The OPCC has a big problem
but it’s not money

No budget increase will fix B.C.’s system of police accountability
as long as Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops run the show

Oct. 11, 2010


An all-party legislative committee stinted Stan Lowe last week when the police complaint commissioner applied for a major budget boost. He asked for an annual increase of $305,000 but got only $85,000. In one of a series of articles about the OPCC budget, the Times Colonist plays this up as “disastrous” for police accountability. Actually it’s a red herring.

Giving the OPCC more money won’t solve the problem of police accountability because the OPCC itself is a large part of that problem. Give Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops more money and they’ll just hire more ex-cops and others carefully chosen to reinforce the OPCC’s cop culture. Their job, as they see it, is to excuse, rationalize or cover up for police misconduct.

The Times Colonist story is good propaganda, though. It portrays Stan the Establishment Man as a crusader for justice who’s struggling against uncaring politicians. In fact Lowe’s a very loyal defender of B.C.’s cop status quo. That’s most likely why another all-party legislative committee appointed him police complaint commissioner so soon after Lowe fronted the Criminal Justice Branch decision to exonerate the four Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death.

Now other Postmedia papers will likely run the Times Colonist story, whitewashing Lowe’s public image.

Someone at the OPCC evidently has an “in” with the Times Colonist, possibly a social connection with one of the paper’s bigshots. As a result, the OPCC occasionally feeds stories to this paper, to the exclusion of others. The stories suggest Lowe could do wonderful work if only he had more money and resources. They always portray Lowe in a positive light. The Times Colonist reporter (it’s almost always Rob Shaw) never asks him a difficult, let alone critical, question. These stories reflect one point of view only, that of the OPCC. In addition, the Times Colonist is the only major B.C. newspaper I know of that consistently rejects every letter critical of the OPCC.

[Update: On Nov. 7, 2010 the Times Colonist ran a lengthy series of articles about police accountability across Canada. But, instead of providing critical scrutiny of the OPCC, reporter Katie DeRosa barely mentioned the agency — a really glaring omission. The series was reprinted in other Postmedia papers. Here’s an earlier and much more informative article on the subject.]

[Another update: I’ve since found that the Times Colonist’s slanted OPCC coverage goes back at least to the time of Lowe’s predecessor as police complaint commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld. On his retirement, Shaw wrote a typically fawning article that quoted Ryneveld praising himself in the terms of a Biblical parable.]

[And another update, as the Times Colonist continues to show its bias. DeRosa wrote an extremely simple-minded puff piece, almost an advertorial, promoting ITV Consulting Inc. and its thoroughly discredited Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), which ITV falsely claims has a 98-per-cent accuracy rate. ITV is owned and operated by retired Saanich police officers Don Wiebe and Bob Wall, and employs a current Saanich officer, Det. Sgt. Craig Sampson. Several other Postmedia publications reprinted DeRosa’s unprofessional story before Vancouver Sun columnist David Baines tore apart ITV’s credibility in a three-part series. Here’s part 1, part 2 and part 3, as well as a follow-up article.]

[And yet another update, this time to expose DeRosa’s inexcusable ignorance. In a March 31, 2011 story she claimed that the OPCC “investigates misconduct complaints against police officers.” It doesn’t. It simply reviews police investigations into other police. This is a crucial point, one that’s central to the issue of police accountability in B.C. And limited as they are, the OPCC carries out its responsibilities disgracefully.]

Back to the budget decision, it doesn’t bode well for Thomas Braidwood’s recommended Independent Investigation Office, which would investigate deaths and serious injuries caused by police. UBC law professor Benjamin Goold points out that the province could undermine police accountability by under-funding the IIO.

(Goold also says the government could undermine accountability if it carries out its threat to put the IIO under OPCC jurisdiction instead of the Ombudsperson’s jurisdiction.)

But the Times Colonist red herring has great potential to confuse the issue. Money can’t fix the OPCC. The OPCC should be scrapped and the IIO built from scratch — with proper funding and without any OPCC retreads on its staff.

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