SHAWN LAMB – Master Manipulator

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The case of alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb has taken on a life of its own.

Shawn Lamb, alleged serial killer now turned “media whore” with awareness issues.

Lamb recently started a media feeding frenzy with suggestions the Police have been ignoring his generous offer to provide information that could lead to the resolution of up to five (5) more murder cases. The story dominated every major news media outlet and created a buzz like nothing we’ve recently experienced here in murder City.

Interview after interview, Mike McIntyre (WFP), Caroline Barghout (CTV), Shaneen Robinson (APTN) and Lorraine Nickel (Global) to name but a few.

In a not so surprising twist of events, Lamb quickly disavowed himself from the true nature of the report originally splashed in the press by Mike McIntyre.

“I’m not saying I had anything to do with these five.  I’m saying I have information.  I’m denying any involvement with anything,” he said.

If credibility was currency, Shawn Lamb wouldn’t have enough cash to make a phone call.

Crime reporters beware.

Reporting on Lamb comes with a certain degree of risk.

Risk associated to giving a voice to an alleged serial killer who may have significant mental health issues or whose true intent may be self-serving or complex beyond your ability to comprehend.

Risk associated to your reputation after being called a liar by an alleged serial killer who took you for a ride on his emotional roller coaster, speeding down the tracks of ownership & responsibility only to take a sudden unexpected left turn at criminal culpability.

Risk associated to gratifying the needs of a killer who may get off on his ability to use the media to re-victimize surviving family members by playing mind games and elevating their levels of anxiety.

Risk associated to becoming compellable witnesses in a trial where you may be required to provide testimony regarding Lambs credibility.  Your evidence may assist the defence in persuading jurors that any word that comes from Lambs mouth simply cannot be trusted.  That conclusion could significantly degrade the weight a jury might be willing to place on Lamb’s Police confession.

Crime reporters beware.

Take good notes, retain them and prepare to use them once your subpoena arrives.  Mr Martin Glazer BA, LLB is a very skilled and relentless defense attorney who is well-known for using the “shotgun approach” in the defense of his clients.  Trust me, everything will be an issue.

Crime reporters beware.

Any contact with Shawn Lamb is an invitation to play Russian Roulette.

Crime reporters beware.

Sensational news media reports can and likely will have an impact on Lambs trial.  From contaminating the jury pool, to influencing jury selection, to questions regarding the accused’s mental health and credibility. Your reporting may have an impact on all these things.

These are the very reasons why I’ve respectfully declined a plethora of interview requests from a variety of news media outlets.  I‘m simply not interested in dissecting the investigation or trying to get into the mind of the killer.  I have no interest in contaminating the jury pool or helping the defense.

The issue tackled in my post “Serial Killer Meltdown” strictly related to events concerning the WPS Executives unethical manipulation of the 2011 transfer process and their inability to separate ego from responsible business decisions.

Ill considered, poorly executed “business decisions” that significantly reduced the supervisory experience quotient in the Homicide Unit.

It was the experience quotient that was missing when Shawn Lamb originally reached out to the Police to allegedly clear his conscience regarding the murders of several additional women.  By the time someone had the courage to make a decision, Lamb apparently cooled off.

It’s conceivable that all the recent media fodder could have been avoided if Lambs original request to speak to investigators could have been handled in a much more expeditious manner.

Ultimately, if Shawn Lamb truly wanted to cooperate with the Police he would have already done so.  My experience in law enforcement taught me that telling the truth is the most uncomplicated thing any one of us can ever do.  “The truth is the truth, and the truth never changes.”

The only thing that complicates the truth is manipulation, deception and prevarication.  All highly skilled elements of the Shawn Lamb skill set.

It’s abundantly clear that Lamb has now entered into the world of denial and mind games.  These are games that can only benefit one player, Shawn Lamb.

Crime reporters tread cautiously.

My advice to the family of the murdered or missing; don’t pin any hopes of “closure” on the rantings of an alleged serial killer who is clearly playing mind games with the media and law enforcement.

In a case that is sure to be high-profile, hotly contested & controversial, it’s my hope the Police are sitting on some dynamite DNA evidence that will help take the guess-work out of the juries onerous decision.

In the mean time, I hope Shawn Lamb takes Mr Glazers advice and has a big cup of “shut the —- up!”

SERIAL KILLER MELTDOWN – WPS Leadership Drops the Ball on Lamb

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I’ve been sitting on this story for some time now……

The contents potentially explosive, the journalists quandary, to report the story or let it slide.  Does the need to write the story outweigh the potential negative consequences that publication could have.  For me, the answer was easy, follow your moral code.  As hard as it was to sit on it, I realized reporting the story at the wrong time might negatively impact the ability of the Police to solve further crimes.  Crimes committed by an alleged serial killer.

