Sunday, September 21, 2008
Today, for the first time, Times Colonist reporter Rob Shaw reveals the events that set in motion Paul Battershill's downfall.
Rob Shaw, Times Colonist, File
Published: Sunday, September 21, 2008
Just a year ago, Paul Battershill was the highly regarded police chief of the city of Victoria. He had a reputation as a progressive police officer -- Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe called him a "New Age kind of guy."
Then suddenly, on Oct. 11, 2007, he was placed on administrative leave, and on Nov. 6, he was suspended with pay while the RCMP investigated allegations of misconduct against him.
Eleven months later, Battershill resigned, five days before a scheduled disclipinary hearing. His resignation was accepted because the Victoria Police Board had suffered a "loss of confidence" in Battershill, Lowe said.
Until now there has never been a public airing of the allegations against the former chief. But today, for the first time, Times Colonist reporter Rob Shaw reveals the events that set in motion Battershill's downfall. Using sources who were present at the time, he has pieced together the heretofore secret events that led to resignation of the police chief.
The fall of Victoria police chief Paul Battershill started, oddly enough, at a meeting about crime in the city's downtown core. It was Aug. 29, 2007, and Mayor Alan Lowe was facing tough questions from the business community about rising petty crime and whether the police force had the money to continue boosted downtown police patrols.
Business owners told the mayor they loved seeing extra officers walk the beat to tackle the city's chronic street problems. But the mayor and the department warned that those extra bodies had to come from other units, and the budget was stretched thin.
Among those attending that night was businessman Gerald Hartwig, who owns numerous downtown buildings. Hartwig believed there was more money in police coffers than the mayor was suggesting and wondered how much had been spent on a series of severance packages for high-ranking officers in the last few years.
Some board members had already heard rumblings about what was about to occur. The rank and file of the department had expressed displeasure toward senior management and Battershill after the suicide of a constable in September, sources said. The officer had killed himself after being informed by senior managers he was to be investigated for alleged misuse of a Taser.
The suicide seemed to bring the crisis between Battershill and his senior managers to a head, even more so than the FOI request from Hartwig, sources said.
"It was precipitated by the businessman's letter, but it was on its way anyway, it was coming down the pipe," said a source with first-hand knowledge of the process.
Nonetheless, some board members expressed shock at what they heard in the meeting. Vice-chairman Chris Clement has called it one of the most extraordinary meetings he has ever attended.
In addition to Battershill's affair with Rusen, sources say other allegations heard by the board that night included:
- That Battershill had offered Insp. Cory Bond the job of police chief in the future if she supported his decision to get rid of the department's backup police boat, to save money. She interpreted this as inappropriate. The police board was unaware of the offer.
- That sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 Battershill had placed numbered locks on his office door and limited access to the office, including cleaning staff and his executive assistant. He had also placed a surveillance camera in the ceiling.
- That Battershill kept alcohol in his office, even though he knew the board had approved a policy prohibiting alcohol in the building and was waiting for the policy to receive provincial approval. Earlier that same year, 2007, he disciplined a West Vancouver constable who drank in her station and then drove drunk.
- That some senior officers were dissatisfied and worried that numerous colleagues had been dismissed without cause during Battershill's tenure as chief.
- That some officers were fearful of coming forward because they felt their careers were at risk and feared retribution by Battershill when he discovered who they were.
"It became obvious there was a severe loss of faith by senior management," said a source who was there. "Those men and women who came into the room that night were so severely concerned about the path the police department was taking that they were willing to put their jobs on the line."
Still, some of the senior officers and civilian employees had nothing bad to say when asked about Battershill and were unaware of the allegations by their co-workers. Some officers praised him, while others continue to believe certain allegations were unfounded, leaving a deep divide among working colleagues.
At the time of the meeting, the department had a deputy chief and seven inspectors beneath Battershill. Four of them - then deputy chief Bill Naughton, Insp. Cory Bond, Insp. Darrell McLean and Insp. John Ducker - refused to come back into police headquarters if Battershill remained as chief.
