Category Archives: Oversight

ASIRT Investigates Death of Woman in Edmonton Police Custody (August 6-7, 2017)

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the death of a 55-year-old woman in custody of the Edmonton police over the long weekend between August 6 and 7, 2017. The circumstances leading to the death were initiated in as little as a call about intoxication at a transit station. Why people call police over such things might be asked. On Sunday, August 6, police responded to the Belvedere LRT Station and “dealt with” three people who were allegedly intoxicated. A 55-year-old woman was arrested and taken into custody, being placed in a holding cell with other people at city police headquarters. She had initially been taken to the northeast division facility before being taken to police headquarters, but no explanation has been provided for why that move was made. Around 10 AM the next morning the woman was found unresponsive and in medical distress on the floor of the cell. ASIRT has reported that there were “no obvious signs of significant trauma or injury.” The woman was transported to hospital in critical condition by EMS crews and died there later that evening.


BEI Investigating Police Killing of Distressed Man Near Quebec City (August 10, 2017)

Québec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing of a 25-year old man by an officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) around 7 PM on August 10, 2017 in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, southeast of Québec City. According to the BEI, police responded to a call regarding a man experiencing some distress in the center of a street. The BEI states that the responding officer activated the flashing lights of the cruiser which caused the man to panic and run. After a foot chase that ended in a parking lot the officer shot the man. The SQ claim the man had a knife. None of the details have been independently confirmed. Eight BEI investigators have been assigned to the case and will examine the SQ version of events. The BEI is not an independent unit though and Montreal police will assist them in this investigation, which leaves police investigating police.


SIU Denies Justice for Tony Divers: Killer Hamilton Cop Cleared Despite Serious Questions

Family and loved ones of Tony Divers have been kept in the dark about the SIU investigation into the police killing of the 36-year-old Hamilton man. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, they received the awful news that the Special Investigations Unit  has cleared the Hamilton officer who shot Tony Divers will not be charged. The decision comes 10 months after the killing on September 30, 2017, a too long period of time in which questions from the family have not been properly addressed.

The officer responsible fired two shots at the unarmed Divers, with one bullet hitting the victim in the chest. Despite the fact that Divers was unarmed, SIU Director Tony Loparco concluded the officer was justified in believing his own life was at risk and in fearing that Divers was armed. Under Loparco the already questionable SIU has become something of a legitimation mechanism for cops who kill civilians.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers’ sister, and a tireless advocate for information and justice, responded with the pained honesty of someone whose loved one has been killed by police: “I’m shocked but I’m not at all surprised. Because it seems to be the norm these days for officers to shoot and kill someone in mental crisis” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Of particular concern for observers is the report that the call to police included a claim that Divers was  “anti-police.” Did this play into the quick resort to lethal force by Hamilton police?

This is reinforced by Loparco’s  conclusion in the case: “On all of the information that the [officer] had in his possession at the time he shot and killed Mr. Divers, I find that the [officer], subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk from Mr. Divers” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Because he was said to be “anti-police?”

Loparco continues: “I find in all the circumstances, that despite the after the fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the [officer] reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified” (quoted in Bennett 2017). This is in keeping with other SIU findings under Loparco.

Loparco further notes in his report that the officer who shot Tony Divers had had previous contact with the victim and considered him “anti-police and very violent” (quoted in Bennett 2017). The officer actually appears to have held several prejudices against Tony Divers, including the assumptions that he was involved in organized crime and a drug user. The SIU report does not delve into these issues in probing detail.

The family says that Tony Divers was struggling with mental health issues when the officer shot him. For the family, this did not matter to police who responded to their loved one through the prejudging lens that held him as simply a thug.

Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, said the decision and explanation for why the shooting is justified felt to him like “an eye for an eye,” that his brother was treated as a “violent thug” with no regard for his mental illness.

One eyewitness, who says he did not see Divers holding any weapon, also said the victim appeared to pose no threat to anyone. Yet he did note that Divers did not seem subservient to the officer, a situation that seems to provoke police violence (respect their authority or die). According to witness Joe Towers: “He didn’t look very afraid of the cop; he wasn’t being cooperative, but he didn’t look like he was any particular threat. It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be arrested” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “SIU Clears Hamilton Officer in Death of Man Shot Near GO Station.” CBC News August 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/divers-siu-decision-released-1.4204146

 


Alberta Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Has First Court Appearance, Victim’s Family Not Notified

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips had her first court appearance on charges of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the killing of 41-year-old Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016.

Janvier’s family is speaking publicly about concerns that this RCMP killing is going to be swept under the rug. Tracy Janvier was walking on a highway near Anzac, south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, when struck by a car and injured. Incredibly Constable Phillips drove over and killed the stricken victim while racing to the scene without slowing.

