Driemel leaves post of police spokesman

Lindsay Kines and Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Detective Scott Driemel stepped down as spokesperson for the Vancouver city police on Friday following revelations that he made a number of off-colour jokes about women at a police conference earlier this year.

Detective Scott Driemel was Vancouver Police department's spokesman for the missing women's task force.

Two days after saying that Driemel had his complete confidence, Chief Constable Jamie Graham appeared at the morning media briefing to announce the officer's departure.

"As of this morning, I've accepted a request for reassignment from my media spokesperson Detective Scott Driemel," Graham said. "At his request, he will no longer be a full-time spokesperson for the Vancouver police.

"It has become evident that the attention this matter has drawn on his family has been most difficult. Much of the attention has drawn focus away from the important issues confronting the VPD and the city. It has become a huge distraction."

The story broke earlier this week when it was revealed that Driemel had written 93 letters of apology for jokes he made at a conference of senior police officers in June. The jokes have been described as sexist and insensitive. One punch line referred to the parts of a woman's anatomy; another included a play on the word "hooker."

The jokes made no specific reference to Vancouver's missing women case. But a number of victims' families found the remarks so insensitive that they called for his removal as one of the spokespersons for the joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force, which is investigating the murders and disappearances of 63 women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Graham said Friday that, in his view, there had been an "unfair link" between Driemel's comments and the department's efforts to work with the families of Vancouver's missing and murdered women.

"It's one thing to make inappropriate comments, then stand up and apologize. But the links to that case . . . I think is most unfair."

Ernie Crey, whose sister, Dawn, is among the missing, disagreed.

"He was brought face-to-face with the families on a daily basis," Crey said. "How could he be in a room full of the families of the missing women and other members of the task force after what transpired these past number of days?"

Crey said he was disappointed Graham did not immediately remove Driemel from the position.

"What it would have meant to his senior officers and rank-and-file police constables is: This type of attitude we do not tolerate here. And a world of good would have come of that," he said. "The chief missed his opportunity to send an unequivocal message."

Erin McGrath, whose sister, Leigh Miner, is also one of the missing women, went further. She said the jokes should not only cost Driemel his position, but should force the Vancouver police to examine its response to the missing women case.

"The Vancouver Police Department has to make change for the future," she said. "They really have to start implementing new procedures, and they need a spokesperson that's going to acknowledge the direction they should be going."

The department has been repeatedly criticized for ignoring the missing women and denying a serial predator could be responsible for their disappearances. And McGrath said Graham could make his mark as a leader by demonstrating sensitivity to the victim's families and show that the department has changed its attitude towards the case, especially as the trial of suspect Robert (Willy) Pickton unfolds next year.

"They need to get past that. For the next how many years there is going to be a lot of scrutiny," she said.

Graham, however, remained supportive of Driemel to the end.

"Detective Driemel's dedication has never been questioned and I know that he is supported by many people in the community, including many of the family members of the missing women," he said. "He's in constant touch with many of them."

As for Driemel's remarks, the chief said he no longer wanted to discuss the issue. "The comments, he says, were unfortunate. These were taken out of context, in my view, five months ago. I'd hoped that this matter was dealt with, and it was dealt with quite well at the time, by the Chief Constable Terry Blythe. It's unfortunate it came up right now."

But he insisted Vancouver police remain firmly on the side of the victim's families in the missing women case.

"The hearts of the Vancouver police go out to every victim of every crime," he said. "We're in constant touch with these people. Our victim's unit liaise with them continually.

"Hang in there. We're on your side. We'll try and deliver quality service as we have in the past. This matter is before the courts. We're very confident that there'll be some resolution as this matter works its way through the judicial system."

Driemel will now report to the department's human resources section to be reassigned.

Constable Sarah Bloor will take over as the lead spokesperson for the department. She will also share duties with RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford speaking for the missing women's task force.

Bloor, who has been in the media relations section for a year, said she looks forward to working with the missing women's families in partnership with the RCMP. "I worked on the Downtown Eastside and certainly knew some of the women that went missing."

Galliford said Friday the task force had no comment on the resignation because it was a personal decision made by Driemel and the Vancouver police.

Driemel made four jokes -- at least two of them degrading to women -- at a conference about media strategies for senior B.C. police officers at the Justice Institute in New Westminster.

The Vancouver Police Officers Association, which represents senior officers in the department, wrote a letter of complaint to then-chief Terry Blythe following the incident. Driemel said he then volunteered to write letters of apology to those who attended the seminar.

Vancouver Inspector Chris Beach, who speaks on behalf of the association, said he could not comment on the response by Blythe or Driemel to the letter of complaint.

"I wrote a letter on behalf of the association, and brought the comments to the attention of the chief constable," Beach said. "The [former] chief dealt with it as he saw fit and . . . that's the chief's prerogative."

He said he appreciated getting the letter of apology, and added he felt sorry for Driemel as his resignation became public Friday.

"It's a pretty complicated issue. Knowing Scott as I do and for as long as I have, I feel badly because I know he's not feeling great today," Beach said.

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

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Judge agrees to adjourn Pickton hearing six to eight weeks-Nov 9, 2002



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