The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is filing a complaint after the head of the Langley RCMP made comments that could interfere with the independent review of the police shooting death of Alvin Wright. Wright, who had no criminal record, and no history of violence, was alleged by the head of the Langley RCMP detachment of attempting to attack a police officer with a knife.
“The RCMP did the right thing in asking for the independent review, and then immediately turned around and did the wrong thing by telling the independent reviewer what the conclusion of the review should be,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “When you go to the press and say here are the facts, and our officers had no choice, why ask for a review?”
As early as yesterday evening, the BCCLA was congratulating the RCMP approach to the file, in particular their requests to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to review the investigation done by the Vancouver Police Department. Now the organization is filing a complaint against Superintendant Derek Cooke, whose detachment had refused to remove the involved officers from active duty – even before the Vancouver Police Department investigation of the incident was complete. The RCMP has confirmed that the release was not approved by E Division.
“In our view the RCMP detachment head is in a conflict of interest and his comments about the event, concerning which he has no first-hand, direct knowledge, are inappropriate,” noted Holmes. “After the RCMP decided to engage an outside review of matters, it would have been far better had he let that process work, instead of offering up his own conclusions. The perception that such comments may sway the course and outcome of that review will be hard to dispel. The inference that such comments had that as their aim will remain one that reasonable people will have to ponder. Sadly, as most residents of B.C. understand, often the official RCMP version of events needs critical examination and it is best to wait for a full review by an objective and independent source before coming to a conclusion.”
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.