Still flaws with complaints process

A letter published in the Delta Optimist, Oct. 14, 2009


Re: He wants to hear your complaints, Sept. 26

Your story about B.C. police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe’s speech doesn’t mention that I was there, quietly distributing leaflets outside the entrance.

I informed your newsroom in advance that I’d be there and I e-mailed you a copy of my leaflet following the speech. Unlike Lowe, I’m not a big shot with a tax-funded budget and public relations professionals to help me communicate with the public. Nor would I ever disrupt a meeting. Does that rule me out as a news source?

If Lowe has launched an awareness campaign, he might explain his decision in the Robert Dziekanski case. Last December, in his previous job with the Crown’s Criminal Justice Branch, Lowe took part in the decision to exonerate the four RCMP officers involved in Dziekanski’s death. Lowe claimed the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment inflicted on Dziekanski were “reasonable and necessary.”

Just one week later Lowe was appointed police complaint commissioner, a job that allows him to make similar judgments in favour of municipal cops.

He now heads a staff of ex-cops. Every one of his investigative analysts is a former police officer.

The idea that ex-cops can be impartial about police complaints is naive. So says Andre Marin, former head of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (which investigates police complaints) and currently Ontario’s ombudsman.

Speaking of the ombudsman, B.C.’s has no power over Lowe and his staff. In theory, B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is answerable only to the legislature. But because the legislature doesn’t review its work for fairness or competence, the OPCC is really answerable to no one.

Lowe praises the legislature’s proposed changes to the police complaint system. But they’re very minor. Police will continue to investigate police, while final decisions will be made by people very close to the police. That’s why groups like the Pivot Legal Society and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are continuing their boycott of the process. They suggest people launch civil suits instead.

With a credible police complaint process, we’d all win — police too, because the present system is helping erode public confidence.

These are just a few points that didn’t make it into Lowe’s speech or your story.

Greg Klein