Police under fire

Rally criticizes department's investigation procedures

Maureen Gulyas

Vancouver Sun

Monday, July 07, 2003

Protesters at a rally organized by the sister of a man who died of injuries while in police custody are calling for a public inquiry of the Vancouver Police Department.

CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun
Julie Berg-Wyman, who organized Sunday's rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery to protest alleged misconduct by the Vancouver Police, believes her brother died from injuries she says were inflicted while he was in police custody.

Rally organizer Julie Berg-Wyman read a statement by civil rights lawyer Cameron Ward, who was delayed in Toronto. In his statement, Ward said a spotlight should be shone on the police following allegations of brutality, misconduct, and coverups. He and rally organizers also criticized Vancouver police for conducting its own internal investigations of officers accused of wrong-doing.

Speaking outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, Berg-Wyman also called for an inquiry into the city police force's practice of handling internal investigation.

After three years of lobbying, Berg-Wyman said she was pleased with B.C.'s police complaints commissioner Dirk Ryneveld's decision two weeks ago to investigate her brother's death. Berg was arrested in October 2000. Vancouver police found no problems with the way Berg was treated when he was arrested. An autopsy found he died of an aneurism brought on by a blow to the neck.

Berg-Wyman said she wants to pursue justice for her family members and others who have similar concerns. "There's a common thread. It became painfully clear to me that there is police misconduct," said Berg-Wyman. "There's more than one story here. I'm not standing here all alone."

Some of those stories were told at Sunday's rally, which attracted about 100 people.

Choking back tears, Lynn Frey, the mother of one of Vancouver's missing women, Marnie Frey, said she did not want to point fingers but it was important to her that the police be accountable. "I commend all of you for standing firm for answers," she said.

Ralph McGreevy read a prepared statement from Deborah Jardine, the mother of another of Vancouver's missing women, Angela Jardine. She couldn't make it to Sunday's rally from her home in Sparwood, B.C., but through McGreevy, began her own missing person investigation when police refused to investigate her daughter's disappearance. "Each time I volunteered information I was met with resistance," she said.

DNA from both Frey and Jardine has been found at Robert Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm. He has not been charged in their deaths.

Charlotte Airlie, a Surrey resident, and mother of Brent Lawrie, one of three men allegedly beaten by six Vancouver police officers in Stanley Park last January, talked about the impact the incident has had on her family.

Noting children are taught at a young age to respect the police, Airlie said that view is not shared by the kids in her own family. "Six police officers took the law into their own hands. Moms and dads get frustrated with their children but they don't take them away somewhere and beat them," Airlie said.

But Constable Sarah Bloor defended her department's reputation and its policy of conducting internal investigations, even though other police departments often call officers from outside jurisdictions to investigate serious public complaints. She said police still have to investigate police.

And she emphasized that Ryneveld is free to investigate without interference. "He is considered to be independent of any police organization and that's something that was supported by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association," she said.

As for complaints of over-all police misconduct, Bloor said her department welcomes the scrutiny.

"We are open and transparent about investigations as much as we can be," she said.

 Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

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Updated: August 21, 2016