Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu's legacy is on the line in wake of Paul Boyd shooting

Ever since Jim Chu took over the top job at the VPD, the shooting of Paul Boyd has threatened to unravel his efforts to be seen as this city's most progressive and enlightened police chief.

In recent years, Chu has mollified many of the VPD's traditional critics by employing a lighter hand than his predecessors on political demonstrators.

While police reactions to student protests in Montreal and G8 protests in Toronto inflamed those cities, Vancouver's 2010 Vancouver Olympics went off reasonably well. Officers didn't crack any heads with billy clubs even after a couple of windows were smashed on West Georgia Street.

Chu has also increased the recruitment of officers from minority communities.

In addition, the technocratic chief took steps to quell opposition to the department in the Downtown Eastside by issuing a formal apology to residents shortly after taking over. And his officers' restrained use of force may be part of the reason nobody died during the Stanley Cup riot.

More recently, the police didn't inflict any violence against the Occupy protesters. And the VPD won praise for issuing a detailed report and apology concerning its bungled investigation into the missing-women cases.

But that's ancient history in light of the newest crisis facing Chu, who is a central player in the exoneration of Const. Lee Chipperfield.

On August 13, 2007, Chipperfield shot Boyd eight times near the corner of Granville and West 15th Avenue, including a final and fatal bullet to the head when the talented animator was unarmed. Boyd was suffering mental illness at the time.

The following morning was Chu's first day on the job as chief. He issued a statement issuing sympathy to Boyd's family, described the particulars of the incident, added that two officers on the scene were injured, and asked witnesses to come forward.

So far, so good. A week later, the VPD complied with the Boyd family's request to release a statement and a photograph. The VPD also stated that investigators had "unconfirmed reports that someone may have digital still or video footage of the shooting", and witnesses were once again asked to come forward.

The VPD's major crime section then conducted an investigation, obtaining an opinion from Calgary Police Service use-of-force expert Staff Sgt. Chris Butler.

The Calgary cop cleared Chipperfield. The VPD also obtained an opinion from a Minnesota State University psychologist, Bill Lewinski, who concluded that Chipperfield's judgements were "logically consistent with his perception of the reality of this incident, consistent with his previous training and experience and consistent with the research and knowledge of how humans perform under stress".

Then Chu asked the Mounties to review the VPD's investigation before it was forwarded to Crown counsel, which declined to lay charges. Two-and-a-half years after the shooting, Chu concluded that there was insufficient evidence of any disciplinary default on the part of Chipperfield.

The decision was upheld earlier this year by Stan Lowe, a former prosecutor who is now B.C.'s police-complaint commissioner.

That may have been the end of it had it not been for a video surfacing this week, which showed Boyd crawling along the ground before he was shot. A full 22 seconds elapsed on the video between the second-to-last and the final shot.

Lowe acknowledged in his report that there was a "divergence in views amongst several of the witnesses as to whether Constable Chipperfield was justified in deploying a gunshot intended to be lethal, based on the level of threat that Mr. Boyd portrayed at the time".

Lowe didn't go into detail about the "divergence in views" or what the police officers present might have said.

According to Lowe's report, the psychologist in Minnesota concluded that Chipperfield "was most likely 'shooting to save his life rather than being focused on shooting to stop Mr. Boyd.' "

In light of what is seen on the video, it's hard to see how Chipperfield could have been fearing for his life with numerous officers on the scene, his revolver drawn, and the appearance of Boyd crawling on the street before he disappears behind a vehicle.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond and Lowe have farmed out a new review to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.

The executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, Clif Purvis, is a career prosecutor, like Lowe. It's unlikely that this review will offer the public any deep insights into the divergent views between the witnesses.

The only time police officers ever seem to come under real scrutiny is at a public inquiry led by a retired judge. This is what finally unearthed the truth in the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport. And it's what uncovered the real story in the 1998 death of an aboriginal man named Frank Paul, who was left in an alley on a cold December night by Vancouver police officers.

Eventually, pressure from the citizenry, the media, and the NDP Opposition in Victoria may reach the point where there will be a public inquiry into Boyd's death. This could come either under the Police Act or because it was ordered by the provincial government.

And if that occurs, Chu will find himself answering some tough questions that could define his legacy as chief.

