Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jan 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A5
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh


Three Men Allegedly Beaten By Six Officers After Being Transported To 
Stanley Park

VANCOUVER -- Six Vancouver police officers have been suspended over charges 
that they picked up three suspected drug dealers, took them to a Stanley 
Park parking lot and beat them.

"This behaviour, if proven, is outrageous and repugnant," Vancouver police 
Constable Sarah Bloor said at a jammed news conference yesterday.

Fifteen police investigators are looking into the alleged incident, and the 
six officers could face criminal charges, as well as internal discipline, 
Constable Bloor said.

"These allegations are serious, and they are being treated as serious by 
the Vancouver police department."

Police Chief Jamie Graham said the matter has stunned "everyone in the 
organization, including me." As if to underscore his remarks, about a dozen 
senior officers crowded into a small briefing room to indicate their 
support of the chief.

During the past few years, the Vancouver force has been involved in a 
series of controversial incidents, not the least of which is the charge 
that members seriously mishandled the investigation into the disappearance 
of scores of women from the Downtown Eastside.

There also have been numerous complaints of excessive force used by police, 
and a perception that the department has been in the hands of an "old boys' 
network" insensitive to public criticism.

"Vancouver has been without a strong police chief since Bob Stewart stepped 
down in 1991," said John Dixon of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

"There has been a lapse in leadership, and the situation has not gotten 
better. It's gotten worse."

Mr. Dixon said the assault allegations are a big test for Chief Graham, who 
took over the job six months ago.

"I hope he hits the ground running on this."

Constable Bloor said the alleged beatings took place after the suspected 
drug dealers were taken into custody on the downtown Granville Mall about 
4.30 a.m. on Jan. 14. They were taken to Stanley Park, where the assaults 
are alleged to have occurred, she said.

No one suffered serious injuries, Constable Bloor said, but one man went to 
hospital for treatment of a cut.

No drug charges were laid against the individuals, she said.

The allegations came to light this week when officers not involved in the 
allegations brought the matter to the attention of the police department's 
internal-investigation section.

The suspended officers' names were not released. Constable Bloor said their 
police experience ranges from one to five years.

Chief Graham, the subject of recent accusations that police hit bystanders 
as they tried to control rioters at a cancelled Guns N' Roses concert, said 
it is crucial for the public to have trust in the police, and that the 
public expects police officers to be professional, honest and ethical.

"I can commit to those principles," Chief Graham said.

"These are serious allegations. They were brought to my attention by my own 
people, and I have committed significant resources to conduct a thorough 
investigation," he said.

In addition to what many feel was a bungled investigation of the 
missing-women case, police have faced recent controversy over:

A report last fall by the Pivot Legal Society that collected 50 affidavits 
detailing alleged torture, beatings, unlawful detention, illegal strip 
searches and abusive use of language by police against individuals on the 
rough Downtown Eastside, as well as the threatened use of "starlight 
tours," where police transport and then abandon people out of town;

The demotion of high-profile detective and pioneer serial profiler Kim 
Rossmo, allegedly because of resentment by officers over his rapid rise in 
the ranks;

Jailing human-rights lawyer Cameron Ward for five hours and impounding his 
car because police said he might have a pie and throw it at Prime Minister 
Jean Chretien. No pie was found;

The so-called riot at the Hyatt, in which a number of anti-Chretien 
demonstrators were injured during a charge by riot police.

"It does seem there is a problem," said Simon Fraser University 
criminologist Neil Boyd, "but the fact there have already been suspensions 
over what happened in Stanley Park is a good sign.

"Vancouver is still a picnic compared to a place like Los Angeles.

"If you're black in L.A., you're certainly a lot more likely to attract 
violence from the police than anyone here."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager