Monthly Archives: December 2016

Quebec Police Shoot and Kill 39-Year-Old Man (December 27, 2016)

Levis, Quebec, police, Quebec City police and the provincial force, the Surete du Quebec  (SQ), were all involved in a car chase that ended with police shooting and killing a 39-year-old man in the early morning of December 27, 2016. The situation supposedly began with a police car chase in nearby Levis, Quebec involving the local force around 2:30 AM and ended in Quebec City.

Quebec’s police oversight agency, the Bureau des enquetes independentesis (BEI) is investigating the killing of the civilian in this case. Police reportedly struck the vehicle to bring it to a stop. The man was shot at least once by police after he left the vehicle. At least two officers opened fire on the man. The victim was transported to hospital where he was declared dead. Nine investigators have been assigned by the BEI to the case.


London Police Kill Samuel Maloney, 35-Year-Old Father of Two with Children in House

Police in London, Ontario killed Samuel Maloney, 35, early Friday morning around 6 AM, December 23, 2016, at his home on the city’s Duchess Avenue. Police fired into the house and killed the victim while at least one child, including a toddler, was present inside. A woman, said to be living at the home, was reported immediately after the killing by police to be holding the toddler. Two children, the two-year-old boy and a six-month-old baby girl live in the house. Their father is now dead.

The differential and deferential treatment given killer police by mass media compared to what is shown to the victims of police is exemplified in the headline used by the National Post newspaper in the case of this killing. The headline, “London Cop Shot with a Crossbow During Confrontation that Led to Man Being Gunned Down by Police,” focuses on harm supposedly incurred by an officer (an injury) rather than the killing of the civilian (who may have had nothing to do with the crossbow). In fact the national paper does not even give the victim the dignity of saying he was killed by police. Instead he was “gunned down” as if some undeserving villain in an old West drama. The stricken officer is even given first notice, and primary concern, in the first sentence in the article. Yet the officer’s injuries are reported as only minor.

The news accounts also focus on a previous weapons raid at the home in 2007, when Maloney was 26. This sets the stage to pose the victim as a legitimate target. Despite the fact that, as the report later reveals, Samuel Maloney was found to have all of his weapons properly registered. This image of a weapons hoarder in a Canadian context is explicitly meant to evoke the vision of some gun obsessed survivalist a la the US context of NRA extremists. Yet it is curious that someone with a supposedly massive weapons cache would use a crossbow rather than a gun if they sought to do real damage to police. Interestingly though it is the victim’s partner Melissa Facciolo, 35, who is charged with possession of a prohibited weapon—the crossbow.

As in virtually every case in which police kill a civilian in Canada, the media turn focus directly to the history of the victim to legitimize whatever actions police might have taken. This case is no different in that regard. Yet there is nothing to suggest that the victim’s weapons ownership is in any way related to violent or threatening or even seriously criminal behavior. And in any event, as in all such cases, random or trivial accounts of some aspect of personal history say nothing about a victim’s activities in the moment in which police killed them.

It has still not been independently confirmed that Maloney was the person who supposedly fired a cross bow striking an officer. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which investigates cases of harm to civilians by police officers in Ontario, has designated three subject officers as well as 18 witness officers in the case. Apparently no charge have been disclosed related to any reason police attended the house in the first place. In addition police refuse to say why they were at the home.

 

Further Reading

Carruthers Dale and Jennifer O’Brien. 2016. “London Cop Shot with a Crossbow During Confrontation that Led to Man Being Gunned Down by Police.” National Post. December 23. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/london-cop-shot-with-a-crossbow-during-confrontation-that-led-to-man-being-gunned-down-by-police


Confessions Are Not Enough: Killer Cop Gets Off Even when Admitting to Multiple Murders

It could be the setup for a terrible joke. Police officer walks into police headquarters and confesses to murdering two people. The punchline is he is not charged and his fellow officers do not even document his confessions. Yet in the case of Brantford Police Constable it is a true story, certainly no joke, the laugh is had by police on the public.

The situation regarding police killings of civilians is so rotten in Canada that even when police officers confess to killing people the authorities can be counted on to do whatever is necessary to see that their actions are deemed “reasonable” or justifiable in some way. The legitimations processes of state capitalist institutions are particularly efficient when it comes to protecting killer cops and seeing that their actions are sanctified publicly.

