A newly proactive OPCC?

Whether it reflects a PR ploy or genuine reform,
B.C.’s police complaint commissioner now orders
investigations on his own initiative

August 10, 2019

Vancouver police mob shoots supine man with beanbag gun

Backed by an increasingly large police mob, a Vancouver cop repeatedly shoots a beanbag gun at a supine man, disregarding the possibility that he might be unable to hear, understand or physically comply with every detail
of the cop’s demands. Breaking with the OPCC’s 21-year practice, B.C.’s new police complaint commissioner
has ordered an investigation without receiving a complaint. (Click the image to see a video).


New police complaint commissioner Clayton Pecknold has called two investigations into police without receiving a complaint. This is, as far as I know, unprecedented in the OPCC’s 21-year history, certainly under these circumstances. Contrast that with his predecessors, who have a history of ignoring or even covering up police misconduct and, when challenged after the fact, fabricating obviously false excuses.

On May 30, after a woman was shoved to the ground at a Vancouver demonstration, the OPCC announced an investigation. The commissioner learned about the incident through media publicity but didn’t receive a complaint. According to a statement, the agency “determined that it is in the public interest, pursuant to sec 95 of the Police Act, to disclose that an investigation has been ordered into this incident.”

That too clashes with previous statements by former deputy commissioner Rollie Woods, who dishonestly pretended that the Police Act prevents any disclosure or confirmation that an investigation has been ordered or even whether a complaint was received. In one especially egregious example, he used that false excuse as a diversion from the OPCC cover-up of VPD officer Taylor Robinson’s assault on a disabled native woman.

The OPCC actually received a complaint from the victim but refused to act until nearly four weeks later, when the media found out.

Pecknold’s next investigation order sans request came in late July, after Vancouver cops repeatedly shot a beanbag gun at a man lying on the sidewalk. “We did not receive a complaint from a member of the public,” Global News quoted new deputy commissioner Andrea Spindler. “The commissioner has the independent authority to initiate an investigation into an incident if he determines it’s in the public interest.”

Apparently no one ever explained that to Stan Lowe, Rollie Woods, Dirk Ryneveld, Bruce M. Brown or Don Morrison. In fact someone from the Lowe/Woods regime, likely Woods, is on record suggesting that the commissioner can’t order an investigation without receiving a complaint. Writing about severe injuries that District of Saanich officer Brent Wray inflicted on Don Lapshinoff (not long before Wray’s promotion), Black Press reporter Keri Coles stated, “When asked why an investigation wasn’t launched in 2012 when they became aware of the case, the OPCC said it was because it did not receive a complaint from Lapshinoff.”

Of course Woods proved to be a serial liar throughout the Lowe/Woods regime’s disgraceful decade and, by lying on behalf of Lowe, showed Lowe to be a serial liar himself.

Apart from the Robinson and Wray cover-ups, the OPCC also covered up for New Westminster cop Sukhwinder “Vinnie” Singh Dosanjh, currently facing new charges of sexual assault, and now-disgraced former Victoria police chief Frank Elsner. Additionally, the Robinson and Wray cover-ups each constitute dual cover-ups, in which Lowe and Woods covered up not only those cops’ assaults, but also the fact that their fellow cops withheld the info from the OPCC, contrary to the Police Act.

And these are just some cases that came to light despite the agency’s ability to work in near-secrecy and without accountability. Characters like Lowe and Woods thrive in a milieu like this, as did their predecessors, Ryneveld, Brown and Morrison.

Maybe Pecknold’s well-publicized responses to two well-publicized incidents comprise a PR ploy to divert attention from more typical OPCC deeds. Certainly, someone with such consistent cop credentials seems an unlikely candidate to clean up this ethically corrupt agency. But maybe the examples of Richard Nixon to China and Menachem Begin to Egypt apply.

If Pecknold does reform the OPCC, he’ll benefit a lot of people besides those who’ve experienced cop misconduct. The OPCC’s 21-year history stains the police themselves, as well as B.C.’s political parties, legal establishment, social justice activists and media.

Let’s watch Pecknold’s progress with guarded optimism.

(Of course that’s kind of difficult since B.C.’s Police Act allows him and his staff to work in near secrecy and without accountability. Unfortunately a legislative committee on police accountability seems likely to neglect that problem.)

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