So I sat on the story.  It was all about timing, but now, after many months, the timing is right.

I wasn’t surprised when I read the paper this morning and learned crime reporter Mike McIntyre was the one who broke the story.   The scandal centres on the blockbuster news that alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb has been trying to “play ball” with the WPS for some time now indicating he has information that could potentially solve up to five more murder cases.

“Homicide doesn’t seem interested in finding some more bodies,” Lamb said.

Most people in law enforcement would agree that Homicide investigation is the ultimate challenge in police work.  The pursuit, commitment and dedication to solve the ultimate crime.  It’s high stakes work that comes with high expectations and high stress.

As a former Homicide investigator and supervisor, I know what it’s like to be put in tough positions when it comes to game breaking decisions on murder cases.  I’ve had to make tough calls on which direction to take a case and what strategy to employ to achieve the ultimate goal of case resolution.  Every move you make, everything you say, every tactic you use is subject to the scrutiny of Crown Attorneys, Defense Lawyers and Judges, not to mention people in your Organization, the public and press.

The foundation for every decision is built on experience, the lessons learned from every prior case, good or bad, year after year, all indelibly burned into your mind.  Experience is a priceless commodity, one that is critical to the decision-making process.

I’ve participated in dozens of high stakes interrogations.  Some of these interrogations involved suspects who had gone to extraordinary lengths to secret the victims remains in their attempts to elude justice.  The resolution of the case rested squarely on the ability to extract a confession.  No body could mean no charge.  No charge could mean a killer might walk free.

The interrogation was always the ultimate challenge.  A game of cat and mouse, the interrogator imposing his will on the killer, trying to find the right button to push to get the suspect to crack.  Skilled interrogators are another priceless commodity for a Police Service.  Confessions hedge the bets, no need to rely on the frailty of witnesses, what better evidence of guilt then words of admission from the mouth of the killer.

Consider the probability of encountering someone you’d never met before, talking to them for a few hours, then asking them tell you their deepest darkest secret.  Then consider the same scenario, only this time, add the fact that if they tell you their deepest darkest secret, they could potentially spend the rest of their life in jail.  Seems like a fairly improbable scenario doesn’t it?

Not so, skilled Homicide interrogators extract these types of confessions every day.

Such was the case with alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb.

Skilled WPS investigators extracted a confession from him that resulted in charges being laid in the tragic slayings of three (3) Manitoba women.  When the news broke, many people wondered how many more?

The interrogator / suspect relationship can be an odd one.  To break a suspect down you first have to gain their trust.  This can be done in many ways but often includes the interrogator sharing deeply personal information.  The interrogator tries to connect with the suspect on a deep level to break down barriers that might impede the desired confession.  Once the confession comes, suspects can bond with investigators and see them as “trusted friends.”

Suspects have been known to continue contact with their interrogators long after they’ve been lodged in remand or jail.

It wasn’t so long ago that the WPS issued a press release regarding their efforts to search for the remains of murder victim Tanya Nepinak.  “Due to inconsistent and new information, multiple areas within the Brady Landfill site have been identified as additional search areas. This information has created a massive search area, making it impossible to conduct an effective search.”

My experience told me the “new & inconsistent” information could only have come from the mouth of the alleged killer.

Disconcerting was the fact that Lambs original information was being referred to as “inconsistent” and had clearly been downgraded.  So much so the Police made the controversial decision to rely on the intuition of Aboriginal Elders to pinpoint the Brady Landfill search site.

Since I published my story, “The Search for Tanya Nepinak – Into the Abyss,” rumours regarding continuing efforts to “debrief” Lamb abounded.  Rumour had it Lamb reached out to his interrogators not long after he was originally charged & jailed, apparently indicating he wanted to “unpack his suitcase” and get the murders of a number of additional women off of his chest.

Rumours that have now been validated!

What happened after Lamb made that call was nothing short of a travesty.

Inexperience, lack of direction, lack of courage or combinations of all the above created significant delays for investigators who so desperately wanted to cut the red tape and get down to the business of a second interrogation.  Protocols, process and potential consequences all the subject of drawn out lengthy debates by Supervisors and people in the chain of command that would eventually ensure that a hot to trot serial killer who was ready to spill his guts, had second thoughts.

Days later, Lamb cooled off leaving investigators frustrated and scratching their heads, sickened by the lost opportunity to solve additional murder cases.

It seems at some point, investigators were able to cut through that red tape and eventually obtained the authorization to connect with Lamb.  The question remains, what impact did unnecessary delays have on the quality of Lambs information.  Information later deemed “inconsistent” after delays forced Lamb to sit down with his defence attorneys rather than a team of skilled Police interrogators.

