Four months ago, the Northern Insights article What’s the next dump of grungy news? included this:
“In a May internal memo, Commissioner Bob Paulson warned that several salacious incidents were about to surface. He said,
‘Sadly there is a lot to choose from if you want to criticize us.’
“As one of the principal players, Paulson was not merely guessing. He’s the guy in charge of doing next to nothing.”
I was wrong about the RCMP doing next to nothing. They were busy chasing critics of Canada’s once iconic police service. Within weeks of Commissioner Paulson’s lament, seven RCMP members raided the home of Grant Wakefield, a man who says he was helping unhappy RCMP members post their concerns online. The police squad executed a search warrant relating to a criminal code allegation of defamatory libel officers and seized two computers, an iPad and an iPhone. Police claimed the libel occurred in a comment posted to an erotic website, in a private email and by Twitter messages.
At the request of RCMP, the warrant was sealed. It remained unavailable until the BC Civil Liberties Association, Postmedia and CBC gained a court order allowing public access. The court papers suggest to me that RCMP and New Westminster Police were improperly using due process to punish Wakefield and suppress information critical of police and, in particular, information about one Coquitlam member involved in “salacious” activities embarrassing to him and his employer.
“…new unsealed information reveals for the first time the full extent of the RCMP Major Crime section’s efforts to seize Wakefield’s computers and phone.
” ‘When Mr. Wakefield received threats against his life after bringing his information about Jim Brown to the RCMP, he called 911. When the New West police responded, they spied on him, gathering information about his computers and providing that information to the RCMP,’ says David Eby, Executive Director, of the BCCLA. ‘The RCMP then used that information to seize the same computers Mr. Wakefield was using to help disgruntled and anonymous RCMP members.’
“Eby said that despite the fact the threats appeared to have been made against Wakefield by someone with inside information about the Jim Brown investigation, the RCMP appear to have focussed their resources on seizing Wakefield’s computers…”
According to the warrant, Wakefield “contacted New Westminster Police Department to report threatening phone calls end text messages from Corporal BROWN.”
In his decision to make the warrant public, Judge P. D. Gulbransen writes,
“…[RCMP] Sgt. Chauhan’s affidavits provide the respondents’ reasons for seeking to have details of this investigation (that is, those details which are included in the ITO) kept from public access. These reasons are not clear – both because they are somewhat convoluted and because they assert that the investigation may be adversely affected but do not point to any evidence which supports that assertion.
“… Neither Sgt. Chauhan nor the officers from the New Westminster Police to whom he has spoken refer to any specific evidence to justify these claims. …These are standard police procedures. They have all been completed. How could their effectiveness be compromised?
“…there is no evidence that public access to this information will compromise the nature and extent of the investigation or that it will compromise the effectiveness of police investigative techniques,…”
Judge Gulbransen’s decision was not a difficult one; his judgement is unequivocally in favour or lifting the complete veil of concealment. The RCMP’s reasons for having had the search warrant sealed are feeble and, had the police service any commitment to public accountability, the BCCLA action would have been unnecessary.
Commissioner Paulson has demonstrated repeatedly that, at the RCMP, it’s business as usual; protecting the RCMP from criticism, legitimate or not, is Job 1.
Further reading at Cameron Ward’s blog: The heavy hand of the RCMP – your tax dollars hard at work