Such has been played out in painful fashion in the disturbing case of Brantford Police Constable Adam Hill. It has been established that Constable Hill entered the Brantford Police Force headquarters at 4:45 AM on December 10, 2014 and declared that he was “ a murderer” and had “lied” to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in their examination of his killings of civilians. Over the course of two days Constable Hill provided his colleagues in the force with confessions regarding his actions in the deaths of Benjamin Wood (32) in 2009 and Evan Jones (18) in 2010 (Gillis 2016). According to a statement by the SIU:

“He made statements to a number of police officers concerning the deaths… indicating that he had lied to the SIU during previous investigations and that he was criminally responsible for those two deaths. That same day, the subject officer was admitted to a healthcare facility. While there, he made further comments of a similar nature to other officers who visited him over the ensuing days.” (quoted in Carter 2016)

Stunningly Hill had been involved in yet incident that left a civilian dead prior to the killings of Wood and Jones. In 2006 Hill was one of two officers who took part in the fatal shooting of Andrew Osidacz. No charges were brought against either officer in that case.

Based on Hill’s own confessions the SIU in 2015 took the incredibly rare initiative of reopening the two investigations into police killings of civilians. On December 12, 2016, the SIU announced that no new charges would be brought in either case. The SIU fins that Constable Hill had killed the men in a reasonable manner, despite his own descriptions of his intentions and the actions he undertook. The SIU report of December 12 was the first time Hill had been publicly identified as being involved in Wood’s death. The SIU does not name officers but the coroner’s inquest in the Jones case did identify Hill and some media had reported that fact. Still some mainstream media are protecting Constable Hill further by choosing not to publish his name still, even after this second round of investigations.

So if you are a cop who kills. No worries, investigators will rarely find you responsible or hold you to account for your actions. Go ahead. Confess to the killings. The authorities will find a way to ensure you are legitimized anyway. The details in the case of Constable Adam Hill are instructive.

 

The Killings

Benjamin Wood was officially ruled to have died from drowning and hypothermia on January 20, 2009 after breaking through ice on the Grand River following a police foot chase. Hill struggled with Wood before the victim tried to escape over the frozen river. Police had chased the man to the edge of the river before Hill grappled with him. The search for his body took hours. Despite the struggle with police no coroner’s inquest was struck to look into his death.

In his confession to police Hill reportedly told colleagues that before Wood fled over ice Hill had struck him on the head several times. Hill describe the blows as being delivered in a “heavy handed” manner (Gillis 2016). Hill never revealed this to the SIU during their initial investigation into Wood’s death. Hill told his colleague officers that he did not disclose this to the SIU because “he was scared” (Gillis 2016).

Hill said that it was only after he hit Wood that the man fled on the icy river. According to the SIU report: “He opined that Mr. Wood did not return to the shoreline because he had been struck by (Hill)” (quoted in Gillis 2016). Still the SIU chose not to accept Hill’s account.

Eighteen-year-old Evan Jones, was killed in his home on August 25, 2010. Police had responded to a 911 call placed by his mother claiming the young man was upset, shouting, and throwing furniture. Jones had reportedly struggled with depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts (Gillis 2016). After the fact police initially reported and told the SIU that Jones had been holding a butcher knife and meat cleaver. Police also claim the young man told police to shoot him, thus preparing the ground for the bogus, but often used, “suicide by cop” defense that is often trotted out by police in such cases. Indeed on that basis the SIU initially cleared Officer Hill who fired the fatal shots killing Jones. Evan Jones was hit four times by police bullets.

Yet in his December 2014 confession Officer Hill claimed that he “shot an unarmed man” (Gillis 2016). He also suggested that he was unclear whether or not Jones held any weapon when he shot the man but was definitely “relieved to see a meat cleaver near his body after the fact” (quoted in Gillis 2016). What else he might have said is not known given that his fellow officers failed to record it.

 

Convenient Incompetence? Brantford Police and the Hill Confessions

The SIU claims Hill was “in a state of medical distress” when he made his confessions at police headquarters but also tellingly noted that the investigations were impeded by the notable failure of fully seven Brantford police officers to even take detailed notes of Hill’s statements let alone making video or audio recordings of the confessions (Gillis 2016). Strangely, the SIU interpreted Hill’s insistence on talking about the killings as sign of his medical distress (Carter 2016). Notably, a forensic psychiatrist consulted by the SIU could not confirm that Hill suffered medical distress (Carter 2016).