Shortly afterwards, in what would be one of his last public interviews, Battershill told the Times Colonist from Halifax the allegations were "wrong" and "spun" and he would address them when he returned.
The board took the ultimatum from senior staff, and their concerns about their jobs, seriously. Clement said the staff's lack of confidence in Battershill affected the board's confidence in him as well.
"You can't run a police department if your senior management refuses to show up because of their grievances with the chief," another close source said. "You do not have a police department that can function under that leadership.
"You can't ignore four of your most senior officers saying the same thing."
The eight-hour meeting finished after 2 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. "At the end of the meeting that night, everyone agreed Battershill could not come back into the building," said one person in the room. "It was unanimous."
Lowe then e-mailed Battershill to tell him he had been placed on administrative leave, with pay. The chief was barred from the building, and his BlackBerry was blocked. The news spread quickly to the Halifax conference, where Battershill was giving a presentation on effective civilian oversight of police departments.
When Battershill returned to the city days later, Lowe said the two walked along the waterfront to talk. Lowe would not say what about. He said the meeting was in keeping with his role as the board's discipline authority for the chief.
The police board was left with two options - it could do its own investigation and make a decision as Battershill's employer about whether to fire him, or it could send the matter to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner for review under the Police Act.
With its own investigation, the board could have set parameters and made its own decision about what to do with the chief. On the other hand, the complaint commissioner could provide a third-party review, and also limit whether the city and police department could be sued for wrongful dismissal.
Sources in the room say the board was divided on its decision, but ultimately chose to have Battershill's conduct investigated by the complaint commissioner.
On Nov. 6, Battershill's administrative leave was changed to suspension with pay as the RCMP began its investigation on behalf of the complaint commissioner. Naughton was promoted to interim chief, a position he has now held for almost a year.
To aid in the investigation, the board summarized approximately 13 points of concern for the complaint commissioner. However, since the Police Act deals with issues of public trust and code-of-professional-conduct regulations - such as deceit, corrupt practices, neglect of duty, discreditable conduct and abuse of authority - the investigators deemed that several of the staff concerns about personnel matters and management style were not applicable. The allegations were narrowed to seven, although the board was not told how or why, sources said.
Six RCMP investigators spent six months and 1,900 hours interviewing 37 people and examining 900 documents.
For months, the public heard nothing about the investigation, about who was interviewed, or even what the investigation was about. All Lowe said publicly was that the allegations against Battershill involved a "personnel matter."
On April 23, 2008, the RCMP submitted its final report, which concluded that only one allegation - the affair with Rusen, to which Battershill had admitted - was substantiated. The Mounties suggested Battershill be suspended. As a result, Lowe began negotiating with Battershill's legal team to schedule a disciplinary hearing, where the chief would be allowed to present his case before Lowe ruled on what kind of discipline, if any, he would impose on Battershill. Different dates came and went without progress, because Battershill requested more information and the lawyers kept negotiating details, Lowe has said.
The rest of the allegations pitted Battershill's word against that of his officers and could not be proven to a civil standard - the legal benchmark used by the Police Act, which is less than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
The complaint commissioner also didn't examine whether Battershill had lost the confidence of his police board - which it seemed he had. According to members, the board viewed the affair as a direct conflict of interest, because Battershill was having a relationship with a person he had contracted, with taxpayer money, to give unbiased advice on sensitive labour issues for his employees, sources said.
Although Rusen denied the affair to Heenan Blaikie, and the RCMP investigation determined neither party profited by the relationship, the board was angered at the poor judgment Battershill showed, sources said. "Either he was having an affair or he wasn't, but the fact he told people he was makes it appear he has a serious conflict even if he's lying," a source said.
All the RCMP's investigative work made for a lengthy final report - but the board was never given a copy to read.
Instead, members received an oral summary from Lowe, a troubling fact for many members. In addition to his close working relationship with Battershill, Lowe had also been interviewed by the RCMP as a witness during its investigation. This prompted the police board to debate numerous times, at in-camera meetings, whether Lowe was in a conflict of interest and whether it was appropriate to get information filtered through him.