“Experienced” Homicide Unit Supervisors would leap at the opportunity to solve serial homicide offences.  It’s “experience” gained from years of dealing with hardened criminals that tells us that we must act post-haste when these opportunities present themselves.  Offenders can be fickle, unpredictable people, when they’re ready to “pop” Police have to be prepared to make “quick” courageous decisions.

I was not surprised by these events.

The WPS is not known for its commitment to retain experience within the ranks of the Police Service when it comes to units charged with the responsibility of conducting criminal investigations.

Recent experiments in the Homicide Unit provide credence to that assertion.

In 2011, Crime Division Commander Rick Guyader offered rare insight into the Police Executives mindset when he was cross examined at a Labor Board Arbitration Hearing held in response to the unethical transfer of an experienced Homicide Unit Supervisor.  When questioned regarding the performance of the inexperienced replacement Guyader replied;

“She’s doing the job to the best of her abilities, it won’t be long before she’s up to snuff.”

“It won’t be long before she’s up to snuff!”

I’m sorry, that just does’t cut it, not when you are investigating the ultimate crime and especially not when you are dealing with an alleged serial killer.

It was an unprecedented move, placing a newly promoted Sergeant, with no previous experience working Homicide cases, into a leadership role in the high stakes Unit.  The unwitting promotee thrown into dark, shark infested waters, set up for failure by morally bankrupt puppet-masters.

Thus the results of the “failed experiment” backed by people holding the highest rank and authority in the Police Service.

During his testimony, Guyader indicated the change in Homicide Unit leadership was “out of the box” thinking and he was prepared to accept responsibility for the results of his controversial decision.

It seems to me, incompetence of this magnitude should come with some sort of consequence (s).

Sins of the past aside, the time has come for the Police Service to realize that a thorough debrief of alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb is in order.  It’s time to cut the red tape and end the debate regarding process and protocol.

Sometimes, you just have to dance with the Devil.

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EVAN MAUD – Sometimes Sorry Just Isn’t Enough!

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Evan Maud was back in the spot light yesterday.

As you may recall, Maud became a poster boy for National wide Police haters in December of 2010 when he alleged two members of the Winnipeg Police Service essentially kidnapped and dumped him on the outskirts of the City.

He further alleged the officers made him take off some of his clothing and threatened to taser him before leaving him to his own devices in the darkness of an unforgiving frigid winters night.

The sensational allegations were covered by media outlets across the Country, from print media to television outlets like CBC, CTV, APTN and others.

The headlines were an embarrassment to all WPS officers whose reputations were indelibly tarnished by the outrageous claims of criminal conduct.  Tenuous relationships with the Aboriginal Community were inflamed once again as feelings of outrage, anger and hostility were openly expressed.

U of M Sociology Professor Elizabeth Comack jumped on the band wagon to add credibility to Maud’s claims by citing results from a study she conducted at the behest of Southern Chiefs Organization that began in 2008.

It seems Professor Comack heard similar stories when she conducted interviews with prisoners doing time at the Headingley jail.

“I’ve had the advantage of sitting across the table from someone telling me that story in such great detail, and they were so upset, I believe what they’re telling me,” Comack said.

She then went on to praise Maud for “speaking out.”

Someone should tell Professor Comack that sentenced prisoners languishing in correctional facilities may not provide an objective “random” sampling of the collective Aboriginal experience with law enforcement.

I’m sure Comack felt a certain degree of discomfort when she heard the results of a Police investigation that irrefutably destroyed Maud’s libelous allegations.

The investigation included detailed analysis of Police cruiser GPS tracker information, review and analysis of transit video, review and analysis of Police Officer accounts and interviews with independent witnesses.

In short, this was a lengthy, detailed investigation that required considerable resources and undoubtedly cost thousands of tax payer dollars.

When the dust settled, Maud found himself on the wrong end of criminal charges for fabricating the “starlight drive” story.

Now we hear news of an apology and restorative justice.  Maud’s charges will be dropped after he provided a “sincere” apology to the Winnipeg Police Service.

I really didn’t find the story all that compelling until I saw a tweet from CTV news reporter Caroline Barghout.

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An astute observation to be sure.

It seems to me that any apology that stopped short of a clear admission that Maud lied would make it somewhat less than “sincere.”  After reading the apology letter I’m even more perplexed.  I question the sincerity of an apology letter crafted in such a way that one has to infer the author lied about the events in question.  In my estimation, an inference does not equate to a candid, sincere apology.

I question the “sincerity” of the cryptic apology even further when it’s found to contain a public advisory urging people to not be discouraged from submitting legitimate complaints of Police misconduct.

“I don’t want this to impact anyone from submitting legitimate complaints in the future,” Maud writes.

Evan Maud former prevaricator now turned Ombudsman.

Subtleties aside, is saying sorry really enough?

Is saying sorry enough when you get drunk and launch a violent unprovoked attack an innocent man who you repeatedly punched in the face causing a concussion, lacerated eyeball and a bruised orbital bone.

