Police chief Jamie Graham and his boys are in the news again for accusations of assault. This time in Victoria. Two constables, Brent Keleher and Ryan Young, are charged with assaulting prisoners in custody during transport and later in police cells. The charges arose by intervention of the BC Police Complaints Commissioner after the Victoria Police Department conducted an internal investigation. As a result of the internal process, one officer was suspended briefly and the other was not disciplined.
Commissioner Stan Lowe found the response inadequate and referred the matter to Crown Counsel. Subsequently, prosecutors laid criminal charges against the two policemen. On the same day charges were announced, Solicitor General Kash Heed released two extensive audit reports of the Victoria Police Department.
One of the findings – noted as an area of “key concern” – was that 13 officers (5% of the police service) were responsible for 1/3 of the use of force reports. This statistic speaks for itself, confirming a situation that all police insiders understand. Rather few officers are involved in multiple incidents of violence while dealing with the public.
Another interesting element of the report discusses use of force after the killing of Robert Dziekanski by four RCMP members. The audit indicates that Taser use by the Victoria police service declined 85% after policy changes in the aftermath of the YVR death. Interestingly, records show no increase in reports of officer injury. We had known about usage creep in recent years as more stun guns came into service but a drop of this magnitude indicates that previous use was excessive and, given officer injury stats, unnecessary.
The audit revealed that Victoria Police does not have a policy dedicated to prisoner transportation. It also found the need for improvement in other areas, including:
- qualifications and policies for use of weapons and lateral neck restraints;
- requirement that all use of force events be reviewed;
- requirement for annual weapons qualifications;
- clarification of policy regarding use of police dogs as a force option;
- requirement that all commanders attend mandatory training days;
- improved policies for carrying, storage and tracking of weapons;
- requirement that use of force by jail guards be reported.
Given the fundamental nature of these shortcomings, we are left to wonder how this situation came about in a service headed by long experienced police executives. It will be interesting to see if public audit reports become more commonplace in British Columbia. With a Solicitor General who understands policing services first hand and expected momentum of the pending Braidwood Inquiry report, BC may take real steps forward in improving police accountability.
Victoria is an excellent starting place. Controversy and questionable behavior are subjects familiar to Chief Graham. After a long career with the RCMP, he was appointed Vancouver Police Chief in 2002, after what Vancouver Sun writers called, “…a gruelling and, at times, bizarre selection process…”
In 2005, Graham was investigated in regard to a Police Act examination of donations to the Vancouver Police Foundation. Half of the sum involved had come from now defunct Harmony Airway, owned by billionaire David Ho. He is the well-connected Vancouver billionaire tycoon currently facing gun, drug and unlawful confinement charges. Ho and Graham had earlier shared a controversial connection when Ho’s MCL Motorcars provided a Jaguar dressed in RCMP colors to the North Vancouver detachment that Graham commanded. There was also an allegation that Graham had used hotel rooms at a conference of Chiefs of Police and those rooms were paid for by Ho.
Graham was criticized regularly by media and citizen groups for tolerating deficient behavior of officers while he served as Vancouver police chief. In one such case, six Vancouver PD members transported three street people to Stanley Park where the captives were beaten. Graham was accused of regularly ignoring complaints of brutality and was found guilty of misconduct for failure to cooperate with a review of multiple accusations being conducted by RCMP. The Chief left VPD before discipline against him was enforced and he next surfaced later as head of the much smaller Victoria police force.
See also: Judge for yourself