Why did he believe there was no discipline default when Chipperfield waited a full 22 seconds before firing a bullet into Boyd's head? How much, if any, of Chu's decision-making was influenced by the department's and the city's wish to avoid any legal liability that might come from a finding of wrongdoing? Did Chu discuss the consequences with anyone about the potential financial fallout from determining that Chipperfield committed a disciplinary default?

In the movie All the President's Men, there's a telling comment by a character named Deep Throat in a dark underground parking lot. He advises reporter Bob Woodward: "Follow the money...Just follow the money."

We haven't heard the end of the story of Paul Boyd's death. If Chu is concerned about how he's viewed in the history books, he better hope that it is never turned into a movie.

Just imagine some Hollywood hunk—this generation's version of Robert Redford—playing the role of B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby, who has been seeking accountability on this case for years. Things don't look very good for the department based on what the public has seen in the video, and it could get a whole lot worse for Chu in the future.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (17) Add New Comment
David Quill
Chu's considerable enlightenment when dealing with the public during volatile situations does not forgive his lack of vision and justice when dealing with the heavy handedness and corruption within his own force. Trotting out the odd token arrest (hello Peter Hodson!) is not enough to distract an informed public from Chu's numerous shortcomings as a leader. From too much taser use, to the inexcusable use of deadly force in recent incidents, to the bald faced lies that are told to cover up these crimes, Chu's VPD is amongst the least trustworthy of forces in the country. Sure, archaic hiring practices could also attribute for the reason there are so many dishonest, incapable officers in this city, but ultimately it falls upon the leader of said force to clean things up. Chu is too busy grand-standing and lying (albeit in a soft, comforting fashion) to really have made any difference. He is on the brink of becoming a disgrace, and if he has any allegiance to the oath he once swore, he should fight with every fibre of his being to right some of these wrongs before he is drummed out. As I life long Vancouverite, the VPD make me feel neither safe nor proud.
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DavidH
At the risk of sounding like I'm defending Chu, I think it's highly speculative to imagine that Chipperfield would have been cleared if the chief had seen this video at the time. Let's resist the temptation to hang him (Chu) because he acted - or did not act - based on the evidence available to him.

It's entirely possible that Chu was gravely let down - misled - by other officers on the scene, who may not have accurately reported precisely what they saw that night. If so, those officers need to be disciplined, fired or charged.

Yes, ultimately, the fault for such performance (failure to perform) rests with the chief, but we know from the trials of the RCMP these days that improving performance and changing culture takes time.

As for the questions posed in the article, well ... come on. Talk about inflammatory and leading the reader to a wildly premature conclusion. While I agree that a more formal inquiry is needed, I also believe that we need to avoid a rush to judgement.

One step at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.
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Mark Fornataro
Sounds like Robert Dziekański all over again. All those police standing around can't apprehend one person without lethal force and then to top it off, can't seem to tell the truth that the video shows. Who hires and screens the screeners who are hiring the police?!
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DavidH
@Quill:

Please list the "deadly force" incidents that Chu could reasonably be tagged with.

And please itemize the "bald faced lies" he has told to cover up these incidents.

It's so easy for people to snipe from the internet sidelines and make wild accusations that they will never be called upon to prove. If Chu is an incompetent, deceitful liar (which is how you describe him), then let's see your evidence.
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RF
Anyone remember Chu getting on TV and blaming the hockey riot on anarchists? I do. That was pathetic.
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DavidH
@ RF: While it's clear in hindsight that Chu was wrong, why do you describe his early conclusion as "pathetic"? He certainly wasn't alone in believing that those who were wearing balaclavas and other masks, determined to smash things and set them on fire, were part of the anarchist clique that shows up at every "protest event".

As it turned out, the majority of punks were just drunken idiots ... and my guess is that the only ones charged have been those who did NOT conceal their faces from cameras. But what of those who DID wear face-coverings?
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Catherine V
I don't think that the focus on one questionable incident should call a man's, so far, stellar career into question. Had Chu not done his due dilligence by ordering an inquiry? Is he responsible for the reports that external and independent examiners submit? Is he solely to blame for the constellation of people who are called upon to judge the actions of the offending officer? Who can say what was really going on in the minds of the officers present that day? Who can clearly point out this fact or that fact, Boyd's intentions or the intentions of the officers, from minute to minute leading to Boyd's death? Perhaps, VPD ought to have more training with regard to people with mental health issues and using firearms with restraint. However, I don't think that Chu should be up on the chopping block for this - it should take a real crime.
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David Quill
@ DavidH

Is one incident not enough? But if you need others, how about the beating death of Jeff Berg. This, also, was brushed off until video surfaced. And then there is the recent killing of Michael Vann Hubbard - who Chu described as a thief that posed a threat to officers when approached. We later learned Vann Hubbard was not the theif they were looking for, and posed no threat to two armed officers (two officers too scared to subdue a man with anything other than lethal force). Chu later retracted his statement when these facts came to light.

