Cops involved in police-related deaths of civilians shouldn’t be comparing notes with each other, according to the ethics advisor for the Vancouver police board.
Advisor H.A.D. Oliver suggested in a report to be received for information by the board today (June 17) that it is important to segregate police officers so they won’t come up with a “sanitized” version of such fatal incidents.
Oliver said that the importance of this procedure was recognized by retired B.C. Supreme Court judge William Davies, who conducted an inquiry into the death of Native man Frank Paul.
In his interim report, released in March, Davies recommended the creation of a civilian-based Independent Investigation Office with a mandate to probe “a wide variety of factual circumstances, including (but not limited to) a death in a police department jail cell, a death resulting from an officer’s use of force or a motor vehicle, or a death arising from some other form of police interaction with the deceased”.
As part of this recommendation, Davies proposed that “pending arrival of the IIO at the incident scene, the chief constable must ensure that the scene is secured and that officers involved in the incident are segregated from each other”.
Davies also stated in his report that “officers involved in the incident must not communicate with each other about the incident, except as authorized by the IIO”.
In his report, Oliver told the Vancouver police board that pending possible legislation related to Davies’s recommendations, there is a need to place “appropriate emphasis” on the “importance of segregation and non-communication” in the training of police officers.
In putting forward this proposal, Oliver also referenced the incident involving the Taser-related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after a confrontation with four RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport.
The video evidence presented at the inquiry by retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge Thomas Braidwood contradicted written reports filed by the RCMP officers. It has been shown that Dziekanski was tasered multiple times, and that he fell to the ground after the first zap of the stun gun.
“The effectiveness of a police force in a democratic and civil society depends very largely on the respect in which its members are held by the public at large,” Oliver stated.
“That respect can be severely damaged and the reputation of the force largely destroyed in the eyes of the public where it is shown or reasonably suspected that a number of police witnesses have conferred after the incident but before reporting or testifying with a view to producing a sanitized version of the incident in question,” Oliver added.