On Friday, January 21, 2005, Vancouver Police Chief Constable Graham arranged a news conference to discuss the adjudicator’s decision in the Police Complaint Commission Public Hearing in respect of Constable David Bruce-Thomas. The adjudicator determined that Cst. Bruce-Thomas did not use excessive force when he fatally injured Jeff Berg during an arrest on October 22, 2000. The complainant, Jeff Berg’s sister Julie Berg, is considering an appeal.

Some aspects of Graham’s diatribe are offensive, in that he publicly attacked the deceased victim, his sister and her lawyer. I find his conduct disappointing and do not propose to descend to that level.

However, some incontrovertible facts are worth pointing out:

The VPD internal investigation that purported to gather some of the evidence presented to the adjudicator was overseen by Inspector Rob Rothwell. On December 19, 2002 (two years and two months after Jeff Berg’s death), Insp. Rothwell advised Ms. Berg that “no further action is warranted”. Insp. Rothwell and Cst. Bruce-Thomas are not only long time VPD colleagues, they have raced together on the VPD’s “Pacer” racing team.

Jeff Berg was with three acquaintances the night he was fatally injured. None of the three were tried or convicted of a “home invasion” or any other criminal offence arising from the events that immediately preceded their arrests.

Jeff Berg had no criminal record, was unarmed and had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he was fatally injured.

Much has been made of a “replica handgun”. Jeff Berg had no weapons on him, replica or otherwise. A plastic toy gun, in several pieces, was located in the neighborhood. Sworn police testimony at the coroner’s inquest into Jeff Berg’s death confirmed that it had no connection to the incident.

If there was a “scuffle” between Jeff Berg and Cst. Bruce-Thomas, only Berg sustained injuries, including at least ten separate injuries to his face, head and neck. According to eyewitnesses and the pathologist, several of these were kicks inflicted while he was lying on the ground. Cst. Bruce-Thomas was completely uninjured.

As between Jeff Berg and Cst. Bruce-Thomas, only Cst. Bruce-Thomas had a documented record of violence as of October 22, 2000, having been found guilty of abusing his authority in assaulting an innocent woman in an alley a few years before. She also successfully sued him for damages for assault and battery. On December 18, 2000 (less than two months after after Jeff Berg died) Cst. Bruce-Thomas asked his Chief Constable to expunge the abuse of authority conviction from his disciplinary record. After a recommendation from the VPD’s Internal Investigation Section, then Chief Constable Blythe did so, on January 30, 2001.

Chief Graham has resorted to the time-honoured tactic of blaming the victim. Whatever Jeff Berg may or may not have done before he was killed (and I have yet to see admissible evidence that he was a “criminal” as Chief Graham has alleged) the question was whether Cst. Bruce-Thomas abused his authority in the way he performed the arrest. The adjudicator found he did not. Chief Graham also blamed Julie Berg for a four year “campaign” against Cst. Bruce-THomas. Much of this time period was due to investigative foot-dragging and inadequate work by the VPD investigators. One can hardly fault the dead man’s family for seeking answers, answers that were extraordinarily slow in coming through no fault of their own.