Sunday, September 14, 2008

 

Battershill probe let down police and public, says 31-year veteran VicPD cop, now retired

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Lack of public disclosure fuels distrust of integrity of internal investigations

Doug Bond
Special to Times Colonist - Sunday, September 14, 2008


The system failed police officers and the public in the Paul Battershill affair.

Initially, Victoria's police chief stated that the allegations against him were wrong. When asked if he would defend himself against these allegations, his response was "absolutely." Yet Battershill signed a non-disclosure resignation just prior to a disciplinary hearing.

At the start of the Battershill affair, senior officers were asked by Mayor Alan Lowe to speak with him after he became aware of rumours and concerns circulating around the police department and the city.

By not effectively dealing with the issue and rectifying the problem in a timely manner, Lowe and the entire police board have not only failed these officers, but the citizens of Victoria.

Throughout the process, there was no public disclosure other than the issue being a "personnel issue." In addition, the senior officers who were asked to provide information were advised to maintain silence the entire time, regardless of the mistruths and damage to the police department or themselves.

Instead of dealing with the issue from a contractual or labour stream position, the problem was referred to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, who, after interviewing several individuals, decided to order an investigation under the Police Act.

Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld's report states that "none of the officers lodged a formal Police Act complaint." But would that not be the responsibility of the chairman of the police board?

Beyond that, I was present, along with other people, when the deputy director of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner advised my wife, one of VicPD's senior officers, that his office would order an investigation itself and therefore remove any pressure for senior officers to pursue one.

Ryneveld's decision to order an independent investigation helped to mitigate many concerns that had been privately expressed, but unfortunately took away any opportunity for information or updates to witnesses. It also meant Ryneveld had full control over the investigation and could determine which allegations were to be investigated.

Ryneveld had a high-ranking officer in the RCMP undertake the investigation. At its conclusion, the Victoria Police Board agreed to a non-disclosure settlement prior to a disciplinary hearing.

The action did not resolve any of the mistruths or rumours circulating publicly or through the police department. This created further stress within the department and further mistrust in the public's eye.

While Ryneveld's office should not have had the full responsibility placed on it for appropriate public disclosure, I find it a travesty that he chose not to hold a public hearing into the matter or even share full disclosure with the police board.

In his report, Ryneveld mentions "two opposing camps in the VicPD." This does nothing but inflame and exacerbate the situation, making a greater need for a public hearing.

A public hearing before a provincial court judge would have compelled all 37 witnesses to give testimony under oath, with the appropriate authority weighing the evidence and making a determination of that evidence, according to the standard of law. A public hearing would have forced the truth out. Evidence would have been properly weighed and the rumour mill would have been silenced.

{SNIP} ...

The police board and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner must acknowledge that there is a high threshold of public accountability for a chief of police. Any misconduct or inappropriate behaviour resulting in the removal of a chief should have an expectation of full disclosure.

In reality, it would appear that full disclosure is demonstrated at a constable level but certainly not at a high-ranking level.

Ryneveld states that some of the matters "rose above simple concerns about management style -- they involved specific allegations touching on matters of integrity and oppressive conduct that, if proved, would likely discredit the reputation of the VicPD."

These are significant areas of concern and should have been brought forward to a public hearing.

Ryneveld indicates that he did not want any of the third parties who made the allegations to face further recriminations in a public hearing. But each witness interviewed by the investigators was well aware of the potential for a public hearing. Many witnesses wanted a hearing -- but Ryneveld's investigation cut off that avenue, because only Battershill or Ryneveld's office would be allowed to request one.

This entire Battershill affair and Ryneveld's report will create further mistrust in the complaints process against police, especially when it involves a high ranking individual and when police officers are witnesses.

Unfortunately, the Victoria Police Board and the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner both failed the citizens of Victoria and the Victoria Police Department.

Doug Bond retired as a sergeant after 31 years with the Victoria Police Department, where his wife is a senior officer.


http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/letters/story.html?id=7b907f07-dee9-450e-98d9-915fb28267c3

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Comments:
Sergeant Bond couldn't have written this himself in a million years.
 
Hi Mary, this seems to be a real attack on the complaint commissioner ryneveld, mayor lowe, rcmp and police board. They have to supervise our police forces or we have anarchy. This is so strange.
 
Vibrant Victoria had a post that Cory and Doug Bonds were Gerald Hartwig's best friends. Why would Cory Bond's retired husband be involved and at the investigation meetings ?
 
It strikes me that the vast majority of the 31 witnesses supported Batterhsill or else they would have found the allegations to be true. If they interviewed 31 people and went over thousands of documents and only recommended a reprimand or suspension for a perception, there wans't much there at ALL. Am I wrong ? Cops everywhere must be wondering if they could be hit this way.
 
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