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Early in April 2005, the Calgary police (Alberta, Canada) raided the home of Jann Vahey, seized her computer, and shut down her Web page.
No, Vahey was not distributing pornography. She was not committing Internet fraud. She was not engaged in any criminal activity at all. Her Web page — titled Standfirm Team — was a commentary on malfeasance in the Calgary Police Department, with specifics from individuals within the Department.
The court order under which the Police Department silenced Vahey also imposed a general gag order on the press and public. This is legal in Canada. However, while Canadians are now prohibited from discussing the suppressed Web page, there is growing outrage among Canadians over the self-serving actions of the Calgary Police Department.
After some research, I located an early version of Standfirm Team that was archived on a Yahoo-Canada server and present it below. Please note the following:
By now, you have all heard about the recent tragedy in Mayerthorpe Alberta, where 4 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were murdered in cold blood while performing their lawful duty.
We, at Code 200, wish to offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families of the slain officers, the wounded and to their colleagues during this horrific time. Police officers are a very large family and when even one of us goes down, we all feel it. There are probably a great number of issues involved that will eventually be addressed sometime, somewhere down the road, but for now, the only real issue is the grief and anger at the loss of 4 outstanding Canadians who lost their lives serving their nation and the community in which they were assigned to protect and serve.
We can presume that there is a special place in Heaven for these members, just as there is undoubtedly a very special place in the unquenchable flames of Eternal Hell for James Roszko. He has received his final sentence from the ultimate judge.
Constables Brock Myrol, Nicholas Johnston, Peter Schieman and Tony Fitzgerald will be added to the ever-increasing list of the law enforcement officers in Alberta who died doing the job they loved. It is unfortunate that this list keeps growing with every passing year. We hope that the public will never forget what their police, 911 dispatchers and support staff do on a day-to-day basis.
We mourn with our brothers and sisters in the RCMP, and we will always treasure their memory. We shall not forget their sacrifice.
To those who are affected by this tragedy, you will be in our thoughts and prayers always. God be with you.
Gloucester: "Say that I slew them not."
Lady Anne: "Say then that they are not slain? But dead they are, and devilish slave, by thee."
Shakespeare: Richard III, Act 1
About a week ago, we reported to you a certain issue with regard to The Calgary Police legal counsel and their dealings with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. It seems that Human Rights appears to keep getting stonewalled with endless red tape when it comes to investigating allegations of human rights related misconduct reported by CPS members (sworn and civilian) against those in positions of authority.
Mr. Robert Fenton, lead counsel for the Chief, responded to our report and made the accusation that our reporting was "inaccurate" and "grossly defamatory" in its content. As it has been tabled as being inaccurate, we have included a case-example of a factual incident where an Alberta Human Rights investigation has been hampered by CPS management tactics.
In May of 2003, a police constable made a formal complaint to the CPS Internal Affairs Unit, the office of the Chief, and the Alberta Human Rights Commission regarding several incidents of workplace bullying and harassment that he was subjected to between August 2001 and November 2002. This harassment included allegations of racism, verbal threats, the pointing of a loaded firearm at the complainant (and others), as well as various forms of administrative harassment and intimidation committed by supervisors, other police officers and members of management within his assigned district. The behaviors exhibited were of such severity that the complainant was forced to go on medical leave.
The Human Rights portion of the complaint was submitted through the complainant's legal counsel and covered almost every section of the Human Rights code, with exception of that which pertains to marital and gender issues. The Calgary Police legal counsel was officially served with copies of the human rights complaint no later than June 2003 (as was the Calgary Police Association and the Office of the Mayor). A lawsuit was filed against the Calgary Police Service, which included several named parties, including the Chief of Police, Jack Beaton.
The Alberta Human Rights commission commenced their investigation into the allegations and made several requests to CPS for information to assist in this investigation. CPS had a LEGAL obligation to respond to Human Rights. Instead, CPS legal counsel gathered and constructed a large binder containing reading material concerning Calgary Police policy and procedures. AT NO TIME DID CPS EVER DENY ANY OF THE ALLEGATIONS MADE. What the legal department DID do was to try to elude the human rights investigators by claiming that Alberta Human Rights had NO JURISDICTION over several matters and that some matters contained in the complaint were "exceeding the statute of limitations" (this was false). CPS counsel REFUSED to provide investigators with pertinent evidence, such as witness statements, results of interviews and results of their internal investigation into the matter (as CPS is required to do by law).
Several times during the course of the investigation of the complaint, CPS failed to respond to or comply with the lawful requests from Human Rights. There were four specific times when Alberta Human Rights asked CPS to respond with a defense to the allegations made in the complaint or give an explanation for their failure to comply with the lawful requests of Human Rights within a reasonable time frame. CPS still would not respond.