Despite the board members' concerns, B.C.'s Police Act didn't allow for an alternative. Under the act, the mayor is always the police board chairman and is the only person who can discipline the chief constable. He doesn't need to get the rest of the board's consent to discipline the chief, nor does he need to share all his information with members. Currently, the Police Act does not explicitly say whether he can delegate the disciplinary job to another person should he feel it necessary, although changes that would allow this are being drafted by the province.
After reading the complaint commissioner's report, Lowe began negotiating with Battershill's legal team, which included high-profile Vancouver lawyer Len Doust. On July 28, Battershill offered to resign, Lowe said.
Board members were not included in the negotiations, sources say, and only received word from Lowe when he had reached a settlement agreement.
Under the deal, Battershill received $15,000 for his legal bills, and both sides signed a non-disclosure clause that forbade them from talking about the issue. The board voted in favour of the deal and Lowe publicly called it a good arrangement for taxpayers.
On Aug. 13, Lowe held a press conference to announce Battershill's resignation, five days before he was to face a scheduled disciplinary hearing.
"The investigation completed by the RCMP did not find that Battershill had committed any criminal acts, had any involvement with any criminal activity, nor did it find any financial impropriety," he told media.
But Lowe's reference to a criminal investigation was a red herring. The next day, Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld told the Times Colonist that the RCMP investigation was never about criminal acts.
A review of Battershill's severance shows Lowe was required to make the carefully worded statement as part of the deal.
Lowe did not mention to the press the one substantiated allegation, the affair. He said the board suffered a "loss of confidence" in Battershill's leadership but would not elaborate on what that was.
Ryneveld's 12-page report, made public on Sept. 4, 2008, outlined the reasons for the decision not to hold a public hearing into the Battershill case and released excerpts of the RCMP investigation. It was this report that confirmed the substantiated allegation of the affair with Rusen and clarified that it wasn't the complaint commissioner's place to examine Battershill's management style or his grievances with staff. Ryneveld's report made passing references to camps, political motives and departmental infighting his agency was not willing to investigate.
But for Victoria and Esquimalt taxpayers seeking answers about the complicated 11-month saga, Ryneveld had nothing. He said he recognized the public's desire for details, but said an "exemplary" RCMP investigation, combined with Battershill's resignation, left "insufficient grounds to conclude that a public hearing is necessary in the public interest."
Ryneveld did address the thorny issue of Lowe's role as Battershill's disciplinary authority, noting that a mayor's dual role as police board chairman can be problematic because a police chief and mayor don't work at arm's length - they have a close relationship because they attend the same functions and talk frequently.
Yet Ryneveld concluded the fault lay with the provisions of the Police Act, and not with the mayor's actions. He said that Lowe's close ties with Battershill, and his RCMP testimony, didn't go outside the normal bounds of a police chief-mayor relationship and that, ultimately, Lowe acted appropriately.
Officially, Ryneveld's report was the end of the Battershill affair. There would be no public hearing, no disciplinary hearing for Battershill, no release of the full RCMP investigation, no official explanation of the allegations.
The police board is looking for a new chief and have hired a company to help in the search.
Whoever it is will take command of a department that remains, by all accounts, bitterly and deeply divided by the Battershill issue, how it was handled and what allegations, if any, were true.
The new chief will also be subject to annual performance evaluations by the police board thanks to a new policy disclosed this month by the board members.
Lowe, who is not running for office again, has said he hopes to swear in the chief at the November police board meeting, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 11 - four days before a new mayor is voted into office in the municipal election.
Battershill Timeline (Times Colonist)
[Sorry, I'm having difficulty copying the URLs. - BC Mary]
Civilian Oversight Lacking (Times Colonist)
[Google the titles to see the stories.]
Vancouver Sun has just picked up the main story: Battershill saga
Seems like a total waste of BC taxpayer's dollars just so some politically bent individuals, whether they be senior police officers wanting the top job; business persons who are supporters of the BC Liberal Party (and not wanting the mud of the Basi/Virk/Basi trial to be left on just the bad guys in Victoria); Victoria employees being subjected to a gun-toting temporary manager put there by the Mayor......
