On June 19, 2017, Saskatoon police shot 22-year-old Austin Eaglechief. The young man then crashed the vehicle he was driving into another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy suggests the gunshot was not the cause of death but it does not speak to the part that being shot played in the fatal crash. A 33-year-old passenger was also injured in the crash. Critics of the police suggest that officers were too quick to shoot the young man. The Saskatoon police force has a history of racist treatment and violence against Indigenous people in the city and nearby locales.
Tag Archives: driving
It is among the rarest of a rarities. A police officer who kills a civilian actually being criminally charged with something. Anything. On Friday, June 16, 2017, killer cop Michelle Phillips, an RCMP constable in Alberta, was charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm for driving over and killing a 41-year-old pedestrian who had been injured in a prior collision and striking and seriously injuring a 71-year-old man who was helping the injured man. The crash and killing occurred on August 21, 2016, on Highway 881 near Anzac, Alberta, 420 kilometers north of Edmonton.
The charges were announced by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The ASIRT release described officer Phillips’ actions as follows:
“While responding 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, and striking the hand of a 71-year-old man who had been rendering aid to the pedestrian, causing serious injury.”
An internal RCMP code of conduct review is underway and the officer, who had one year of service at the time of the deadly crash, has been suspended with pay. Phillips has been released on a promise to appear. She is set to appear in Fort McMurray provincial court on August 2, 2017.
This decision is, as all such decisions are, surprising given the state’s preference for protecting police. Of course this does not mean a conviction will result. ASIRT has been criticized recently for practices that appear to favor killer cops.
Police Investigating Police: Lac-Simon Officers who Killed Sandy Michel in 2016 Cleared by Montreal Police
On April 6, 2016 Lac-Simon police shot and killed 25-year-old father of three Sandy Tarzan Michel, after first hitting him with a car. On Thursday, June 15, 2017 The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions for the province announced its decision not to lay charges against the officers responsible. The Lac-Simon force was not investigated by an independent body but rather by Montreal police who made the recommendation, not surprisingly, not to lay charges.
Four officers had been sent to Michel’s home, in the Algonquin community of Lac-Simon in western Quebec just south of Val-d’Or, apparently in response to a domestic call. Police claim to have approached Michel on the basis that he was known to them. The police report says Michel exited his house carrying a machete but notes that officers drove into him with their police car. No statement on whether or not this is standard and sanctioned police procedure. Yet the Montreal police did suggest that it was legal activity with which the Director agreed with. When this did not give them the desired result an officer fired four shots and killed the man.
Since this investigation was begun Quebec has established an oversight body the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations). Only two days before the Lac-Simon announcement, critics held a press conference claiming the BEI was neither transparent nor effective.
Brandon Maurice was shot and killed by a Sûreté du Québec officer on November 16, 2015 in Messine (near Maniwaki) following a vehicular pursuit. On May 19, 2017, the province’s chief coroner, Catherine Rudel-Tessier, ordered an inquest into the teenager’s killing by police. The inquest will be overseen by deputy chief coroner Luc Malouin. It cannot assign blame but can only make recommendations to address future such incidents. These are typically ignored or not implemented by police agencies under review.
Montreal police investigated their provincial colleagues, completing their examination in June 2016. Quite predictably they found for their colleague and concluded that no charges would be brought against their fellow officer. Yet the officer had fired wildly in the general direction of the driver, said to have been Maurice, and only luckily avoided hitting a passenger in the vehicle.
Maurice’s family was not satisfied with that investigation and found it illegitimate for police to be investigating police. In the words of Brandon Maurice’s mother, Dominique Bernier in 2016: “Police officers protect each other.” Indeed they do. The family’s view, quite reasonable, is that investigations cannot be impartial when police investigate their colleagues. The family believes the officer used force that was excessive for a stopped car starting to drive away from an officer.
Former Oversight Director Says Police are “Ungovernable”: Hamilton Cops Do Not Report Killing of Chokha Bayez (20)
As this project has detailed repeatedly police across Canada act largely as they wish in investigations into the harms they inflict on civilians. This includes not even reporting those harms.
In September of 2016 a Hamilton police officer was involved in a vehicular pursuit that killed 20-year-old motorcyclist Chokha Bayez. Yet the Hamilton police broke the law and never reported the killing by the officer to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as they are required to do. Every police service in Ontario is legally mandated to notify the SIU immediately of any incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officers (Carter 2017).