Retracting your lies later on does now detract from the fact that you were a liar to begin with.

And while they didn't die, both Manjit Singh and Yao Wei Wu were brutally beaten by police (both on their own property!) due to cases of mistaken identity.

Not good enough.
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Martin Dunphy
DavidH, RF, et al:

Just thought I'd throw out the fact that after the so-called Gastown Riot of four decades ago, the clownish mayor, the person who headed up the resultant inquiry, media pundits, and, I believe, the police chief all blamed unnamed "anarchists".

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
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RF
@DavidH - Part of now standard police/government counter-tactics and PR with civil unrest is to immediately blame anarchists and terrorists and then also display their confiscated weapons. Chu and Gregor tried to apply it to a sports riot, which doesn't really work. They must have been a little hasty with the Miami Model:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_model

I think they might have been floating it out there to see if the public would bite, but when we didn't, they quickly ditched the plan. Generally, it seems to work better in the U.S.

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DavidH
@ Dunphy: The term "anarchist" is silly. But there is no doubt whatsoever that large gatherings and protests are often infiltrated by punks who like to see themselves as "anarchists". In reality, they're just poorly-raised children who use crowd cover to commit vandalism and theft.

As cowardly and pathetic these would-be anarchists are, they do have a way of inciting others, particularly when those "others" are drunk. So while it's fine to snigger at the idea that the Stanley Cup riot was caused by "anarchists" (spoiled children), there is no doubt in my mind that they played a significant role in the escalation of vandalism and violence that night. "Anarchists" and drunks feeding off each other - happens all the time, all over the world (see coverage of Montreal student protests).

@ Quill:

I asked for examples that could reasonably be tied to Jim Chu. The very first example you provided had nothing to do with Chu - the incident occurred under Jamie Graham, years before Chu was appointed. Was my request that difficult to understand?

I also asked you to itemize the "bald-faced lies" you claim Chu has told. You provided none. May I assume that you don't have any examples?

PS - My advice is to be cautious with your examples. See: Internet Libel.
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David Quill
And now Chu, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to allow Chipperfield to remain on active duty (gun-toting, in the street duty) even in light of the obvious uncoverings this video provides.

One has to wonder: Is Chu that arrogant, or just a half wit?

Sickening stuff, Vancouver.
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Birdy
re: DavidH "PS - My advice is to be cautious with your examples. See: Internet Libel."

Isn't it a trip, how if you accuse a cop or bureaucrat of doing something bad without proof, they could "charge" you with a crime (libel), despite the fact that "charging" someone with a crime is by definition accusing someone of doing something bad without proof?

It's just like how when a politician lies to you it's called campaigning, but when you lie to the government they call it perjury and can "charge" you.
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Norm Farrell
This and other homicides by VPD members, without consequences, should be the end of Chu's career with the City of Vancouver. The troublesome issues have less to do with the initial tragedies than with the refusal to be accountable. It's not unclear.

http://northerninsights.blogspot.com/2012/05/could-my-son-or-could-i-or-...
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sarah295
looks like cold blooded murder to me?

7 shots and the last one after 23 seconds? the guy is crawling on the ground?

I read that the 3 officers confronted him for no reason? being mentally ill they scared him and he took out a bike lock from his knapsack......they never even had a reason to approach him

then they kill the guy and have lied for 5 yrs covering it all up...the VPD is no better than any other police force, ripe with corruption, scandal and poor police officers - sadly yes they are all tainted with the same brush when they all put up the blue wall of silence
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BS
55 witnesses saw the VPD shoot an UNARMED metally ill guy who was crawling on the street while surrounded by cops. At anytime they could've cuffed the guy but instead decided to shoot him in the head. You can even see the cops taking away his 'bicycle chain' he was apparently weilding yet make no effort to arrest him.

Chu is faulted for doing a piss poor investigation.
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Goldorak
His incompetence last year was OK... we would not have wanted him to stiffle "freedom of expression"... LOL
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