Category Archives: Police

Are Local Police Being Covertly Militarized?

Vancouver and Victoria police told academic researcher Adam Molnar they’ve started training in combat exercises with the US military. Police weren’t so forthright when Focus came asking.

Western Canadian police forces and the US military have been skirting laws on both sides of the border in secretive, controversial, urban-combat training exercises, says researcher Adam Molnar. Molnar recently completed his Political Science PhD thesis for the University of Victoria, titled “In the Shadow of the Spectacle: Security and Policing Legacies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.” His study provides a behind-the-scenes look into how the biggest peace-time security operation in Canadian history permanently re-shaped British Columbia policing with respect to governance, use of electronic surveillance, public order emergencies, and public-private partnerships. One of its most provocative chapters outlines the creation of the Vancouver Police Department’s “Military Liaison Unit,” and the spread of the model to other police departments including Victoria’s.

Molnar can’t disclose the names of the police sources he interviewed due to university research ethics requirements; however, he can discuss his research. Molnar says the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Military Liaison Unit (MLU) was created in the early 2000s. Under then VPD Chief Jamie Graham’s direction, the MLU was intended to improve working relationships between the Canadian military and Vancouver police for the Olympics. In Molnar’s study, one VPD MLU official is quoted as saying that, prior to the Olympics, there was a long-standing “myopic viewpoint” that police and military shouldn’t work closely together. “Times have changed,” the official said.

And indeed, the official added, the VPD MLU garnered a flood of Olympics funding to hire personnel with battleground experience and become more well-equipped than many military brigades. The MLU also helped forge agreements between Vancouver police and Canadian Forces outlining jurisdictional and logistical responsibilities when operating together. Today, MLU training continues with major exercises occurring between four and six times per year at a US National Guard facility in Yakima, Washington, says Molnar, typically involving the US Department of Defense, US Army, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Washington National Guard, often working alongside Canadian Forces military personnel and police officers from Vancouver, Victoria and/or Calgary. Molnar says participants use live ammunition in “reality-based training” of “asymmetrical warfare operations” modelled on foreign military occupations and urban house-to-house tactical fighting. Police and military also train each other in their respective rules of engagement and use of force, explosives ordinance disposal, vehicle and person searches, prisoner handling, crowd control, building raids and room clearing, and counter-terrorism responses in urban domains.

Read more at Focusonline.

Police Chiefs: Public or Private?

BC’s Information Commissioner launches an inquiry into police chief associations.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has launched an inquiry into British Columbia’s two police chief associations. Denham is considering recommending to government that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) should be declared governmental “public bodies” and be made subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). According to her December 6 “letter to stakeholders,” the Commissioner is also inviting public input about this possible recommendation until February 14, 2014.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissoner (OIPC) evidently has some of the same concerns about the associations that Focus has been reporting on for two years, as it’s become clear that these secretive associations have been doing everything from crafting the government’s policing legislation to ordering police media spokespersons around the province to promote the virtues of mass surveillance. “In my reflections on this issue to date,” Denham’s two-page letter states, “it appears that the policy argument in favour of such a recommendation is based on two related considerations.” Denham describes “the important public role that the Chief Constables and the Associations play in our society,” while “government and others treat the Associations as the focal point for contact with the Chief Constables on matters of public policy.” However, she points out, “the appropriate level of transparency of Association records can be achieved for FIPPA purposes only if a member of the public can request current and historical records from the Association itself, rather than relying on what might be piecemeal and incomplete records held by individual Chief Constables at any given time.”

What prompted this action? “We had inquiries, we had letters, we had calls, and we examined the implications of [freedom of information] and its application to these associations in some mediation files,” said Denham in an interview with Focus. “So we’ve had interest in the question. We’ve had evidence presented to us in relation to this question.”

Read the rest at Focusonline.

OIPC Launches Inquiry into Police Chief Associations

The BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is investigating the legal nature and practices of British Columbia’s two police chief associations and, as part of that process, will be soliciting public input until January 17th, 2014 (revised deadline is now February 14, 2014.). Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is considering whether to recommend that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) should be declared to be “public bodies” and be made subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). The OIPC’s official announcement will appear within the next few days. (Dec. 11: Her letter to stakeholders has now been released.)

This inquiry comes after I submitted to the OIPC in late October a 9-page letter and about 70 pages of evidence showing that the BCACP and BCAMCP have been secretly operating as de facto governing bodies for all police forces in British Columbia for decades.

