Pubdate: Tue, 25 Nov 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Matthew Ramsey


Constables Face Disciplinary Hearings, Up To Five Years In Jail

Six Vancouver police constables pleaded guilty Monday to charges of
assault in the beating of three people in Stanley Park in January.

They now face a disciplinary hearing that could result in their
dismissal from the force.

All six of the officers have less than five years experience.

One after another, Christopher Cronmiller (one year's service as a
police officer), Raymond Gardner (four years), Duncan Gemmell (one
year), James Kenney (4.5 years), Gabriel Kojima (two years) and
Brandon Steele (three years) rose in B.C. provincial court to plead
guilty to assaulting Jason Desjardins, 28, Barry Lawrie, 34, and Grant
Wilson, 37, early on Jan. 14 at Third Beach in Stanley Park.

They will be sentenced in B.C. provincial court Dec. 16 and 17. A
conviction on an assault charge carries a maximum penalty of five
years in prison.

All six have been on paid suspension from the department since Jan.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, Crown counsel Robert Gourlay entered
a stay of proceedings against the six on charges of assault with a
weapon and attempting to obstruct justice.

"They've admitted their misconduct," Gourlay said.

The three male victims and one woman, Shannon Pritchard, 29, were
arrested after police observed what they believed was a drug deal in a
convenience store on Granville Street at about 4 a.m.

Pritchard was dropped off in the West End but the police vehicle
carrying Desjardins, Lawrie and Wilson continued on to Stanley Park,
where the men were berated, punched and shoved before being released.

Wilson received three minor abrasions to his forehead as a result of
Cronmiller and Steele punching him, Gardner shoving him, and Kojima
pulling and grabbing him and prodding him with his boot.

The three men and Pritchard, have since filed a lawsuit against the
six officers and the City of Vancouver.

Kojima is also being sued by a Surrey man who claims the officer broke
his arm during an argument outside a downtown Vancouver nightclub in
June, 2002. That case is set to go to trial in February.

Constable Anne Drennan, speaking on behalf of Chief Jamie Graham,
said: "The department feels a sense of relief that the first phase of
the process has been completed. There isn't a sense of closure yet,
for there are two more phases to go through. We still have a ways to

The officers will remain suspended with pay pending sentencing and
internal disciplinary hearings Feb. 15 and 16.

Graham will decide the fate of the six officers after those
proceedings are concluded, Drennan said, noting their dismissal is not

"An assault conviction doesn't necessarily mean you lose your job.
Each situation is looked at individually," she said.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell insists the force, which has been the
subject of numerous serious complaints in recent months, is doing a
good job and the Stanley Park beatings are an "anomaly."

"The Vancouver city police force is a good police force," Campbell
said. "It's unfortunate at any time when you find officers in this
position ... I don't think [the pleas] tarnish it."

In fact, Campbell noted, the fact that the case came to light because
of the complaint of rookie officer Constable Troy Peters, who was on
shift that night with Kenney, indicates the force is a solid

"What you have here is a young constable that recognized a wrong and
brought it forward," the mayor said.

John Richardson, executive director of the Pivot Legal Society, a
group that has been critical of police behaviour, said the guilty
pleas should mark a turning point in how the Vancouver public views
its police force.

"I don't think there can be any more pretending there is no problem
with the Vancouver police department," Richardson said.

"The only thing that's random about it [the incident in Stanley Park]
is a police officer reported it."

Richardson also questioned why the officers have been on paid
suspension when the police board and the police department knew the
evidence against them.

Richardson said that shows a "real lack of willingness" by Graham and
the police board to take constructive steps toward cleaning up the

Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis told reporters the six
officers never shied from their responsibility in the case and have
acknowledged they made mistakes.

"I think these members accepted responsibility for their actions from
the start," Stamatakis said. "These are six officers who took
responsibility for an incident they were involved in."

He said they were doing "a very good job" up to the time of the
incident in Stanley Park and that it is not clear whether they will
keep their police jobs.

Police officers are required to use force every day, Stamatakis said,
and the 1,200 officers on the Vancouver force "do a tremendous job
under difficult circumstances."

"From time to time, police officers make mistakes. It may be the
length of their experience had some role."

As for Peters, the rookie who blew the whistle, Stamatakis says he
remains on the job. "He is proceeding through his career," Stamatakis
said. "It's obviously a very difficult situation."

Allegations of improper behaviour have plagued the Vancouver police
department in recent months.

In September it was revealed that a junior Vancouver officer applying
for a position with the Saanich police on Vancouver Island claimed to
have lied under oath at a criminal trial, stolen evidence, and
withheld information about the alleged excessive use of force by
officers working in the Downtown Eastside. That officer is now on paid
leave and his partner is on desk duty.

Police complaints commissioner Dirk Ryneveld has also called for a
public hearing into the death of Jeff Berg in October, 2000 after he
was pulled over by Vancouver police. Witnesses claim Berg was beaten
while trying to surrender. An autopsy has determined he died of an
aneurism caused by a blow to the neck.

There also are allegations of brutality and misconduct over police
handling of a riot that erupted last November following cancellation
of a Guns N' Roses concert.

Police have also come under fire in the death of Frank Paul in 1998.
Paul died of exposure after police dumped him, soaking wet and drunk,
in an alley.

- - - -


This is the "Statement of Agreed Facts" filed Monday in provincial
court. The six Vancouver police officers who pleaded guilty to assault
- -- Christopher Cronmiller, Raymond Gardner, Duncan Gemmell, James
Kenney, Gabriel Kojima and Brandon Steele -- admit these events
occurred over a two-hour period during the early morning of Jan. 14.
The letter keys and map were added by The Vancouver Sun.

