There’s a human cost to our
biased police complaint system

People like Ian Upton, Rollie Woods
and Bruce M. Brown might think
they’re just sticking up for their buddies.
But their dishonesty takes a toll
on the welfare of people
they’re paid to serve.


Since starting this Web site I’ve heard disturbing accounts of other people’s experiences with police and the police complaint process. Their stories show the human cost of a system that protects wrongdoing cops.

One person told me that Vancouver police arrested, strip-searched and jailed him for three nights without laying a charge. He said they did so because he contacted a member of the police board to make a police complaint.

Would Vancouver police do such a thing?

To some extent his story resembles an incident involving Cameron Ward, a prominent lawyer who has taken up cases of police misconduct. Possibly because some Vancouver police officers recognized him, they arrested him and had him strip-searched and jailed. Vancouver Police Professional Standards “dismissed his complaint by falsely concluding he had not been strip-searched,” wrote Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew. Ward successfully sued the police, the city and the province.

Another person told me that four Saanich police officers tortured her son, a university student, with repeated Taser shocks. She said this happened in his own room, which police entered without a warrant after a prank call. He needed 18 months to recover from Taser-induced neurological problems and post-traumatic stress syndrome. His mother said the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner conducted a “completely biased and ridiculous investigation.”

Would police actually use a Taser to torture someone?

Following Robert Dziekanski’s death, other cases are coming to light. For example Clay Alvin Willey died after being Tasered, pepper-sprayed, beaten with truncheons and handcuffed face-down. In another example, burn marks on a Prince George man show he was Tasered at least 23 times. The man also said police beat him while he was handcuffed.

Another person related to me several instances of police harassment and abuse. She indicated that police were taking revenge because of her former involvement with drugs. In one example, police refused to investigate after two men sexually assaulted her. “What can I do?” she asked. “Call the cops on the cops?”

Would police be so vengeful? Would they even ignore a sexual assault?

One year after I filed a complaint against three Vancouver officers, I had to call Vancouver police to my job, where I was working alone on the night shift. A big, dangerous-looking guy said he was going to rape a woman who had just entered the building. He was shouting threats and pounding and kicking the door, which was locked and fortunately very sturdy. He kept that up for the entire time it took Vancouver police to arrive.

That was 22 minutes.

I can’t help wondering if police put the woman and myself at risk in retaliation for my police complaint.

They could learn about that easily. Greater Vancouver emergency dispatchers insist that callers provide their full name and birth date. A quick computer check could pull up information about the complaint.

Would police actually do such a thing? Or was there another explanation for their pitiful response?

An honest investigation into this incident might find that the 22-minute response time was the best Vancouver police could do.

Or an honest investigation might find the emergency call was accidentally mishandled. In that case a remedial measure might prevent a re-occurrence.

Or an honest investigation might find the emergency call was deliberately snubbed because I had previously made a police complaint. That’s indeed a possibility, especially considering the other examples of police retaliation I’ve heard about.

Those are three possible conclusions that an honest investigation might find. But a Vancouver Police Professional Standards investigation would find only one conclusion — that the police did absolutely everything right.

Judging by the work of Ian Upton and Rollie Woods, that’s the conclusion VPD Professional Standards sets out to find. Its investigators don’t care how they arrive at that conclusion, either.

They know they can get away with it because B.C.’s deputy police complaint commissioner, Bruce M. Brown, will automatically approve their work.

That’s what happened in my case. The bias shown by Upton, Woods and Brown was so obvious that it had to be deliberate. If they handled my complaint that way, they most likely handled other complaints the same way — except maybe for cases that get advance media, support from an influential group or caught on video.

Under the circumstances, it’s necessary to be frank: When working at Vancouver Police Professional Standards, Ian Upton and Rollie Woods made their living covering up for police misconduct. Bruce M. Brown does the same at B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Woods now works for the OPCC, most likely because he’s experienced in police cover-ups and possibly also because he and Brown could be cronies.

The system is corrupt. It allows dishonest work from police and public officials. Their dishonesty takes a toll on the welfare of people they’re paid to serve.

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