CPS legal counsel also failed to inform Alberta Human Rights that, after an over ONE YEAR INTERNAL INVESTIGATION, CPS had concluded on 10 June 2004:
(a) there were no grounds for any criminal charges against the complainant's supervisor for pointing a loaded firearm at the complainant, BUT ; (b) there were to be charges laid under the Police Service Regulations for firearms offences and racist/ tyrannical behavior on the part of the supervisor (Sergeant).
Internal charges were also to be laid against another constable and an internal disciplinary hearing would be held sometime in the future. Instead, there is a documented instance where Human Rights was told that "the investigation was STILL ongoing" and that CPS would not (make that REFUSED to) provide Human Rights with any further information, thereby inhibiting the Human Rights investigators' ability to proceed.
One disciplinary hearing was held in October 2004 and the constable involved in the firearms related incident(s) plead guilty to the internal charge. The constable was demoted several pay scales to 4th class constable. The Sergeant/supervisor has in fact been charged but, as of February 2005, has STILL NOT HAD A DISCIPLINARY HEARING TO ANSWER TO ANY OF THE CHARGES, GOING BACK TO THE ORIGINAL COMPLAINT OF MAY 2003!
To this day, the Alberta Human Rights investigators have NOT been duly informed by CPS legal counsel of the internal charges or their outcome/disposition. Human Rights, after two years, is still NOT receiving any information from CPS regarding the reported incidents of violations of the Human Rights Act/ Regulations despite their many requests. Information just doesn't show up, even after several months. The last claim made by CPS was that their internal investigation "is still ongoing". Thus, there is still no resolution of this complaint because of CPS legal counsel's lack of cooperation or response to Alberta Human Rights.
This is just but one of the examples of the appearance of "stalling" on the part of the Calgary Police Service when dealing with Alberta Human Rights. There are others documented. There are some pertinent questions to be asked here:
1. If in fact CPS is stalling, would this be to avoid any civil liability resulting from any of these complaints being 'founded'?
2. How can CPS legal counsel argue that Alberta Human Rights has "no jurisdiction" over these types of matters when, being a federal agency at its heart, and having such a mandate, clearly DOES have jurisdiction?
3. Will CPS legal counsel ever be held to account for what appears to be a clear violation of Human Rights legislation requiring cooperation within a reasonable time frame, or their apparent refusal to respond to lawful requests of Human Rights?
*Also of note, why has the supervising sergeant in this case not had an internal hearing yet (February 2005), even though the allegations in the internal investigation were SUSTAINED in June 2004???? Could this not be perceived, by a reasonable observer, as another form of "stalling"?
Our contention is that CPS is not behaving appropriately and it is incumbent on us to respond to Mr. Fenton. This is our opinion, we can base it in documented fact and no one has any business making erroneous accusations that we are being "defamatory".
Mr. Fenton, if you would share the software that you are using that does not allow you access to the message boards with us we will see if we can have our technical group find a workaround to accommodate that need.
By Leo Knight
In April I told you of the Staff Sergeant in the Calgary Police Service who had a number of civil suits filed against him by fellow cops who claim he defrauded them of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Calgary Chief, Jack Beaton had decided not to suspend the senior officer, Kirk McCallum, while internal investigations were continuing.
That, in itself, was unbelievable. Beaton, and all police chiefs, need to maintain public confidence in their departments. This is crucial to their job. In doing nothing in this matter, Beaton failed.
After referring the CPS investigation to the RCMP, criminal charges of fraud have now been laid against McCallum and Beaton has finally acted. As I said at the time, it doesn't have anything to do with the guilt or innocence of McCallum. That will be decided in due course by a court. It has everything to do with public confidence and the higher standard that police are held to. The allegations against a senior member of his department were serious enough that McCallum's ability to do his job and lead his subordinate officers was compromised. And with that, Beaton should have acted. But he didn't.
By all accounts Jack Beaton is a nice man. But nice is not a pre-requisite for the job. Last week several other allegations bubbled over into the local media.
Beaton is now reaping what he has sown. Last week a newly retired officer, Tim Goodwin, wrote a letter to the Solicitor General asking for an investigation into the "lack of responsibility and accountability" present in the Calgary Police Service.
Goodwin referred to an incident where another Staff Sergeant, this time Carl Desantis, arrived at the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident with booze on his breath while operating a police car. According to Goodwin, the investigators at the scene contacted the duty inspector who in turn contacted a Deputy Chief Constable who directed no action be taken.
The backlash that resulted after the Calgary Sun ran the story without identifying those involved, wobbled the Chief. Deputy Chief Rick Hanson issued a memo to the department saying he had never received such a call from a Duty Inspector and consequently had never issued a "make it go away" order.
Hanson demanded an independent inquiry be conducted by the RCMP. Another one. The Mounties should probably start leasing some office space at CPS headquarters.
At any rate, Hanson is quite right, according to my sources. He didn't receive that call. Even though Hanson is nominally responsible for the Traffic Section, the duty inspector called another Deputy Chief for instruction. The same Deputy, I'm told, who apparently protected Desantis from racism and harassment allegations made by former CPS officer Shon Marsh.