I wonder why Batteshill needed to hold dual roles? Did the Mayor of Victoria have suspicions of criminal activity taking place, perhaps, in City Hall itself?
The clear message from all this back room shenanigans is that deals can be made to protect the innocent from the news media, for some of the time, till this mornings article came to light.... I can hardly wait to learn of the Affairs of others, and then they too can be fired!
Your thoughts and my thoughts continue to reflect an uneasiness about this whole issue. Thank you for sharing that, because obviously this damnable problem isn't over.
Remember the brief messages we've received (apparently from VicPD) on this web-site? Pretty much telling us that the "Get Battershill" faction was still active?
Now here's another one:
... I hear they (the ones who took down Battershill) are shopping around those allegations with local media outlets. It raises some interesting ethical considerations for any outlet to publish them or air, given they are allegations that were not only unproven, but judged unfounded by an independent arbiter (Ryneveld).
I can't shake that off: "they are shopping around those allegations with local media outlets ..."
Times Colonist picked up on the story today almost a year after the fact, and is very frugal with the names of its sources.
And I agree with my own source who I trust in this matter, but I will not name: it does raise "some serious ethical considerations".
Interestingly, neither Vancouver Sun nor The Province ran the story. Only Victoria's Times Colonist, which ran 3 stories, one of them 3 pages in length. And a front page photo. 11 months after the event.
8:48 you comedian,
Oh yes, what possible "political motives" could there have been?????
Darned if I know.
But I've always felt that Gerald Hartwig got off very lightly when he should have been asked a lot of questions about his part in getting this whole mess started.
What a joke! The Department would be aghast.
It would be interesting to investigate the connections between Gerald Hartwig and the Bonds, why Cory Bond was so upset about the police boat issue [her husband was on the marine response unit... hmmmm], and just how 'safe' the current members of the force feel with approaching current senior management with anything at this time.
As a citizen of Greater Victoria, I am saddened by the choice of the local media to scrape the bottom of the barrel to try to repeatedly dig up personal and damning information about Paul Battershill that had no bearing on the workings of the department. It was obvious from the outset that key players were trying to deal with any transgressions in as respectful and professional manner as possible. But the temper tantrums [..."wouldn't return to the building if Paul was there...] of the 4 senior officers pushed any process into the circus that it has become. I wonder how the current Chief and cronies would feel if the rank and file crossed their arms and "refused to enter the building."
My thoughts are with Paul and his family, and all of the VPD members who are professional, responsible, and currently without solid leadership.
To those that instigated this farce: "Those that live in glass houses should not throw stones..."
Thank you, Not-so-Anonymous 9:30. A very big thank you, as I'm not the only citizen who appreciates your honour and your honesty.
We very much need to hear this from within police ranks.
Would it be OK by you, if I place your comment on the main-page so that nobody who visits this web-site will miss it?
I don't cry easily, but I'm having a little difficulty with tears right now.
It's such a simple, honest thing you ask for ... and I'm thinking: why should a cop need to ask? Things shouldn't be this way.
I wish you courage, and hope that you can trust the citizens for the support you need,to do the job we need you to do.
Thanks. And thanks again.
"Those men and women who came into the room that night were so severely concerned about the path the police department was taking that they were willing to put their jobs on the line." What path? No mention is made of any particular path - just about Battershill's relationship with Rusen, his locked office (not now surprising given death threats and an obviously mutinous staff - with increasingly possible political connections to the "liberals" involved in the basi virk/legislature raids situation), alcohol in his office, a suicide of a fellow officer, and some dismissals (details of which are not included in the report).
Again the "path" referred to is glossed over to leave impressions rather than facts.
"At the time of the meeting, the department had a deputy chief and seven inspectors beneath Battershill. Four of them - then deputy chief Bill Naughton, Insp. Cory Bond, Insp. Darrell McLean and Insp. John Ducker - refused to come back into police headquarters if Battershill remained as chief." I wonder what they would have done if this dare was accepted? The word tattletale can't help but emerge in one's thoughts when reading either the TC story or Ryneveld's report. (Which I have read. I have never before in my life been particularly political or motivated to search things out for myself like I have been since becoming aware of the obfuscations related to the legislature raids case).
