UPDATE: West Van police, RCMP differ over ‘investigation’

A spokesperson for the West Van Police department says they're conducting a "review" not an "investigation" despite RCMP statements.

Note: update at bottom of story

Although an RCMP media release into a wild arrest on the weekend in Revelstoke clearly states the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD) is investigating the Revelstoke RCMP, a spokesperson for that Lower Mainland police force says it’s not so.

Cst. Lisa Schmidtke is the media spokesperson for the WVPD. In a Jan. 17 telephone interview, she said that WVPD officers were in Revelstoke conducting an independent “review of the apprehension” of the suspect and his subsequent jailbreak attempt. Schmidtke underscored that the incident file remains with the RCMP, and referred questions to them. This is in contrast to a Jan. 16 media statement from the RCMP: “As the West Vancouver Police Department is conducting this independent investigation, any media inquiries should be directed to them.”

Schmidtke said a section of the Police Act states that police must review incidents in which prisoners are injured while in custody. She characterized the review as routine.

The Times Review had lots of questions, but Schmidtke said she wasn’t into a position to answer details such as how badly the prisoner was hurt, or whether firearms were involved, because the incident was still under review.

Cst. Schmidtke maintains the file is still with the RCMP, and referred further questions to them.

However, on Jan. 18, Vancouver-based RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Rob Vermeulen has told the Times Review that the RCMP are not in a position to answer these detailed questions about the arrest, citing the ongoing investigation into the RCMP by the WVPD, as well as the ongoing criminal proceedings against John Murrell. Police do not typically comment on cases that are before the courts.

Although Murrell was injured during the arrest, Vermeulen said he was also unable to comment on the extent of his injuries.

“We’re not discussing that right now,” Vermeulen said. “That’s before the courts so we can’t really get into the entire sequence.”

Vermeulen said the distinction between a “review” or an “investigation” is one without a difference; the WVPD can interview subjects and will report on their findings. The WVPD are conducting “an independent investigation into the incident,” Vermeulen said in a Jan. 18 telephone interview.

Meanwhile, John Murrell appeared in court in Kelowna on Jan. 17, and is slated for a bail hearing in Salmon Arm Provincial Court on Jan. 24.

Update, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:45 p.m.

Cst. Lisa Schmidtke of the WVPD contacted the Times Review on the afternoon of Jan. 18 to provide further clarification into the incident. She provided the following statement:

I would like to provide some clarification around the West Vancouver Police Department’s role in the investigation of an RCMP incident. The complexities of this matter may have contributed to any mis-communication that has occurred.

The RCMP investigated and charged Mr. MURRELL and, during his apprehension, injuries were sustained by both Mr. MURRELL and an RCMP officer. The WVPD will be reviewing the entire incident but are thoroughly investigating the apprehension aspect as this is where the injuries are believed to have occurred. Thus, this is the area where a perceived conflict of interest could occur.

I regret any misunderstanding that may have occurred.

Cst. Lisa Schmidtke

Correction: A previous version of this story accidentally swapped ‘RCMP’ for ‘WVPD’ in one sentence, stating that Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said the RCMP were conducting an independent investigation, when in fact it meant to say the WVPD were conducting an independent investigation.

 

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