Major crimes: a week in review V

Jessica Bondar (CBC)

Nothing like starting the week with a quick re-hash of the last. We all have traditions, tho.

First, a positive, from the University of Winnipeg’s Uniter:

Partnership to provide legal assistance to low-income families

The University of Winnipeg has announced that, in partnership with the University of Manitoba, they have opened the Legal Help Centre in the MacNamara North Building on Spence Street. The centre, staffed by University of Winnipeg Global College and criminal justice students, students from the University of Manitoba’s faculties of Law and Social Work and volunteer lawyers, is part of an initiative to provide legal assistance to disadvantaged members of the community. People with household incomes under $50,000 a year will have access to free legal advice, and the centre also offers drop-in services and workshops.

This, given the area the U of Dub exists in, is a great idea. Even from the position that legal advice will be offered to those in the area, many of whom would likely meet the guidelines for access.

2] Those interested about learning more about Gladue courts can, thanks to the Robson Hall Law Department, watch Jonathan Rudin explain them and what they’ve been able to do for Toronto. The future is now. Check it out.

3] The Province finally announced a public inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, just when one thought there was no way that was going to happen with an election looming. Even the fine print is promising, with the judge overseeing it being given a sweeping mandate to investigate whatever he sees fit. No dates announced, but justice Ted Hughes’s report must be complete in just over a year from now. Another Sinclair matter (an inquest) — that of Brian Sinclair — is still pending.

4] A number of suspects in one of the Winnipeg Police Service’s recent major drug investigations have been rearrested and directly indicted into court for trial. This case — just by virtue of the characters involved — is very interesting. More to come.

5] Convicted sex-offender Kenneth Rhodes appeals his conviction. Claims wrongful conviction. Grinding of teeth can be heard all over the country. I’m a big fan of Christie Blatchford.

6] Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun has a very interesting feature on the underworld politik of cross-border crime and why some are choosing to face justice in the U.S. instead of fighting the charges. Seems those big-ticket jail terms do make an impact.

7] The winner of last week’s story containing the most heartless allegations… But this one’s equally as bad.

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Impaired Driving stats – Winnipeg 2010 Christmas

Straight from the horse’s mouth (with thanks for the breakdown:)

2010 FESTIVE SEASON CHECKSTOP PROGRAM RESULTS
Total Number of Vehicles Stopped — 2471 (30% decrease from 2009)

Total Number of Individuals charged:
Drive Impaired, Drive Over 80 mg% and/ or Refusal- 98 (72% increase over 2009)
Highest Blood Alcohol Concentration 280%
Lowest Blood Alcohol Concentration 90 mgs%
Average Blood Alcohol Concentration 136 mgs%
Arrest Times:
Earliest Arrest Time — 3:00 pm
Latest Arrest Time  — 5:47 am
Statistics for individuals charged:
85 males (age range 18 to 67 years)
13 females (age range 19 to 52 years)
Average age —  37 years
Offenders with previous Impaired Driving Charges: 26
  • 1 prior offence-   17
  • 2 prior offences-   5
  • 3 prior offences-   2
  • 4 prior offences-   1
  • 6 prior offences-   1
Alcohol Screening Device Tests  Administered— 596 (710% increase over 2009)
In 23% of the 2471 vehicles stopped (which is 596), alcohol had been consumed by the driver
Alcohol Screening Device —Pass— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0 to 49 mgs%)- 415
Alcohol Screening Device —Warn—(Blood Alcohol Concentration of 50 to 99 mgs%)- 125
Alcohol Screening Device —Fail— (Blood Alcohol Concentration in excess of 99 mgs%)- 56
Provincial Offence Notices Issued— 245 (41% increase over 2009)
Individuals arrested on Arrest Warrants- 9 (33% increase over 2009)
NOVICE DRIVER 0% BAC RESTRICTION OFFENCES
14 Novice drivers were issued province offence notices for driving with alcohol in their blood.
2009 FESTIVE SEASON CHECKSTOP PROGRAM RESULTS:
Total Number of Vehicles Stopped- 3225
Total Number of Individuals charged:
Drive Impaired, Drive Over 80 mg% and/or Refusal to Provide a Sample- 57
Alcohol Screening Device Tests Administered— 84
Alcohol Screening Device —Pass— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0 to 49 mgs%)- 55
Alcohol Screening Device —Warn— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 50 to 99 mgs%)- 21
Alcohol Screening Device —Fail— (Blood Alcohol Concentration in excess of 99 mgs%)- 9
Provincial Offence Notices Issued -174
Individuals arrested on Arrest Warrants – 6

You do the math

In Ontario:

Ontario Provincial Police officers stopped and checked more than one million vehicles during the 2010-11 RIDE program and charged 294 people with impaired driving — virtually the same as during last year’s campaign.

In Manitoba:

In a Tuesday statement, RCMP said 20,774 vehicles were stopped during their month-long seasonal checkstop program, which ended Sunday.

Of the drivers stopped, 115 were charged with impaired driving-related crimes. That’s more than in 2009 when 108 drivers were charged out of 19,232 vehicle stops.

Virtually the same program, over the same roughly month-long timeframe. 

One huge discrepancy in the ratio of drivers stopped to drivers charged.

These numbers don’t speak well for Manitoba’s drinking and driving issue.

What would happen if our police had the resources to stop a million drivers in a month?