“All I’d like to say is I’m sorry, that’s about it,” Maud said when he was recently sentenced on a charge of Assault Causing Bodily Harm.

Another “sincere” apology from Evan Maud that got him a sentence of thirty-three (33) days “time served.”

Is either outcome appropriate?

Thirty-three (33) days for a brutal assault and a restorative justice  apology for Public Mischief after making slanderous inflammatory allegations against members of the Winnipeg Police Service.

If nothing else, Evan Maud has learned just how powerful the words “I’m sorry” can be in Canadian Justice.  What he didn’t learn was the definition of a word called “consequences.”

I don’t take issue with the idea of a restorative justice sentence.  My experience in law enforcement taught me that jail is a cesspool of criminality that should be reserved for the dangerous or habitual offenders who continually prey on the members of our peaceful society.

The problem is, there is no justice in a restorative sentence that comes with no consequences.

Apologies without action are words without meaning.

There were options for Evan Maud.  Restitution for an expensive police investigation was an option.  A requirement to complete 200 hours of community service work was an option.  A requirement to complete 200 hours of volunteer work for the Police Service was an option.

Saying sorry and simply walking away from his charges should have never been an option.

Sometimes saying sorry just isn’t enough.

APOLOGY FROM EVAN MAUD:

I’m sorry for jeopardizing the reputation of the Winnipeg Police Service. I want to say sorry to the police officers and putting them in that situation. I’m also deeply sorry to their families, friends and colleagues for causing them to doubt, mistrust and question the two police officers. And I am so sorry for that. I understand that would not have happened if I didn’t say the things that I said. I feel bad for what I put them through.

At the time, it was hard. I felt overwhelmed when the TV crews and community took it to a whole new level. Next thing you know, it was all over the place, reporters from different media sources were questioning me. I was scared. I never wanted this to happen. During this time all I wanted was to live my life normally and go to school. It was the worst two years of my life.

I felt bad that my mom moved all the way from the next province to come support me. I put my mom in a situation where she thought she didn’t raise me right. I just made a mistake. I try my best to apologize to everyone that I may have harmed.

I also want to acknowledge the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for taking the time to help me. I didn’t mean to put my people through this.

I don’t want this to impact anyone from submitting legitimate complaints in the future. I want people to understand that I did not intend for this to happen. I was taught that forgiveness is a part of healing and I need this to move on in life in a positive way. In many ways, I learned how to have respect, how to be truthful and honest. I am part of a youth community, and I want them to think of me as a role model.

I want to encourage youth to tell everything that they know is right. I was able to move forward and graduate school and am now doing good things for myself. In closing, I want to say sorry and thank you for listening.

GOOD COP BAD COP – Cops in Conflict With the Law

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There can be no doubt, the public has an almost insatiable appetite for stories related to cops going bad.  That appetite is fed by Crime reporters who pursue these cases with extraordinary vigour and enthusiasm.

My recent blog post  “Selley & Overwater – Bad Cops or Bad Policy” literally “blew up” my blog stats.

History tells us that Police Officers can be counted on to continue to feed the hunger.

Law Enforcement Officers, like everyone else, are just people.  People who make mistakes, people who make bad choices, people who occasionally find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  It’s the prosecution of these officers that has spurned the greatest interest.  The interest seems to center on the notion that Canadian juries may be disinclined to convict Police Officers who are charged with criminal offenses that arise from the performance of their duties?

The question I’ve been hearing is, “Are jury pool members selected from a population residing in a crime ridden City, like Winnipeg, more inclined to give Police Officers a break?”   The answer may never be known.

Unlike American justice, Canadian jurors don’t write books or make movie deals.  Such disclosure is forbidden under Canadian Law.  The fact that Selley & Overwater were acquitted of all charges adds fuel to the speculation.  It also leads to legitimate questions regarding the process of investigating and laying charges against Police Officers.

The success of any prosecution is often based on the quality of the Police investigation.  The WPS has often been criticized for investigating the alleged criminal conduct of their own members.  Perceptions of bias and questions regarding the integrity of the investigations have always permeated these cases.

The reality is, the quality of an investigation is only as good as the quality of the investigative team.  In the case of an internal investigation the decision-making process is integral.  The decision to lay charges must be based on a keen understanding of criminal law and practical knowledge acquired from experience in criminal prosecutions.

As the Sergeant in charge of the District 6 Crime Office, Organized Crime and Homicide Units, I made daily decisions regarding the laying of criminal charges, each decision built on the foundation of knowledge gained from involvement in hundreds of criminal cases and prosecutions.  These decisions require experience, confidence and a certain degree of courage.  The decision to clear a case with no charges can be extremely difficult and controversial.  The decision maker may be criticized, scrutinized and compelled to defend the decision.