I must admit that I, as simply a member of the public with no knowledge of Battershill or of the others involved, got a creepy feeling from Naughton - the guy who replaced Battershill - at the time. My gut reaction to him as a human was instant and pronouncedly negative (to the point that a friend and I commented to each other about our shared perceptions), even though I had no particular interest in the situation until I learned more as things unfolded (or didn't).
It sounds like Battershill may have had good reasons (beyond those not named but suggested) for the locked office.
I actually picked up on this in the Sun this morning. (they probably knew you were going to take them to task on it.)
Two anonymice above have hit on the problems. 9:18 AM has started the dot connecting. We need to know all relationships between Hartwig and every other player in this fiasco. Especially the VicPD employees that gave unsubstantiated evidence in this matter. Hartwig has had time to spin his story and I don't buy it. Also, if there is any vindictiveness going on why is the board not investigating that matter.
We still don't know why Lowe gave a verbal breifing. We also know the request for investigation was split within the board.
The smell has not lifted with this article in the Times Colonist.
Oh really? And yet the police commissioner says that 'fact' (which, given Rusen's statements still seems pretty conjectural to me) wouldn't have merited more than a mild slap on the wrist.
In what century is a dinosaur like that living?
There is clearly another political motive behind all of this. I don't know what it is - but somebody has something on someone besides the Chief.
Given the kind of high-priced development boom going on in downtown Victoria these days and the fact a lot of those suites aren't sold and many of the sold ones are only rented - and rented at a loss in many cases - I know where I'd be sending my investigative reporters if I were Ms Lucinda Chodan. Given the fact her paper is in such dire financial straits that they’ve stopped providing free samples as a come-on to possible new subscribers you’d think she might want to try and publish something a little more substantive than this three page rehash of old news.
Maybe she could send Rob Shaw out to interview a few of the officers on the street to find out what they think of the atmosphere on Caledonia these days with Naughton in the chief’s chair (he certainly didn’t lose by his involvement in the palace coup did he?) and old boy Mc Clintock lining the streets with law and order dudes from the last century – all holding blue CPC signs every morning. I occasionally see members of the force rousting the odd panhandler (business men like Hartwig don’t like them much) off the streets.
Haven’t seen anyone interfering with the dozens of the silver-haired old boys touting McClintock with their stupid sings every morning, have you?
This business has business fingerprints all over it, and no one is dusting for them...
Apart from you Mary.
This Blog should be the first place journalists in this province go every morning.
Keep up the good work.
Most of the Department just wants the gang of four and their henchmen to stop it and get back to work. They think that by being "sources" they are somehow justifying their positions. All they are doing is keeping it going for selfish reasons that have NOTHING to do with our department. The Chief is gone people, why don't you try and be leaders yourselves for awhile and we will follow if you're as honest and fair as he was. (so far you're NOT)
Its time to move on. There are a lot of good people trying to do our jobs and you're making it hard.
The Victoria police Critical Incident Stress Management Team counselled more officers last year than any other year in its 19-year history.
The team says that’s partly because officers are overworked and understaffed, but also because 2007 was a particularly violent year. During the year, Victoria officers shot and killed a man, lost one of their own members to suicide, and staffed a tactical team that was first to respond to a gruesome murder-suicide in Oak Bay that left five people dead. - "Rob Shaw Times Colonist Published: Monday, February 25, 2008
Here we a column written a mere seven months ago from the same Rob Shaw, which I'm sure, formed an unwritten part of the Minutes on the Victoria Police Board, and if not, then at least, it must have been talked over because of the rising costs from the "Critical Incident Stress Management Team".
What were their thoughts then? Was it simply a "Ah well gee whiz", or did the Municipal and Provincial (appointees) politicians, and those civil members who all sit on the police board, didn't they see the symptoms of an officer under stress in their very midst?
