LIAR LIAR – The Traffic Ticket Word Game

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The traffic ticket controversy seems to be gaining momentum.

“Quota or no quota?” that is the question.

A question that was recently examined in a top-notch W5 investigative report called “To Serve & Collect.”

According to the report, Winnipeg is the traffic ticket “quota” Capital of Canada.

Another negative moniker now being used to define a City already plagued with its fair share of dubious title distinctions such as the Murder, Robbery & Violent Crime Capitals of Canada.

When it comes to Police Management, the “Q” word is about as taboo as the “F” word.  It’s a word “they” will just never say.

Former Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill was clear on the issue “As far as I’m concerned, we’ll always look at traffic enforcement as a safety issue.”

Objective analysis of McCaskill’s statement might lead an intuitive person to a contrary conclusion.

It’s no secret the City’s 2012 operating budget indicated that the WPS intended to collect an additional 1.4 million dollars in ticket revenue from traditional enforcement. (Front line officers handing out tickets.)

At the time, McCaskill explained the target wouldn’t be met by police brass setting “quotas” for front line officers, but they would be raising “expectations.”

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In March 2012 McCaskill was quoted in the WFP indicating; “A quota basically in my mind is that, ‘You’ve got to do it, that’s your minimum.’ No. It’s sort of an expectation, sort of a measurement, and that’s it. It’s not a ‘You must.’ It’s a ‘We’d like you to try to do that.’ If they don’t get it, nobody is going to be coming to them and saying they’re in trouble. It’s not going to happen.”

I’m sorry Keith, that was either a big fat lie or your message got skewed somewhere between your office in the PSB (Public Safety Building) and the supervisor’s meetings held throughout the Police Service.

I was at one of those meetings where one of your Divisional Commanders shared your “vision.”

Call it whatever you want, front line officers were to be told they were expected to issue a minimum of one (1) traffic ticket per every ten (10) hour shift.  Supervisors were expected to keep statistics and monitor the number of offence notices each officer issued.  Officers that failed to meet Police Service “expectations” were to be singled out for a discussion with their supervisor regarding their performance issues.

Contrary to Chief McCaskill’s assertions, a discussion with a supervisor regarding a perceived performance issue is a negative consequence.

Supervisors were also expected to deliver the message that failure to meet Police Service “expectations” could have significant negative career path implications.  The threat from Police Management was not ambiguous, write traffic tickets or good luck in the next promotion competition.

I personally failed to see how the “building relationships” mantra fit into the directive to persecute both the public and the front line Police Officers who didn’t buy into the “vision.”

Winnipeg Police Association President Mike Sutherland had his own take on the issue; “If the traffic enforcement situation becomes more focused on revenue, and inappropriately focused on revenue, as opposed to public safety, then I think it undermines the public confidence and relationships we’re trying to build.”

Sutherland gets it and so does Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who indicated he disagreed with the idea of connecting traffic enforcement to revenue targets.  According to Chu the Police should not use the “powers of the state” to make money because, as he put it; “That’s not the purpose of why we’re out there.  We’re out there to keep the streets safe and not to make money.”

The truth is enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act in the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg has evolved into a dark, immoral form of surreptitious taxation used to supplement the bottom-line.

Public Safety, education and awareness are all novel excuses fed to the press by Police Brass to justify the new aggressive traffic enforcement approach the Police Service has taken.

If it wasn’t about the revenue photo radar vehicles wouldn’t be set up in speed reduced school zones on Sunday afternoons or in speed reduced construction zones when there is no construction going on.

If it wasn’t about revenue the Police Service would not be calling out off duty Police Officers and paying them time and a half for ten hours to do traffic enforcement.

When you do the math, the Police Service is paying each of these officers approximately $700 for their days work.  If they write fifty (50) tickets per day at an average of $200 they are generating $10,000 in gross revenue.

With numbers like this, it’s not hard to see how we got here.

In comparison, supervisors in the Crime Division & District Detective Offices constantly struggle in their efforts to receive authorization for  anti-crime projects that might incur overtime or the need to call out off duty investigators.

Robberies, Commercial & Residential Break & Enters and Gang Crime have all apparently become secondary considerations in the evolution of Policing in Winnipeg.

If it wasn’t about revenue traffic fines would not be so incredibly outrageous.   Ten (10) km/h over the speed limit $181.50, fifteen (15) km/h over $246.25 & twenty (20) km/h over $312.25.  How about failing to signal a turn $143.75 or failing to wear a seatbelt $299.65.

I truly sympathize with any hard-working teenaged kid working for minimum wage who gets nailed with a traffic ticket with a three-hundred dollar price tag.

As a front line supervisor I whole heartedly rejected the notion that officers under my command had to hand out a daily, or even weekly number (quota) of traffic tickets.  These officers swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of our City.  Their primary function should be to respond to priority calls and to detect and apprehend the criminals who prey on the public in our crime ridden City.

If they managed to find the time to write a ticket I applauded their efforts.

Generating revenue by persecuting commuters and the general public is a misguided approach that undermines the integrity of the entire Police Service.

In 2008, a total of 25,000 traffic offence notices were issued by the WPS.

In 2011, that number ballooned to a total of 57,000.

When you assess these numbers it becomes clear that holding career path over employees heads is an effective way to achieve “buy in.”

