No Time For Blind, Unquestioning Support

By Mike Archer. The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) and its chief, Bob Rich, have never faced such scrutiny and controversy as they do right now.

While Abbotsford Today has had a rocky relationship with Rich over a variety of issues, this week’s revelations that his department faces 148 allegations against 17 officers of corruption and misconduct have garnered national attention and controversy.

Not only has Rich set a distinctly angry and combative tone with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) but now the Public Prosecution Service of Canada has announced it will be reviewing drug cases in Abbotsford as a result of the allegations by the OPCC.

What is at stake is not only the reputation of the department but the manner in which the City and the APD chose to deal with our reputation as the ‘Murder Capital of Canada’ and as a centre for illegal drug gangs in BC. The number of cases which must now be reviewed is not yet clear but a number of convictions may now be in question and doubt will most certainly be cast on the department’s activities over several years if any of the allegations are found to be true.

Abbotsford Today has criticized both Rich and the City of Abbotsford for overstepping their bounds by using local bylaws, policies and procedures  in order facilitate tactics which might otherwise be considered illegal, or at the very least highly questionable, when it issued the City of Abbotsford Crime Reduction & Community Safety Strategy under former Mayor George Peary.

Equating drug use with gang activity is just one of the problems we’ve raised with the document, precisely because it wanders into areas of jurisprudence and interpretation of criminal law (a federal jurisdiction) over which the City has no jurisdiction.

In the current controversy, if the APD broke the law in order to enforce the City’s crime strategy, it will be almost as big a black mark on the City’s reputation as its attempts to deal with the homeless through its Anti-Homeless and Anti-Harm Reduction bylaws.

Given the seriousness of what is at stake, it was with more than a little surprise that we witnessed Mayor Henry Braun and Councillor Dave Loewen jump up to publicly defend the APD this week without letting the investigations unfold or provide any answers to these disturbing questions.

Mayor Henry Braun

Mayor Henry Braun

Mayor Henry Braun, as the head of the police board said, on Wednesday, “The Board has the utmost confidence in the Abbotsford Police Department and cautions the public drawing any conclusion before this matter has been resolved and the facts released.”

While the suggestion that the public not rush to judgment is certainly well taken, it is somewhat contradicted by the preceding sentence in which Braun expresses utmost confidence in the APD. It will be understood for what it is – a necessary piece of political posturing from an establishment which is now under siege.

But; if the allegations are eventually proven to be true, Braun may have to eat his words or explain why he and his board had such immediate and unquestioning loyalty to our chief and his department without knowing any of the facts.

You can’t take one side in an investigation before it has even occurred. Expressing such seemingly unquestioning loyalty to the police chief and his department comes very close to choosing sides.

Councillor Loewen

Then there is the case of Councillor Dave Loewen.

Loewen took to the ether-waves after the controversy broke and, on his Facebook  page*, reminded the world that crime has gone down in Abbotsford over the last several years. It would be humourous if this were not such a serious issue, that the graph is prefaced with the word, ‘unverified.’

APD logoWhile it is entirely possible that Dave picked this particular moment in the City’s history to remind us of this trend (one which is consistent throughout the western world), some might conclude that he was weighing in publicly on a serious matter before ever hearing, seeing or examining any evidence or conclusions about the matter.

The APD and its officers are absolutely innocent until proven guilty. No one has a right to presume their guilt or pre-judge the results of the OPCC’s investigations.

By the same token, neither Braun nor Loewen should be pre-judging their innocence in such a blind and unquestioning matter.  These same public officials refuse regularly to discuss matters which are before the courts, or involve, even vaguely,  issues of personnel, contract or legality.

If you are going to shut up and refuse to discuss matters of legality and personnel when it suits you, you should be consistent and keep your mouth shut when one of your own is facing public scrutiny and possible charges of wrongdoing.

If the APD made a habit of falsifying information in order to get warrants, then both the APD and the City of Abbotsford will have established a dishonest, illegal and fundamentally flawed relationship with the justice system.

Perhaps even more so than during the Chicken Manure Incident, the world is watching Abbotsford very closely again.

Pretty heady stuff to be dismissing with graphs about unverified crime statistics and blanket statements of blind, unquestioning support. Particularly from elected officials who have either voted on and participated in decisions leading to or involving some of the bylaws, policies and procedures which are now, more than ever, in question and being reviewed.

*Dave Loewen’s Facebook thoughts on crime in Abbotsford.



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