In a news release announcing the laying of charges the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province stated:

 

“While responding [to the scene] at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him.”

 

The police vehicle also hit a 71-year-old man who was helping Janvier. That man suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The family is concerned it was kept in the dark regarding the change in time of Constable Phillips’ court appearance.

Said Marina Nokohoo, Janvier’s sister, at the courthouse in Fort McMurray: “My brother deserves justice. He paid the ultimate price. My mom and dad, they’ve lost a child. So they feel that loss. They feel that impact more than any of us. Yet, because they are still our parents they are still taking care of us who are grieving.” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

Nokohoo continued: “I just don’t want to make it so that my brother’s death is going to be swept under the rug, or it’s going to be forgotten about. He’s my brother. He’s a human being. He’s important as anyone else” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

The next court date is scheduled for August 30, 2017.

 

Further Reading

Thurton, David. 2017. “‘My Brother Deserves Justice,’ Says Family of Alberta Man Killed by Speeding RCMP Vehicle.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/tracy-janvier-rcmp-vehicle-killed-anzac-asirt-1.4233099

 


Police Investigate Police in Saskatchewan Civilian Death (July 5, 2017)

Police in Saskatchewan investigate police. There is no independent civilian oversight body in the province despite ongoing calls from community advocates.

On July 5, 2017, officers of the Blaine Lake Saskatchewan RCMP allegedly responded to a call about a distraught man with a firearm in a rural area. Two officers encountered a man who they say discharged the weapon, resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man was taken to hospital in Saskatoon and pronounced dead there. The Saskatchewan RCMP have requested an investigation into the death, which will be conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service.


SIU Investigates What Cops Claim as “Sudden Death” of Shawn Davis in Chatham

Killer cops, their forces, and their police associations are regularly coming up with euphemisms and bogus “conditions” to excuse or legitimize their killings. The litany includes “excited delirium,” “suicide by cop,” and the mystical “sudden death.” The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians is investigating a case that police are calling “sudden death” in Chatham, Ontario on July 26, 2017.

Sometime on the night of July 25, Chatham-Kent police responded to a 911 call allegedly involving a domestic dispute. According to the SIU police remained outside the house on Greenfield Lane for quite some time.

Then the storyline jumps dramatically with no explanation. The SIU reports police entered the house at around 7:00 AM and—huge jump here—a 52-year old man, since identified as Shawn Davis, was pronounced dead at the scene (killed?, found dead?, etc.?). No one is saying. But sudden death does not cut it.

CKPS Constable Kelly Helbin said police would not release any other information. This only adds to the sense of police acting suspiciously in this case.


Privacy Commissioner Calls for Release of Body Cam Footage of Police Killing of William McCaffrey

Police in Rothesay, New Brunswick have fought to keep body camera footage of the killing of William David McCaffrey by an officer of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force from the public. On July 27, 2017, the access to information and privacy commissioner for the province called for release of the tape.

The 26-year-old youth was shot and killed by police in his home on February 28, 2014, while experiencing mental health distress. McCaffrey was shot twice while harming himself. The force was not investigated by a civilian oversight unit but only by another police force, the RCMP. The finding for release of the tape comes after a 15-month battle over access to information by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Commissioner Anne Bertrand in deciding the case determined that public interest in police use of force cases supercedes privacy, including for police. This ruling could have something to say about who is able to see police body camera footage in the future. In an interview Bertrand clarified: “In special circumstances, there may be a public interest in the public knowing about what happened, despite there being personal information involved” (quoted in Donkin 2017).

The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force had denied a request from CBC News of information of footage from a police body camera in 2016. They cited privacy concerns.

CBC News appealed the police decision to Bertrand. The news station argued that body-worn camera footage should be treated the same way as any other record showing how police make a decision (2017). According to the CBC News claim: “Having access to those records is necessary to ensure public safety and accountability” (quoted in Donkin 2017).

In her decision, Bertrand invoked a little used public interest section of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It says that in cases where there is “a risk of significant harm,” which could include a danger to public safety, that section can override other parts of the law that protect privacy (Donkin 2017).

This would be the first case of release of police body camera footage in the Canadian context, unlike the situation in the United States in which such footage has been released numerous times. As is too often the case in public body decisions involving police conduct, the police force is not required to adhere to Bertrand’s decision and is already pursuing legal advice. Once again the police assume the powers of a law unto themselves.

 

Further Reading

Donkin, Karissa. 2017. “Video of Fatal Police Shooting Should Be Made Public, Commissioner Says.” CBC News. July 27. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rothesay-shooting-commissioner-1.4223274