It’s simple mathematics; objectives + expectations + perceived threat = significant enforcement revenue = traffic ticket word games = quota = denials = liar liar.

Quotas, objectives or expectations……same shit, different pile.

The lies, deception and continued abuse of Winnipeg motorists has become so overt that it’s attracted the attention of investigative reporters from W5, the longest running television newsmagazine program in North America and most watched program of its type.

The time has come to return to a more simple time in Policing.

A time when a Police Officer stopped a car and cut the driver a break with a warning or stern lecture.  An interaction that was often educational, appreciated & respected.

A time when a seat belt ticket cost you $40 and not a weeks wages.

A time when front line cops were expected to patrol your back lanes looking for criminals doing B&E’s or damaging your property.

A time when people in the “chain of command” were cops and not “bean counting gumbys.”

It would be my hope that Chief Clunis pays heed to Chief Chu’s words of wisdom; policing is not, and should never have become a money-making proposition.

It’s time to stop playing traffic ticket word games and start letting street cops do what they were always intended to do, be street cops.

It’s time for the “liar liar” culture to change.

FOOTNOTE:

Post featured in the Winnipeg Free Press “Blog of the Week”

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/another-dubious-distinction-for-winnipeg-blog-of-the-week-the-power-of-words-189553281.html

MARIO VALDEZ – The Cowardly Killer

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This was not a typical Winnipeg murder.

A beautiful, angelic young woman entangled in a forbidden complex relationship with a controlling, manipulative uncle who exploited her in every sense of the word; psychologically, emotionally, sexually and financially.

Catherine Gastador was only twenty-three (23) years old when she was brutally murdered by her uncle, thirty-six (36) year old Mario Valdez.

The call came in on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 just after 3:00 pm.

Catherine’s lifeless body had just been discovered by her adoptive father Eduardo Gastador when he checked her Preston Ave apartment after she failed to attend work for a second straight day.

She was found on her bed laying face down, clad in a pair of pyjama shorts and a t-shirt.   It was apparent she had been stabbed multiple times in her back.

Eduardo would subsequently tell investigators about his concerns regarding his brother-in-law, Mario Valdez.  A man Catherine feared as evidenced by the fact she previously obtained a protection order against him.

(Investigation revealed a history of “domestic” abuse with indications that Valdez had anger issues and a propensity to use violence.)

This information made Mario a “person of interest,” someone who had to be interviewed to determine what, if any, knowledge or involvement he had in the murder.

As luck would have it, Valdez had an unrelated outstanding arrest warrant for Assault Causing Bodily Harm.

(Records checks revealed that the victims protection order against Valdez had expired.)

As a supervisor leading this type of investigation it was very important to avoid tunnel vision, to remain open-minded and consider all possibilities.  Although Valdez was clearly a person of interest, there was no hard evidence to suggest he was a suspect.

His arrest warrant provided investigators with an excellent tool to bring him to a Police facility for the purpose of conducting a fact-finding interview.

In the mean time, the autopsy determined the cause of death was due to “external compression (strangulation) to the neck & stab wounds to the back.”

This finding, coupled with evidence at the scene, led investigators to believe Gastador was rendered unconscious then stabbed multiple times in the back.

By 11:48 pm, Valdez was arrested on the strength of his warrant and was in the custody of Homicide Investigators.

During his interview Valdez unabashedly admitted he’d been involved in a sexual relationship with his niece for approximately five (5) years.

He further advised they had sexual relations during the day on Saturday, May 1st, 2010 and attended different social events that evening.  According to Valdez, he last spoke to Catherine around 9:00 pm Saturday night.

Valdez provided a detailed account of his movements that night which included playing VLTs at the Norwood Hotel, having a meal with his nephew at Kens Restaurant and sleeping at his mother’s home on Tallman Ave in the North End of the City.

Of interest, he told investigators he received a text message from Catherine around 4:00 am indicating she was on her way to her Preston Ave apartment.  Valdez advised he was puzzled by other text messages she sent inexplicably accusing him of staring at her friends.  (Although investigators had no way of knowing it at the time, this time frame & information, as skewed as it was, would turn out to be critical pieces of the puzzle.)

Nonetheless, Mario reported he slept at his mothers north end residence and woke up around noon the next day.  He indicated he’d called Catherine a couple of times during the day and left  her two voice messages. Later that evening he sent her a text message bidding her good night.  Much to his dismay, Catherine failed to respond to any of these messages, nor did she respond to text messages he sent her on Monday & Tuesday.

Of note, Valdez provided interrogators with an elaborate story regarding his involvement in the drug trade.  The story morphed to the point where he suggested his involvement with organized crime might be an explanation for a possible motive for someone to kill Gastador.

Prior to wrapping up the “first 48” investigators interviewed Mario’s nephew who essentially confirmed his alibi information.

At this point two possibilities existed, the first; Valdez was telling the truth and was an innocent man.

The second; Valdez was the killer and had gone to some rare and exceptional lengths to cover his tracks.

My experience was telling me I had to be very concerned about him.  The organized crime motive advanced by Valdez raised significant red flags that reeked of a fabricated attempt to deflect attention away from himself.