Therein lies part of the problem.

People who lack courage often take the path of least resistance and default to a “charge mentality” as a way of avoiding the intense scrutiny that can come with these decisions.

The Professional Standards Unit has not been immune to this phenomena.  I recall many cases where charges were laid against Police Officers contrary to basic common sense principles.  All that was required was for someone in the decision-making process to have the courage to make the tough call.  Unfortunately, these decisions can also often be influenced by lack of experience, concerns regarding public perception, fear of negative publicity and politics.  It’s been my experience that the idea of “the public interest” and “a reasonable likelihood of conviction” can often become skewed when a Police Officer is the subject of a criminal allegation.

Lest we forget, unlike most people who are charged with criminal offenses, Police Officers are frequent targets of false or vindictive allegations made by offenders attempting to mitigate their own criminal culpability.

Habitual offenders like Michael Paul Mikolajczyk who made false assault allegations against me and two other officers in 1990.  The charges were subsequently stayed after Judge Howard Collerman provided a ruling that suggested Mikolajczyk’s claims of police brutality were fabricated.  Habitual offenders like Henry Lavallee who recently accused Constable Ryan Law of assault.  Court room spectators were shocked by Lavallees aggressive gangster style demeanour on the witness stand.  His exaggerated allegations of Police brutality and assault poked full of holes by skilled cross-examination.  Habitual offenders like drug dealer, car thief Kristofer Fournier who was arrested on an outstanding warrant immediately after providing testimony against Constables Selley & Overwater.

When it comes down to assessing credibility, can you blame a jury for rejecting the evidence of “shit rats” like these.

I personally believe Police Officers should be held to a higher standard of conduct than every day citizens.  I also believe, as keepers of the law, Police Officers should receive greater punishment when they’re convicted of a crime.  I don’t believe relaxed standards should be applied when deciding to lay criminal charges against them.

Rest easy, Police Officers in Winnipeg haven’t exactly been getting away with murder.  (Jerry Stolar and Barry Neilson)  In fact, over the years,  a few “bad apples” have been convicted of criminal offences.  There can be no doubt Police Officers in Winnipeg will continue to make sensational headlines with stories related to allegations of criminal conduct.  Some charges may be justified, some may be complete fabrications.  Some charges may result in convictions, some may be stayed or result in acquittals.  The truth is, in a workforce of over 1,300 members, only a minute percentage of officers will ever find themselves on the wrong end of a criminal prosecution.

The rest, they’re just a bunch of “good apples” doing exactly what we expect them to do, “taking down names and kicking a little criminal ass!”

RELATED LINK:

Under the Dome Blog – Bruce Owen & Larry Kusch

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/under-the-dome/

RCMP RAPISTS – Or Maybe Not?

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RCMP rapists, child abusers and violators of Aboriginal woman and girls in British Columbia.

If you didn’t read the story, you should.

If you read it you are undoubtedly experiencing feelings of shock and disgust for Canada’s longest serving Police agency.

According to the report the allegations were levelled by “respected” New York human rights watchdog “Human Rights Watch.”

Allegations that an Aboriginal woman was raped by four (4) RCMP Officers and threatened with death if she reported the incident.  Allegations of excessive force that include assault on a seventeen year old girl, assaults with pepper spray, tasers and an “attack” with a K9.

“In five of the ten towns Human Rights Watch visited in the north, we heard of allegations of rape or sexual assault by police officers,” the report says.

If these shocking allegations are true we should all be outraged.

The problem is, the “respected human rights watchdog” failed to disclose any of the identities of the women making the accusations.

It makes me question the motivation behind the press release.

In fact, it makes me question the motivation for the entire exercise.

A five-week investigation, ten (10) northern British Columbia Towns visited, eight-seven (87) interviews conducted with forty-two (42) indigenous women and eight (8) indigenous girls, all for what?

To compile an anonymous report so Human Rights Watch could make a media splash?

If you want to find people who’ll make complaints of excessive force against Police Officers they’re not all that difficult to find.  The Provincial Remand Center, Headingley Correctional Institute, Stoney Mountain Penitentiary and Portage La Prairie Correctional Institute for women are full of potential candidates.  I doubt you’ll ever meet anyone who was punched by a cop, pepper sprayed or tasered who has the awareness to arrive at the conclusion their behaviour had something to do with the event in question.

Allegations of rape, sexual assault or child abuse take these complaints to another level.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper correctly “called out” Human Rights Watch by urging them to share the required information with the Police so the allegations can be properly investigated.  He apparently doubled down by asking the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate.

The problem with the release of the report is the material is anonymous and untested.

Complaints of this nature merit a serious, professional and thorough investigation.  An investigation that ought to be conducted by experienced, professional investigators.  Professional investigators are skilled seekers of the truth.