Winnipeg impaired driving arrests, by location

Couple of notes:

  • Suspects typically are not identified until they make their first court appearance. Most are suspended at the roadside and then issued an offence notice to show up at 408 York on a specific day. Police are promising to release the names once they’re charged.
  • Impaired driving arrests make defence lawyers happy. The vast majority of their clients have cash — or at least more means than the average criminal — to pay for representation. Given the heartbreak a DUI conviction can have on one’s relationship with MPI, a lot of people will fight tooth and nail to avoid owning up.
  • Drunk driving cases continue to contain probably some of the most thorny and complex legal issues. Virtually everything officers do from the moment they pull you over will be pulled apart, scrutinized, disputed and contended by lawyers should the case proceed to trial.
  • Always keep in mind: Drunk drivers are as prevalent as the service makes officers available to catch them, so there’s likely a heck of a lot more than they’re catching. Be safe out there.
  • Shame is widely under-used as a deterrent by police, who sanitize every official statement they make. The annual Checkstop program, and the releasing of accuseds’ names is a deviation from that.

“Some voters don’t trust you on crime”

Feature interview (and a puzzling headline) with mayoral hopeful Judy Wasylycia-Leis in today’s FP.

Some interesting stuff there, but it’s odd how “the most important issue of the election” is buried 22 paragraphs in, and there’s two paragraphs of response on it. Still, here’s what was said.

I understand that not all of what she said would make into print — after all, it was Bart Kives himself who taught me to “kill my orphans” when transcribing a Q&A for the paper.

But let’s look at how Judy responded [at least in part]….

FP: Some voters don’t trust you on crime. What would you say to them?

JWL: I think Winnipeggers understand this is a difficult issue. You have to get at the roots of crime, not just policing and not just building law-and-order stuff. You have to approach this from all angles.

I know (Winnipeggers) are looking for solid, serious approaches to problem-solving to deal with this issue. I’ve put my plan on the table and I hope Sam will put his on the table. This is probably the most important issue of the election, one that requires the most thoughtful debate and discussion.

Yes, it is a difficult issue. The problem is that crime-prevention programs largely take time to take effect — sometimes over a generation. That’s a noble goal.

But as much as Winnipeggers may be looking for “solid, serious approaches to problem-solving to deal with” crime, there’s a level of frustration with the general feeling of lawlessness in the city that people want something done about, pronto.

Gun crime seems rampant. Hauls from drug busts keep getting bigger and bigger all the time (an indication of demand). Extreme violence seems to erupt out of nowhere. It’s unsettling.

We can have all the effective problem-solvers in the room that you want, but people probably would prefer action.

People want to trust that the city’s given the police executive the tools and expertise to do what’s truly necessary, but that’s a story for another day.

Katz has proposed additional officers — 20 to check and monitor gang bangers, 18 for a new cruiser car etc. He hasn’t said definitively when we’ll actually get them or how we’ll pay for them, but that’s beside the point.

There’s a cop chopper about to take flight, which, while a cool idea, won’t directly put handcuffs on anybody.

Point is, Katz’s proposals seem to point to somewhat of an immediate — albeit very in-the short-term — “solution” to today’s issues.

I’d bet for the average person, hearing about more police on the way must be somewhat reassuring. And that, ultimately is what’s playing well for Katz on the crime front in this campaign. Even if it is blase.

People don’t get the same level of reassurance from knowing gangsters will get jobs, or that there’s a number they can call to tip off police about crime activity.

We’ve had the latter in the form of Crime Stoppers for eons now and it does what it does, which is good, but it’s difficult to say it makes anyone safer in a tangible sense.

I’d urge Judy to look over the eight weeks of the Police Public Reporting Project to get a real sense of what police are contending with.

Namely, a trend of repeat, often violent offenders who are released by the courts and quickly become reinvolved and have to be rearrested.

While there’s little the city can do to effect change on what’s a provincial and federal responsibility, the data could possibly point to some possible solutions.

In turn, that would reassure people that those in charge — or those who say they want to be — know what the problems actually are.

Speaking of which, that’s the one thing missing from the public talk of Katz’s and the WPA’s GRASP program, and it’s surprising given all the comparison it gets to the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy.

Data.

WATSS was built on a comprehensive survey and study of police and Justice data about the top teen auto-theft offenders in the city.

Watching who was involved, when, with who else, how long they spent in jail, when they were released. By identifying patterns in the data, solutions were found.

It also was a tri-level initiative. Police, prosecutors, probation officers (and MPI). Everyone worked together.

[BTW – how much of a factor did mandatory immobilizers for ‘most-at-risk’ vehicles play in slashing auto-theft rates?]

So far, what I’ve heard about GRASP (which, correct me if I’m wrong, was first announced in Sept. 2009, again BTW) is that it’s a solely police-led program. That’s a red flag for me, personally. They can’t do it all.

But the timing of the GRASP program’s [re]announcement shows us something.

Remember,in September 2009, the public outrage over gangs after the shooting death of a woman at a wedding social on Main Street was at its peak. The police and justice officials were getting hammered daily in the press.

And then, voila! A solution is announced.

And the public was reassured. Gangs quickly died off as a top-of-mind issue.

Cheryl Roberts killing remains unsolved, at least publicly.

After the Taman Inquiry, people’s confidence in Manitoba’s police in general was flagging. Fairly or not, that’s the way it played out.

The province brought in a new police act, which was supposed to deal with the most pressing issues the public had with police and their accountability. It also disbanded the East St. Paul police force.

And the public was reassured.

As of next April, it will be two years since the new police act was introduced.

Maybe the province is saving its implementation for this election year.

Y’know, to reassure people.

-30-

The legal answering machine

 

Supreme Court of Canada (Philippe Landreville photo)

 

There’s a beautiful, funny, passage in a SCC decision released today today.

Lately, the high court has been looking at a number of criminal appeal cases where the accused believes police infringed their rights to counsel.

