Adam Rodgers2021-09-16T19:57:22+00:00

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Adam Rodgers has been a ground breaking inquiry, litigation and criminal defense lawyer as well as a leading business and political advisor.

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We are learning more about the RCMP command structure as the Mass Casualty Commission proceedings continue. Today, two further recently retired staff sergeants testified. Staff Sgts. Jeff West and Kevin Surette testified together as a panel. They were working together in command of the mass casualty response for the bulk of the 13 hours over which it took place. Staff Sgt. West was in charge, with Staff Sgt. Surette in support.
No reason was offered by Commission lawyer Roger Burrill in the introduction as to why these two witnesses should testify together, and certainly no compelling reason was obvious. Command decisions and structures within the RCMP are certainly a major focus of the Commission, and so it would have seemed sensible to me that these witnesses would have been examined separately. As it stood, there was a great deal of mutual support offered by each for the answers of the other witness, and this can have the effect of giving artificial credibility to answers that might otherwise leave the listener in doubt.
Staff Sgt. West retired in July, 2021, and Staff Sgt. Surette retired in August, 2021. They are the latest in a growing line of RCMP supervisors who have retired since the mass casualty events. Such a mass exodus in the upper ranks of the force certainly fosters suspicion about the felt quality of decisions made at the time, though also may clear the ground, in a sense, for new leadership to take over. 
The staff sergeants today spoke about getting called into the situation, information they received, setting up the command posts at the Great Village Fire Hall, and then coordinating the response and deployment of resources. Though they are both retired, neither staff sergeant was seemingly prepared to acknowledge any errors made, or recognize the potential for meaningful improvement.

We are learning more about the RCMP command structure as the Mass Casualty Commission proceedings continue. Today, two further recently retired staff sergeants testified. Staff Sgts. Jeff West and Kevin Surette testified together as a panel. They were working together in command of the mass casualty response for the bulk of the 13 hours over which it took place. Staff Sgt. West was in charge, with Staff Sgt. Surette in support.
No reason was offered by Commission lawyer Roger Burrill in the introduction as to why these two witnesses should testify together, and certainly no compelling reason was obvious. Command decisions and structures within the RCMP are certainly a major focus of the Commission, and so it would have seemed sensible to me that these witnesses would have been examined separately. As it stood, there was a great deal of mutual support offered by each for the answers of the other witness, and this can have the effect of giving artificial credibility to answers that might otherwise leave the listener in doubt.
Staff Sgt. West retired in July, 2021, and Staff Sgt. Surette retired in August, 2021. They are the latest in a growing line of RCMP supervisors who have retired since the mass casualty events. Such a mass exodus in the upper ranks of the force certainly fosters suspicion about the felt quality of decisions made at the time, though also may clear the ground, in a sense, for new leadership to take over.
The staff sergeants today spoke about getting called into the situation, information they received, setting up the command posts at the Great Village Fire Hall, and then coordinating the response and deployment of resources. Though they are both retired, neither staff sergeant was seemingly prepared to acknowledge any errors made, or recognize the potential for meaningful improvement.

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YouTube Video VVVjMGxmdnFpNHMzWk9wNmY1QzQtWkVRLjVwUVBRcWRPWTZv

MCC Day 25 – Critical Incident Commanders Testify

Adam Rodgers 529 views May 18, 2022 9:11 pm

After having spent most of the proceeding time thus far hearing about what lower ranking officers saw and did, we finally had an opportunity today to hear from a more senior supervisor, Staff Sergeant Steve Halliday. S.Sgt. Halliday was in command of the efforts early on in the mass casualty and throughout the night, and was on the stand most of the day today describing how he directed resources, and exercised and delegated authority. 
Without saying so directly, the MCC seems to be responding to criticism in terms of their procedures. For the second day in a row, the Foundational Document presentation was very short, just over 20 minutes long today (regarding a document that is 321 pages), and the bulk of the day was used for witness testimony. Following his direct testimony, S.Sgt. Halliday was cross examined by three lawyers for the families (though, like yesterday, there were no questions from the federal Department of Justice lawyers).
S.Sgt. Halliday has retired from the RCMP since the mass casualty, but unlike Cpl. Tim Mills yesterday, S.Sgt. Halliday did not seem motivated to bury the RCMP in any manner, though he also did not seem like he was trying to protect any individuals within the force. He answered questions directly, and was not making attempts to explain or justify the command actions of others, and at times expressed his disappointment with how things unfolded at times. On the other hand, his overall portrayal was of a police force that reacted as well as could be expected, given the unprecedented nature of what they were facing.