The key issue here is important: BC police chiefs certainly should have the freedom to associate with each other in private, and to lobby government and publicly advocate. At the same time, however, it’s vital that important decisions by our police chiefs that affect the governance and operations of our public police forces should be reasonably transparent and accountable to the public. The problem is the way that our police chief associations are doing these two things at the same time, at the same meetings; the associations are operating as both private lobby groups and as public bodies, and up until now they have been doing it all in absolute secrecy out of the reach of laws covering either public or private bodies.

So either the associations must change the way they do business by clearly separating their private activities from their public activities, or the associations must be made fully subject to our public freedom of information laws.

If you’re media and would like to interview me, contact 250-388-6064 or email rob at robwipond dot com. If you have an interest in or concerns about policing in British Columbia, then I encourage you to write a letter to the OIPC at info@oipc.bc.ca . I also suggest sending copies to Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services (the ministry in charge of FIPPA) at TIACS.minister@gov.bc.ca  and to Suzanne Anton, Minister of Justice and Attorney General at JAG.Minister@gov.bc.ca  (the ministry in charge of policing), and to Premier Christy Clark at premier@gov.bc.ca

This could be precedent setting, because across Canada, many police chief associations have been for many years secretly operating in a similar kind of dual capacity, as both private lobby groups and as public governing bodies, and engaging in deep conflicts of interest and a total lack of accountability while doing so. In addition, this is a good opportunity to clarify a legal and political ‘test’ for what constitutes a public agency versus a private group — something which is relevant in many other situations where governments are increasingly operating in private-public ‘grey areas’. (See for example the 2009 Canadian Supreme Court case involving the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority in which the court worked to define “government body” as it relates to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)

To learn more about the associations, here are the articles for Focus magazine that I’ve researched and written on this subject that have led up to this OIPC decision, along with some of the actual document evidence.

The articles in order:

Are BC Police Chiefs Evading the Law? (October 2012)

Is the Law Catching Up to BC’s Police Chiefs? (May 2013)

“Curiouser and Curiouser” (July 2013)

Coup de Police (November 2013) (If you’re only going to read one article, read this one.)

And if you’re keenly interested to know more, below are the records finally obtained during mid-2013 which are discussed in “Coup de Police”. These are pdf files that contain hundreds of pages, so they’ll take some time to download. I suggest right-clicking on the filename and choosing “save link as” or “save file as”:

Records pertaining to the BCACP and BCAMCP from the past two years in the custody of the BC Ministry of Justice, which were generated by the BC government.

All records pertaining to the BCAMCP in the custody of the Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, and West Vancouver police departments.

All records pertaining to the BCACP in the custody of the Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, and West Vancouver police departments.

An Overabundance of Caution

We’re worried about each other’s “mental health” a lot more than we used to be. But calling 911 for someone can be a disastrous approach, say victims of our good – or not so good – intentions.

The day before, John had interred his mother’s ashes. But then came what he describes as an “unbelievable, incomprehensible incident” that, in his sensitive state, was “otherworldly” and “traumatizing.”

John (who wishes to keep his name confidential) went to a Victoria recreation centre to try to clear his mind. He bumped into a friend and they talked into the wee hours. When John returned home, the lights in his condominium were on.

“I thought, I must have leaned up against the dimmer switch when I was putting my shoes on,” says John. Then he noticed an out-of-place binder, his laptop positioned differently, his email program opened. “Something was askew,” says John. “It was like I was in some sort of parallel universe.”

Had someone broken in? Visible money hadn’t been taken. “It was just a really creepy feeling,” he says. Having suffered a heart attack last year, and also taking medications for anxiety and help with sleep, the 50 year old felt a “physiological response” to the sense of “violation” and quickly took his medications. “I’m in no immediate danger,” he said to himself.

At 5 a.m., John was awoken by his phone ringing. A police constable introduced himself and said, “We’re just wondering how you’re doing.”

Read the rest at Focus online.

BC Police Chief Association Records

It would be great for other people knowledgeable about policing in British Columbia to go through these records that I’ve obtained pertaining to the BC Association of Chiefs of Police and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police. If you do,  please tell me what you learn.

Here’s the back story:

Are BC Police Chiefs Evading the Law?

Is the Law Catching Up to BC’s Police Chiefs?

“Curiouser and Curiouser”

Coup de Police

 

Here are the records finally obtained during mid-2013 which are discussed in “Coup de Police”. These are pdf files that contain hundreds of pages, so they’ll take some time to download. I suggst right-clicking on the filename and choosing “save link as” or “save file as”:

Records pertaining to the BCACP and BCAMCP from the past two years in the custody of the BC Ministry of Justice, which were generated by the BC government.

All records pertaining to the BCAMCP in the custody of the Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, and West Vancouver police departments.

All records pertaining to the BCACP in the custody of the Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, and West Vancouver police departments.