Vancouver cops feel muzzled by policies
VPD, Vancouver Police Department unveil the first wave of new 2013 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Police motorcycles in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday September 9, 2013. Carmine Marinelli/Vancouver 24hours/QMI Agency
There’s a great story I wanted to let you know about some dedicated Vancouver Police Department officers who went above and beyond to build a case against a significant criminal and give some measure of justice to the exploited victims.
But I can’t tell you that story, even though they have spoken to me passionately over a number of months as the investigation progressed about how badly they wanted it to be successfully concluded. Even though it shows the dedication, energy and passion of some VPD members.
It seems that even though I know many VPD members on a personal level who are happy to share stories with me, they feel they are being actively discouraged from talking on the record without prior clearance through the media liaison section. VPD media relations officer Const. Brian Montague told 24 hours there is “no blanket thou-shalt-not-talk-to-the-media” policy, but there are policies in place to protect investigations and officers are “asked to touch base” with his office before speaking to the media.
But these long-serving officers — who always have the reputation of the organization they are proud to serve in mind — tell me they are afraid of being subjected to discipline if they share their stories.
Some, in the younger ranks, tell me snidely the media policies are about protecting the department’s “Jimage” — a reference to Chief Jim Chu’s desire to protect the VPD’s reputation.
While I have no doubt Chu feels it is his duty to do just that, one wonders if such tight control on who says what achieves that goal.
I have known Chu for over 30 years. I have shared a patrol car with him and worked with him in stress-inducing, dangerous incidents. I like him and think he has done a credible job of leading the VPD.
Having said that, the men and women of the VPD do yeoman’s work that would make the citizens of Vancouver proud of their police service on a daily basis. If they only knew about it.
Years ago, there was a “public information counter” situated at 312 Main St. with a clipboard containing a copy of every incident report written in the previous 24 hours. Media would drop in regularly and review the reports. Often, the good news stories about the work police did made it on the nightly news or in the next day’s paper. That information is no longer available due to “privacy” reasons.
Now it seems that rank-and-file members can no longer share their stories. I think that’s sad. Yet, in this time of spin, it is what we have. Sigh.
Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.