After having spent most of the proceeding time thus far hearing about what lower ranking officers saw and did, we finally had an opportunity today to hear from a more senior supervisor, Staff Sergeant Steve Halliday. S.Sgt. Halliday was in command of the efforts early on in the mass casualty and throughout the night, and was on the stand most of the day today describing how he directed resources, and exercised and delegated authority.
Without saying so directly, the MCC seems to be responding to criticism in terms of their procedures. For the second day in a row, the Foundational Document presentation was very short, just over 20 minutes long today (regarding a document that is 321 pages), and the bulk of the day was used for witness testimony. Following his direct testimony, S.Sgt. Halliday was cross examined by three lawyers for the families (though, like yesterday, there were no questions from the federal Department of Justice lawyers).
S.Sgt. Halliday has retired from the RCMP since the mass casualty, but unlike Cpl. Tim Mills yesterday, S.Sgt. Halliday did not seem motivated to bury the RCMP in any manner, though he also did not seem like he was trying to protect any individuals within the force. He answered questions directly, and was not making attempts to explain or justify the command actions of others, and at times expressed his disappointment with how things unfolded at times. On the other hand, his overall portrayal was of a police force that reacted as well as could be expected, given the unprecedented nature of what they were facing.

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YouTube Video VVVjMGxmdnFpNHMzWk9wNmY1QzQtWkVRLmhRN3dBTkdrR3pz

MCC Day 24 – Introducing RCMP Command Decisions

Adam Rodgers 430 views May 17, 2022 10:39 pm

The level of preparation and response capacity of the RCMP faced significant criticism today from the leader of the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT). Cpl. Tim Mills, who has since left the Force, testified today, along with fellow ERT member, Cpl. Trent Milton. Their testimony was preceded by a very short (15 minutes) presentation of a 70-page Foundational Document on the ERT response. 
The ERT squad was called to Portapique the night of April 18, 2020, and spent some of that time overnight helping extract residents, including Clinton Ellison, from the community. They also investigated a suspicious sighting of a possible person with a flashlight across the river on the Five Houses side (which turned out to be house lights behind a tree blowing in the wind). 
Cpl. Mills described how technological issues and malfunctions limited their effectiveness and the speed at which they could operate. They did not have GPS capability in their vehicle, so could not be sent coordinates for specific scenes. Instead, they had to get directions over the phone from other officers. This lead to some confusion through the night.
Crucially, the ERT squad was not able to use their Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), which is a system that connects each individual officer to a GPS, and then for the team leader to be able to track them in real time and direct members to the most appropriate locations. By knowing where everyone else is located, also allows for more officers to engage in a situation, and significantly decreases the risk of any officer-on-officer shootings. ATAK is known among officers as the leading technological tool for active shooter situations. 
In addition to his critiques of the RCMP’s lack of technological prowess, Cpl. Mills was also highly critical of their approach to mental health. He described how five of the thirteen dozen officers on the ERT squad are “part timers”, meaning they also do general duty shifts and are outside of his command to some extent. Cpl. Mills felt it was best to try to keep the whole squad together for a week or two, not in the field but rather doing reports and other administrative work. This would be (and was) consistent with mental health advice from psychiatrists. It is also consistent with what we learned in the Desmond Inquiry about soldiers coming back from being in battle. They need to stay together, keep busy, and be around like-minded people. 
This (seemingly reasonable) request was denied by Cpl. Mills’ supervisor. Cpl. Mills called the way they were treated “disgusting”, and it is the reason why he subsequently left the RCMP. Cpl. Milton said at least some of the ERT members were contacted by RCMP peer support people, but said they were mostly junior members who could not be of much real assistance. He felt the calls were just made so that the RCMP could ‘check a box’ and say they did something, without bothering to ensure that the intervention was effective. 
Cpl. Mills was very critical of the RCMP management as well, calling the assignment of two issues management officers to the MCC who are married to senior RCMP supervisors “corrupt”, and an attempt to cover up what had gone wrong.

