A legal advocacy group that speaks for some of Vancouver's poorest citizens is asking for a court review of Police Complaints Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld's rejection of public hearings into allegations of police misconduct.
"We will be asking a judge to overturn his decision to refuse to order public hearings in to our complaints," said David Eby, a lawyer for Pivot Legal Society.
Mr. Eby also suggested at a news conference yesterday that Mr. Ryneveld had off-the-record negotiations with Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham to avoid public hearings.
In June, Mr. Ryneveld ordered an RCMP investigation into more than 50 complaints laid against Vancouver police officers by Pivot. The affidavits filed more than two years ago -- mostly by residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside -- allege everything from wrongful arrest to police brutality.
The RCMP found that 14 of the complaints were substantiated. But Mr. Eby said another 17 were compromised through lack of co-operation by Vancouver officers.
"That's 31 of 50 complaints," he said. "And the commissioner has ordered no public hearing. We say that is insufficient."
Mr. Eby also said Mr. Ryneveld, in a Radio New Zealand interview, suggested he negotiated with Chief Graham to eliminate public hearings.
"There's an appearance here that the commissioner had a meeting with the police chief that we were not aware of to discuss the final outcome of the complaints," Mr. Eby said.
"We'd like the commissioner to explain that."
Mr. Ryneveld adamantly denied the allegation.
"There is no backroom deal. I sent this to the police for review and reconsideration," he said. "Their response I made public as well."
The commissioner said he sees no need to clear the air with a public inquiry into the allegations.
"Absolutely not," he said. "There was an extensive investigation. All the facts that can be known are known."
He said he's guided by public interest when it comes to calling such a hearing.
"Public hearings are expensive and time consuming, and they should be reserved for serious matters."
Mr. Ryneveld said the only file left in question from all the complaints was a disputed allegation that someone's backpack was searched illegally.
"That is not the kind of case, in my view, that would warrant a public interest," he said.
The commissioner said the Pivot Legal Society should be pleased that its complaints have led to a number of very positive consequences.
"The police have changed their attitude; they're co-operating fully. The police board has changed policy," he said.
Mr. Eby agreed that police have changed their breach arrest policy and handling of personal property since Pivot complained. "Our feeling is, though, that the underlying complaints have not been addressed."
Mr. Ryneveld questions what more he could have done, when all his recommendations were met by the Vancouver Police Department.
"What do you do then? Hold the public hearing anyway.
"With the greatest of respect, I disagree."