Any professional investigator will tell you allegations of any description carry little weight when they’re made under the cloak of anonymity.  Anonymous allegations made by a group of people who’ve had a historically antagonistic relationship with law enforcement officers requires even greater scrutiny.

After conducting hundreds of victim and witness interviews during high-profile criminal investigations I’m never surprised by the depths of deception people sink to when reporting information to the Police.  Witness accounts often morph considerably when the reporting person is asked to sign their name to a sworn witness declaration form under the threat of prosecution for providing false testimony.

Professional interviewers are aware of the fact that witness accounts must not be accepted at face value.  Keen intuition, critical thinking and probing questions often reveal a much different reality than original versions of events.

When it comes to allegations of sexual assault or child abuse, people in the court of public opinion often default to verdict of guilty as charged.

If Human Rights Watch was really interested in doing a public service then they should have had a plan for the meaningful disclosure of their investigative findings before they ever entered into such a high-profile undertaking.  Anything less is simply irresponsible and reckless.  Truth and justice are always sacrificed when sensationalism and special interest are primary considerations.

I, for one, will keep an open mind until the RCMP accusers decide to make legitimate formal complaints to a professional investigative body.

It’s time to “put up or shut up.”

WPS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATORS – “Can’t Get No Respect!”

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I believe it was Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr that said, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” a brilliant epigram normally translated as “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Such appears to be the case for the Winnipeg Police Service.

Although the center piece of the Organization has changed, the plight of criminal investigators remains the same.  Unfortunately, much like Rodney Dangerfield, criminal investigators working in the trenches for the WPS continue to get “no respect.”

There can be no doubt certain “threads” exist in the Police Executive who look upon criminal investigators with strong feelings of contempt.  That contempt manifested itself as the impetus for an in-depth review of WPS Homicide Unit Operations in the spring of 2010.

A review that undoubtedly shocked those driving the process when they learned the results.  Preconceived notions of abuse of overtime and lack of supervisory control were shattered by findings that showed exceptional solvency rates and efficient operations that solved crimes at approximately half the cost of comparators.  A result that seemingly intensified those hostile feelings.

It would appear the same narrow-minded ideology that existed in the Organization while I was in their employ still permeates the fifth floor of the Public Safety Building.  The same rigid mindset that saw two extremely hard-working, dedicated Detectives (Constables) transferred out of the Homicide Unit after a brief two-year assignment.  The ill-advised move justified by a transfer policy championed by Deputy Chief Shelly Hart.  A transfer policy that was subsequently used like a sledgehammer to oust me from the Homicide Unit after I had the unrepentant nerve to challenge the logic of moving investigators before a return on the Units two-year investment could be realized.

That conflict ended in a Labour Board Hearing that saw the Police Service suffer a resounding defeat after being cited for abuse of authority, unfair labour practice and for using the transfer policy for punitive purposes.

The war was won, the career was lost.

It was with great interest that I learned about recent changes to the controversial transfer policy.  The wording in the transfer document was undoubtedly influenced by the Labour Board defeat, nonetheless, the underlying message to investigators remains the same.  You are not respected, nor are you valued.  The evidence in support of that assertion can be seen in the contrast related to tenure in various other Police Service positions.

Of interest, the new policy increases tenure in both the School Resource Officer and Cadet Units.

Sadly, recommendations spawned from the 2010 operational review to increase tenure in the Homicide Unit continue to be ignored.

Ignored despite the fact the WPS Homicide Unit has one of the most restrictive transfer policies in the Country.  Tenure in comparative jurisdictions (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina & Saskatchewan) range from five (5) years to indefinite terms.  In fact, a recent FBI study indicated most progressive Police Departments have removed tenure restrictions in this vital area.

Ignored despite the urgings to increase tenure from a long line of experienced Homicide Unit Supervisors and independent Senior Crown Attorneys charged with prosecuting Homicide cases.

Under the new policy tenure for Detective Constables in the Homicide Unit, Major Crimes Unit, Organized Crime Unit and Sex Crimes Units remains at a maximum term of three (3) years

Tenure for Detective Sergeant and Sergeant positions in these units is capped at a maximum term of four (4) years.

These are the officers who investigate Murder, Cold Case Homicide, Gang Crime, Organized Crime, Commercial Crime, Robbery, Sex Crimes, Drug Crimes and more.  Essentially, the most violent, serious, high-profile crime that occurs in our City.  These are the officers that “own” the crime.  The ones that are committed to tracking down the habitual offenders that prey on our society.  These are the hard-working, dedicated professionals who “take the ball” from the front line officers who responded to your call for “service”.

The function performed by Criminal Investigators is critical to the safety of our community and to the success of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Yet in contrast, several units in the Police Service enjoy substantially longer terms of assignment.  Assignment length is a philosophical acknowledgement that recognizes the need to develop expertise in any given area.