Specifically, police are accused of denying them proper access to lawyers/legal advice in the interrogation portion of their arrest [the part where they say a bunch of stuff that really puts them in the jackpot, or…prison.]

Anyhow, in R. v Sinclair, the court writes that one of the conditions allowing a person to re-assert their right to counsel after they’ve already done so to interrogators, there must be a change in circumstances that backs up that request.

For example, a person’s arrested for robbery and suddenly learns they’re actually on the pointy end of a murder beef.

The court notes that legal advice for a person in any interrogation situation will only be as good as what police let the person know the situation is.

From the decision:

Communication between solicitor and client is the condition precedent to the lawyer’s ability to assist. The advice will only be as good as the information on which it is based. In the case of s. 10(b), the lawyer cannot function effectively in an informational vacuum without the possibility of even a general idea of the unfolding situation in the interrogation room.

Until aware of that situation, the lawyer may be in no position to render — and the detainee may not receive — meaningful assistance beyond what could be accomplished by a recorded message:

“You have reached counsel. Keep your mouth shut. Press one to repeat this message.” In this case, the evolving situation produced information S’s lawyer needed to have to do his job.

Such an answering machine would be a blessing, I’d bet, to all the harried junior defence lawyers forced to take the drunken 3 a.m. phone calls from the cop shop.

Two other recent cases also deal with the same issue:

R. v Willier

R. v McCrimmon

‘What the public doesn’t hear,” week 8

Week of Sept. 6-10

—An ongoing examination of publicly-recorded police activity and media reporting from the WPS.

Notes:

Note PO = fail probation, unless preceded by the words ‘assault’ or ‘obstruct.’ in those cases PO= police officer

Fail attend= fail attend court

M= male, FM = female

If an offence or offences are in brackets, those are charges already laid an arrested person was pending on.

Monday

No briefing, emailed press release on a Sunday home invasion.

Courts closed due to holiday. No bail for you.

Tuesday

No briefing, PIO not in office, but assistant in house to field requests. Emailed release: Robbery – request for assistance, home invasion – request for assistance

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Monday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, drug possession, theft under, fail PO x2, possess break-in tools
  • M, HTA, aggravated assault, assault with weapon x2, mischief, assault, flight from PO, drive dangerous and the ‘I’ve never seen before’ “control of vehicle with intent to escape civil/criminal liability, fail to stop to assist injured person”
  • FM, fail bail
  • M, fail PO
  • M, DUI, possess stolen car, flight from PO, refuse breath sample, HTA, liquor in vehicle
  • M, fail bail x2
  • M, mischief under, cause disturbance, possess dangerous weapon
  • M, fail attend court
  • M, assault, escape lawful custody, theft under
  • FM, fail attend
  • FM, fail ID appointment, robbery with weapon, theft under [assault, fail attend]
  • M, break enter and theft, drug possession, fail bail
  • M, carry concealed weapon, cause disturbance, fail bail x4
  • M, sex assault, public indecency
  • FM, fail bail
  • M, fail bail
  • FM, fail attend [assault cause bodily harm, forcible confinement, robbery with violence, weapons x2, fail attend, fail bail x5, fail youth sentence]
  • M, fail attend
  • M, attempted robbery with weapon, mischief, fail PO x3
  • M,  possess child pornography x2, distribute child pornography (one of the rare times you see a child-pornography lockup – usually the suspect is release on a promise to come to court)
  • M, fail bail x3, fail attend [fail PO x3]
  • FM, fail bail
  • M, possess criminal property, theft under, mischief
  • M, fail bail
  • M, utter threats, fail PO
  • FM, witness warrant
  • M, fail bail, fail PO, possess purp. trafficking, possess criminal property
  • M, break enter cause mischief, mischief under
  • M, ID fraud, fail bail
  • M, fail conditional sentence, possess criminal property, possession purp. trafficking, possession
  • M, [co-accused to above] Possess pup. trafficking x2, possess criminal property x2, possess prohibit. weapon, violation of court-ordered weapons ban
  • M, fail ID appt.
  • M, possess purp trafficking, fail bail [aggravated assault from 2004]

Wednesday

Briefing held. Arrests in a break and enter, arrests in a robbery. Police presence at a community carnival at Rossbrook House was announced (which featured WPS tac guys letting kids hold their assault rifles, among other things…)

Later in the day came a request for help finding the “suspects” who knocked over a Main Street clothing store for patterned hoodies and other gangsta bling.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Tuesday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, fail bail x2

Thursday

No Briefing. Emailed statement: an arrest in a commercial robbery.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Wednesday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, drive disqualified, theft over, drive dangerous, fail PO
  • M, fail attend court [assault with weapon, house break enter commit aggravated assault, possess weapon dangerous]
  • M, robbery, robbery with weapon, assault with weapon, weapons offences, disguise with intent
  • M, HTA, possession purp. trafficking, possess criminal property
  • M, fail attend, possess criminal property [theft over (a car), HTA, drive dangerous)
  • M, HTA x2
  • M, theft under, fail bail [forgery x3, attempted fraud, theft under, fraud, theft, forgery, fail attend court]
  • M, fail bail
  • M, fail PO, theft under
  • M, fail PO [possess purp. trafficking, fail attend]
  • M, aggravated assault x2, housebreak enter commit aggravated assault, assault with weapon, assault cause bodily harm, assault]

Friday

No briefing, PIO not in office. Assistant in to field requests. Emailed statement: two assault weapon arrests, the arrests of the guy charged with the aggravated assault/home invasion noted on Thursday. Later in the day, the notification that a red-light cam was being installed at Stafford and Academy (Personally, I’ve never seen a crash there).