The level of preparation and response capacity of the RCMP faced significant criticism today from the leader of the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT). Cpl. Tim Mills, who has since left the Force, testified today, along with fellow ERT member, Cpl. Trent Milton. Their testimony was preceded by a very short (15 minutes) presentation of a 70-page Foundational Document on the ERT response.
The ERT squad was called to Portapique the night of April 18, 2020, and spent some of that time overnight helping extract residents, including Clinton Ellison, from the community. They also investigated a suspicious sighting of a possible person with a flashlight across the river on the Five Houses side (which turned out to be house lights behind a tree blowing in the wind).
Cpl. Mills described how technological issues and malfunctions limited their effectiveness and the speed at which they could operate. They did not have GPS capability in their vehicle, so could not be sent coodinates for specific scenes. Instead, they had to get directions over the phone from other officers. This lead to some confusion through the night.
Crucially, the ERT squad was not able to use their Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), which is a system that connects each individual officer to a GPS, and then for the team leader to be able to track them in real time and direct members to the most appropriate locations. By knowing where everyone else is located, also allows for more officers to engage in a situation, and significantly decreases the risk of any officer-on-officer shootings. ATAK is known among officers as the leading technological tool for active shooter situations.
In addition to his critiques of the RCMP’s lack of technological prowess, Cpl. Mills was also highly critical of their approach to mental health. He described how five of the thirteen dozen officers on the ERT squad are “part timers”, meaning they also do general duty shifts and are outside of his command to some extent. Cpl. Mills felt it was best to try to keep the whole squad together for a week or two, not in the field but rather doing reports and other administrative work. This would be (and was) consistent with mental health advice from psychiatrists. It is also consistent with what we learned in the Desmond Inquiry about soldiers coming back from being in battle. They need to stay together, keep busy, and be around like-minded people.
This (seemingly reasonable) request was denied by Cpl. Mills’ supervisor. Cpl. Mills called the way they were treated “disgusting”, and it is the reason why he subsequently left the RCMP. Cpl. Milton said at least some of the ERT members were contacted by RCMP peer support people, but said they were mostly junior members who could not be of much real assistance. He felt the calls were just made so that the RCMP could ‘check a box’ and say they did something, without bothering to ensure that the intervention was effective.
Cpl. Mills was very critical of the RCMP management as well, calling the assignment of two issues management officers to the MCC who are married to senior RCMP supervisors “corrupt”, and an attempt to cover up what had gone wrong.

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YouTube Video VVVjMGxmdnFpNHMzWk9wNmY1QzQtWkVRLnF6VkFGVTVuMVNz

MCC Day 23 – Emergency Response Team Critical of RCMP Technology and Treatment

Adam Rodgers 708 views May 16, 2022 10:38 pm

The proceedings today featured a single witness, speaking to police uniforms, and also submissions from lawyers for the participants on gaps they identified in the evidence that has been presented so far dealing with firearms.

The focus of the Corps Sergeant Major’s testimony (lead by Commission lawyer Rachel Young) was the deliberations of a working group on RCMP uniforms, how they address requests from officers for new uniforms or to keep theirs after retirement. 