If you follow the logic, the WPS places substantially more emphasis on  the development of personnel performing the following functions; forensics, technological crimes, canine unit, traffic collision investigators, photo radar, polygraph examiners, school resource officers, cadet unit, child exploitation, flight operations, swat team, wellness officer and public information officers.

During her sworn testimony at the Labour Hearing Deputy Chief Hart testified the needs of the Police Service supersede the need to be fair to employees.  Translation; “I decide what’s important and I decide what’s fair.”  A distorted mindset that seems to be in direct conflict with new millennium labour relations practises and standards.

Under further cross-examination Hart made the outlandish suggestion that shorter tenure in the Homicide Unit might be beneficial as the constant turnover ensures that investigators stay “fresh.”  An incredulous assertion that completely dismisses the importance of experience, case ownership, victim & witness continuity, retention of corporate knowledge, unit efficiency and obstacles presented by learning curve & high employee turnover.  Her conclusion completely rejects contrary opinions expressed by experienced Homicide Unit Supervisors, Senior Crown Attorneys, FBI tenure studies, National trends and World wide standards.

The WPS transfer policy is not imbalanced by way of accident or oversight.

Shelly Hart was a criminal investigator at a time when the “boys club” and “the pecking order” were harsh realities in WPS investigative units.  A time when woman in policing were marginalized and had to struggle to gain equality and respect.  Psychologists will tell you; attitudes are shaped by experience.   It makes me wonder…..

Whatever the case may be, the time has come for the Police Executive to increase tenure in the Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) and to recognize and appreciate the important role criminal investigators play in the Winnipeg Police Service.

It’s time to confront divisive bias and acknowledge the inequities that currently exist in the WPS transfer policy.

It’s time for the “new” Police Executive to make Team Building a priority, to employ an inclusive approach that demonstrates value and respect for all essential branches of the Police Service.

It’s time to do the right thing.

EXAMPLES OF TENURE IN THE WPS:

CONSTABLES:

Forensic Identification Specialist (CSI) – unlimited tenure

Tech Crimes Analyst – thirteen (13) years

Canine Unit – seven (7) years or life of tracking dog

Traffic Collision Investigator – seven (7) years

Polygraph Examiner – seven (7) years

School Resource Officers – five (5) years

Cadet Unit – five (5) years

Child Exploitation Unit – five (5) years

Flight Operations Unit – five (5) years

Tactical Support Unit (SWAT) – five (5) years

Wellness Officer – five (5) years

Public Information Officer – five (5) years

Photo Radar Unit – five (5) years

Criminal Investigation Bureau – three (3) years

PATROL/DETECTIVE SERGEANTS:

Forensic Identification Specialist (CSI) – unlimited tenure

Tech Crimes Analyst – thirteen (13) years

Canine Unit – seven (7) years or life of tracking dog

Examiner – seven (7) years

Child Exploitation Unit – five (5) years

Flight Operations Unit – five (5) years

Tactical Support Unit (SWAT) – five (5) years

School Resource Officers – five (5) years

Cadet Unit – five (5) years

Wellness Officer – five (5) years

Criminal Investigation Bureau – four (4) years

SERGEANTS:

Forensic Identification Specialist (CSI) – unlimited tenure

Canine Unit – seven (7) years or life of tracking dog

Tactical Support Unit (SWAT) – five (5) years

Community Relations Unit – five (5) years

Wellness Officer – five (5) years

Criminal Investigation Bureau – four (4) years

 

SELLEY & OVERWATER – Bad Cops or Bad Policy

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Were two young police officers acting out parts in a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film or were they simply caught up in a split second life or death decision?

That’s the question posed in a Winnipeg Free Press article written by Bruce Owen as final arguments were made in the trial of Winnipeg Police Constables Darrel Selley & Kristopher Overwater.

Selley & Overwater stand accused of attempt murder, discharging a firearm with intent to wound, criminal negligence, fabricating evidence and more.

The case revolves around the July 2007 shooting of habitual offender Kristofer Fournier who led the officers on a high-speed chase in a stolen vehicle loaded with a stash of illicit drugs.  The decision now sits in the hands of the jury.

Before we go any further you should know that I had no involvement in the investigation nor do I recall ever meeting either officer.  What I know comes from media accounts just like everybody else.  As such, I resist the temptation to come to any conclusion regarding the officers guilt or innocence.

What I do have is a degree of unique experience that may offer some insight into an organization that is less than transparent to people on the “outside”.  Part of my job function as Homicide Unit Supervisor was to conduct detailed reviews and analysis of Police Officer Involved Shootings.  These reviews included cases where suspects were shot at, shot & wounded and shot and killed.