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Thursday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, fail conditional sentence x4, possession purpose trafficking
  • FM, fail bail x3, fail attend
  • M, aggravated assault, fail PO
  • FM, fail attend
  • FM, fail bail [possession purpose trafficking, mischief, drug-trafficking]
  • M, theft under x5, HTA x2, possession criminal property
  • M, fail bail
  • M, house break enter and theft
  • M, robbery with weapon
  • M, break and enter to commit offence x2, house break enter and theft, fail YCJA. (This is the “kid”who helped beat a man so soundly in 2008 he’ll never recover.)
  • FM, fail attend
  • M, theft under, fail bail
  • M, assault with weapon, fail bail, cause disturbance, possess weapon dangerous

-30-

My old colleague, friend and police-beat mentor Bruce Owen dropped a comment on Monday after he came across the project.

He raises some points for those who may think this whole thing is an exercise in whining or police-service bashing. Again: it’s not.

Hello James;

I just found this and must congratulate you on what you’re doing. It takes a lot of effort not to mention time.
One thing I can add, for what it’s worth, is that sometimes, not often, but sometimes, you’ll find out about an incident, either through a police and/or witness tip or off the scanner, and ask police about it.
I found that in some cases they won’t want any information released because it’s still under investigation, which means off the top of my head a couple of things: They have a suspect in mind and don’t want to tip him and his pals off and second, they don’t want to contaminate the witness pool with too much info being released.
Again, for the most part, my dealings with the PIO have always been positive.
As to Menno, police cancelled tons of daily briefings when he was deputy.

Cheers, Bruce
Note: There will be no update over the next two weeks as I am taking holidays and then unavailable to attend the courthouse.

‘What the public doesn’t hear’ week 4

The latest instalment of an ongoing examination of publicly-recorded police activity and media reporting from the WPS.

Monday

– No briefing held. After a crazy busy weekend for crime-fighters and criminals alike, police release two reports electronically [by email’s statement]. They are: the seizure of a handgun and other weapons from a car four days prior and an assault/attempt robbery in Fort Rouge early Monday. Later in the day they released on a baby who fell through a window screen, but survived.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from the weekend – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • Female, robbery with weapon, aggravated assault, carry conceal, possess dangerous purpose
  • Female, fail bail [pending on theft under $5,000]
  • Female, fail bail x2
  • Male, fail attend court [pend. on fail probation, fail bail and 2 breaches in June]
  • Male, fail recog x6
  • Male, 3 x aggravated assault, 2 x take auto no consent, 2x bail breach
  • Male, 3 x aggravated assault, 2 x take auto no consent
  • Male, 2 x aggravated assault
  • Male, assault weapon x2, house break and enter with intent to commit an offence, 2x gun offences
  • Male, breach bail, operate impaired causing bodily harm, drive disqualified
  • Female, fail attend x2, pend. on possession of criminal property from 2008
  • Male, assault with a weapon, weapons offences x3, fail release from police custody
  • Male, drug-trafficking, drug possession x2 and possession of prop. obtained by crime over $5,000
  • Male, assault cause bodily harm
  • Male, assault cause bodily harm
  • Male, gun offences x9, careless storage and carry concealed [WPS released on this]
  • Male, possess weapon dangerous purpose
  • Male, fail conditional sentence order x3
  • Male, aggravated assault
  • Male, aggravated assault
  • Male, house break and enter with intent, possess gun for dangerous purpose, weapons offence and fail bail
  • Male, house break and enter with intent, possess gun for dangerous purpose, weapons offence and fail bail
  • Male, house break and enter with intent, possess gun for dangerous purpose, weapons offence and fail bail [all three co-accused]
  • Female, theft under x2, fail probation x2
  • Male, fail police release conditions
  • Male, fail bail
  • Male, theft under, possession of property obtained under $5,000, fail probation x2
  • Female, fail bail, pending on fail probation from 1994!
  • Male, aggravated assault
  • Male, fail bail
  • Male second degree murder [police released on this over weekend]
  • Male, uttering threats
  • Male, robbery with fake gun, fail probation
  • Male, assault cause bodily harm
  • Male, assault cause bodily harm
  • Male, fail bail x2
  • Female, fail conditional sentence x3, theft under x2
  • Female, fail probation [pending on a bail breach]
  • Male, robbery x3, possess weapon dangerous x2
  • Female, fail attend x2
  • Male, breach of court-imposed weapons ban, fail attnd court, possess weapon dangerous
  • Male [sex offender] fail stay away from parks, playgrounds or other places kids might be, fail no-contact order, fail abstain from drugs/alcohol
  • Male, aggravated assault x2, drug possession, fail probation
  • Male, fail bail x6 [pending on mischief, utter threats x2, assault x2 and assault with a weapon x2]

I should point out that there were a handful of RCMP events outside the city on the docket worth noting, as you’ll never hear about them from them.

Thompson, MB – a woman charged with drunk and disqualified driving, but pending on a prior drunk driving charge laid just a few months ago.

Fisher Branch, MB – a woman is charged with aggravated assault, impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and fail probation.

