Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They Can't be Serious: Jamie Graham for Victoria Police Chief?

It broke yesterday that Jamie Graham, former police chief
of the Vancouver Police Department is being considered for
the top cop job in Victoria. I've got two things to say to that
one: They can't be serious? And Hell No!

Victoria's Police Department has been a tangled, sordid mess
for some time now. Rank and file members have been very
unhappy and morale has been low for quite a while. Why you
might ask? Well, like many organizations, politics and bureaucracy
are at the heart of the problems.

Paul Battershill was brought in from Vancouver as police chief in 1999.
I suspect that's where his problems began. Internal politics went into
play, with whomever was eying his chair quite likely nursing a grudge
and waiting for an opportunity to get rid of him.

Reports were that as top cop, he brought a progressive and more
human side to that job. He was known to make his presence on the
street felt, talking with the homeless and taking a more liberal
approach, which may have raised the ire of the powers that be in the
local business community, who favoured a more punitive approach
to criminalizing poverty.

Keith Baldrey called it a "palace coup" and it seems pretty accurate
to describe the unfolding of Battershill's demise as Victoria's top cop.
Shadowy reports of "senior officers" and chummy local businessman &
real estate developer, Gerald Hartwig, bringing forward "allegations of
wrongdoing" that set the stage for one of the most sordid little power plays
openly seen in BC's policing. The fact that Hartwig was the Liberal Party
Election Readiness chairman brings another interesting twist to this dirty
little bit of business. Seems as though Mr. Hartwig has a great deal of
influence in Victoria, what with his high profile real estate deals, his
position on the Liberal Riding Association and on the Victoria Chamber
of Commerce, another breeding ground of BC Liberals friends and insiders.

At the end of the day, after a complete investigation, it was alleged
Battershill was not guilty of any criminal offence, and he engaged in
no financial improprieties. However his reputation was in the gutter with
the allegation he had a personal relationship with Marli Rusen,
the Heenan Blaikie LLP labour lawyer, who the Victoria PD hired to offer
advice and draft contracts to provide severance pay for former staff.
Ms. Rusen has filed a lawsuit against her former employers, who initiated
a Law Society complaint against her. One might wonder what Ms. Rusen
got a window into in her time with the Liberal law firm of choice.

Police complaints commissioner Dirk Ryneveld, in his review of the matter,
concluded that "private persons of considerable influence," allies of
said unnamed shadowy "senior officers," were also behind the allegations
and downfall of Battershill.

Battershill was tarnished as having lost the confidence of the police
board. Whether any of this was warranted, or not, it wasn't an option for
him to return to a police force beset by rumours and dissension in the ranks.
It would have been virtually impossible for him to return and lead the force
at that point and he was forced to resign. A succcessful and bloody coup for
those who wanted him gone.

PCC's Reasons for Decision Whether to Hold a Public Hearing
re The Battershill Investigation (Sept. 2008).

Here are some of the reasons Graham makes a poor choice for
this job:

Under his leadership, there was a great deal of poor leadership
regarding hiring of new police officers.

I happened to know two individuals who applied to the VPD, while
it was under Graham's watch. Being somewhat biased, but also
not stupid, I can say categorically, Vancouver would have been
lucky to get two fine individuals such as these. Both educated, bright,
very experienced in fields that relate to policing, people who if you
had to have a cop show up at your house, you would want these kind
of folks. And guess what, while local headlines were screaming for new
cops, both of these people were turned down for reasons that were not
abundantly clear. One was hired into another force and quickly moved
up the ranks, in recognition of his value and work. The other moved
into other areas of work. That was Vancouver's loss.

Graham's "leadership" again, saw him shamefully deny the
kinds of abuses some of his officers were undertaking on the
job as it concerned 50 affidavits introduced by Pivot Legal

Additionally, Graham's continuing lack of leadership and
accountability for his members cooperation of internal
complaints of misconduct against citizens was duly noted
by the Police Complaints Commissioner.
He went so far as to suggest that a retired judge, or justice should
be brought in to conduct an Audit of the handling of public complaints
against officers. That speaks to a core issue of a lack of leadership
and integrity in ensuring that the police force was aware of it's
obligations to the human rights and dignity of the public its members'
are sworn to uphold.

After a thorough RCMP investigation into the complaints in 2004,
the RCMP advised in its' completed report that in their learned
and informed opinion, some of the complaints were substantiated.

What was Graham's response? He continued to assert that none of
the complaints were substantied. He continued to ignore Pivot's
and the citizen's complaints. He denied that the RCMP's report had
any merit and he continued to shield his officers from accountability.