It became evident that this case would rise and fall on our ability to conduct detailed analysis of cell phone text messaging and data related to cell site tower locations.

Valdez was detained at the Provincial Remand Center on the unrelated warrant charges and investigators retired for the day after working more than thirty (30) consecutive hours.

The next day was my daughters twentieth (20th) birthday but I already knew there would be no way I’d ever make it home in time for birthday cake.  This was going to be a critical day, a day to make or break a murder case, birthday or no birthday.  That’s just the way it had to be.

The break in the case came when CSI officers located Catherine’s blackberry after conducting a search for evidence in her apartment.

This was a good news and bad news scenario.  The good news; we found Catherine’s phone.  The bad news; it was locked and password protected.

This meant we had to crack the code if we were ever going to retrieve those critical cell phone text messages.  There could be no doubt, the extraction of that data was critical to solving this case, a case was proving to be very difficult.

Difficult because it was becoming increasingly apparent that Catherine’s relationship with Uncle Mario was a very dirty, private, family secret.  A secret she kept close to her vest.    Family members and friends either didn’t know or didn’t want to know.  Either way, nobody was talking about it and the lack of information regarding their relationship was potentially devastating to the case.

That reality made accessing the blackberry data even more critical.

Friends, identified through Facebook, would help immensely by providing information regarding Catherine’s password which was an abbreviated form of her dog’s name.  Unfortunately for us, the dogs names was “Chewbacca.”  A name that presented almost endless possibilities.

The hopes of resolving a murder case now entirely depended on our skill and ability to decipher the correct password to access the victims text messages.

This was a going to be a guessing game with a limited number of  available attempts.  Ten strikes and you’re out, the phone would be permanently locked and the data potentially lost forever.

The pressure now shifted to our Technological Crimes Section.

I believe it was around supper time that I received the call.

A sharp investigator or a lucky guess, it mattered not, the blackberry was unlocked and my suspicions were correct, the answer lay within the cell phone data.

Like a gift from heaven, Catherine inadvertently provided everything we needed to bring her killer to justice.

A text message to Valdez at 3:51 am stating “Y r u stalking me, turn around just to stare at my friends??  Ur a loser, fuck off if ur gonna act like that.”

There it was, served on a silver platter.

The message made it clear that Valdez had been doing a “stake out” at the victims apartment anticipating her return.  When she spotted him she was upset and sent him the text message.

It was dynamite stuff.

Subsequent cell phone analysis painted the picture.

During the early morning hours, after a few cocktails, Valdez started to send Gastador text messages demanding sexual favors using slang terms like “popoy” for intercourse and “chups”  for oral sex.

Gastador continued to reject her killers sexual demands thus setting the stage for the deadly confrontation that would soon follow.

It’s not all that difficult to put the remaining pieces of the puzzle together.

After seeing Valdez outside of her apartment Gastador sent him the text message at 3:51 am accusing him of being a stalker.

Valdez entered the apartment and continued to make aggressive sexual demands which Gastador rebuffed.

Valdez lost control, threw Catherine on the bed and strangled her until she was unconscious.  As his psychotic rage continued, the need to quench his violent thirst moved Valdez to the kitchen where he selected a knife to punctuate his vengeance.

It was a crime that could not have been more repugnant or cowardly.

A petite, defenseless young woman stabbed repeatedly in the back by a member of her own family trying to exploit her for his own sexual gratification.

As his rage subsided Valdez made the transformation into the mode of the calculating killer.

Demonstrating rare post homicide cunning, Valdez fabricated an alibi by sending his deceased “lover” text messages that he hoped would cover his tracks.

At 4:33 am, he sent a text message to Gastador informing her he was at his mother’s house and he would see her after work the next day.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for his cell phone records which secured irrefutable evidence that this message was sent from a Downtown location and not his mother’s residence in the north end as he had falsely professed to his interrogators.

The data from the cell phones turned out to be the coup de grace.

A rule of thumb when it comes to alibis is they are only good if they happen to be true.  When an alibi is proven false, a significant inference can be made regarding the guilt of the fabricator.

The fabricated alibis coerced from his son and nephew also crumbled.

The strong circumstantial case against Valdez forced him to face the harsh reality that he had little hope of escaping Justice.   The stage was set for the plea bargaining process to begin.

That process led to a dropped murder charge in exchange for a joint recommendation for a guilty plea to Manslaughter and a ten (10) year period of incarceration.  A plea to Obstructing Justice was also entered that came with a three (3) year price tag.

A global sentence of thirteen (13) years, a proper and fit sentence in the context of Canadian law and past precedents.

A sadly inept sentence when one considers the magnitude of the loss of a beautiful young girl and the impact on those left to mourn her loss.

I’ve always maintained the personal belief that “true justice” is dealt out in a much higher Court.

One day, Mario Valdez will get his.

Rest in peace young Catherine……

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RELATED LINKS:

http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/01/21/bad-uncles-decoy-text-message-led-to-his-undoing

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/dark-prediction-came-true-187844751.html

BLEEDING HEART WARDENS – What’s Next?

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The slow and steady erosion of victims rights and the wanton and reckless disregard for public safety demonstrated by the keepers of Canadian Justice increasingly amazes me.

The examples are plentiful.

