The BCCLA is pleased that the Province and BC’s police oversight bodies have reversed their previously dismissive attitudes towards the organization’s concerns about the Paul Boyd case.
On Monday, after the release of the Paul Boyd shooting video, the BCCLA called for the Boyd file to be re-opened, marking the BCCLA’s third such call for review. But unlike previous requests, by late Tuesday afternoon, the BCCLA had received notice that the Coroners’ Service of BC was re-opening their file on the death. In addition, the BCCLA was notified that the Police Complaint Commissioner, Minister of Justice and Vancouver Police Department had asked an outside police agency, Alberta’s “ASIRT” team, to re-investigate the file.
“The most unfortunate part of all of this is that it took a video to get action on the Boyd file. It’s like déjà vu all over again for British Columbians,” noted Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “We wrote to the Criminal Justice Branch and the Police Complaint Commissioner months ago pointing out that the evidence at the Coroner’s Inquest showed Boyd was crawling and disarmed when he was shot. To put it politely, our concerns were ignored.”
In a response authored by then Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert W.G. Gillen, the Criminal Justice Branch dismissed the BCCLA’s letter, concluding: “I believe we can both agree that the public interest is not served by my office expending valuable resources to confirm that assertions made by your organization [BCCLA] are not correct.” The BCCLA did not agree with Mr. Gillen’s assessment of the evidence.
The Police Complaint Commissioner was similarly dismissive of the BCCLA’s concerns, creating a new defence for police officers called “Inattentional Blindness” to respond to the issue of Boyd being killed while crawling injured, and disarmed. The Commissioner wrote: “Constable Chipperfield’s failure to perceive Constable Baird’s removal of the chain from Mr. Boyd is reasonably explained by Dr. Lewinski in terms of his [Chipperfield’s] intense emotional reaction to the events coupled with a restricted focus that rendered him [Chipperfield] ‘inattentionally’ blind.”
The BCCLA will continue to demand justice for Paul Boyd, as it has for the last five years. People with information about the case, especially eyewitnesses, may contact the BCCLA for support in bringing forward their information to the ASIRT investigators.
“The fact that the police, the OPCC and others have been so dismissive of the idea of learning from this incident so as to prevent things like this happening again is concerning, as BC has the highest rate of police-involved deaths per capita in Canada,” said Holmes. “It seems to us that if ‘inattentive blindness’ and ‘emotional’ excitement by officers exists, and is apt to have this kind of a result, there should be efforts made to train them to be more cool-headed and professional, particularly when handling deadly weapons.”