November 23 is the second anniversary of B.C.’s Solicitor General filing a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (“CPC”) in relation to the 2003 death of Clayton Alvin Willey. At the time of the complaint, the Solicitor General called the investigation into the details of Willey’s death a matter of “confidence in the RCMP.” Two years later, the investigation by the CPC has not been completed.
The CPC is the same organization recently asked to conduct a multi-year investigation of sexual harassment complaints by female RCMP police and civilian staff.
“Ensuring standards of performance are met on complaints is a concern for all British Columbians. It should be a concern of the RCMP as well,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “It is imperative that the Solicitor General ensure that the RCMP and CPC agree to appropriate performance measures if BC is to enter into a new contract. It shouldn’t take two years to respond to complaints. If the CPC and RCMP are going to allow multi-year delays in complaint investigations, they’re effectively thumbing their noses at those they’re supposed to serve.”
Clayton Alvin Willey died shortly after being removed from the Prince George RCMP detachment by ambulance. He had been Tasered multiple times while hog tied, and had been dragged while hog tied from the back of an RCMP SUV and allowed to drop, full weight, on his head and chest, fracturing his ribs. RCMP video showed Mr. Willey being dragged through the RCMP detachment and receiving multiple Taser applications. The 2003 case rose to prominence again in 2009 when the BCCLA and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs publicly released details contained on an RCMP surveillance video of the death and called for the release of the video.
“Clayton Alvin Willey’s death is a black mark on the record of service of the RCMP in BC,” noted Holmes. “We want timely investigations and prompt accountability for any who failed to live up to the standards the RCMP is supposed to live by. Instead, we are left knowing that another season’s ice is forming on the Ottawa River and that eight years after Mr. Willey died in 2003, we still have no answers from the force or the Complaints Commissioner whose job it is to uphold the public’s trust.”
Robert Holmes, Q.C., President, (604) 838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997
BACKGROUNDER: THE RCMP AND THE MEDIA
The RCMP has a history of omitting key facts in their media releases to the public about police-involved deaths. Many times, information contradicting the “official” version of events comes out at a coroner’s inquest or through video evidence provided by bystanders or surveillance systems. For example:
- Before the video of the Robert Dziekanski incident was released to the public, but after the RCMP had reviewed the video, the RCMP had said that officers “attempted to calm him [Dziekanski] down” and “communicate with him” before Dziekanski “attempted to grab something off a desk.” The video showed that information to be inaccurate or misleading.
- Before the blood splatter evidence in the Ian Bush case in Houston was released, the RCMP had alleged that Mr. Bush was choking the police officer from behind when he was shot. The blood splatter evidence and Mr. Bush’s forensics indicated that Mr. Bush was shot in the back of the head.
- Before the testimony of the forensic pathologist in the Rodney Shane Jackson coroner’s inquest took place, the RCMP had told media Jackson had been shot in the chest, not in the back. Jackson had, in fact, been shot in the back.
- Before the testimony of the partner of the officer who shot an unarmed Kevin St. Arnaud, and before information about the physical evidence was released at the coroner’s inquest, the RCMP had said that Mr. St. Arnaud was standing over top of the shooting officer. In the partner’s version of events, the officer was standing in a “police shooting stance”. The RCMP ordered the partner not to speak to the media. An eye witness said Mr. St. Arnaud was surrendering.
- The video of Mr. Clayton Alvin Willey’s treatment in RCMP cells in Prince George has still not been released, which shows him receiving multiple Taser applications while hog tied, information which was not released by the RCMP at the time of his death in custody, and for which no officer has ever been charged