Saturday, January 17, 2009

Victoria Officer being Investigated for Using Excessive Force


Victoria's police chief has ordered a criminal investigation into an allegation of excessive use of force by one of his officers.

Chief Jamie Graham says the allegation arose from an October arrest of two people for being intoxicated in public.

Mr. Graham says the people involved were not seriously hurt, but he could not provide any further details.

An internal police review and investigation under B.C.'s Police Act were launched and because the allegation involves use of force, Mr. Graham said yesterday he has ordered a criminal investigation as well.

The officer involved, who has been on the force for three years, has been reassigned.

Mr. Graham said the incident and others like it show the need for more supervision in the police cell block, so as of this week there is a sergeant posted in the jail full-time.

"We owe all inmates and prisoners, no matter what their condition and behaviour, an additional level of care. Many are sick, injured, intoxicated; many are mentally ill, and may not be able to look after themselves or behave as they normally do," Mr. Graham said at a news conference.

"Any use of force in the cell area must be justified in law. Regardless of the circumstances of why someone is in our custody, they deserve to be treated with respect."

Last year, a B.C. jury awarded $60,000 to Willow Kinloch, a Victoria teen who spent four hours tied up in a padded cell and tethered to the cell door in May of 2005. The Victoria Police Department has appealed the decision.

The police force has had other high-profile internal investigations recently.

Deputy chief John Ducker is facing a conflict-of-interest investigation after allegations surfaced that he was contacted to help an acquaintance whose son had been arrested for theft under $5,000.

Police said the acquaintance wanted Mr. Ducker's help to ensure that the young man would face stern consequences for a crime that sometimes doesn't even result in charges.

The allegations of conflict of interest were later found to be unsubstantiated by Abbotsford's police chief.

And last August, former police chief Paul Battershill quit days before he was to face a disciplinary hearing.

An RCMP investigation found no criminal wrongdoing but found complaints of favouritism over Mr. Battershill's personal relationship with a person who provided services to the police department.

Mr. Graham, Mr. Battershill's replacement, also faced heavy criticism as Vancouver's chief of police for the way he handled allegations of misconduct against his officers.

An independent investigation by another police force found Mr. Graham guilty of discreditable conduct for failing to co-operate with an RCMP probe of 50 allegations of misconduct against Vancouver police on behalf of residents of the city's notorious Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld wrote that although Mr. Graham did not condone the lack of co-operation by the officers, he did not take the necessary steps to ensure they complied.

NOPO Arrested for Raping Stepson & Stepdaughters

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office deputies arrested a New Orleans police officer Thursday, accused of raping his stepson and two stepdaughters, Sheriff Jack Strain confirmed Saturday morning.

With his lawyer in tow, the 50-year-old Slidell man, a 17-year- veteran and sergeant of the NOPD patrol section, turned himself into authorities Thursday about 4:30 p.m., Strain said.

He was booked into St. Tammany Parish Jail in Covington on three counts of aggravated rape and aggravated incest, Strain said. Strain did not reveal the alleged victims' ages, but under Louisiana law aggravated rape can be charged when a victim is 13 or younger.

Aggravated rape carries a mandatory life in prison sentence if convicted.

The alleged abuse came to light when one of the children told an 'educator' about the abuse, Strain said.

An investigation was launched, and 'obviously it didn't take long to realize who (the suspect was),' Strain said.

'I personally spoke with (NOPD Police) Chief Warren Riley to tell him about our investigation,' Strain said. 'He offered any support the department can give and complete cooperation.'

The man, whose name is being withheld to protect the victims, has been suspended from the NOPD pending the investigation, Bob Young, an NOPD spokesman said.

The investigation took six weeks after the 'kids were removed from custody' because St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office investigators wanted to build a strong case, Strain said.

'We believe this case is just as good as any we solved,' Strain said. 'It's an incredibly unfortunate incident, but it shows how serious we are.'

Detectives investigated where other abuses occurred in the suspect's role as a police officer, but to date 'we have seen no evidence that there could be any other victims related to his job,' Strain said.