A. 1. On the night/early morning of January 13/14th, 2003, the
Accused, all Constables employed by the Vancouver Police Department
("VPD"), were in uniform on patrol duty in downtown Vancouver. They
were working an 1845-0545 hours shift. A/Sgt. (acting sergeant) Cheema
was the NCO in charge.

2. A Block II recruit, P.C. Troy Peters, was assigned to work with
P.C. Kenney. P.C. Steele was assigned to be the wagon driver.

3. At approximately 3:30 a.m., A/Sgt. Cheema investigated Grant Wilson
("Wilson") for possession of drugs in the 1100 block Granville Street.
P.C.s Gardner and Gemmell were present. Wilson was searched for drugs.

B. 4. Wilson physically resisted A/Sgt. Cheema. Wilson was arrested.
A/Sgt. Cheema directed that Wilson be transported out of the 1100
block of Granville Street area to the area of Main and Hastings
Streets. Wilson was driven by P.C. Steele in the police wagon and was
released at Main and Hastings Streets.

5. At approximately 4:00 a.m., P.C. Kenney took over as A/Sgt. on this
shift from A/Sgt. Cheema, who left early for personal reasons.

6. At approximately 4:00 a.m., P.C.s Gardner and Gemmell saw Jason
Desjardins ("Desjardins") and Barry Lawrie ("Lawrie") in the 1100
block Granville Street, in or near Khan's Market.

C. 7. Shortly after 4:00 a.m., Wilson returned to the 1100 block
Granville Street by taxi.

8. At approximately 4:15 a.m., Wilson, Lawrie and Desjardins were
together on Granville Mall. Wilson was causing noise and disruption.

9. At approximately 4:30 a.m., Wilson, Lawrie and Desjardins were
joined by a female, Shannon Pritchard ("Pritchard"). All four
individuals went into Khan's Market.

10. P.C.s Gemmell and Gardner observed the four individuals arguing
and suspected a drug transaction was occurring.

11. P.C.s Gardner and Gemmell arrested the four individuals at
approximately 4:30 a.m. Wilson resisted arrest. P.C.s Steele,
Cronmiller and Kojima arrived on the scene. P.C. Kenney arrived on the
scene with P.C. Peters.

12. During this time, the four individuals were placed in separate
compartments in the police wagon.

D. 13. The police officers decided to remove the four individuals to
Stanley Park for breaching the peace.

14. The police officers drove to 3rd Beach at Stanley Park. Wilson,
Lawrie, Desjardins and Pritchard were in the police wagon driven by
P.C. Steele. Pritchard was released in the West End. P.C. Peters was
in a police car with P.C. Kenney, P.C. Gardner was in a police car
with P.C. Gemmell, and P.C. Cronmiller was in a police car with P.C.

E. 15. At 3rd Beach, the three complainants were removed from the
police wagon in sequence; Lawrie first, Desjardins second and Wilson

16. P.C.s Kenney and Peters' car was parked in front of the police
wagon and the other 2 police cars were parked to the side of the
police wagon.

17. P.C. Gemmell opened the door of the wagon's front compartment.
P.C. Steele told Lawrie to step out of the wagon. Lawrie complied and
exited from the left side compartment of the wagon. P.C. Gardner shone
his flashlight at Lawrie, and began to berate him on the effects his
criminal activities were having on the community around Granville
Street. P.C. Gemmell poked Lawrie with his index finger several times
in the right upper chest area.

18. P.C. Steele participated in the berating of Lawrie. P.C. Steele
shoved Lawrie once, as did P.C. Kojima. Lawrie was spun around
(jostled). Lawrie left the scene.

19. P.C. Gemmell then opened the rear drivers' side compartment door.
Desjardins exited the wagon and advanced towards P.C. Gemmell, who
punched him in the stomach. Desjardins went backward and fell onto the
wagon bumper. He then stood up. P.C. Gardner shoved him in the chest
area a couple of times. P.C. Kojima contacted Desjardins with his
police-issue baton in the vicinity of his knee. P.C. Steele berated
Desjardins. Desjardins left the scene.

20. P.C. Gemmell then opened the door of the passenger side rear
compartment. Wilson exited the wagon and was pushed by P.C.
Cronmiller. Wilson was then verbally berated by P.C. Steele, who
punched him once in the upper body. P.C. Gardner shoved Wilson once or
twice in the upper chest area. P.C. Kojima grabbed and pulled Wilson.
At some point Wilson fell or was knocked to the ground. P.C. Steele
and others verbally berated Wilson. At some point, P.C. Kojima prodded
Wilson with the instep of his boot. Wilson left the scene. As a result
of the incident, Wilson received three minor abrasions to his forehead.

21. P.C. Kenney had no physical or verbal contact with any of the
complainants. He observed the incidents described in paragraphs 15
through 20 from approximately 20 feet away.

F. 22. The police officers left 3rd Beach and attended at
approximately 5:30 a.m. at the VPD station at 2120 Cambie Street, Vancouver.

23. All 7 police officers attended a debriefing meeting in a 5th floor
boardroom at 2120 Cambie Street. The police officers discussed what
had happened earlier that morning at 3rd Beach.

25. At 2120 hours on January 14, 2003, P.C. Gemmell entered a General
Occurrence Report on his police computer which, amongst other things,

a. the three complainants had been released at separate times and

b. there was no mention of any physical contact between the three
complainants and any police officer at 3rd Beach; and

c. there was no mention of the presence at 3rd Beach of P.C. Peters.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin