Dec. 12, 2011 Backgrounder 3:

B.C. media and police accountability:
Little coverage and often inaccurate


B.C.’s news coverage on this topic is chronically inaccurate. For example, at least twice last month dozens of Black Press outlets across the province repeated the fallacy that the OPCC investigates police.

There’s been almost no critical scrutiny, reporting or comment about the shortcomings of the IIO. One rare exception was a recent Vancouver Province column by Michael Smyth.

When Stan Lowe was appointed police complaint commissioner, the media showed no interest in his highly controversial background with the Criminal Justice Branch and its Dziekanski decision. Just one week after that decision, Lowe was appointed police complaint commissioner.

I’ve found only two media reports (the Times Colonist and CBC) at the time of Lowe’s appointment that mention his Dziekanski decision. In both cases they mentioned it very briefly and “buried” it, as if the info was unimportant.

There’s no media scrutiny of the ex-cops who hold senior OPCC positions, the way the agency handles police complaints, or the fact that it answers to no one.

The Times Colonist appears to have a longstanding policy of printing favourable, even fulsome, articles about the OPCC. It’s the only major paper that’s consistently rejected my letters criticizing the OPCC. Vancouver Courier reporter Mike Howell also praises the OPCC.

Ontario’s media, by contrast, are much better informed and frequently scrutinize the work of the province’s two police oversight agencies.

Having said that, I have to acknowledge the work of Ian Mulgrew at the Vancouver Sun (who was on Lowe’s case before he even joined the OPCC) and especially Travis Lupick and Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight. One other rarity in the B.C. media was a Black Press editorial that briefly criticized Stan Lowe but for some reason praised former RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy.

I also have to acknowledge the many newspaper editors who’ve published my letters, especially at the Vancouver Sun and Province. Unfortunately, my experience shows that factual information that comes to light in the letters section doesn’t make its way into news stories and columns, which have much more impact.

Backgrounders to December 12, 2011 media release:

1. The OPCC: B.C.’s little-known police oversight agency

2. B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office: Not what it’s made out to be

3. B.C. media and police accountability: Little coverage and often inaccurate

4. The Don Morrison controversy: The one time that the OPCC did receive scrutiny

5. The BCCLA: Part of the problem with our system of police accountability

6. The NDP: Supporting the BC Liberals’ efforts to thwart police accountability

7. About me

Go to the Dec. 12, 2011 news release
Go to the News and Comment page