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Friday, October 26, 2007

BC Police Complaints Commissioner announces probe into Victoria's police chief

October 26, 2007

VICTORIA - B.C.'s police complaints commissioner ordered the Mounties Friday to conduct an investigation into undisclosed matters concerning Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill, who was placed on administrative leave by Victoria's police board earlier this month. Dirk Ryneveld said the RCMP will conduct the Battershill investigation under the Police Act.

A news release issued by Ryneveld's office did not say what allegations the RCMP will be investigating. Ryneveld said in a statement he will have little to say on the Battershill matter and he expected others connected to the probe to not make public statements.

"In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, no public comment beyond this statement will be made by my office regarding this matter. For the same purpose, the RCMP, the mayor of the city of Victoria, the Victoria police board and the Victoria police department have been asked to refrain from any public comment," said Ryneveld's statement.

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe said earlier Battershill was placed on paid administrative leave after a sensitive legal document was leaked to the media.

Victoria lawyer David Mulroney said he wrote a letter to the law firm that represents the Victoria Police Department suggesting possible areas of conflict of interest surrounding the police chief and his knowledge of freedom of information requests involving himself. Mulroney said he represents a client who filed several Freedom of Information requests that name Battershill, who is highly regarded in policing circles. Mulroney said he received a package of information from the Freedom of Information office Friday afternoon, but he had yet to receive permission from his client to make the information public. He said he found Ryneveld's announcement of the Battershill probe puzzling because it didn't say what was being investigated.

"They're saying who they're investigating," Mulroney said Friday. "But surely there must be a subject matter." He said it seemed likely that the FOI request by Mulroney's unnamed client had something to do with the investigation by the RCMP. The FOI requests target four areas, including the Victoria police department's dismissals without cause, suspensions with pay, expense accounts and employment contracts involving pay equity.

Documents reveal two separate Freedom of Information requests were made last month.
On Sept. 14, a request by Mulroney asked for the name, rank, gender, salary, benefits and reports of all employment-related expenses of senior personnel at the Victoria Police Department. The senior personnel were identified as the chief, executive assistant to the chief, deputy chief, all inspectors and all personnel in roles as acting deputy chief and acting inspectors. The request also asked for records of expense accounts, including credit cards, relating to the chief of police dating from 2004 until Sept. 14, 2007.

The second request filed Sept. 20 asked for all records of any civilian and regular personnel dismissed without cause from the Victoria Police Department since 2004, or those entitled to severance. The request also asked for all expenses and accounts relating to the Taser Technology Review and its preliminary recommendations in September 2004.

It also asked for all expenses and accounts relating to the investigation of Const. Lisa Alford of the West Vancouver Police Department on behalf of the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner. Battershill was appointed to review alcohol-related concerns involving Alford and the West Vancouver Police Department.

Battershill, appointed Victoria chief in 1999, carries an exemplary record as a solid beat cop in the Vancouver Police Department for more than 20 years.

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