Part of the review process included a requirement to analyze the case regarding the need to amend or adapt policy to address any gaps in training or procedure.  As I reviewed the initial media accounts I was struck by a paragraph that spoke volumes to me.  It was contained in a report by Mike McIntyre & Gabrielle Giroday written in 2009.

“The pair – both six-year members of the force – were arrested Thursday following an extensive internal investigation by the professional standards unit and consultation with Manitoba Justice officers and a private legal counsel.”

There it was, in black and white, one of the primary reasons these officers find themselves in the quandary they are in.  In two words – inexperience and training.

Regardless of guilt or innocence, would either officer stand accused of these serious crimes if Police Service policies and procedures were designed to take officers safety, training and overall development into account?

I personally witnessed dramatic changes in the evolution of Policing over the last twenty-six (26) years of my career in law enforcement.  Police Officer respect is at an all time low, offenders rights trump the rights of victims and the revolving doors of Justice continue to increasingly spin out of control.  When I applied for the Police Service in 1987 I competed against over 1,200 applicants.  Recruit class applicant numbers have steadily declined and now average in the mere hundreds.

Police Officer retention has become a major problem for the Winnipeg Police Service.  Retirements and attrition have an undeniable effect on the Organization.  Recruit class sizes have doubled and the training period has been dramatically condensed.

One of the integral parts of the training program is the Field Training Officer component.  This training provides recruits their first exposure to the City of Winnipeg’s crime ridden streets.  During this phase the recruit is partnered with a Field Training Officer to mentor and guide them.  You would expect the Police Service to do everything in their power to attract top-notch, highly motivated, street smart officers to fill this role.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

The Field Training Officer is faced with excessive administrative work, tedious policy & procedures and significantly more responsibility for which they are provided very little in the way of meaningful compensation.  As a result, the calibre and quality of the Field Training Officer is compromised.

The situation doesn’t improve once the recruit graduates from the Police Academy.

When I graduated from the Police Academy in 1987 I was assigned to walk the beat with one of my fellow classmates.  After a few months we were assigned to work a cruiser car together in the seedy, crime ridden Main Street Hotel zone.

During the next three years we found ourselves in extremely dangerous, high risk situations that included high-speed chases and armed confrontations.  Although we managed to survive it, I often question the wisdom of having junior, inexperienced officers work together in such a high risk, unforgiving profession.

Had Selley or Overwater been in that cruiser car with a seasoned veteran I highly doubt they’d be standing trial for attempt murder or anything else for that matter.

Nothing tempers adrenaline and youthful exuberance more than the influence of a grizzled, battle tested veteran.

Unfortunately, Police management has continually demonstrated a complete lack of value and respect for experienced Police Officers.    I witnessed and experienced it myself.  Experience is undoubtedly the most undervalued commodity in the Organization, a culture that needs to change.

Police management has been playing a game of Russian roulette with inexperienced Officers for more than two decades now and those chickens have finally come home to roost.

I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of these types of incidents.

The WPS Executive Management Team continues to struggle to retain experience on the front lines, a situation they recently tried to resolve with the implementation of an ineffective, easily manipulated transfer policy built on principles they rarely adhere to.

I’m not suggesting that Police Management should be on trial along side of these officers, but it doesn’t take much imagination to come to the conclusion they bear some responsibility in creating the conditions for this type of situation to occur.

What I do know is this; when Police Officer’s like Selley & Overwater strap on their boots to start their shift, they don’t envision themselves shooting innocent people or being criminally negligent in the execution of their duties.  They come to the job with the best of intentions, to serve and protect and to make a difference in their community.

Inexperience, lack of proper training, tunnel vision and adrenaline overload have a way of having an impact on even the best of intentions.

I’ve been in those car chases, kicked in those doors and had my share of armed confrontations.  A massive adrenaline rush is something that has to be experienced and can never be fully explained.

Common effects of an adrenaline rush include; time distortion, depth perception & visual distortion, tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, pain tolerance, speed and strength increase, fine motor movement decay, changes in blood flow & heart rate, changes in respiratory rate, unconscious muscle tension, mono-emotion & emotional detachment and loss of bladder/bowel control.

The effects of an adrenaline rush do not excuse post incident manipulation of the facts or the fabrication of evidence.

As an objective investigator I would advise people to look at the one thing they can trust, the physical evidence.  They don’t have to believe Selley, Overwater or Fournier.  Trust the evidence and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

In the end, if Selley & Overwater are guilty of the charges before the courts then it would be my hope that justice would be served and they’d be appropriately punished.

Guilty or not, was it bad cops or bad policy that got us here.

UPDATE:

Feb 8th 2013 – 5:30 pm

Jury just came back with verdict……both officers Not Guilty to all counts!!!

LINKS:

http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/02/08/jury-clears-cops-in-shooting-of-suspect

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/Cops-not-guilty-of-all-charges-190514711.html