As a participant in the Criminal Justice System for over twenty-five (25) years I was recently shocked to learn that a “life” sentence with no eligibility for parole for twenty (20) years doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to.

It’s a premise built on a lie, a reality I only discovered after crime reporter Mike McIntyre exposed the painful truth in an article featuring the case of convicted killer Bruce Stewner, a sadistic killer who enjoyed some three hundred (300) escorted temporary absences long before he was ever eligible for parole.

(I hesitate to even discuss the two (2) marriages and untold number of conjugal visits he enjoyed while doing his time.)

As an “insider” working in Justice, many events I observed during my career seriously eroded my confidence in the Canadian Justice System.

I’m referring to scandalous events that occur in our Courts; some of which include the exclusion of evidence, inconsistent and soft sentencing, maltreatment of victims during trials and the shocking release of habitual undeserving criminals.  The list goes on.

Enter the role of the Parole Board.

An Organization that undermines sentencing decisions and sees to the release of countless dangerous criminals back into our society long before their sentences expire.

With public confidence in the Canadian Justice System running at all time lows, I ask you, “What next?”

How about “Bleeding Heart Wardens” acquiring sweeping powers designed to undermine the Parole Board.

Insanity you suggest, not so!

Not according to journalist Christie Blatchford who penned an enlightening piece for the National Post titled “Prison warden does what parole board wouldn’t, grants work release to police officer’s killer.”

It’s a “must read”, an incredulous story that illustrates just how distorted the word “Justice” has become in our Country.

It’s about a bleeding heart warden who essentially granted parole to a cop killer after the Parole Board rejected her application.

The story dates back to August 4th, 1998 when Toronto Police Officer Detective William (Willy) Hancox was working undercover with a team of officers when he notified his team that he was getting something to eat.  A short time later Hancox came up on the police radio indicating that he had been stabbed.

Responding officers found the mortally wounded officer lying near his police vehicle in an expanding pool of blood.  He would not survive his injuries.

Hancox was a thirty-two year old, nine-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and was married with a three-year old daughter.  His wife was nine months pregnant at the time of his death.

The investigation that followed resulted in the arrest of two criminal misfits whose motive for the killing revolved around a plan to do a car jacking.

Elaine Rose Cece-41 ambushed and stabbed Hancox in the chest while her lesbian lover Mary Barbara Taylor-31 urged her on.  Both women were subsequently charged and convicted of second degree murder in late 1999.

Cece was ultimately sentenced to life without possibility of parole for sixteen (16) years.

Taylor, who had a significant prior record, received a life sentence without parole eligibility for eighteen (18) years.

Enter The Correctional Service of Canada, who in their infinite wisdom housed the murderous couple in the same cell while they were doing time in Quebec’s Joliet Prison.

The lovers were only split up after complaints were lodged by Kim Hancox, the officer’s widow.  After the split, convicted killer Cece was eventually transferred to the Fraser Valley Institution in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

(If the concept of enabling the officers killers to cohabitate wasn’t offensive enough, Correctional Services sunk to a new low by facilitating a “spa day” for estranged killer Taylor.)

In June of 2010 Cece applied for an Escorted Temporary Absence.

After the hearing, the Parole Board denied the request citing concerns that she lacked insight into her crime and minimized the violence she had inflicted.  They also underlined her mixed responses to prison programs and continuing struggles with drug and alcohol abuse.

Remarkably, in December of 2011, Warden Carol-Ann Reynen, granted Cece the very request the Parole Board denied.

In January 2013, Warden Reynen authorized Cece’s transfer to a halfway house and further granted her a sixty day work release complete with an open-ended escorted temporary absence to be supervised by a community volunteer.

This, in effect, is the Wardens very own special brand of day parole.

Blatchfords report explains how we got here.

The Wardens sweeping powers were quietly broadened in 2012 under a little known “Commissioners Directive” which expanded wardens authority under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The directive gives wardens the power to grant inmates temporary absences and work releases, including a series of escorted temporary absences to “lifers” like Cece so long as they are within three years of full parole eligibility.

Hence the evolution of the temporary absence, a form of release originally intended to allow inmates the ability to attend funerals or get medical treatment not available in the prison, now broadened to facilitate the release of convicted killers doing life sentences back into our unsuspecting society.

These discretionary powers have no means of oversight and are not subject to review.

The slain officers widow, Ms Hancox-Spencer notes there are two systems operating in corrections, the parole board and the wardens internal directives.

These warden directives undermine the parole board and operate in a culture of secrecy with no accountability.  The victim is not provided any form of notification until after the directives are issued.

“At least with the parole board hearing, I’m allowed to attend” said Hancox-Spencer.

The things I know about our Canadian Justice System, Corrections and Parole are frightening enough, but it has recently occurred to me that I might be horrified by the things I don’t know.

It makes me wonder…..whats next?

NOTE:

Hancox supporters ask that Police Officers and members of the concerned public express their outrage regarding these absurd powers to Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety at vic.toews@parl.gc.ca or call his office at 613-992-3128.

Conservative MP Corneliu Chisu has prepared a private members bill to change the legislation that provides these powers.  The Bill has yet to receive a number but has wide support from National & Provincial Police Associations.