Shockingly the Brantford Police did not even notify the SIU that Hill had made his confessions until eight days later. By that time Hill had entered a health care institution and the medical distress defense was on the way to being constructed, outside of the eye of the oversight agency. That happened mere hours after Hill entered the police station to make his confession. Clearly the confessions by an officer were treated in a manner different than would have been the case for a member of the public making dual murder confessions. The SIU seemed to focus on Hill’s supposed medical state in the re-examination of the case.

Yet the real issue, in addition to an officer clearly voluntarily confessing to killing two people, were the dubious actions of fellow officers in response to the confessions by their colleague. SIU director Tony Loparco went so far as to say that the Brantford officers’ approach to recording Hill’s statements (that is not recording them) were “fatal” to investigators’ efforts (quoted in Gillis 2016). According to Loparco:

“None of the officers at the police station made use of audio or video recording equipment that would have been available to them. While the four officers at the station did make notes, none of them attempted to record what the subject officer was saying word-for-word. In light of these inherent limitations, the only option left to the SIU in order to attempt to determine precisely what the subject officer said was to conduct witness officer interviews. The evidentiary value of statements obtained in this manner is dependent on the quality and accuracy of the witness’ recall.” (quoted in Gillis 2016)

Incredibly there has been no recommendation to discipline the Brantford officers for their conveniently shoddy work in interviewing their colleague. Neither have there been moves to change processes for police confessing to police. Instead the SIU has decided to accept the faulty (and perhaps disingenuous) testimony of Hill’s fellow officers and not pursue charges. According to Loparco again: “After a thorough review of all of the available evidence, I have concluded that there are insufficient grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed in relation to the deaths of both Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones” (quoted in Gillis 2016). Again the evidence available was actively limited by the shoddy, or complicit, behaviors of Hill’s colleague officers.

Glenn Stuart, a lawyer for Jones’ family hit the crucial point directly. In his view: “In effect it sounds as if there may have been the evidence to lay a charge if the Brantford Police Service had done their job. It’s really quite amazing that someone could walk in to a police station and confess . . . and no one makes any record of that” (quoted in Gillis 2016). A situation that really goes beyond belief.

Hill had unsurprisingly been cleared by the SIU in its earlier examinations but those cases were reopened given that in December 2014 Hill made numerous statements to officers that he “was criminally responsible” for the men’s deaths (Gillis 2016). Hill claimed to officers that “he shot and killed an unarmed Jones” and that “he had struck Wood in the head in a ‘heavy handed way’” (Gillis 2016). Hill had not previously admitted to lying to the SIU.

Ten police “witnesses” were interviewed by the SIU. Officers are not required to participate in SIU investigations and Hill chose not surprisingly, to take the option popular among police in such cases.

 

Silence and Belligerence: The Force and Association Respond

The Brantford Police Service has still not answered any questions regarding their officers’ failure to record or document Hill’s statements. They have also not provided answers as to why it took them eight days to notify the SIU about Hill’s confessions and claims that he had lied to the agency. The force has only stated, cynically, that they will review policy related to the cases. Clearly there is no mechanism for holding police to account, to make them comply openly with the SIU, or the discipline them in cases where they hold the review process, and legal norms, or investigatory integrity in utter contempt.

The Brantford Police Association through its president Mark Baxter took the typically belligerent approach that is the hallmark of police associations. Baxter railed against the SIU and criticized Loparco for even questioning Hill’s colleagues for their dubious failure to record Hill’s confession statements. Not simply content that his officer had gotten away with two confessed killings, Baxter accused the SIU of “extraordinary after-the-fact assumption” and “Monday morning quarterbacking” (quoted in Gillis 2016). The association head went so far as to claim he knew the truth of Hill’s killings. According to Baxter: “Virtually everything (Hill) said that night was wrong” (quoted in Gillis 2016). This sort of claim can only be regarded as an act of ideological defense.

Baxter excused the officers’ actions as acts of compassion and said they were justified in apparently treating the confessed killer first and foremost as a friend. In his view it was fine that they pay friendly visits to the confessed killer while in the hospital and “could not have been expected to take notes or record” (quoted in Gillis 2016). This is rather incredible. Could it be even remotely expected that police would treat confessed killers who were civilians in this manner?

