Montsion is currently under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the oversight agency that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in Ontario. Constable Dave Weir is also under investigation in the killing of Abdirahman Abdi.

 

Further Reading

Dimmock, Gary. 2016. “Cop in Abdi Case Involved in Previous Violent Arrest of Somali-Canadian.” The Sun. September 8. http://cnews.canoe.com/CNEWS/Canada/2016/09/08/22665311.html


Ending Illusions of Independence: IIO Director Steps Down and Calls for More Police Involvement

The problems of oversight of police in Canada have been consistently observed in every oversight agency in the country. Perhaps nowhere have these problems, and the limitations of institutional oversight structures in the Canadian context been more clearly revealed in a short period of time than in the example of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in British Columbia. Less than four years in existence the agency, founded in direct response to the infamous killing by police of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007, in a case in which police lied about the killing until civilian video surfaced, has been beset by a range of troubles. These include a lack of capacity even to get police to file reports on time or refrain from watching news reports before filing reports, to the involvement of officers at the Justice Institute of British Columbia in training investigators to investigate police. All of this calls into question the independence, authority, and competence of the IIO and leaves victims and their families, as well as social commentators, questioning the organization.

Now the exiting director is, incredibly, calling for more, not less police involvement in and direction of the organization. The embattled director of the provincial oversight body, Richard Rosenthal, announced in September 2016 that he is leaving his position four months before his term ends, effective September 7. Rosenthal was appointed as the civilian director of the IIO with its founding in 2012. On his way out the door he has given a gift to police, and perhaps another nail in the IIO coffin as far as independence is concerned.

 

Curious Claims: Calling for More Cops

In particular Rosenthal has argued for greater discretion in the hiring of former police officers. Currently the IIO is restricted from hiring any person who has been a police force member in BC within the last five years. Rosenthal wants that restriction abolished (Rosenthal 2016). This has not prohibited the IIO from being trained by officers at the JIBC or hiring officers from outside the province. Without explanation, or regard for the implications of having officers investigating their friends and colleagues, Rosenthal suggests that former officers are the only means by which to provide training to civilians. This is a curious claim to say the least for someone who is leaving the IIO to study for his PhD in criminology. Surely there are many criminologists and forensic scientists who could train civilian investigators. Rosenthal’s claim speaks to the dependence on and over-regard for police exemplified in the IIO.

Rosenthal has also argued that the IIO director needs more discretion in choosing what cases to take to investigation. Right now the IIO mandate calls for investigation of all events in which death or serious injury is caused by a police officer. This means that the investigation delivers the assessment of officer culpability (though officers are virtually never found culpable or responsible regardless of the circumstances or evidence). More discretion would lead to cases being overlooked or not being pursued, even where an investigation might well be warranted. This is particularly so if Rosenthal’s other recommendation for more officer involvement in the agency were followed.

The issue of hiring former police to the supposedly civilian agency is not strictly academic. It has been a point of contention in the history of the IIO. Indeed, in 2015 the IIO was investigated for allegations of bullying and harassment related to the agency’s hiring of former officers (Meuse 2016). As a result 17 investigators and five non-investigative staff exited the IIO within only its first 28 months of operation (Meuse 2016).

Rosenthal as struggled to explain this. Upon leaving he has suggested:

“At the beginning, we were having challenges. We did not have alignment in vision and values of the organization. And unfortunately when you’re the leader of the organization, you take heat from people who don’t share that vision and who need to leave. [But] the good news is that now we are in a place where we have a strong executive that understands the importance of independence.” (quoted in Meuse 2016)

Yet this so-called independence has never been a hallmark of the IIO. Since the beginning of operations in 2012, the IIO has worked under a memorandum of understanding drafted in consultation with police chiefs from across British Columbia (Meuse 2016). Strangely, while suggesting a respect for independence Rosenthal has claimed that “the document has been excellent in allowing the IIO to work collaboratively with police forces” (Meuse 2016). The question always remains, “Can an independent body simultaneously be a collaborator?”

 

Comply or..Well, Nothing

One problem remains that there is no actual mechanism to compel police to respect IIO authority or act according to the needs and demands of the investigation rather than the interests of police forces and associations. As in other oversight agencies in Canada, police in BC are able to obstruct, ignore, interfere with, or disregard investigators and investigations. A recent IIO report itself has concluded that police routinely refuse to file reports in a timely manner after an incident of harm to civilians and often do so only after watching news reports. According to Rosenthal: “That’s not happening, on a systemic basis. It’s a huge problem as far as ensuring the integrity of investigations. We need the government to step up and create regulations in order to ensure that we’re able to do our job in an effective manner” (quoted in Meuse 2016).