RICHARD WOLSON – Nobody Does it Better

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If you happen to be a dedicated, hard-working Law Enforcement Officer who likes to arrest and lock up criminals, you are going to have allegations of assault or other misconduct made against you.  Simply put, its one of the hazards of the job.

Certain criminals have developed a modus operandi that includes the fine art of deflecting attention from their crimes by making false accusations against Police Officers.

It happened to me early in my career after being charged with Assault Causing Bodily Harm after one of Winnipeg’s’ most notorious criminals made false assault allegations against me and two of my co-workers.

The allegations fell apart in Court after testimony was heard from an independent witness who provided evidence that my accuser offered to pay him money to support a fabricated account of events.

Years later I would find myself on trial at a Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA) Trial, this time accused of Assault and Abuse of Authority.

The allegations were made by a LERA “frequent flier” who was trying to make a career out of making complaints against Police Officers.  My complaint was his seventh (7th) attempt.  His previous complaints were all dismissed.  His frustration with his lack of success undoubtedly contributed to his extraordinary efforts to make the charges against me stick.

Self inflicted injuries and a visit to the Hospital to obtain a medical record to use in my prosecution ensured that his complaint would be taken seriously.  I had to admit, the guy put some thought and planning into his work.

I realized that I could not take my accuser lightly, even though it was clear that he had significant mental health issues, a guilty finding could mean the end of my beloved career in Policing.

These kind of stakes dictated the need to secure top-notch legal representation.  For me, the choice was clear, I would request the services of respected Winnipeg Criminal Lawyer Mr. Richard J. Wolson, QC.

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Richard Wolson grills former PM Brian Mulroney at the Schreiber Inquiry

A decade or so earlier, circa 1993 I believe, I had the distinct pleasure of watching Mr Wolson in action during his defense of Winnipeg Police Detectives Dave Shipman & Mike Sutherland who had found themselves on the wrong end of criminal allegations.

His artful dissection of the RCMP members evidence was a sight to behold.  Pointed, direct, aggressive, relentless questioning saw these unprepared officers crack under the pressure.  I sat there in stunned silence and literally felt sorry for the RCMP members even though they were critical witnesses for a prosecution that could have destroyed the careers of the very men I had come to Court to support.

After virtually slaying the RCMP witnesses an acquittal was all but assured.  Both Shipman & Sutherland would leave the Courtroom with their careers in law enforcement fully intact.

I have no doubt that watching Mr Wolson in action during this trial made me a significantly better Police Officer, investigator and professional witness.    After watching that trial I promised myself that I would never be on the end of an ass whooping like the one I had witnessed in that Courtroom.

As a result, my note taking, attention to detail and professionalism all dramatically increased.

Mr Wolson brought the same passion and skill into the Courtroom during his defense of my LERA charges.  The frailties of my accuser were exposed during intense cross-examination and the charges were dismissed “tout de suite.”

Years later the lofty regard I had for Mr Wolson would only be multiplied by his performance during his cross-examination of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during the Inquiry into the affairs of political lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

As The Globe & Mails court room reporter Christine Blatchford put it, “I have never seen such a one as Brian Mulroney, being questioned by Richard Wolson, a lawyer from Winnipeg whose pauses alone are terrifying.”

I recently paid a visit to my old stomping grounds at the Law Courts to watch Mr Wolson defend accused Police Officer Constable Ryan Law who was facing Aggravated Assault charges alleged by accuser Henry Lavallee.

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WPS Constable Ryan Law photographed by media outside Law Courts

The morning session was dedicated to Lavallee’s uneventful direct evidence.  Cross examination would start at 2 pm.

Much like a fine wine I would see that Mr Wolson’s game has only become much more smooth, bold and full bodied with age.

Although there was no way Lavallee could have seen it coming, things started to go down hill for him when Mr Wolson got out of bed that morning.  After being forced to admit that he really wasn’t the polite, respectable citizen he tried to portray during his direct evidence, Mr Lavallee was forced to admit that he really was a Police hating career criminal with more than fifty-seven (57) convictions on his record.

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The accuser Henry Lavallee

He had to further admit that he has a propensity to spit in Police Officers faces when they collar him after he commits his crimes.

Mr Wolson also managed to get Mr Lavallee to contradict his direct evidence and admit that the Police really didn’t assault him or fail to read him his rights every time he gets arrested as he so strongly suggested in his initial evidence.  In fact, the number plummeted downward from 100% to 75% to a not so firm 50% of the time.

I especially enjoyed the exchanges where Mr Wolson asked Mr Lavallee if he had referred to Constable Law as a “bitch” at the time of his arrest.  “Maybe he is a bitch”, Lavallee replied.  “Maybe you are too.”

By the time it was over Mr Wolson destroyed whatever potential may have existed for anyone in their right mind to believe anything that had come out of Lavallee’t rancid mouth.

An acquittal almost virtually guaranteed by virtue of the brilliant, pointed, aggressive cross-examination so masterfully performed by Mr Wolson.

When the acquittal is read I imagine Mr Wolson might quietly think to himself, “Who’s the bitch now Henry?”

If you are one of those hard-working, dedicated cops I spoke of, take heed, program Mr Wolson’s number into your smart phone and call him the moment that Professional Standards, The Special Investigations Unit or LERA drops by for a visit.

It just might be the smartest move you will ever make.

