Wu case confirms that
police should not
investigate themselves

An editorial in the Vancouver Sun, Jan. 27, 2010


It’s not like we needed any more evidence that the police should not investigate themselves. But if we did, the Wu case provides it.

The case began early Thursday morning after police received a call from a woman who said she was being attacked by her husband and feared for the safety of her baby.

Two plain clothes Vancouver police officers responded to the call, but were unaware there were two separate residences at the address. They knocked on the wrong door — that of 44-year-old Yao Wei Wu — and, according to Wu, dragged him outside and began attacking him.

Later Thursday, the Vancouver police department issued an apology of sorts: The department admitted the Wu case was one of mistaken identity but said that when police knocked on his door, Wu “resisted by striking out at the police and trying to slam the door, but the officers persisted in the belief that there may be a woman and child inside who could be in danger.” The statement also noted that Wu “received minor injuries to his face in the process.”

Now anyone who has seen pictures of Wu has good reason to question the VPD’s definition of “minor injuries.” But even more important, Chief Jim Chu issued a statement Friday that questioned much of the Thursday VPD statement.

In his statement, Chu said “In our initial media release we said that Mr. Wu resisted arrest and was injured in the process. I want to make it perfectly clear that we do not stand by that statement. This was information that was premature and released as fact when in reality only the current investigation into the matter can determine the details of what happened,”

Chu didn’t explain how the police came to the erroneous conclusions in the original statement, or why the department issued it prematurely.

This is a serious problem since the original statement suggested first, that Wu acted inappropriately, and second that the officers did nothing wrong other than knocking on the wrong door. This, unquestionably, raises an apprehension of bias on the part of the VPD, since members of the public could reasonably conclude that the VPD was trying to provide cover for its officers before all the facts were in.

Given the apprehension of bias, it is entirely inappropriate for the VPD to conduct the investigation into this matter. Whatever the investigation finds, it is now tainted, and the public cannot have confidence in its conclusions.

Yet remarkably, Chu sees no reason to hand the matter over to another police department, as it has done in the past in cases of alleged VPD wrongdoing. While Chu’s admission of the error is welcome, he is clearly failing, not just the public he serves, but the VPD itself.

And this is precisely why British Columbia needs to implement a system whereby allegations of police wrongdoing are automatically investigated by an independent, impartial unit. The public — and the police — deserve nothing less.

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