Tuesday

No briefing held. Of the information released electronically, it was a stabbing that police were seeking information about.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Monday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, fail youth sent, fail bail, obstruct PO
  • M, drive disqualified, fail bail, fail prior police release, HTA x2
  • M, fail police release x3
  • FM, fail PO x2
  • FM, theft under $5,000
  • M, obstruct police
  • M, possession for trafficking x4, drug possession, obtain crim. property under $5,000, 4 x gun offences, fail prior police release
  • FM, fail PO, fail attend x2
  • M, possession purpose trafficking, possess crim. property under $5,000, fail attend court
  • M, fail bail [pending on assault, overcome resistance by choking]
  • M, sexual assault, robbery with violence, fail bail, fail youth sentence

Wednesday

No briefing. On the E-docket from WPS was a carjacking arrest, and two break and enter arrests. One involved a woman accused of a string of break ins that they had never discussed prior to the announcement she had been charged.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Tuesday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, bail breach x2
  • M, fail youth sentence x3, possession weapon dangerous
  • M, fail bail
  • M, bail breach x4 [pending on 2x car arsons, break, enter and theft and drunk-driving]
  • M, fail conditional sentence x2, HTA, mischief, fail PO, drink driving
  • FM, Possess pup. trafficking, criminal property under $5K, fail bail [pend. on trafficking, possess prop over $5K, possess prohibited device or weapon]
  • M, assault weapon x2
  • M, possess pup. trafficking , drug possession, criminal property under $5K
  • M, assault, overcome resistance by choking [pending on Assault weapon and restraining order breach]
  • M, breach non-communication order x2, fail bail, obstruct justice

Thursday

No briefing, but a news release e-issued about more charges in the Lathlin homicide [including a very rare ‘aiding and abetting-related charge for a woman who harboured one of the suspects, ‘allegedly.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Wednesday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • M, HTA, robbery with weapon, possess dangerous purpose, drive dangerous, flight from PO, fail PO [police released on this on Wednesday]
  • M, robbery, fail bail [pending on breaches, theft over $5K, sex assault and robbery]
  • M, fail bail, fail attend court [pend. on assault with weapon, theft under $5K and 3x bail breaches]
  • FM, fail bail, fail attend court
  • M, robbery
  • M, fail conditional sentence
  • FM, theft under $5K x2 [pending on theft under $5K]
  • FM, accessory to murder after the fact [police released on this]
  • FM, breach [pend. on breach]
  • M, fail release from police custody x5
  • M, obstruction, fail bail, ID fraud
  • M, theft under $5K [pending on theft under $5K]
  • M, flight from police, possess stolen car worth more than $5K, assault weapon x2, drive dangerous, theft under $5K
  • M, possess pup trafficking, mischief, theft under $5K, fail prior release from police
  • M, fail bail x2
  • M, aggravated assault, fail PO x3
  • M, [Manitoba Warriors associate] assault weapon x2
  • M, aggravated assault, attempt to take auto without owner’s consent

Friday

Media briefing held on the blotter was an update to a massive MPI fraud investigation, a comment on a homicide in the West End.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from Thursday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear. Neither does it include RCMP arrests resulting in people being locked up in Winnipeg, which show up on the docket.

  • FM, fail PO, fail bail
  • M, drug possession, mischief, fail bail
  • M, fail attend court, fail bail x2 [pend. on assault PO, assault, fail prior police release]
  • FM, possess stolen car over $5K, fail police release x2, housebreak enter and theft, break enter and theft, theft under x3
  • M, fail conditional sentence
  • M, fail bail x3
  • M, possess criminal property under $5K x2, drug trafficking x3, criminal property under $5K, and HTA
  • M, fail bail x4, drug possession
  • M, mischief, uttering threats
  • M, aggravated assault, fail PO
  • M, fail bail x3
  • FM, aggravated assault
  • FM, fail PO
  • M, fail attend court [pending on sex assault x2]
  • M, mischief x12 [from March], fail PO [pend. on fail PO x2]
  • M, assault cause bodily harm, fail PO

—-

To be frank, this wasn’t the best week for the WPS and their public reporting mechanisms. Only one briefing out of five days and it was very busy, crime-wise.

On Monday, a man wanted on a 10-year-old warrant was picked up at the airport at 9:45 p.m. His story is very interesting, and shows that you can run from the law, but not forever. There was no comment on this. Would have been good PR for the department if spun the right way.

On Wednesday, there was a serious assault by gang members in the West End, and bullets flew in a park. Those bullets entered a woman’s nearby apartment. There was no comment on this.

Above, you’ll also notice a number of serious assaults that took place that went unreported.

Also, there was key arrest in a long-ongoing child-pornography case that I’ll discuss in a forthcoming post.

Early Thursday, there was a homicide in the West End that nothing was said about until 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Not a word. I understand it was a complex investigation [dead guy apparently killed by man acting in self-defence after “victim” broke into his home; lots of information to sift through to get to the truth] but to say nothing despite repeated requests for the most basic information just leaves massive gaps that the media HAS NO CHOICE but to fill in with unofficial information.

Let’s put it this way. Based on what the cops had to say about the homicide, the WFP’s Friday story about “a street fight with deadly consequences” was off the mark. Not wrong, but not right.

Other media saying the “victim” was ‘beaten to death’ was off the mark. Mea culpa.

The gaps piss off the investigators who blame the media for being irresponsible and basing their reports on speculation and rumour. It frustrates the media because 9 times out of 10, they hate having to do it.

[As a side note, the vacuum of information also helps foster a sense of mystery about what may have happened (which in the end is likely pretty dull), which feeds the speculation.]

But, the deadline doesn’t disappear. A reporter can’t just come back to the office and say, ‘I’ve got nothing, sorry. It will have to wait.’

A couple of times a year, the WPS holds a media course for officers who are interested in the PIO job. The officers in question shadow a reporter for the day to get a feel of what they’re after and how the beast is fed everyday.

I’ve done it, and I can honestly say for both parties, it’s an eye-opening experience.

Typically, I give the officer a basic run-down of the courthouse information system as part of our day together and they’re astonished at what you can find out given a little time and patience.

