Cop takes B.C. chief to court on training, discipline
Published Tuesday, January 11, 2011 6:21PM PST
A Victoria, B.C. police officer accused of failing in his public duties is taking Chief Jamie Graham to court, marking the latest in a string of troubles for the force.
Kevin Vigar, a severe alcoholic, died in a police cell in June 2009 after drinking a bottle of vodka that officers had missed when they failed to properly frisk him during an arrest for public drunkenness.
The officers involved faced disciplinary action for failing to uphold the public trust. Graham is the disciplinary authority and has already found one of the officers guilty of neglect of duty.
But Const. Jason Ince is taking his case to B.C. Supreme Court, where he is arguing that Graham is biased, and is responsible for inadequate training in the Victoria Police Department.
"The training wasn't in place, the supervision wasn't in place, the signage, the systems, the procedures that for years courts have been saying, ‘You need these things.' They weren't there for Mr Vigar, and sadly, they weren't there for these officers who face the blame," Ince's lawyer David Mulroney said.
The BC Civil Liberties Association claims that training is a problem for the Victoria force.
"For us it uncovered a systemic issue, or potentially a systemic issue, of failing to train officers in Victoria on how to deal with people who are unconscious and coming into custody, or who extremely intoxicated and coming into custody," BCCLA director David Eby said.
Mayor Dean Fortin, chair of the police board, won't comment specifically on the Vigar case, but says improvements to jail cells in the capital are underway.
"It's terrible that people have been injured, life lost, people with a lot of physical disabilities resulting. We want to make sure that that doesn't happen again," he said.
On Wednesday, a judge will be asked to delay the disciplinary hearing.
Troubles in Victoria jail cells
The legal wrangling is just the latest in a series of problems for Graham and the Victoria Police Department.
In October, a retired Ontario police chief released a report making 80 recommendations about the use of force in police cells, calling for better training and supervision, and even suggesting the jail be renamed as an "Arrested Persons Processing Unit."
The probe was prompted by several high-profile incidents last year, including a January incident in the cell-block area that led to allegations of assault against Sgt. George Chong, brother of Oak Bay–Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong.
In April, the Calgary Police Service agreed to conduct an investigation of the department after a video posted on YouTube showed two officers apparently kicking a man being restrained outside of a nightclub.
The department has faced several controversies in recent years involving officer conduct in the cell block.
Willow Kinloch was 15 when she was arrested for public drunkenness. She sued and reached an out-of-court settlement with police after she spent four hours tethered to a cell door.
Another man was left with permanent brain injuries when an officer slammed him onto a concrete floor in 2004.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jim Beatty