LINKS:

RICHARD WOLSON LAW FIRM:

http://gwsr.ca/our-team/wolson/

WFP STORY ON SCHREIBER AFFAIR

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/wolson-plays-starring-role-at-oliphant-inquiry-45210207.html

MEDIA COVERAGE:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/11/29/mb-officer-assault-trial-winnipeg.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/11/26/mb-officer-assault-trail-winnipeg.html

 

HURRICANE CLUNIS – Gale Force Winds of Change

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“Ask not what your City can do for you, ask what you can do for your City.”

That’s the first thing that came to my mind after sitting through a keynote address delivered by newly promoted Police Chief Devon Clunis.

Clunis delivered the speech this morning at the annual Crime Prevention Breakfast hosted by Mr Mike Cook, President of the Manitoba Criminal Justice Association.

The event is attended by a wide cross-section of professionals that range from Senior Crown Attorneys to Executive members of the Police Service, to Judges, Lawyers, Politicians, Probation Services, Corrections, CFS and members of Winnipeg’s Corporate Community.

The theme of the event centres on Public Safety and Public Safety issues.

Who better to deliver the keynote address than a new Police Chief who has yet to share the nuts and bolts of his vision for our crime ridden City.

Having intimately known Clunis for almost twenty-six (26) years, I knew the speech would be inspirational.  What I didn’t know is if it would contain much in the way of a reality based vision.  Philosophy in Policing is a wonderful thing but it is meaningless unless it is followed up by action.

Skeptics worry that Clunis sees the world through rose-coloured glasses, is short on front line experience and is oblivious to the realities of a crime ridden City.

So what’s the vision?

As he addressed the crowd of some three (300) hundred people, Clunis politely asked attendees to resist the temptation to laugh as he shared his vision;  “My purpose is to change the world” he said.

A brief period of awkward silence ensued and sure enough, a few muffled giggles could be heard in the crowd.

Clunis acknowledged the giggles and went on to explain how, as a young Jamaican boy raised in a small rural town in a house with no electricity, he believed that anything is possible.

It was an elegant journey that climaxed with an improbable promotion to Chief of Police and ended with a determined vision to create a “culture of safety” in the City of Winnipeg.

Clunis acknowledged that Winnipeg currently holds the un-envious titles of murder and violent crime capital of Canada, but stressed that these titles don’t define a community that is also known for its generosity.

In his mind, Winnipeg has the potential to become one of the safest communities in the Nation.  I assure you that these are not just words to Clunis, it’s a strong belief.

So how do we get there?

“Focus more on prevention and community involvement, crime prevention thru social development” he stressed.

Clunis suggested the need for an inclusive approach and shared his belief that the Police simply can’t do it alone.

“We are not going to arrest these issues away” he said.

Critics will suggest that the Police are not social workers and can’t be all things to all people.  The Police are responsible for enforcing the laws and not effecting social change.  Social change is the mandate of social agencies and Government policy.

Au contraire says Clunis.

As a veteran of law enforcement, Clunis indicated that he is fully aware of the societal ills that drive crime such as poverty, unemployment and drug & alcohol addiction.

He also indicated that he knows that addressing these social problems are not burdens that can be fully adopted by the Police Service, but shared his belief that the Police have a responsibility to address factors that drive crime and need to take the initiative to be “catalysts for change.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The Police have to become more involved in addressing the primary causes of crime.

It’s called being proactive, it’s called leadership.

If incarceration worked our jails wouldn’t be so full, the revolving doors of justice demonstrate just how inept our justice system has become.

Philosophical changes in crime fighting are desperately needed and it appears that Devon Clunis is prepared to lead that evolution.

Clunis has a rare combination of passion and optimism that is truly contagious.  I have no doubt that he touched and inspired every person in that room.

The only question left is can he put the vision into a plan of action.

Citizens of Winnipeg and members of the Police Service have a choice to make, buy in or opt out.

As an optimist, it is my hope that Clunis achieves a high rate of buy in and that citizens and police officers alike decide to be part of the revolution.

Those that opt out will complain, criticize and offer nothing in the way of a meaningful solution to the problem.

Although we have a very long way to go, Winnipeg has the potential to be one great City.

That potential is exponentially increased when people like Devon Clunis accept the challenge to provide committed leadership to an important civic entity that has the potential to help shape our community.

Devon Clunis has a dream.

 

FOOTNOTE:

Story selected Blog of the Week by the Winnipeg Free Press

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/the-philosopher-chief-blog-of-the-week-the-power-of-words-187643551.html

MARK STOBBE – “It’s All About Me.”

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When I saw the headline I immediately had a sick feeling in my stomach.

“Stobbe pens jailhouse account.”

Mike Mcintyres’ latest story features snippets from a book penned by Mark Stobbe, the former government adviser accused of killing his wife Bev Rowbotham.

I have to admit I initially questioned why Mike McIntyre would be shining a light on Stobbes attempt at literary notoriety, it just seems like the wrong thing to do.

While I respect the fact that Stobbe was acquitted of all charges against him, its important to note that the juries conclusion doesn’t mean he is an innocent man.  In fact, many people have little doubt that he got away with murder.

After reading the story in its entirety, I realized that Mr McIntyre’s article was a good thing as it fully exposed the true essence of Mark Stobbe.