Marsh has made his allegations in complaints to the Police Commissioner and in a civil suit filed against the Chief and the Department. Interesting.
Ironically, another police officer, Taufiq Shah, has also filed a complaint of racism and harassment against the Department and filed a civil suit too. One of the people named by Shah is none other that Kirk McCallum.
Shah's claim alleges some pretty disgusting behaviour by supposedly professional police officers. Shah alleges he was called names like "sand nigger" and "terrorist" by his Sergeant, Darwin Pearce. He also alleges Pearce pointed his service weapon at him and engaged in a weapons drawn "show down" in the briefing room of the police station.
One of the officers involved in that was a junior constable, who has since been tried in service court, found guilty and suspended. But hey, what about Pearce or his boss, Kirk McCallum?
If I didn't know better, I'd say they had a well-placed rabbi. Perhaps a Deputy Chief Constable? One who takes phone calls late at night?
With the media heat turned up in Calgary, outside inquiries being done by the RCMP into actions by his most senior officers and apparent cover-ups of something as insidious as blatant racism, the Chief Constable is facing a credibility challenge and a significant loss of public confidence.
For Jack Beaton it remains to be seen if he can regain that confidence. Unfortunately, a survey done last month by the police association and released last week, showed he had already lost the confidence of the men and women under his command. Seventy per cent of police officers in his city think he should go.
And so he should. It's long past time.
2004 September 23
Attention: Honourable Heather Forsyth, Solicitor General
Dear Solicitor General Forsyth:
I have a genuine responsibility to the members of the Calgary Police Service and to the citizens of Calgary. Consequently, I direct this correspondence to your attention.
Members of the Calgary Police Service are aware of the after described incident that demonstrates alcohol abuse continues to be a problem within the Calgary Police Service.
The practice of conveniently ignoring the problem for reasons of political expediency is an issue that should be properly addressed before further tragedy and unnecessary death occurs.
I refer to the tragic death of Constable Brian Hanson, wherein Hanson, after leaving a Traffic Section Unit party, hosted by the Traffic Section Sergeant, was involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident that also claimed the lives of two young Calgary citizens.
Investigations determined that Hanson was impaired by alcohol and well in excess of the legal limit of alcohol in his blood at the time of the accident.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned tragedy the Calgary Police Service continues to place members and citizens at risk by failing to address the issue of alcohol abuse in a responsible fashion.
The following incident not only demonstrates a lack of prudence and due diligence, but also a total lack of responsibility and accountability.
The Traffic Section Staff Sergeant, operating a Calgary Police Service vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drives to the scene of an injury accident. Enroute to the injury accident scene the Staff Sergeant is involved in a motor vehicle accident. Upon arrival at the scene of the injury accident, Investigators observe that the Staff Sergeant is impaired by alcohol to operate a motor vehicle.
The opinion formed by the Investigators prompted the Investigators to contact the Headquarters Duty Inspector for authority to take the appropriate action.
The Headquarters Duty Inspector contacted a Deputy Chief for direction in the matter.
The Deputy Chief contacted the Investigators and ordered the Investigators not to take any action.
Justice, and the spirit and intent of the law, was obstructed for reasons of political expediency on this occasion.
The citizens of Calgary have a rightful expectation of a greater standard of integrity from the Calgary Police Service.
The problems of alcohol abuse and the associated issues of responsibility and accountability cannot be addressed within the community until these issues are addressed within the Calgary Police Service.
Failing to take the appropriate action in the aforementioned incident, the Calgary Police Service committed a serious breach of public trust.
I respectfully request that the Office of the Solicitor General for the Province of Alberta investigate the aforementioned incident and take the appropriate action to make the Calgary Police Service accountable to the citizens of Calgary.
I request that the Solicitor General employ the integrity and authority of the Office of the Solicitor General to facilitate an investigation into these matters by another law enforcement agency such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
cc: Attorney General Canada
Suzanne Wilton, Calgary Herald
Editor, Calgary Sun
Calgary Police Association
Calgary Police Commission
Police Federation, c/o John Netelenbos
Jack Beaton, Chief of Police
Why am I so concerned about a local issue in a city in another nation? When I read the initial news reports about this, I immediately thought: "How would I react if Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks seized my PC, shut down my 9.7 megabyte Web site, and abrogated my right to speak out on government affairs merely because I criticized him and his department?" I would definitely want others to pick up the cause on my behalf.
On 29 April, Jann Vahey agreed to settle the ruinous lawsuit filed against her by Police Chief Jack Beaton. Vahey had no choice as the suit could have bankrupted her. The settlement requires a $5,000Cdn (about $4,000US) payment by Vahey to Beaton and a public apology by Vahey. It also requires Vahey to face an inquisition by a panel chosen by Beaton, which will likely require revelation of the names of those who anonymously provided information that appeared on Vahey's now-defunct Web site.
The gag order against Vahey was lifted by the settlement. News reports failed to indicate whether her PC was returned.
19 April 2005
Updated 9 May 2005
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