Welcome to the OPCC,
Poulton and Collins.
You should feel right at home

The newest additions to Stan Lowe’s crew of ex-cops
help maintain the OPCC’s police culture

July 20, 2010

Even during a time of heightened public concern about police accountability, B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner continues to reinforce its cop culture. That shows in its three most recently hired “investigative” analysts: Ross Poulton, Tom Collins and Rollie Woods.

Poulton and Collins were hired over the last few months, Woods roughly a year and a half or two years ago. Poulton was hired from the Saanich Police Department, where he worked for at least 15 years. Again Stan Lowe and his crew are not only hiring another cop, they’re hiring a cop from a police force they oversee, and a cop who’s closely connected with other B.C. police forces too. As a long-time Saanich officer, Poulton undoubtedly has professional and social connections with cops on several police forces, at least in the Victoria region.

Almost all of B.C.’s municipal forces are concentrated in two regions: Greater Vancouver and Victoria’s Capital Regional District. Their officers often work together, share professional camaraderie and seek promotions with neighbouring forces.

One of the cops who worked with Poulton was a West Shore RCMP officer named Bruce M. Brown. Brown is now B.C.’s deputy police complaint commissioner and no doubt had a say in the decision to hire his former fellow officer.

(Poulton and Brown worked together on at least one case, the Reena Virk murder investigation. When the case came to trial, Poulton was slammed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nancy Morrison for “a shocking disregard for the rights of someone who is still a child under our law.” As a result, Morrison ruled that key evidence presented by Poulton was inadmissable.)

So with Poulton the OPCC has hired another possible Brown crony (Rollie Woods is another) who’s closely connected to the cops he supposedly oversees.

Tom Collins qualifies as the OPCC’s token civilian. He isn’t an ex-cop. Therefore he proves that the OPCC is committed to independent civilian oversight, doesn’t he?

Actually he doesn’t. This rare exception to the OPCC rule is a former B.C. sheriff, which is about as close to being a cop as you can get. B.C. sheriffs are a uniformed law enforcement unit who are allowed to use Tasers and physical force on the public. They work very closely with the cops.

Maybe the biggest difference between cops and sheriffs is that sheriffs don’t conduct investigations. But the rationale for hiring ex-cops is that they have investigative experience. So why was Collins hired — other than the fact that he’s very close to the police?

The OPCC’s third-most-recent hire happened roughly a year and a half or two years ago. That was Rollie Woods, former head of the ethically challenged Vancouver Police Professional Standards Unit. While there, Woods personally took part in police cover-ups which were rubber-stamped by Brown.

Woods is a former colleague of Victoria police chief Jamie Graham, Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich, Vancouver police chief Jim Chu and many other Vancouver police officers. In all likelihood, Woods has lots of cop buddies throughout the province.

Clearly the OPCC prefers to hire people from the police forces it supposedly oversees. Those people have professional and social connections in several other police forces within B.C.’s tightly knit police community. Cronyism might also be a factor in these hiring decisions. Certainly an affinity for cop culture affects the hiring decisions, as Collins’ example shows.

The OPCC’s bias will become even more troubling if, as now seems likely, the provincial government circumvents Thomas Braidwood’s recommendations by putting the new civilian investigative agency under the OPCC’s jurisdiction.


Updates: In April 2011, Rollie Woods was promoted to deputy police complaint commissioner despite his disreputable background with VPD Professional Standards.

Ross Poulton is another reason why we need an independent review into the OPCC’s decisions and hiring policy.

According to information I’ve been given, Poulton, as a Saanich Police Professional Standards officer in 2005, exonerated four other Saanich officers who pinned an unarmed, non-violent university student face-down on the floor of his own home and Tasered him five times in 40 seconds. As a result the victim spent 16 days in hospital and underwent several months of recovery. Typically, the OPCC upheld Poulton’s decision.

(I’ve also been informed that a request for an investigation by an outside police force was quashed by a Crown attorney named Christine Lowe, who’s married to Stan Lowe, the former Crown attorney and Dziekanski death squad supporter who was later appointed police complaint commissioner.)

Now Poulton works for Lowe at the OPCC. Poulton’s past work, and the OPCC decision to hire him, call for an independent review.

Oh, and by the way — Dirk Ryneveld, who was police complaint commissioner when the OPCC rubber-stamped Poulton’s investigation, now acts as legal counsel for Saanich police.

(Some other reasons for an independent investigation into OPCC decisions and hiring practices are here and here.)

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