The over inflated ego and unadulterated arrogance that runs deep in the core of the self-described “Fifty year old fat white guy.”

The egocentric Stobbe revels in the fact that bikers, gang bangers and career criminals treated him as a “figure of respect” and looked to him for guidance.  He boasts that he stood out from “almost all other inmates” separated by his education, affluence and lack of drug or alcohol addiction issues.  

Having finally found a place where he could feel superior to all those around him, I’m perplexed why Stobbe would have ever applied for bail.

I suspect that his decision might have been hastened after an incident where a biker mistook him for a sex offender and threatened to teach him a lesson in the shower.

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With thoughts of “Deliverance” permeating his frontal lobe, Stobbe quickly applied for and received bail.

When he was released, Stobbe writes that he received a “standing ovation” from his fellow inmates.

The pathetic gesture apparently fed into his grandiose sense of self.

Stobbes’ arrogance is further exposed as he takes a swipe at Law Enforcement and the media.  “There’s an old joke in classical detective fiction that the butler did it.  In todays law enforcement and media circles, the modern version is that the husband did it,” Stobbe writes.

Well Mark, there’s a good reason for that.

He then goes on to criticize the Federal Government for abolishing the two-for-one credit awarded to criminal miscreants for time spent in pretrial custody.

Mark Stobbe, the former Remand Center superstar now becomes a Canadian Justice critic and advocate for all habitual criminals who can’t get bail by virtue of their countless fail to appear convictions, continuous criminal conduct or the danger they present to the victims of their crimes!

Stobbes book does have one unintended redeeming quality, it shows us just how flawed our criminal justice system really is regarding the evolution of the Canadian Corrections System.

“The display of naked breasts would always draw a crowd,” Stobbe writes as he explains that his favourite pastime of inmates is necessary to deal with the extreme boredom of incarceration.

He also indicates that, “card games, bad food and crowding around old television sets to watch the news,” were other coping strategies.

I don’t know what most people think but I don’t call card games, television and hanging out to watch girls flash their breasts “rehabilitation.”

Stobbes tedium could be addressed with an old-fashioned concept called “work.”  It’s a thing some people do to earn a living, to put food on their table, to contribute to their community.  I’m not sure why it’s not an available option for inmates doing jail time.

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Work is good.

The coup de grace came with Stobbes description of the “friendly” correctional officers who warned him to be wary of potential snitches in the jail system.

In his twisted mind, Stobbe sees the blurry lines that now exist between inmates & keepers as a good thing.

I don’t intend to re-try the entire Stobbe case but his guilt or innocence is a relevant issue.

The question we should ponder is, “Did the jury get it right?”

The Rowbotham case was an unusual one on many fronts.

The inordinate amount of time it took to bring charges, the questions regarding the quality of the Police investigation, the strategy of the Crown Prosecutor, the lengthy jury trial and the intense and dramatic cross-examination, are all topics of debate.

Despite the assertions from the Crown Prosecutor that there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence implicating Stobbe, a jury of his peers failed to connect the dots.

It was a case the Crown called a “near perfect murder.”

But was it?

The victim suffered a total of sixteen (16) blows to the head with a hatchet.  The manner of killing demonstrative of the kind of “overkill” normally associated with a crime of passion involving people who are intimately known to each other.

The fact that evidence suggested the killing occurred in Stobbe’s back yard supports the crime of passion theory.

The fact that the body was moved from the marital property is an overwhelming fact that implicates Stobbe.

Simply put, a random killer motivated by robbery would have absolutely no reason to move the victim’s body from the scene of the crime.  (Nor would he have any motivation to attempt to conceal or wash away evidence at the crime scene.)

Removing the body substantially increased the killers likelihood of being caught, and caught “redhanded” no less.

No perpetrator of such a crime would ever risk being caught with the body of a murder victim.

The only reason a killer would move a body would be to create distance from a crime scene that might otherwise provide evidence against him.

The evidence is not consistent with a random killing motivated by robbery.  The evidence is much more consistent with a panicked crime of passion committed by someone with an intimate relationship with the victim.  In the killers mind the body had to be moved.  If you were Mark Stobbe and you killed your wife in a crime of passion, how would you begin to explain the discovery of her bludgeoned body in your very own back yard?

How would you explain that you failed to hear any sound related to the horrific killing?

Any intelligent killer operating in the heat of the moment would conclude that they had to move the body and destroy evidence related to the crime scene, two things that we know occurred in this case.

This was not a “perfect murder” by any stretch of imagination and from what I know, the Crown correctly classified this case as one in which overwhelming circumstantial evidence existed that implicated Mark Stobbe.

Unfortunately, a jury of “imperfect piers” didn’t see it that way.

Experience tells us that juries often have difficulty convicting defendants on cases that primarily rely on circumstantial evidence.  Modern jurors, many of whom are influenced by the CSI effect, simply want more substantial or direct evidence if they are going to be moved to convict someone of the ultimate crime.

As much as the crime was imperfect, so was the investigation & prosecution.

Unfortunately, law enforcement & Crown Prosecutors don’t get “do overs” with the benefit of hindsight.

As a Homicide Unit supervisor, I conducted many “imperfect” homicide investigations.

Did Mark Stobbe get away with murder?

