A life and death dishonoured

It’s time for the authorities to clear their heads and come clean on CR’s death. Apart from the threat to civil liberties, a year of official silence dishonours the life and death of a man who was loved and is missed.

 

When officials create an information vacuum, regular folk will fill it with theories.

Here then, is the Turpin Laboratories theory of why the identity of CR remains a provincial/municipal secret a year after he died in a Halifax police cell: the Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates possible misdeeds in the policing world, and the Public Prosecution Service, which prosecutes when SiRT brings charges against someone, don’t get along.

And they don’t get along, the theory goes, because of the “Officer 1” case. In January 2016, SiRT charged Officer 1 with stealing “cut”, a substance used for diluting illegal drugs, from the HRP evidence room. The PPS, aka “the Crown”, failed to act until it was too late to go ahead with the prosecution, so Officer 1 got to walk away from it all.

SiRT gets the last word in these situations, so its director, Ron J. MacDonald, wrote a masterpiece in the art of flaying another organization while being studiously neutral.

Here is MacDonald’s conclusion:

This investigation led to the conclusion that there were sufficient grounds to lay charges of theft, breach of trust, and obstruction of justice. As a result, charges were laid on January 27, 2016, and SiRT’s file was provided to the Crown on March 15, 2016. Subsequently, the Crown entered a stay of proceedings on May 30, 2016. On January 27, 2017, SiRT was informed by the Public Prosecution Service that due to issues related to delays in the prosecution of the charges, that the charges would not be re-instituted.

As a result, Officer 1 is deemed never to have been charged with any criminal offence.

You can find more on this here and MacDonald’s concise report here.

At best, we have here a conflict between two public agencies with different mandates over two unrelated policing issues. Worse, is the possibility the two organizations are engaged in a peeing match. Worst, is the possibility that SiRT believes the PPS is protecting bad cops.

How have we arrived at these hypotheses? We know that MacDonald wants to charge someone because both SiRT and the PPS acknowledge they’re currently discussing CR’s case. Chris Hansen, a PPS spokesperson, said last week: “I think it would be correct to say advice from the Crown is ongoing as the investigation continues.”

We know that SiRT and PPS have been batting this one back and forth since January or February because MacDonald told me in late 2016 that CR’s case would be ready early in 2017.

In other words, as in the Officer 1 case, SiRT wants to prosecute and the Crown is taking a long time to get  on board.

SiRT and police don’t need PPS permission to file charges, but they almost always consult first. It makes sense because if the PPS does not believe the case will succeed, then there’s not much point in going ahead with it. If you ignore the Crown’s advice and lose, well then you have career-damaging egg on your face.

Hansen said there is no connection between the two cases. When I asked MacDonald about that, he was studiously forthright: “I do not intend to address that question.”

It’s time for the authorities to clear their heads and come clean on this. Apart from the threat to civil liberties, a year of official silence dishonours the life and death of a man who was loved and is missed.

Other posts about CR:

One death, 365 days of inquiry, 0 answers

Did a police dog eat SiRT’s homework?

Irony or hypocrisy?

Criminal charges disappear along with dope

Sure hope there’s no cover-up here

 

One death, 365 days of inquiry, 0 answers

A year ago today, June 16, 2016, a 41-year-old man died in the holding cells of Halifax Regional Police after being arrested, but not charged, for public intoxication.

Strictly speaking, we do not know who he was. Neither HRP nor the Serious Incident Response Team, which is investigating, will say, and they are the only official sources.

This is worthy of a little soak time. A man was taken off the street by the Halifax police and died in their custody, but his name is a secret. Oh, and there are indications the death involved a criminal act. You’d think that by now the media and/or the Halifax Police Commission would have started making a fuss about this.

The victim’s mother, however, can’t. I’m advised by a third party that she’s been told that loose lips could sink the investigation into her son’s death. I haven’t contacted her because upsetting grieving mothers is not necessary here. Any citizen can learn the name of the victim by checking obituaries for the period. His initials are CR.

But that’s not the point. The problem is that our law enforcement officials don’t believe they have an obligation to make their actions public, even when someone has died.

So, yes, this is a slippery slope argument that ends with a police state such as Argentina during its “Dirty War” and countless others now and in history (including Canada’s own suspensions of civil rights).

The reason that doesn’t happen here and now is that police states are contrary to our values and we back up those values with scrutiny. But the scrutiny has to be habitual, reflexive and even obsessive to be effective. You can say it’s a job for media, but when media expose something, citizens have to care.

I say this even though I believe we have a good police force in Halifax — its undemocratic “street check” policy notwithstanding. But keeping it that way requires more than regular budget increases. We need to raise hell when our appointed scrutineers  suppress the name of someone who died in the hands of the police.

A scary, closer-to-home example of how things can go wrong is the Chicago Police Department’s secret detention centre, which was exposed not by American media, but Britain’s The Guardian. Fake news? Google “Homan Square Chicago” and see for yourself.

And why is this investigation taking so long? SiRT Director Ron MacDonald told me in 2016 he expected it to wrap up early this year.

All MacDonald will say now is the case “is long and complex.” But he also said the Public Prosecution Service is involved. For the record, the PPS says the case long and complex.

But wait! The PPS prosecutes criminal charges, so THAT’s interesting.

Next: Are SiRT and the public prosecution service getting along?

Related posts:

Did a police dog eat SiRT’s homework?

Irony or hypocrisy?

Criminal charges disappear along with dope

Sure hope there’s no cover-up here