An SIU investigation into the Hamilton police killing of Bayez was only initiated when the victim’s family contacted the unit a month after the crash. This is an unacceptable delay that further serves to interfere with any proper investigation. As judge Michael Tulloch put it is his report on oversight in Ontario: ”In most cases, the SIU depends on the police notifying it of incidents within its mandate. Prompt, thorough police notification is the starting point for effective, efficient SIU investigations. If the police take too long to notify the SIU of an incident, or fail to do so at all, any investigation may be compromised and justice may not ever be done” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Furthermore, the investigation is not even listed on a Hamilton police report of SIU investigations presented to the police board earlier in April 2017 (Carter 2017). Constable Steve Welton told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the incident was included (despite saying he could not comment on the case and failure to report to the SIU). Oddly, according to the CBC, no vehicular death can be found in the police board report (Carter 2017). CBC News only became aware of the SIU investigation as a result of a freedom of information request listing all of the SIU’s investigations into Hamilton police officers from 2016 (Carter 2017).
As we have documented consistently in this project there is no proper independent oversight of police and no mechanism is used, legal or otherwise, to ensure there are any negative consequences for officers and police forces who fail to comply with investigative policy and requirements. Even where they violate or flaunt the law.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon told CBC News: “If the SIU Director is of the view that there may have been a breach of the regulation, and no charges are laid, it has been the Director’s practice to notify the Chief/Commissioner of his concerns in order that they may be reviewed” (quoted in Carter 2017). Of course the chief is under no obligation to act and it is unsure if such notice has even been given in this case.
André Marin, a former Ontario ombudsman and past SIU director, is clear in stating that under current conditions there is nothing to stop police from acting like this whenever they so choose. In his words: “Because there are no consequences, police can be extremely lax. They have proven themselves to be ungovernable” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Marin has a stark assessment of police services boards as well. In his view, while they could push for oversight: “Police services boards should be vigilant and hold their feet to the fire — but they don’t care either. There is absolutely no excuse for this” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Again, the police are a law unto themselves. And the state always protects the state.
Carter, Adam. 2017. “Hamilton Police Broke the Law and there were No Consequences.” CBC News. April 25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-police-siu-1.4083410
We have repeatedly commented on the lack of real, independent oversight of police agencies at all levels across Canada on this site. This relates both to the absence of true autonomy and independence but also to the lack of transparency within oversight agencies and their incapacity to hold police accountable for obstructing and blocking investigations, not cooperating with investigations, or violating policies and requirements for reporting incidents of harm to civilians.
Information secured by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) through access to information requests shows that police forces do not necessarily even report cases where their officers have killed a civilian. In this local case the Hamilton Police Service did not notify the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), regarded as the “gold standard” for oversight of police globally, about a vehicular killing involving police in Hamilton in September 2016. The collision on September 3 killed a 20-year-old male, Chokha Bayez. Incredibly an investigation was only launched into the incident when the victim’s family approached the SIU almost one month after the crash.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said in response to questions from CBC that the vehicle death listed in the FOI response was not publicized by the SIU simply because Hamilton police did not tell the agency about it. Yet all Ontario police services operate under a legal requirement to immediately notify the SIU of incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death of civilians in which their officers are involved. Furthermore the vehicular killing is not even listed on a police board report of SIU investigations presented at the Hamilton police board in April of 2017. Clearly the Hamilton Police Services view themselves as well above the law, as do police forces across the country. They are a law unto themselves as we have long known.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has committed to publishing the details of every police-involved fatality dating back to 1990, when the Special Investigations Unit was established, as per the recommendations of the recent report on police oversight undertaken by Justice Michael Tulloch. SIU investigations are kept secret even from the families of victims. The Tulloch report also recommended that oversight agencies start collecting demographic data including race and religion, currently not maintained systematically in Canada. The report also recommended that oversight bodies release detailed reports whenever a police officer is cleared of wrongdoing. At the same time, police officers involved in deaths or serious incidents will not be identified unless they are charged, as is current, bad, practice.
Carter, Adam. 2017. “4 Times Hamilton Cops were Investigated for Sex Assault and the SIU Said Nothing.” CBC News. April 20. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/siu-sexual-assault-allegations-hamilton-police-1.4077303
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the provincial body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating the death of an as yet unnamed 40-year-old man who died while in Kelowna RCMP custody. RCMP claim officers responded to a single-vehicle crashing into a tree on McCulloch Road at around 5:15 PM on Friday, March 31, 2017. RCMP report taking the driver to the detachment in Kelowna as part of a criminal investigation, the nature of which has not been revealed publicly.
Police claim that the man was taken to hospital after complaining of pain. Following examination there he was, according to police, taken back to the detachment and booked into a cell at 11:25 PM. According to RCMP the prisoner was found unresponsive the next day at approximately 2:11 PM and was pronounced dead around 2:40 PM.
None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. The details of the prisoner’s death in RCMP custody, as presented by police, have not been independently verified.