 

An Association of Lies

Of great note, Hill reported in 2014 that a Brantford Police Association representative counseled him to lie to the SIU. Hill also reported that the association representative told him to report that Jones was holding the supposed knife above his head, not at 90 degrees from his body (Gillis 2016). This is not surprising give the reports on police association obstruction of and interference with SIU investigations that have been noted in various provincial reports. Stunningly, the SIU chose not to pursue the efforts of the association to counsel Hill to lie beyond asking the association representative involved and accepting their denial at face value. That association representative remains unnamed and apparently no further investigation will be carried out into their actions. Association head Baxter predictably says the association would never think of telling “any member to break the law” (Gillis 2016). We are left to judge that for ourselves.

The SIU was left to declare defeat. In their conclusion they note that the lack of cooperation by police and the failure of officers to carry out basic documentation of the confessions left them with, in their view, insufficient materials. According to the SIU:

“The statements that the SIU was able to obtain in the circumstances cannot satisfy the evidentiary threshold for admissibility. They can only be viewed as inaccurate, unreliable and incomplete . . . Given that these statements lack the necessary features to even attempt admitting them into evidence, there is no basis to interfere with the previous conclusion that the shooting of Mr. Jones was legally justified.” (quoted in Gillis 2016).

Unfortunately they have chosen to leave matters like that. Once again the provincial oversight body, perceived by many to be the global model for police oversight, is thwarted by basic police interference or non-cooperation or obfuscation.

All of this makes brings into a bit more focus why the Brantford Police would have failed to record (at this point it is believable that they could have destroyed any documentation they had) Hill’s confession. It also gives a reason for their early decision to build a medical distress defense. The information provided by Hill is potentially incendiary in terms of police killings and processes of cover up.

 

Conclusion

The Jones family has brought a civil suit against the Brantford Police Services Board, retired police chief Derek McEllveny, and Hill’s colleague officers, filed in 2012. The suit alleges assault and battery, negligence, and other claims. In particular the suit alleges that Officer Hill was returned to duty without proper psychiatric assessment or treatment following his shooting of Andrew Osidacz. According to the suit: “As a result, no proper determination was made . . . as to whether the trauma of this earlier incident impacted his ability to exercise his judgment required in his future duties as a police officer” (quoted in Gillis 2016).

In January 2013, a statement of defense was filed. It sated in part that “unless otherwise admitted, the defendants deny or have no knowledge of the allegations contained” (quoted in Gillis 2016). Now that the SIU investigations are concluded the civil suit will resume.

Regardless of the outcome of that suit it cannot be avoided or overlooked that a police officer repeatedly admitted to murdering two people, after having killed previously. And he was let off. And the officers to who he confessed failed to document the multiple confessions and instead seem to have worked toward a defense for their colleague. And further the investigations unit charged with examining police killings of civilians interpreted active police obfuscation in a manner favorable to the officer and managed to hold no one accountable. Even though the officer who confessed to murder revealed that the police association had instructed him to lie to investigators of the agency. Even direct confessions made to police cannot get a killer cop charged for killing civilians.

 

Further Reading

Carter, Adam. 2016. “Brantford Cop Said He ‘Murdered’ 2 People, Cleared by SIU.” CBC News. December 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/brantford-siu-1.3893250

Gillis, Wendy. 2016. “SIU Clears Brantford Officer of Wrongdoing after Reopening Two Cases.” CBC News. December 12. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/12/12/siu-clears-brantford-officer-of-wrongdoing-after-reopening-two-cases.html


A Troubled Explanation: Using Victims’ Histories of Mental Illness to Excuse Killer Cops

It is rare for police who kill civilians in Canada to suffer any repercussions for their actions. They are almost never charged, for even lesser offenses let alone murder, and are generally not subject even to administrative discipline. Even more police who kill are provided with a number of pre-packaged excuses to let them off the hook when they kill. Among these are the myth of the dangerous job, excited delirium, and victim blaming. The latter is often used in cases where police kill someone experiencing addiction or mental health issues. Often inquests and coroner’s inquiries replay these excuses in legitimizing the actions of killer police.

A particularly offensive example of this can be found recently in the report released on Friday, December 9, by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) in the case of RCMP officers who shot and killed a 47-year-old Morinville man in May of 2015. While not at all surprising that ASIRT found the RCMP officers to be justified in killing a civilian, it was rather stunning that ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson would victim blame by calling the victim “a troubled man” with “a troubled history” and focusing on his history of mental health issues. And the executive director took the step of issuing a statement to this effect.

 

The Killing

In the case of this killing RCMP were called to a home in the countryside by a family member who claimed that the man, who was prohibited from being on the property by court order was supposedly “acting out of character” (CBC News 2016). The family member claimed the victim might have stopped taking medication.