Graham's lack of personal judgment in such serious matters speaks
deeply to problems of morality and ethical integrity as a leader and
as one who is sworn to uphold the public good and that cannot be

The fact that Graham booked it out of Vancouver, as Chief Constable,
prior to the completion of an investigation into his conduct, also speaks
to his commitment to accountability. With retired status, there is no
recourse to his actions while on the job. Jim Chu, the new Police Chief,
immediately distinguished himself as a very different kind of leader,
by issuing a statement of apology about the circumstances surrounding
the complaints brought forward by Pivot and committing the force to
providing "quality police service," encouraging citizens to come forward
with "issues" so that the force could continue to improve it's service.

Graham's statements refuting the findings of the investigation, that he
was found guilty of disreputable conduct for his actions as chief related
to the Pivot and public complaints is also a red flag. Had he made a
statement admitting that he respected the decision and has given the
entire process some thought and wished he had handled it differently,
maybe his reputation could have been mended somewhat. Unfortunately,
he presented himself as lacking in judgment, integrity and a failure to
learn and grow from past mistakes and offer a better role model to police
in the province.

There are many police officers with a high degree of integrity and ethics
in the province of BC. There are many who do the right thing every day
on the job. Many of them saw what their brothers and sisters on the lines
were up to and probably wanted to ensure that a stop was put to behaviour
which brought a black mark to everyone on the force. One might wonder
how those types sometimes faired with Jamie Graham as their leader,
setting the bureaucratic and ethical tone of the policing organizations he
was in charge of.

It's also worth taking a read of the Police Commissioner's Decision
into Pivot's complaint about Graham too (June 2007).

PCC's Decision Ordering Investigation into 3rd Party Complaint Against
Vancouver Chief Constable Graham

The final nail in the coffin though is the recent report issued by
Delta, B.C. Police Chief Jim Cessford, who found Graham guilty
of "disreputable conduct" under the Police Act. Cessford stated:
"It is my view that there is clear and convincing evidence
that Chief Graham committed, through his inaction, the
Code of Conduct offence of discreditable conduct."

This is no small issue, a thorough investigation, by another police official,
found former Chief Constable Jamie Graham guilty of breaching the
Code of Professional Conduct in failing to cooperate and ensure cooperation
by officers under his authority in the investigation into complaints of
disreputable conduct, including physical assaults against marginalized
and vulnerable citizens, many of whom have poor physical and mental
health, by some officers of the Vancouver Police Department.

New police chief may be Vancouver's old chief
Global TV reporting that Jamie Graham has either been picked
or is on shortlist

An interesting bit to speculate about concerns the political use and
influence of police boards. I do not know why the fact that mayors
sit as chair of police boards is not considered a conflict of interest.
It very clearly is. It lends very little credibility to the importance
of the role of Chair of a Police Board. One might also wonder about
the influence the ruling parties of the day have concerning political
appointees. One can see some of the problems associated with
Liberal appointees to the Victoria Police Board. There are five
members appointed by the BC Liberals to this board, which outnumbers
the elected officials of the local municipalities. And it's completely
unknown whether any of them have any kind of relevant experience,
or background in policing to such an important board. When examining
their work on the board, there is an appearance that appointees also
seem to simply blindly follow Alan Lowe's lead, Victoria's mayor, in
whatever he says. That's just clearly not the kind of leadership that is
warranted under these kind of circumstances.

As an interesting aside, the blogosphere has long wondered about the
true motivations of those who took Battershill down. The fact that
Gerald Hartwig, clearly a BC Liberal insider, is alleged to have helped
bring Battershill down via well timed, nebulous Freedom of Information
complaints, leading to unfounded allegations by "senior officers" is a fact
that shouldn't go unnoticed by many. Battershill was the top cop in a city of
politicians (many who have much, much to hide) in the midst of the
biggest corruption trial in BC's history - the sale of BC Rail and the
Raid on the Legislature.

There are many who speculate about whether Battershill got too close
to the truth about things and he needed to go down in flames, being
discredited as someone who may be in the running to be called as
a crucial witness if this scandal ever makes it to trial.

At the end of the day, one of the things all of this makes clear is that
there needs to be some massive changes in how leadership is viewed
in the arena of policing. A recent CBC investigation into the high number
of complaints of proven misconduct by police officers around BC
proves that there are some major problems in many forces and this
needs to be addressed. The labour market is being strained in every
sector. In some respects, for specialized types of work, such as policing,
the gene pool is extremely shallow. Police forces need to do their
homework well about who they are hiring.

In 2008, almost 2009, it's not enough for police leaders to simply push
away complaints about potential abuses of the public good, or the rights
of citizens to expect fair, competent and humane policing.

True leaders in the 21st century know that the mark of a good organization
is to build a foundation of ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability
at all levels. To act in the public good in all things and to attract and retain
people who uphold the most valuable of qualities and to either minimize
the harm from those who don't meet the standards, or get rid of them as
the risks and liabilities they are. That, is real leadership.

Fundamentally, the Victoria Police Board better conduct themselves
very wisely in their decision of who will become the next Chief of Police
in Victoria. The province is watching and the force faces some serious
challenges and deserves to have solid, ethical and consistent leadership
to forge the path ahead.

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