Police use unreliable stats
from an unreliable source

The OPCC cooks its books for cops,
who may have created the OPCC
in the first place

April 13, 2010

After printing a letter from Tom Stamatakis of the B.C. Police Association, the Vancouver Province declined to print my reply. So, better late than never, here it is.

And here are some additional remarks.

To defend the police, Stamatakis uses figures from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. But OPCC numbers have no more credibility than OPCC decisions. The OPCC might even be a creation of the police.

Last January, to the general agreement of other panelists at a forum on in-custody deaths, SFU criminologist Dr. David MacAlister attributed B.C.’s process of investigating police to a “very powerful police lobby.”

In April 2009 Andre Marin wrote about the police lobby in Manitoba and Ontario:

“Police special interest groups, including powerful unions, have succeeded in keeping themselves immune from independent oversight. The lessons learned from Taman, Harper and Dziekanski are ignored as police management and unions, normally at loggerheads, come together to fight the common enemy of effective civilian oversight, stampeding politicians in the process.”

Loggerheads or not, last December Stamatakis, who’s also president of the Vancouver Police Union, joined Vancouver Police chief Jim Chu to attack critics of the police. In doing so, they diverted attention from a highly dubious police investigation into a highly suspicious police shooting.

Stamatakis’ B.C. Police Association exists to lobby the government and, not surprisingly, it supported the minor Police Act amendments that preserve the status quo. But does an especially powerful police lobby exist and does it really call the shots?

That could account for the spectacle of five MLAs from two warring political parties appointing Stan Lowe police complaint commissioner, for the OPCC policy of hiring ex-cops like Rollie Woods and Bruce M. Brown, for the fact that the OPCC answers to nobody and for the spectacle of two arch-rival political parties uniting to preserve B.C.’s heavily biased police complaint system despite heightened public concern.

It certainly appears that a powerful police lobby holds sway in B.C., and that Stamatakis’ police union and police association are in it every bit as deep as management.

Of course Stamatakis’ groups have a responsibility to ensure their members are treated fairly. The trouble is, the process is anything but fair to the public. Nor is there any reason to think that civilian investigators — real civilians without cop backgrounds — would be unfair to the police. Unfortunately the police lobby is, as Marin writes, “all about the police maintaining control.”

In B.C., that’s what they have — control over every aspect of the police complaint process. Not a man or woman in the legislature wants to change that.

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