Oct 2/98: Building the BC police state



Canadian Press
October 2, 1998
Steve Mertl

[S.I.S.I.S. note: BC is building a new weapon likely to be used against Indigenous and popular resistance to BC's genocidal colonialism. Although the new police agency is allegedly aimed at organized crime, there are reasonable fears of its misuse for political purposes, especially since most of the officials mentioned in the following article - NDP Attorney General and Human Rights Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, former Deputy AG Stephen Owen, and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Murray Johnson - were key players in the largest paramilitary operation in Canadian history, the siege against Shuswap traditionalists at Gustafsen Lake. BC's RCMP have recently come under intense scrutiny for their "police state" actions pepper-spraying anti-APEC demonstrators, but the far more brutal state crimes committed by provincial and federal officials during the 1995 Gustafsen operation continue to be covered up.]

VANCOUVER (CP) - Saying it had lost energy and focus, B.C. Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh said Thursday he is disbanding the Co-ordinated Law Enforcement Unit, the province's main weapon against organized crime.

The NDP government will follow the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel and set up a new police agency to fight organized crime with the latest high-tech tools, though not necessarily more money. Dosanjh released the panel's report, which concluded the Co-ordinated Law Enforcement Unit - known as CLEU - was riven with dissension, lacked support from police forces and had outgrown its usefulness as organized crime grew more sophisticated. CLEUs conviction rate is low and it hasn't had a major bust in years.

"The fact is, it's no longer working for us," said Dosanjh. "It hasn't worked for us for some time."

CLEU was set up in 1974 to work with police forces, gathering intelligence on organized crime groups, from outlaw biker gangs to Asian triads, and mounting operations against them. It has a staff of about 150, more than half drawn from the provinces police departments.

But the three-member panel, made up of a former Vancouver police chief, former RCMP deputy commissioner and former B.C. deputy attorney general, found a troubled organization.

Perhaps the most damning criticism was the conclusion CLEU appears to have no clue about the true extent of organized crime in British Columbia. "Either CLEU and the other law enforcement agencies do not possess detailed information or they were not prepared to share it with the committee," the report says.

The first priority of the new agency will be to get an accurate picture of the organized crime activity. "Bluntly put, we simply do not know how big the problem is or what it will cost to combat organized crime," the report says.

CLEU's relationship with some Crown prosecutors is frosty and there's friction even between difference units within CLEU, the report says. CLEU's outlaw motorcycle gang unit refuses to use CLEU's own intercept services because they were previously compromised. Its counterpart in the Vancouver police went to the Canadian Security Intelligence Services for help intercepting calls, rather than rely CLEU, the report says. Some police officers also feared information leaks from CLEU's policy analysis division, though others said there has never been a breach of security within the division.

CLEU was hit by scandal earlier this year when an investigator was charged with giving information to Asian gang members.

Short-staffed police forces also have been increasingly reluctant to turn over officers for service with CLEU and bureaucracy makes it hard to get funding for unit projects, the report says.

CLEU's budget is about $14 million. Dosanjh said if the new, yet unnamed agency needs more resources, it will get them.

The report recommends building the new agency on the framework of the existing Criminal Intelligence Service of British Columbia, set up in 1971. A senior police officer, to be hired after a national candidate search, would be chief executive officer under a board of directors drawn from provincial police departments within the next few weeks. The agency would take the lead role in gathering intelligence on organized crime and maintaining that data. But individual police forces should have their own intelligence capability and would develop proposals for joint operations with the new agency.

Senior police officers endorsed the governments plan. "Organized crime has taken on a new and enhanced role within the world. It's trans-national," said Murray Johnson, B.C. RCMP assistant commissioner.

"I think this new framework set out in this report will allow British Columbia to build a law-enforcement program that will really meet our needs to deal with organized crime for today and into the future."

What they said about the Gustafsen Lake siege, August-September 1995:

"Len [Olfert, RCMP Commanding Officer at Gustafsen] strongly feels that there are a small group, 6 warriors, that will not give up - it will require the killing of the hardliners."
- Assistant Commissioner Murray Johnson, from his notes, Sept. 1, 1995.

"The state retains that inherent right to use force."

- BC Attorney General Ujjal Donsanjh, cited in The Victoria Times Colonist, Sept. 18, 1995

"I'm in constant contact with the RCMP at the highest level."

- Donsanjh, cited in The Province, Aug. 28, 1995

"There is a line, and that line is that there shall be no alien intervention in the affairs of the state."

- Donsanjh, cited in The Vancouver Sun, in response to requests for international human rights observers, Sept. 15 1995

"Finally, the buck stops here."

- Donsanjh, cited in The Vancouver Sun, Aug. 29, 1995

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