 

Conclusion

None of this will be secured by having more police involved in the agency. Rosenthal’s statements, really an appeal for police involvement and the end of even limited “independence,” upon leaving should be a warning sign for all families and friends of victims who are seeking answers or some accountability and for all civilians in British Columbia. Particularly in a context in which police killings of civilians are increasing in the province.

 

Further Reading

Meuse, Matt. 2016. “IIO Director Richard Rosenthal Steps Down 4 Months Early.” CBC News. September 6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/richard-rosenthal-steps-down-1.3748640

Rosenthal, Richard. 2016. “Exclusive Op-Ed: Outgoing Head of B.C.’s Civilian-Led Police Watchdog Asks for More Support.” Terrace Standard. September 2. http://www.terracestandard.com/opinion/392187931.html


IIO Report Documents Police Contempt for Oversight Agencies

The problems with oversight of police, and investigations into police use of force against civilians are numerous and have been extensively documented and discussed within this project. Indeed even state bodies such as the Ombudsperson of Ontario have found, documented, and reported on the failings of police oversight agencies and practices. In addition to repeated counts of interference with and obstruction of investigations and harassment of investigators by officers and police associations, one of the recurring issues has been the lack of cooperation with investigations by officer and the withholding of required information by officers in investigations.

A new report by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of British Columbia, released publicly on August 31, 2016, highlights the dubious behavior of officers of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) during an investigation into the shooting and killing of a man who reportedly stabbed several people on a downtown street. The IIO investigators specifically criticized police for failing to file timely written reports of critical incidents immediately after the incident occurred. In addition the report noted that officer accounts were tainted not only by delays but by their having watched television reports of the incident before filing their accounts. The IIO concluded that these problems were “widespread” among officer in British Columbia.

 

Officers Fail to Comply

The IIO noted the significance of timely accounts following police use of force. In the words of the IIO release: “Such reports are essential to ensure the integrity of criminal and administrative investigations and reviews of officer decisions to use deadly force or force likely to cause significant injury” (quoted in CBC News 2016). On the matter of police viewing of news media stories about the incident they were involved in the IIO concluded: “As such, the statements of these officers were impacted by evidence separate and apart from their own recollections and memories of the events” (quoted in CBC News 2016). In this case the IIO had to rely on the memories of civilian witnesses (who may or may not have felt intimidated by police).

 

No Accountability

It is notable that while the IIO report was highly critical of the actions of two officers involved in the killing and their failure to write up reports immediately and without media influence, the IIO cleared the officers of wrongdoing. This is an all too familiar contradiction in police oversight and shows the limits (virtual non-existence) of current oversight practices and agencies.

Significantly, the IIO investigators reported that the failure to file a timely report was not an isolated incident limited to the VPD. In fact it is identifiable practice in other forces, including, most notably, the RCMP, the force that provides provincial policing and municipal policing services in many municipalities across the province (in addition to being the federal force). According to the IIO report:

“The IIO has become aware of a pattern of problems with respect to subject officers involved in critical incidents in British Columbia failing to prepare timely duty to accounts or notes of their involvement in incidents. These problems have been identified with respect to multiple files involving not just the Vancouver Police Department, but also the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and two other municipal police agencies.” (quoted in CBC News 2016)

It is a problem of police oversight and investigations into police harm of civilians that there are few mechanisms to compel police to comply and act in the mannered required by the investigation. These could be, but are not, treated as chargeable offenses. Furthermore, it is a problem that the filing of reports in a timely manner, and under specified conditions are not viewed as part of the incident of harm in question but as separate, discreet moments. The result is that wrongdoing as identified in the IIO report are not considered when assessing whether or not police engaged in wrongdoing when harming someone. The filing of reports, etc. should be considered as part of the incident and considered when assessing the actions of police over the course of the incident of harm under consideration.

 

Conclusion

Incredibly, while not finding against the officers involved, the IIO has taken the atypical step of moving to file its own complaint with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner about police actions. There is little reason to believe that this step will result in anything approaching accountability for the officers involved. It is also telling that the IIO has not named the officers involved in such obstruction publicly. It is also perhaps ironic that forces that have adopted a “comply or die” approach to policing on a customary basis, resulting in much taking of civilian lives in the province, are so cavalier i.e. non-compliant) about complying with investigations when it affects them as respondents.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2016. “Investigation into Police Shooting Raises Concerns.” CBC News. August 31. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/investigation-into-police-shooting-raises-concerns-1.3743227