I believe the answer is fairly obvious.

Was it “a perfect murder?”

Not even close.

Would I recommend his book to anyone?

Not a chance!

In my opinion, even if Mark Stobbe was innocent, the sale of this book is a direct insult to the victim, Beverley Rowbotham, and every member of her family.

It occurs to me that Mark Stobbe has the same mentality of 99% of killers I’ve interviewed over the course of my career as a Homicide Investigator.  They simply don’t care about the results of their destructive uncontrolled violence, for them “It’s all about me.”

Do us all a favour and take some of your own advice Mark, count your blessings, fade into obscurity and practise your jail house mantra, “silence is golden.”

ARMED EDUCATION – 1.5 Million Things to Think About

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It was with great interest that I recently read an article by Sun Crime reporter James Turner regarding City Counsellor Paula Havixbeck’s call from more School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in our Winnipeg Schools.

According to Havixbeck, “It’s imperative that we have this as a permanent item.”  “Every student and every teacher has a right to be safe.”

The Winnipeg Police Service currently has eleven (11) SRO’s, nine (9) of which work in the schools.

That’s not enough says Havixbeck who stresses, “They can’t be everywhere and know everyone.”

Havixbeck wants to see the program go City wide and increase the number of SRO’s to a total fifteen (15) at an estimated cost of $100,000 per officer.

If you do the math, that’s a significant price tag of 1.5 million dollars per year.

Havixbeck reports the benefits of the program include;

  • Decreased drop out rates
  • Violence & bullying intervention
  • Increased respect for the law

In a video clip attached to the article, Havixbeck also talks at length about the impressive capability of Calgary SRO’s to locate students that are “AWOL” or reported missing.

The article doesn’t mention the potential downside the increase in SRO’s might create.

I have no doubt that Counsellor Havixbeck has the best interests of her community at heart and I appreciate and respect the fact that she is a woman of action.

The idea of adding SRO’s would likely be popular with the public and might even find support with a new Police Chief who comes from a community relations background.

On the other hand, if you ask any street cop what they think they would likely tell you that the bleeding has to stop somewhere.

The slow and steady migration of Police Officers away from the front lines is a trend that continues to degrade the ability of the Police Service to address serious public safety issues.

The protection of life and property becomes a very difficult task when you don’t have enough police officers to fill your cruiser cars.

Contrary to Counsellor Havixbeck’s assertions, I seriously doubt that SRO’s are having much of an impact on drop out rates or increasing students respect for the law.  (I will concede that SRO’S may reduce incidents of violence and bullying in the schools.)

Is there any credible data out there to support the suggestion that SRO presence in Schools has contributed to a meaningful decrease in drop out rates or elevated students respect for the law?

Even if there was, are these really strong considerations in support of the SRO program?

Is keeping kids in school and teaching respect for the law a job for law enforcement officers or one more appropriately assigned to parents?

Can we expect tax payers to foot the bill for Police Officers to assume these roles?

I also struggle to find the relevance regarding an SRO’s ability to find a missing student and the need to increase SRO numbers based on “safety” concerns.

If we’re going to have a discussion that favours an increase in SRO’s based on safety issues for students and teachers, it’s imperative that the conversation is “reality based” and not infused with unquantifiable claims of success and irrelevant arguments that have nothing to do with the central issue.

In the context of the Newtown shooting massacre, the larger question is, would an increase in SRO’s improve our ability to enhance the security and safety of our students and teachers.

The answer to that question is a resounding “No.”

The probability that an armed SRO could somehow intervene in an active school shooter scenario is extremely unlikely.  (As was proven at Columbine High-school in 1999)  The officer would have to be in the right school, at the precise location in the school, at the precise time the shooting started.

The odds against all of these events aligning are astronomical.

Tightly controlled access points, metal detectors and armed deterrents are the only thing that can provide the kind of safety measures that will truly increase student and teacher safety in our schools.

These controls are factors that have to be seriously considered by our American counterparts but are not necessarily measures that need to be contemplated north of the border.

I’m not trying to suggest that SRO’s are ineffective and don’t have the potential to increase certain aspects of safety in our schools.

There is no doubt that the presence of an SRO in a school can be a general deterrent to incidents of violence and bullying.

A highly motivated SRO skilled in the fine art of communication and informant development could network with students to gain intelligence regarding individuals who may fit the mould of a potential active shooter.

An SRO is more likely to have the tools and inclination to take action to initiate an intervention when it comes to students who appear to fit into this mould.

At a cost of $100,000 per officer, could the function of the SRO be performed by a civilianized version of the SRO (CSRO – Civilian School Resource Officer) or some other entity such as trained Educational Assistants with backgrounds in law enforcement or the military.

These individuals would work for a fraction of the cost which would have the added benefit of providing the ability to substantially increase the compliment of CSRO’s in the school system.

If the City of Winnipeg wants to shake the violent crime and murder capital of Canada monikers we should consider school safety options that don’t include taking more Police Officers off of the front lines of our crime ridden streets.

If Counsellor Havixbeck wants to make an argument to increase SRO’s, I would hope that the argument would be relevant, reality based and that the global impacts on the Police Service and tax paying public would be primary considerations.

I can think of about 1.5 million reasons why that idea makes sense.