They get a look at a newsroom and the freneticism in which it operates and they come to realize the media aren’t just sitting around dreaming up ways to make the department, politicians, CFS and others look bad.

They may even come to see that for some folks, journalism is a calling that’s taken pretty damn seriously. Kind of like law-enforcement would be for many, if not the vast majority of police officers.

As a part of the course, there’s a bull session where both sides sit down at some point and discuss how to better the relationship between the two sides.

Inevitably, there’s a discussion where the police agree that having a senior officer at a scene be empowered to give out basic details of why they’re there is a good thing, because 9 times out of 10, the media will bugger off and let them do their work if this simple information sharing happens.

Except on very rare occasions, it does not happen and I cannot fathom why. We accept that we’re not gonna get state secrets or the ‘inside track’ on a story. But in an age of virtually instant communication, it’s hard to imagine why it’s not happening.

But the WPS doesn’t seem to see, or is ignoring the fact that by doing this one simple thing, the Winnipeg public sees their police department in control of what to many may seem like a scary or dangerous situation.

It’s proactive PR and it should be happening.

In complete fairness, the WPS has gotten better at calling out a PIO to scenes, even in off-hours.

Examples being: last weekend’s bizarre standoff in the West End that acting PIO Const. Robert Carver spent his whole day at.

The weekend prior, he was also in attendance at a different scene near the Maryland Street bridge, if memory serves.

Const. Jason Michalyshen has twice in the last two months come in after hours to be at the scenes of shootings.

We know officers have better things to do than chit-chat with reporters.

But our reality is that the public says they want us out there 24-7, just as they demand of their police.

And we’re all doing our part to try and give the public what its said it clearly wants.

Building a public information strategy into every police investigation at the start is one way to reduce the friction that exists today.

Just my opinion.

-30-

Deja vu

In late November 2003, a 22-year-old woman is convicted of assault and given a short time-in-custody sentence and 18 months of probation.

She’s released from jail that same day.

One of the conditions of her probation is to take up immediate residence at the Behavioural Health Foundation to seek help for her cocaine addiction.

She never turns up.

A warrant is issued. She’s arrested and convicted of breaching probation on Jan. 9, 2004.

She’s released after 22 days in jail.

A few days later, on Jan. 26, 2004, she’s arrested at the scene of a 77-year-old man’s home on Maryland Street.

He’s already been carted off to the Grace Hospital in an ambulance.

From the Crown’s submission at the woman’s bail hearing on Jan. 28:

The accused sometimes attends to the complainant’s home to drink.

..The accused had consumed some liquor and then an argument started between them. It escalated to the point where the accused struck the complainant on the head with a small wooden coffee table. During the attack the accused said to the complainant: ‘I will kill you.’ She took his house and car keys and left the residence.

The elderly victim suffers cuts to his face and several to his hands. He’s admitted and spends at least the night under observation of doctors.

The Crown continues:

While the police were at the complainant’s house investigating, the accused returned to the address, but when she saw police she took off on foot. She was captured a short distance later and was arrested for the offences.

The accused, Mary Ellen Thomas, AKA Mary Ellen Young, AKA Mary Ann Smith is read her rights and given the usual caution by officers. She’s charged with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000, breaching probation and uttering threats.

The Crown rattles off a number of Thomas/Young/Smith’s priors for Judge Ron Meyers:

  • December 2000, 2x breach of undertaking; 2x communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 2002, Fail to appear and breach of probation
  • January 2002, Fail to comply with conditions of release, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • February 2002, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • July 2002, breach probation, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 23, 2003, 4x court-order breaches, mischief under $5,000
  • Nov. 24, 03, assault, breach recognizance

The Crown:

“She admitted the assaults verbally on the complainant by stating, ‘he acts like he’s helping me and he’s not. When I’m sleeping he touches me. I just got fed up and beat him up,” Shelley McFadyen tells Meyers.

Her defence lawyer pledges to the judge that if she’s let go, she’ll be good this time.

Meyers says, flat out: no way.

His decision sticks until April Fool’s Day, 2004, when Young/Thomas/Smith and her lawyer take that decision to a higher court judge for review.

In an affidavit filed on her behalf, the woman, a mother to three young kids, claims she suffers from depression and cocaine addiction.

A rehab placement at the Pritchard House is awaiting, she says.

She will live there, get help and not leave the place unless accompanied by a staffer. She also will post $1,000 cash money, not drink alcohol or take drugs and stay away from the victim of the assault.

Justice Colleen Suche agrees to let her go on those conditions.

———-

Fast forward to July 31, 2010.

A woman freshly out on bail and breaching her release conditions is arrested at Mike Allan’s home in Winnipeg’s Lord Roberts neighbourhood.

She had been granted bail June 23, despite the judge’s reservations about her record of violent priors and violations of court orders.

By now, she’s also amassed further convictions for violence and served her first federal prison sentence of 2.5 years.

Neighbours had called in a report to police that there had been some kind of disturbance in the home.

Allan is found dead by officers inside, and the woman is also suspected in a stabbing that occurred a few blocks away. An 18-year-old woman is badly injured in the attack.

Allan, 62, and the woman had just met that night, police say. Allan’s family says the two were drinking beer when there was an escalating argument that turned physical.

The neighbour tells CBC News that the woman had emerged from the home and claimed to have knocked him down.

Allan, a frail, sick man who was also alcoholic, likely couldn’t have put up a fight.

Police said after Allan and the woman had the fight, she left the home and then returned, where she was arrested and held in custody.

Police identify the suspect as Mary Ellen Thomas, 30. She’s charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and multiple bail breaches.

-30-

What the public doesn’t hear — a project

Got 10 minutes? This could matter to you if you care about crime and the media and policing in Winnipeg.

