Thursday, August 01, 2013

Wait. Police lawyers write up officers' notes for them?

From a partial transcript of Ontario Ombudsman and former Special Investigation Unit Director Andre Marin's interview on CBC yesterday regarding how systemic obstruction from the police will affect the Sammy Yatim investigation: 
"The director of the SIU has written 82 times to the Chief of Toronto Police, reporting issues of evidence tampering on the scene, failure to notify the SIU of an incident, one police lawyer representing multiple officers, police lawyers writing the notes for the officers - you know the police lawyer wasn't on scene."
Although Mr. Marin was talking about the Toronto Police, his remarks made me remember the Robert Dziekanski incident. 

The four RCMP officers in the 2007 police-slaying of Dziekanski are on trial for perjury because they all had nearly identical but absurdly inaccurate "notes", as Paul Pritchard's video eventually revealed. 
They all maintained that Dziekanski came at them screaming and brandishing a stapler, that they had to wrestle him to the ground, that to varying degrees they feared for their lives. 
At the Braidwood Inquiry, Justice Thomas Braidwood played Pritchard's video frame by frame as they read from their prepared notes to the accompaniment of muffled laughter from spectators in the courtroom.

So were those "notes" the RCMP's version of "one police lawyer representing multiple officers, police lawyers writing the notes for the officers" ?
Is that why they were so similar, so resolutely CYA, and yet so preposterously wrong?
I know the officers were specifically asked if they were "coached" for their testimony - a charge they have all denied -  but did anyone think to ask junior RCMP Constable Bill Bentley at his perjury trial last month if he had any input into the writing of his notes at all?

Aug 3 Update - relates only to Ontario
Andre Marin : Police-Involved Deaths : The Need for Reform
"The SIU's practices around delayed officer interviews also served to undermine the regulatory requirement that witness officers be segregated to insulate their evidence from outside influence. Given that witness officers were usually permitted to leave an incident scene and that long periods went by before they were interviewed, the potential for conscious or unconscious tailoring of evidence was substantially increased. This risk was also compounded by the fact that many officers spoke with counsel before writing their notes and before speaking with the SIU, and quite often, the same counsel represented all officers involved in an incident, increasing the chance of contamination of their recollection of events, since lawyers are bound by the rules of professional conduct to share information among clients in a joint retainer situation."
Ontario Ombudsman 2012-2013 Annual Report 
In April 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal of an Ontario Court of Appeal case dealing with the issue of police association lawyers vetting officers’ notes before submitting them to SIU ... The Ontario court ruled in 2011 that officers cannot have a lawyer vet their notes. The Supreme Court’s decision is pending. ... 
Later on in the report he notes : 
" ... officers refuse to answer questions about whether they consulted with a lawyer before writing their notes"
In March 2013 at a speech at Carleton University, Andre Marin again called for legislation to bolster the SIU and "prohibit police lawyers representing multiple officers and interfering with notes."


Anonymous said...

RCMP media Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, the guy who was initially sent out to tell us that Dziekanski was violent, that only 3 cops were involved and they only tasered him twice before the video disproved all of that, was found dead two days ago - the same day that Bentley was acquitted of perjury.

If RCMP lawyers wrote up those cops evidence for them for trial, that might be they are so confident of getting off they don't mind looking like liars.

Anonymous said...

Sgt. Lemaitre was found dead in his residence. And the Coroner isnt releasing the cause of death. This is typical in suicides, out of respect for the families involved.
A sad chapter in an ongoing saga of courtroom lies and video truths.
No one deserved to die. Mr Djkanski, Sgt. Lemaitre, no one deserved to die.
I dare say the other police officers involved in this are having some very dark days.
Lethal actions and the unforseen consequences.
Perhaps its time the RCMP review its hiring OR training practices, because the type of the recruits.....just arent working.


Linda Shellington said...

It's oversight. Ireland cleaned up their force. Teeth.

Anonymous said...

SIU investigations vs charges laid

2011-2012: 304 investigations; 13 charges
2010-2011: 291 investigations; 12 charges
2009-2010: 287 investigations; 12 charges.

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