An open letter to the
B.C. Civil Liberties Association
and Pivot Legal Society

From Greg Klein, February 3, 2014


I’m calling on your organizations to press for legislation to reform B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Information that’s come to light over the last few months makes it additionally clear that the OPCC helped Vancouver police cover up the actions of Taylor Robinson, the VPD constable who shoved a disabled woman to the ground. This is a textbook case demonstrating the need for legislation bringing transparency and accountability to the OPCC. But both the BC Liberals and NDP continually support the OPCC status quo. Outside the legislature, no one has as much potential influence on this issue as the BCCLA and Pivot.

The recent info consists of specific dates that police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe found necessary to divulge in his November 12, 2013, Notice of Public Hearing and a brazenly dishonest public statement from deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods.

If the dates Lowe provided are correct, we now know when Vancouver Police Professional Standards learned of the Robinson incident, and when and how the OPCC learned of it. That further substantiates the fact that the OPCC and VPD took part in a cover-up. Woods’ false statement, in which he claims Lowe has ordered a public inquiry into the way Vancouver police handled the case, further reveals the OPCC’s dishonesty and the agency’s inability to explain its own handling of the case.

Here’s an account of the OPCC/VPD cover-up:

On June 9, 2010, VPD constable Robinson shoved a disabled woman, Sandy Davidsen, to the sidewalk for no apparent reason.

VPD Professional Standards officers learned of the incident by June 11, 2010, when they interviewed the victim. But they did not order a Criminal Code investigation, order a Police Act investigation, or inform the OPCC, as they were required to do by law. Instead they covered up the incident.

The OPCC learned about Robinson’s actions on June 28, 2010, but from the victim, not the police. At that point Lowe, Woods and their staff were legally required to order a Police Act investigation into Robinson’s actions and another Police Act investigation into the VPD Professional Standards officers who covered up Robinson’s actions. Additionally Lowe, Woods and their staff were required to monitor the investigations while they were taking place and provide instructions if the OPCC believed the investigations were conducted inadequately. Lowe, Woods and their staff did none of those things. They colluded in the Vancouver police cover-up.

Media learned about Robinson’s actions on July 22, 2010, when the BCCLA released surveillance video. It was only after the extensive publicity that began on July 22, 2010, that the OPCC and VPD agreed to have Robinson investigated. No investigation has ever been ordered into the VPD cover-up, in which the OPCC colluded.

Further evidence of the OPCC’s dishonest handling of this case comes from a letter by Woods that was posted on the Georgia Straight website on December 5, 2013. In the letter Woods falsely claims that Lowe has ordered a public hearing “in particular to look into why the police did not notify this office of the pushing incident and instead undertook some type of informal resolution process that is outside of the Police Act.” That statement is completely false. Lowe has not ordered a public hearing into anything regarding this case other than Robinson’s actions. Woods had no excuse for thinking his statement was in any way accurate. Even if Woods did somehow, accidentally, incompetently, get his info completely wrong, the OPCC was required to issue a public correction. The fact that the OPCC didn’t further indicates that Woods deliberately lied to the public and did so with Lowe’s knowledge.

This textbook case reveals the overall corruption of an agency that mostly operates in secrecy. How many other cases are there in which Lowe, Woods and their staff conducted in an entirely disreputable manner?

As it stands now, nothing can be done about Lowe, Woods or any other OPCC staff involved in the cover-up. Lowe answers to no one—absolutely no one at all. In practice that immunity applies to his staff too. Their dishonesty is made easier yet by the fact that they work in secrecy as much as possible.

Obviously we need legislative changes to reform this corrupt institution. But the BC Liberals and NDP have continually supported the OPCC status quo. That was shown last year, for example, when a supposed inquiry into the OPCC by seven MLAs and the provincial auditor general cynically excluded participation, comment or submissions from anyone but police interests.

While your organizations have taken up individual cases of police misconduct, cops make relatively easy targets. The most serious problem lies not with individual officers but with a thoroughly disreputable system of police oversight—one that would be considered scandalous in jurisdictions like Ontario. Apart from everything else, the OPCC speaks volumes about British Columbia’s politics and public discourse, and the integrity of our public officials.

No one outside the legislature has nearly as much potential influence on this issue as the BCCLA and Pivot. The media listen to you. Politicians would find it difficult to brush you off.

Therefore I’m calling on your organizations to press legislators to reform a disreputable system and a disreputable agency.

Greg Klein

Read more about the Stan Lowe/Rollie Woods/OPCC cover-up
of VPD constable Taylor Robinson’s assault on a disabled woman
Read more about B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
Read more news and comment about police accountability in B.C.