While Menno criticizes the Winnipeg police for cancelling media briefings with reporters [and reporters for letting them do it unchecked] — and implies that there’s some political motivation behind it, I thought I’d weigh in on the experience with dealing with the Public Information Unit as a journalist.

First thing’s first: there’s limited staffing and limited resources in the unit. There are two active PIO/ police officers with Glocks and one information assistant who carries no weapon but her quick wit.

Each of these people are extremely pleasant to deal with and are typically speedy about responses to inquiries from reporters.

One of the officers is fairly new to the gig and deserves time to find her place in the scheme.

The most common mistake journalists make is assuming that the PIO knows about everything that the service is up to.

Point blank: they don’t.

My understanding is that the heads of the WPS’s individual units brief the PIO about [what they feel are] significant events and discussion happens about what the public is told, if anything.

The items chosen are vetted by the executive, and run past the legal department to identify potential issues with the release of information.

My sources tell me that the latter is particularly hard-nosed when it comes to what gets out in terms of official statements from the WPS.

Bearing this in mind, occasions do arise fairly often where a reporter finds out about an event that was never publicly disclosed by the PIO.

A request is sent for information, and depending on what it is, it appears an internal negotiation takes place about what to say by way of official response to the request.

This, in my experience, is where the breakdown between the media and the PIO hits a rut.

But I’ve come to learn that while it may be easy to say the PIO is being unreasonable or stingy with info, there’s reasons behind the madness.

Recent example: on July 15, a man is arrested for aggravated sexual assault in the downtown area near Central Park.  It’s a rare charge that denotes not only a horrible crime, but a horrible, life-altering incident of violence. In my mind, it’s second only to murders, simply because the victim is typically scarred for life by what happened.

Digging a little deeper, I find that the suspect in the case is what might generously be called a career criminal.

So, naturally curious, I send a request to the PIO for information, as the public was never notified that it happened.

I initially thought it related to a serious sexual assault they talked about in June, but as it turn out, was not.

Some information is nearly immediately sent my way, but it’s so scant:

“You have most of the details….. Winnipeg Police arrested 29 year old *** on July 13th for a sexual assault that occurred between June 23 – 24th to a 27 year old female in the 300 block of Quappelle.

*** was charged with aggravated sexual assault.

It’s so scant that it begs for a follow-up reply asking a few more questions, including why the public was never notified.

I get one later saying that the hope was to provide more info on Saturday … two days later.

Again, I asked why they didn’t release on such a serious crime, and wasn’t given a response.

On Sunday, I inquire again if anything more was coming.

“It’s still under investigation,” I’m told.

It seems weird to me. One of the most serious charges in the book laid against someone, and it’s still under investigation.

But at that point, when you hear those words ‘still under investigation,’ I’ve learned there’s no further response forthcoming.

Your best bet is to hit the street and start the digging process to find out what you want to know.

In this case, thank God for the court system is all I can say.

As there’s a publication ban on the case [the first thing the Crown asked for when it came before a judge], I can’t say much, but I can say this case could turn out to be a real bag of hurt for the cops, who are, my sources tell me, now suddenly very much interested in continuing the investigation.

But that’s beside the point, and I’ll fill in the blanks of that story when I can.

However,  what seemed like an unreasonable delay and response from the PIO in terms of my request turned out to be totally justifiable in terms of their having to act responsibly.

But if my estimation of how the public information system works is correct [and I believe it is], the unit commanders at the WPS have some explaining to do.

This week, I undertook a little project, which I will continue from here on in.

I call it the ‘what the public doesn’t hear about’ project.

And here it is. For the last five working days, M-F, I have documented the arrests made by the WPS that resulted in an adult, non-domestic violence-related suspect being locked up at the Remand Centre pending a bail hearing.

I have also documented what the PIO released on that day.

You’ll note some extreme differences in what’s going on ‘out there’, and what the public’s being told. Not to mention the amount of criminal activity officers are out on the streets cracking down on.

Here goes week one of the project. I’m open to your thoughts.

Monday media briefing held. Topics were: Fraud investigation, fire investigation and MVC involving stolen vehicle.

Of these items,  none requested the public’s assistance in obtaining information. There was the addition of one missing persons report which did ask for help locating the person, nothing unusual.

The fraud involved the discovery of money stolen from a hospital ATM over a period years [did nobody notice missing money from a bank machine for years? really?] The fire happened two days prior and simply said arson officers were investigating the cause. The MVC was more current, happening just about 12 hours prior to releasing info. It involved police property being damaged.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket [people arrested and locked up] from the weekend – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear:

  • Male, charged with a home invasion, robbery with a weapon and robbery
  • Male, charged with assault with a weapon, uttering threats
  • Male, charged with 75 gun-offences, including weapons trafficking between December 2009 and July 12
  • Male, charged with assault
  • Male and a co-accused male, each charged with 2x break, enter and theft
  • Male, charged with 8 gun offences and drug possession
  • Male, assault
  • Male, mischief
  • Male, robbery
  • Male, charged with 58 gun offences and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking x3
  • Male, uttering threats
  • Male, assault peace officer, assault with a weapon, careless use of a firearm, breach of a court-ordered weapons prohibition
  • Male, mischief, drug possession
  • Male, theft under $5,000
  • Male, theft under $5,000
  • Female, prostitution-related
  • Male, theft under $5,000

Note: These offences occurred between Friday morning and early Monday. I have omitted charges such as breaches to tally only new substantive offences.

I note that none of the weapons-related arrests appear to be related on paper.

