In a now-deleted post, the Twitter account for Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition has accused a group of Prince George RCMP officers of the "murder" of a man in custody.
The tweet was described by one Surrey city councillor as a “new low to politics in Surrey” and an “attack on police officers everywhere.”
The tweet issued Friday was in response to a news article about an Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) report on the officers’ conduct stemming from the death of a man in custody on July 18, 2017.
The tweet stated: “Poorly trained RCMP murder a defenceless man and then delete video evidence to cover up the crime.”
In fact, on Friday the IIO forwarded a report to the BC Prosecution Service for a consideration of charges.
“Upon completion of the investigation, IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald, QC has determined that reasonable grounds exist to believe that two officers may have committed offences in relation to use of force, and three others may have committed offences regarding obstruction of justice,” stated the IIO, the independent civilian oversight agency of the police in British Columbia.
Charges have not been laid.
“In order to approve the charges, the BC Prosecution Service must be satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the IIO, and that prosecution is required in the public interest,”the IIO report said.
The IIO explained some of the events that occurred leading up to the man’s death.
“When an officer attempted to question the male (suspected of casing cars in a parking lot), he allegedly attempted to flee on a bicycle. While attempting to take the man into custody, a struggle ensued between him and the officer and additional officers then arrived. OC (pepper) spray was used. The male appeared to be having trouble breathing and police requested medical assistance. Officers reported that the male was removed from the police vehicle when Emergency Health Services (EHS) arrived, and collapsed. The male was pronounced deceased shortly thereafter.”
The IIO did not reveal what are the charges to be considered.
Glacier Media asked Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for comment on the tweet. Farnworth’s office stated it would not comment.
Farnworth is in charge of administrating police forces in B.C. He recently consented to a City of Surrey plan to transition from the Surrey RCMP to a municipal force envisioned as the Surrey Police Department.
McCallum had advocated such a plan during his 2018 campaign. In November 2018, he had broad support from his eight-strong coalition on council until questions began to emerge from within the party about transparency and costs – prompting three councillors to quit the Coalition. There are now five Safe Surrey Coalition members on the nine-member Surrey city council.
The estimated $45 million transition is in full swing. Meantime, Safe Surrey Coalition’s Twitter account has routinely posted articles critical of the RCMP.
Coun. Doug Elford told Glacier Media by text he does not support the tweet. He stated he does not know who published it. Glacier Media has also reached out by phone to Couns. Allison Patton and Laurie Guerra about the tweet, however they have not responded. Glacier Media has not been able to reach Coun. Mandeep Nagra by email.
The tweet was removed online after Glacier Media requested to speak to McCallum about it. McCallum has not responded.
Surrey RCMP has not responded to Glacier Media about the tweet.
A municipal force would see the city’s mayor (in this case, McCallum) appointed as chair of the police board, which consists of seven members, five of whom are appointed by Farnworth.
“I’ve seen a new low to politics in Surrey and you couple this with a person that the NDP government is looking at leading a police board,” said Coun. Jack Hundial, who is a former RCMP officer, and one of the councillors who left the Safe Surrey Coalition in the acrimonious split.
Hundial said he intends to write to Premier John Horgan about his concerns about the tweet.
“In the last week we’ve heard allegations of [McCallum] harassing someone’s immigration status and now the leader of one of the largest cities in Canada promoting what I think is akin to actual hate of law enforcement, regardless of the organization. It’s an attack on police officers everywhere,” said Hundial.
Hundial referred to an encounter McCallum had with RCMP officers last month, when police were called to an incident in which the mayor and Coun. Allison Patton got into a heated dispute with Patton’s former naturopath clinic partner, Galina Bogatch. A video of the incident emerged – as reported by The Breaker and The Vancouver Sun – one part of which shows Bogatch in an argument with McCallum inside the South Surrey clinic. She can be heard asking, “Threatening me with immigration?”
Although the video is incomplete, Bogatch told the Vancouver Sun she was responding to what she called a “shocking” comment from McCallum about her immigration status.
“I am as much a citizen of Canada as you are,” Bogatch, who is from Ukraine, says in the video.
McCallum then replies to her, “Well that’s fine, then you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Hundial said last week those comments are unbecoming of a mayor and anyone who would be positioned as chair of a local police board.
“We’re a community of immigrants. If this is the behaviour you’re seeing now, imagine when there’s a police board struck up and this person is chair. That should be concerning,” said Hundial.
An original version of this article stated the Solicitor General’s office was investigating the tweet. The office clarified a statement provided to Glacier Media Saturday that it is not investigating and it has no comment on the tweet.