The rule of law is the golden thread that runs through our political system and should affect everyone – not just those of us who are obviously subject to it by virtue of being subservient to those who enact it and those who enforce it.
This should be as true for the head of a police agency trying to manipulate an investigation instead of letting things take their course and letting the chips fall where they may.
In August of 2017, retired RCMP Chief Superintendent Larry Callens allegedly took his own life in his home in Mara, B.C. Present in the home at the time was his wife, his son Craig and daughter-in-law Joanne. He was 80.
And there’s the rub.
Craig Callens was the just-retired Commanding Officer of E Division (BC) – the RCMP’s largest deployment of contract policing in the country. His wife Joanne, a serving Sergeant with the RCMP, was also present at the time of Larry Callen’s alleged suicide.
In essence, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) should have been called into a situation that involved the death or serious injury to anyone in which a police officer may have been present or involved.
For some reason that did not happen and to the best of my knowledge, there was no investigation into the sudden death of Larry Callens.
Typically, in such cases, the agency with local jurisdiction would conduct the investigation and as agents of the Coroner, make findings which would result in a report detailing the death of that person, how it happened, what led up to it and what, if anything, could be done to prevent something similar from happening again.
But this case was anything but typical.
What is clear is that when the incident occurred during a family luncheon, the local police were called, but so too was someone much more senior. That person dispatched two senior officers from Vernon Detachment. I believe those folks were an Inspector Stewart and a Chief Superintendent McNamara.
Those two officers made their way post haste to the scene and arrived even before the coroner who lived in the community. Once there, they allegedly bullied their way past the junior member who was guarding the scene.
That junior member called the responding coroner and asked for help.
The coroner told the officers to get out of the scene, but they instead retreated to an adjacent room ostensibly to monitor things.
Why? Well, that’s a good question.
But in this matter we are left with many. What we are not left with are answers.
For example, the weapon used was a Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun. The same weapon used in service with the RCMP and has been for several decades going back to when I was in training.
The police version of the weapon has a five shot magazine. The shell used in the shooting was what is called in policing a slug – a solid piece of lead in a shotgun shell that is devastating. It is designed to stop a vehicle coming towards a road block by shooting it into the grill of the oncoming vehicle. It is not available commercially.
Was the weapon an RCMP weapon “lost” over the years or was it obtained legally through commercial means? If it had a three shot magazine then it was obtained commercially. If it had a five shot magazine, then it was a police weapon. How then did it get into private hands?
These are just some of the unanswered questions resulting from this incident. I have many more.
The memorandum of understanding with the IIO seems unequivocal. The RCMP should have advised the IIO and then the IIO would have decided to assert jurisdiction and assume conduct of the investigation. But, they were not given that option as the law requires. Why?
Was the Callens family given opportunities not available to the rest of us who live in B.C.? It seems the answer is yes and that is a problem for the RCMP.