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Complaining Commissioner

"Originally published in The Province May 9, 2005"

By Sergeant Mark Tonner, Vancouver PD
(reprinted with permission)

60 sworn complaints were boiled down to 11 by RCMP investigators. Police Complaints Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld whittled the believable total down to three.

The three raised comparatively insignificant issues: a man was searched for drugs, a knee strike was used on a fighting suspect. No torture, brutality or kidnapping, just police officers trying to do their work.

Now, in the absence of law enforcement horror, the crime is said to be one of attitude- from VPD members along with their chief. VPD distrust of the Complaint Commission investigative process was seen as deplorable.

In the face of near universal bias, all a fellow officer can do is lend insight.

The law says a respondent officer is required to submit a duty report, no more. Yet RCMP investigators opened by requesting aggressive videotaped interviews of VPD folk. This, though the RCMP doesn't use the same type of interviews on their own members. The sessions were confrontational and antagonistic. Our union leaders soon recommended that members decline to take part. That played on ready ears, considering what we'd been hearing about the complaints themselves. Which is to say they were perceived to be nonsense. Remember, the officers involved knew the truth. They were appalled by the extravagance of the lies.

Other officers had people approaching them on the street, telling of being paid cash, or given cigarettes for swearing out false affidavits against police.

Hostility from Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld was seen as a given. He'd addressed a recent police academy graduation class, speaking of his belief that police officers tend to be corrupt, sharing warnings not to join in. What should have been encouragement became an affront, to a room filled with idealistic new officers, parents and loved ones.

Distrust in an investigative process is labelled as inappropriate or unlawful, coming from VPD members. Yet when it comes from activist lawyers it results in the process being rearranged. That, you'll recall, was how this started- with PIVOT people refusing to speak to police investigators, out of distrust.

No amount of exoneration will quiet a judgemental crowd. Though commission results show the VPD to be free of systemic corruption, the cry is now going up for Chief Jamie Graham to be dismissed.

And for what? Acknowledging that his employees have rights? I'm surprised no one has asked for his head to be put on a spike out front of HQ, as a warning to other managers prone to supporting their people.

Sgt. Mark Tonner is a Vancouver police officer. His opinions aren't necessarily those of the city's police department or police board. Mark may be contacted at marcuspt@shaw.ca

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