Isn't it possible that the inappropiate behaviour that Battershill was displaying in public, around the water cooler; wearing his handgun while acting as the City Manager; the "curious" BC Liberal insider/Victoria businessman dropping red-herring clues that led to an absolute discharge of any criminal actions as being a vehicle which only assisted in the downfall of Chief Battershill?
And what of the police officer who committed suicide, was he treated in the same fashion by the politicians and lay people who don't have a clue as to the stress levels that all police officers face today!
Hang on, Grumps! You've made a strong argument in favour of showing some understanding for cops under stress; thank you for that.
But you're mistaken when you refer to Paul Battershill wearing his handgun as the "inappropriate behaviour [he] was displaying".
If you read the 2-year-old Russ Fraser article on "Paul Battershill Death Threat", you'll see that he was under orders (and chafing at them) to wear his handgun "at all times". At first, he also had a bodyguard.
He had new locks installed on his office, plus a camera in the ceiling, and these are itemized a transgressions too.
But don't you think they were a sensible reaction to the death threat PLUS the growing tensions within VicPD?
I do agree that there has been a sad lack of sympathy in Victoria for their police force. The work-related suicide of another officer speaks to that.
Star officer: Paul Battershill with the lawyer who wrote the report using a direct quote from the trusted officer in his opening statement summary/conclusions.
Here is an article about his affair by Ben Meisner.
There does seem to be a double standard.
Thanks for sending in this information.
I looked up Ben Meisner's editorial (thanks for the URL), read it, laughed, laughed, shook my head ... then tried to send him a Thank You but the comments had been closed off.
It's worth looking up. Ben is an old-timer in Prince George and like a bull in a china shop, he goes through City Hall, the CanWest daily newspaper, CBC, and the local cop shop, sparing nobody (including himself).
Nobody gets hurt. They're just reminded of our common humanity. And saying lay off people who form extra-special friendships.
Thanks again, 7:35.
That Police Misconduct Report document dated 2002, is an excellent study, the tip much appreciated. I couldn't find the quotes you mentioned ...
Gotta admit, it's been a long day and my brain is tired. I'll go at it again tomorrow, to find the bits you've indicated ...
... or, if you can send them, that'd be much appreciated.
Not sure if tomorrow, Sept. 22, might be another Basi-Virk day in Supreme Court. All I've heard (as of last Wednesday) is that they'll resume "next week".
It's been a good day on the blog, I think our commentors are among the best anywhere.
"It is going to take some time for civilian oversight to develop in this province. Police are starting to accept a model with civilian oversight and I think we have come a lony way in the past three years."
Too bad the civilian overseers who run the police board.......
That's great, 8:44.
I did see that segment ... but was looking for P. 97 and the document ended at P. 90 which is just about when my head started spinning.
And yes, it'd be nice if there could be some "civilian oversight" watching the civilian oversight ... on the other hand, maybe it's another signal that it's up to us, as citizens, to keep watching these things.
We're not that happy with the leadership right now. There have been some good things happen (they do happen anyway at a street level no matter how senior management behaves) but the lack of consultation on our strategic plan was tragic. People don't feel supported and a small group definitely is in control of the department. If you don't agree with them completely you are a bad person and find out quickly there is something "wrong" with you. There are stories coming out about investigations being interfered with by senior management. If they're true, and everybody is talking about them, its really bad.
There has alway been a tension here between people from outside and people who have always been in VicPD. The jealousy goes both ways. This issue is breaking down that barrier, we're all getting really mad.
I never really dealt with the Chief much, there are a lot of people who say he was amazing when they needed his help like after a shooting or if a family member was sick. He was supposedly really fair with discipline and transfers. There are also people who felt he was getting ready to leave and that would be a good thing since he'd been here long enough and we need change at the top too.
If this keeps up in the papers the membership is going to revolt, we just want to do a good job and be left alone now.
Mostly I am mad at myself for voicing inner thoughts that should not be voiced.I for one have learned my lesson. I urge others to stop as well so the VICPD can move forward in the healing of ALL members.I apologoze for any negativity I may have perpetuated. Although i must remain anonymous like the others, my apology is sincere. It's time to move on.