So, over the weekend, that’s 18 unpublicized arrests – four of them involving guns or busts of alleged gun-runners. Admittedly, some on the surface appear minor, but if you’re getting locked up on a theft under $5,000, there’s likely more to it than meets the eye.

—-

Tuesday –

Media briefing held, but nothing specific noted on the agenda other than a discussion of a Stats-Can report on police-reported crime in 2009. Report notes violent crime on the rise by 15 per cent in Winnipeg over 2008 levels. Also note: No person from the executive [chief, dep. chief, inspector or superintendent] appears before the media to discuss what’s been happening.

Of two other items released Tuesday — by emailed news release — one requested the public’s assistance for information [a robbery], suggesting that this was the motivation for bringing it to the media’s attention. The other involved a public warning about a lost Taser cartridge, I think the third time this has happened in recent memory.

Now, on the adult criminal intake docket from Tuesday [people arrested and locked up] – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear:

  • Male, assault cause bodily harm, theft under $5,000
  • Male, assault cause bodily harm, 2x assault with a weapon
  • Female, public mischief
  • Female, assault peace officer
  • Female, assault with a weapon
  • Male, trespassing
  • Male, robbery with a weapon
  • Female, assault cause bodily harm, aggravated assault, uttering threats, possession of property obtained by crime, fail comply with youth sentence. [incidents occurred July 11, she wasn’t arrested until Monday.]
  • Female, fail conditional sentence order

Note: I have omitted charges such as breaches to tally only new substantive offences.

—-

Wednesday –

Media briefing held, with two items on the agenda. An update to a past homicide file [New arrests in the Ricky Lathlin case from Gilbert Park] and the announcement of a new sex-trade enforcement program targeting child sex-trade workers.

Of these items,  none requested the public’s assistance.

On the adult criminal intake docket from Wednesday [people arrested and locked up] – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear:

  • Male, possession for purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime [he was pending on a possession charge already]
  • Male, housebreak enter to commit robbery or assault
  • Male, possession
  • Male, possess prop OBC under $5,000, possession purpose trafficking x4 and possession of weapon for dangerous purpose
  • Male, robbery, fail to attend court
  • Male, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence [co-conspirators not IDd] Offence date was Apr. 10, he was arrested Tuesday.
  • Female, robbery with violence and intent to steal
  • Female, aggravated assault, possess weapon for a dangerous purpose
  • Male, sexual assault [incident was Feb. 4]
  • Female, theft under $5,000
  • Male, uttering threats [but was locked up, indicating there’s more to this than meets the eye on paper]

Note: I have omitted charges such as breaches to tally only new substantive offences.

Later in the day, there was a police-involved shooting on Alexander – PIO called in on OT to address the media at 9:30 p.m.

—-

Thursday –

Briefing Held – on the agenda: Internet luring arrest, update to the police shooting, a sexual assault and an assault with a weapon. The office was closing at 12:30 p.m, media were warned. No reason was given for the altered schedule.

That being said, the PIO was clearly returning calls to media about requests that had been made. I received one at 3:00 p.m. in response to a query made after 12:30 p.m.

On the adult criminal intake docket from Thursday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear:

[It appeared to be a slow day on Wednesday!]

  • Female, prostitution-related
  • Female, theft under $5,000
  • Male, break, enter and theft, fail to comply with youth sentence
  • Female, aggravated assault
  • Also, Gary Palmer, the independent GWL broker who bilked clients out of their cash was arrested for allegedly breaching his bail.

Note: I have omitted charges such as breaches [Palmer excepted] to tally only new substantive offences.

—-

Friday –

Media briefing held. On the agenda: an update to the officer-involved shooting – suspect ID’d and picture released. Others: The bizarre arrest of an off-duty RCMP officer who found his way into a stranger’s home while drunken, and a notification about an arrest in connection to the sale of mouthwash or whatever non-potable gunk to drunks in the downtown.

On the adult criminal intake docket from Friday – does not include domestic violence-related arrests, youths arrested or people arrested and released on a promise to appear:

  • Male, Robbery, non-compliance with a conditional sentence
  • Female, prostitution-related, theft under $5,000
  • Male, theft under $5,000 x3
  • Male, theft under $5,000
  • Female, theft under $5,000 [pending on two other theft under charges — likely chronic shoplifter]
  • Male, possession for the purpose of trafficking x2, gun offences x4 and possession of property obtained by crime
  • Male, theft under
  • Male, robbery with a weapon x2, break and enter with intent to commit robbery or violence
  • Male, robbery with a weapon x2, break and enter with intent to commit robbery or violence [co-accused to above]
  • Male, robbery with a weapon, drug possession
  • Male, robbery with a weapon
  • Male, break, enter and theft, fail to comply with youth sentence
  • Male, mischief to religious property and failing curfew [see Sun’s story from today. Guy’s name is Jessie Garret Thompsett].

———–

So, there you have week one of this ongoing project. Again, I ask for your suggestions on how this could be improved, bearing in mind I’m not flush with time to sift through all the paper.

I leave it to you to come to your own conclusions about what this means. Remember, this denotes but a fraction of the results police have demonstrated this week in terms of arrests made, crimes possibly solved.

Assuming, that is, that they have the right suspect.

What I take away from it is that while a number of serious incidents went unreported, I don’t believe the PIO is, at root, the reason for this.

I note that each day of this week, reporters got face time with the police, contrary to Menno’s assertion that cancellations of daily briefings are deliberate.

I also note that anyone wanting a taste of how the police and the media interacted prior to the adoption of the PIO system, head down to your library and look at some of the absolutely great police-related stories from the early 90s by Cory Castagna of the Sun, or Mike McIntyre from the Sun and later, the FP.

It used to be very different.