Tuesday, September 23, 2008

 

Failures in the Battershill Case

[Click on the headline to read the original Times Colonist editorial. Sorry for the technical difficulties I'm having this morning, which you'll see in the formating of the story below. Hope to be working more smoothly later. - BC Mary.]


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Yesterday, on The Legislature Raids, a cop told us how officers in Victoria Police Department feel about the big newspaper story on "The Battershill Saga". Not good at all, he said.

Yesterday, on this blog, I mentioned that I had written to Times Colonist, pointing out the errors of their ways, beginning with "Why wait a year to begin looking at this tragic situation?"

Today, as this editorial (below) appears in Times Colonist, I have to ask that question again: "What's going on, that the same TC version of this tragic situation is laid out for viewing ... one year later?" This isn't investigative journalism. This isn't even good journalism. This is a rehash of a particular point of view. It reads totally unlike the message from the VicPD cop yesterday.


Alarm bells should be ringing all over Victoria right now, just as they are within VicPD. You be the judge: is the capital city safer today than it was a year ago? Are there fewer homeless on the streets? Are the citizens better informed? And who exactly is running things these days ... is it anybody we know? anybody we elected? hired? ... or what?

- BC Mary


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A series of failures in Battershill case

Times Colonist

The saga of former police chief Paul Battershill, as recreated Sunday by reporter Rob Shaw, is not merely a story of hubris, human frailty or departmental infighting.

Those were all factors. But more alarming, it is the story of an inattentive police board that failed to provide proper oversight, inadequate leadership from Mayor Alan Lowe, who chaired the board, and flawed provincial legislation that reduces the chances of proper civilian oversight of police.

The police board's performance was dismal. The members -- Lowe, Esquimalt Mayor Chris Clement, a non-politician appointed by each council and additional representatives appointed by the province -- relied almost entirely on limited information from Lowe and Battershill.

They approved severance agreements that cost taxpayers some $600,000, in at least one case without reading the agreement. That basic step could have led them to intervene much earlier, perhaps even in time to salvage the situation.

The board failed to ensure Battershill's job performance was being evaluated on an annual basis -- a requirement for the head of any well-managed organization. It was sluggish in following up reports and rumours of problems.

And it was content to rely upon assurances that nothing was wrong, rather than establish facts.

Consider the final chapter. Police board members did not read the RCMP report on the case. They relied on a verbal summary from Lowe as the basis to approve a negotiated severance agreement with Battershill.

After all the damage done to Battershill, other officers, the department and public confidence, the board members should have read the 12-page report for themselves. That's especially true given Lowe's role as both chairman of the police board and a champion of Battershill. He thought so highly of the chief that he made Battershill both chief of police and acting city manager in 2005.

Mayors and police chiefs work closely together. That raises the risk of real or perceived conflict of interest.

Again, consider two examples. In May 2007, Lowe signed a severance agreement that provided Battershill's former executive assistant with more than two years' salary. It included a secrecy clause that barred her from communicating with the police board. This agreement was approved by the board without reading it. It was drafted by a lawyer working for the department who was also in a relationship with Battershill. How could it be in the public interest to accept an agreement that prevented a departing employee from sharing concerns with police board members? Why demand -- or tolerate -- such a clause?

On Oct. 7, 2007, Lowe was briefed on concerns about Battershill -- including the relationship with the lawyer and deep distrust within the department -- by businessman Gerald Hartwig. Lowe met senior officers the next day. And on Oct. 9, he received a letter on the issues. But Lowe did not raise the concerns at a police board meeting that day, although two senior police officers were waiting to provide information.

{Snip} ...

Ultimately, this is a great loss for all concerned, not least because Battershill was in many ways an innovative and effective police chief. The force has been damaged and divided, taxpayers have faced huge costs and public confidence shaken. Reputations have been left in tatters.

The board and the province must act to ensure that such a case could never spiral so far out of control again.

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=56c14ebe-d65c-4aed-83d6-6ea27d3fa2f6

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"The board and the province must act ..." Note the omission. What about the media, which should be the eyes, ears, and conscience of society. The media must be held to account for the way it has failed in this case, too. Repeating the same story two days in a row -- one year after the real story erupted -- leaves more doubts than it answers in the Battershill Case.

- BC Mary.

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LAWYER AT CENTER OF BREACH OF TRUST INVESTIGATION ONCE AGAIN PROVIDING SERVICES TO CITY STAFF

CFAX - Sep 24, 2008

THE LAWYER AT THE CENTER OF A CONFLICT OF INTEREST INVESTIGATION INVOLVING ADVICE PROVIDED TO THE VICTORIA POLICE BOARD IS ONCE AGAIN PROVIDING SERVICES FOR THE CITY.

'A'-NEWS IS REPORTING MARLI RUSEN WAS CONTRACTED TO PROVIDE ADVICE TODAY TO SENIOR OFFICERS AT THE VICTORIA FIRE DEPARTMENT REGARDING HARASSMENT ISSUES IN THE WORK PLACE.

{Snip} ...

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This CFAX report has been published nowhere else. Apparently no CanWest news service wants the public to start thinking that if Victoria Fire Department had any doubt about Ms Rusen's integrity, they would have hired a different lawyer. So does Victoria have a fair, impartial, all-seeing media? No, I don't think so. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
Two of the candidates for Mayor of Victoria have raised concerns about the outgoing Mayor selecting a new Chief. They want to have the new guy , who becomes the new chair to do the work. sounds reasonable to me
 
To get to the bottom of the Battershill case maybe we need to bring in the police from England eg. Ace Henderson Vancouver Sun

Cayman Islands
 
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Anonymous 6:26,

Thanks for mentioning this ... amazing to me, I hadn't heard about this B.C. judge. Former judge. Arrested judge.

Maybe the British police would come in with a fresh approach. It's often done, isn't it, where a certain issue requires an extra distance/neutrality. Not such a bad idea.


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You beat me to it, Anon 6:26 am!

Surprising? Descriptions by the legal circle of "well respected" - by whom??? How many times have we heard this from the 'club' members when the heat is on one their own?

Given the politicization of our BC Supreme Court; the rampant sanitizing of the facts through "dismissal" and every other trick of the injustice trade led by the 'circle' now underway with the Raid on the Leg and other big political scandals that landed in BC Supreme Court . . . all in the name of covering up the truth . . . does this really surprise any of us???

Yes, Mary let's bring on the British detectives where political 'independence'/ethics appears to rule.

When was the last time that British Columbians saw real justice meted out in our justice system, when high profile reputations are in the middle of the muck?

'Fo-ge-about-it' folks - it ain't goona happen with this 'gang' in gear, here.
 
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