Some time after 7:30 PM, four officers arrived at the home and undertook a search of the property looking for the man. After more than an hour the man was spotted in a field nearby, not on the property. Police may then have agitated the man by telling him he was under arrest. After yelling at the man he reportedly picked up two long rifles and turned an walked away from the police. Yes, according to the ASIRT report he walked away from, not toward, the police. Officers continued to use the language of arrest and surrender. At some point when the man turned around he was shot once by an officer, falling to the ground.

Rather than assist the man officers waited for both air crews and an armored vehicle to arrive before going to “secure the suspect” (CBC News 2016). The man could not be revived and died at the scene. Notably he had been shot once in the abdomen and might have survived with earlier assistance.

 

OK to Kill a Troubled Man? An Ideology of Legitimation

Notably the justification given by ASIRT for the police killing leaned very heavily on victim blaming and emphasizing the man’s “lengthy and troubled history of significant mental illness” (CBC News 2016). Executive director Hughson doubled down by also highlighting the victim’s “conflict with the law” (CBC News 2016). According to the executive director’s statement: “He had a documented history of psychotic and mood related behavioural issues and delusional thoughts for which his family had repeatedly sought help” (CBC News 2016). Hughson’s statement continued: “Within the preceding year, the man had previously made comments that he would not be able to handle going to jail, that he hated police, and that he had had suicidal thoughts. He was supposed to be under psychiatric care at the time of his death” (CBC News 2016). Clearly the police emphasis that he was under arrest would have stoked any anxiety about a possible return to jail.

But this background is purely justificatory. The history does not speak to the actions of police on that day in that place. It provides a screen behind which virtually any police action, at any time, in any context could be legitimized. In this case ASIRT executive director is saying that the victim’s history allows for any and all actions taken by police against him. This is the ideology of legitimation that excuses police violence and killings of civilians.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2016. “A Troubled History: RCMP Justified in Shooting Death of Alberta Man, Investigation Concludes.” CBC News. December 9. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/a-troubled-history-rcmp-justified-in-shooting-death-of-alberta-man-investigation-concludes-1.3889522


No Hearing Needed to Know “Suicide by Cop” is Bogus

Phony criminology has been used to provide justification and cover for authorities throughout the course of the discipline. One can go back at least to the quackery of Cesare Lombroso who used facial structures and other physical features to reinforces prejudices of the impoverished working class as the born criminal (which also served nicely to direct attention away from corporate or state crime). One of the most pernicious and insulting “ideas” of phony criminology in recent years is the notion of so-called suicide by cop. This fake theory has been mostly promoted and peddled by cops and former cops posing as criminologists (and using this “research” to secure plum faculty positions in universities). It has been used largely to get killer cops off the hook in criminal proceedings and thus the suicide by cop specialists typically make their services available to police associations and defense teams trying to protect cops in the rare trials and inquiries that police who kill civilians are subjected to.

In 2017 an inquest will be held into the police killing of 44-year-old Roy Thomas Bell in 2007 in Winnipeg. The bogus notion of suicide by cop will play a key part in this. In January, a standing hearing will be held to determine who will be allowed to participate in the inquest.

Roy Thomas Bell was a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who was killed in December 2007 by police officers responding to a 911 call. Friends of the victim suggest that he had been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after having served in the military for over 20 years prior to his release from the forces in 2004.

According to a provincial news release Bell threatened arriving officers with  some form of weapon described as nothing more than two sticks connected by a chain (would be nunchucks). Police had erroneously claimed at the time of the killing that Bell had a firearm and a bat. This was not proven out. Still police tased the man before firing their handguns, with multiple shots hitting the victim. Bell was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Witnesses at the time reportedly heard Bell say the officers should shoot him and this has given the police the in they needed to use the suicide by cop excuse. Never mind that the man only held basic nunchucks yet was shot seral times by police. Never mind too that someone asking the cops to shoot them would seem to pose little threat to them and would probably necessitate an alternative response. Any cop responding to such a request affirmatively should be seriously questioned.

The inquest has been called by the chief medical examiner under the Fatality Inquiries Act and will examine the circumstances and events surrounding the killing. Such inquests typically make non-binding recommendations about measures to lessen the likelihood of such incidents in the future.

There are real concerns here that phony criminologists will be allowed to participate and peddle their bogus suicide by cop obfuscations and legitimation. Thus such an inquiry can become an ideological tool to justify the killing by police in question as well as providing a precedent for justifying future killings on these nonsensical grounds.