Another news item that caught my eye was a report from Paul Palango in Frank Magazine regarding the video of the killer’s final moments at the Big Stop which has not been disclosed or played publicly. The videos from the Big Stop which were provided to the media were done so on the condition they not be used, and that they be destroyed after viewing. It is absurd that the best possible evidence of a key moment is not being used, yet this is where we stand. David Hutt, a media lawyer acting for Frank Magazine, has made an application to the MCC to have standing to argue for the video to be disclosed.
Given the comments in the MCC’s Interim Report about the lawyers for the Commission having roles equivalent or at least similar to those of Crown Prosecutors (that is to say they are obligated to seek justice, and not victories or convictions) we should be able to expect that these lawyers would support Frank Magazine’s application. The only possible reason for opposing the disclosure of this video is that it may undermine the heroic narrative that has been presented, and that should not be a consideration of the Commission. If the MCC feels the video is too traumatic to show publicly, that would not prevent them from disclosing it to the parties. 
One final piece of news broke in the afternoon, that James Banfield, brother to Lisa Banfield, has had his criminal charges referred to Restorative Justice. James Banfield had been charged, along with Ms. Banfield and Brian Brewster, with supplying ammunition to the perpetrator. James Banfield had already plead guilty to the charge, which is not a barrier to Restorative Justice, and it is entirely appropriate to have consistent treatment of those with the same charges. 
Back to the proceedings, the afternoon portion of the day was used to allow lawyers for the parties to critique and identify gaps in the firearms-related evidence. The parties are seeking further analysis of the expert reports, more details on the evidence of Brenda Forbes and Cst. Wiley, and reiterating the importance of hearing from Ms. Banfield.

The proceedings today featured a single witness, speaking to police uniforms, and also submissions from lawyers for the participants on gaps they identified in the evidence that has been presented so far dealing with firearms.

The focus of the Corps Sergeant Major’s testimony (lead by Commission lawyer Rachel Young) was the deliberations of a working group on RCMP uniforms, how they address requests from officers for new uniforms or to keep theirs after retirement.

Another news item that caught my eye was a report from Paul Palango in Frank Magazine regarding the video of the killer’s final moments at the Big Stop which has not been disclosed or played publicly. The videos from the Big Stop which were provided to the media were done so on the condition they not be used, and that they be destroyed after viewing. It is absurd that the best possible evidence of a key moment is not being used, yet this is where we stand. David Hutt, a media lawyer acting for Frank Magazine, has made an application to the MCC to have standing to argue for the video to be disclosed.
Given the comments in the MCC’s Interim Report about the lawyers for the Commission having roles equivalent or at least similar to those of Crown Prosecutors (that is to say they are obligated to seek justice, and not victories or convictions) we should be able to expect that these lawyers would support Frank Magazine’s application. The only possible reason for opposing the disclosure of this video is that it may undermine the heroic narrative that has been presented, and that should not be a consideration of the Commission. If the MCC feels the video is too traumatic to show publicly, that would not prevent them from disclosing it to the parties.
One final piece of news broke in the afternoon, that James Banfield, brother to Lisa Banfield, has had his criminal charges referred to Restorative Justice. James Banfield had been charged, along with Ms. Banfield and Brian Brewster, with supplying ammunition to the perpetrator. James Banfield had already plead guilty to the charge, which is not a barrier to Restorative Justice, and it is entirely appropriate to have consistent treatment of those with the same charges.
Back to the proceedings, the afternoon portion of the day was used to allow lawyers for the parties to critique and identify gaps in the firearms-related evidence. The parties are seeking further analysis of the expert reports, more details on the evidence of Brenda Forbes and Cst. Wiley, and reiterating the importance of hearing from Ms. Banfield.

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YouTube Video VVVjMGxmdnFpNHMzWk9wNmY1QzQtWkVRLkNXQmF3SU5sNWJj

MCC Day 18 - More on Police Uniforms, Gaps in Firearms Evidence

Adam Rodgers 416 views May 4, 2022 9:33 pm

The Mass Casualty Proceedings were focused on firearms today, starting with a Foundational Document presentation on the gunman’s acquisition and possession of various firearms used during his killing spree, followed by presentations of expert reports, and then finally a “technical witness” on the issue of forensic investigations.
The first presentation was from Commission lawyer, Amanda Byrd. She presented the Foundational Document on the firearms that the perpetrator possessed, and those that were used during the killing spree. In most cases, the firearms were able to be traced back to their sources, some of which were in the United States. Wortman did not have a license to possess a firearm, but was able to obtain guns illegally, and sometimes smuggle them across the US border from Maine. 
Ms. Byrd then reviewed some of the complaints that had been made to the police about Wortman, dating back to 2010, 2011, and 2013. 
After reviewing those incidents, Ms. Byrd reviewed each of the individuals who were killed, and outlined the evidence of what was known in each case from a firearms forensics perspective. Most of the deaths could be linked to a particular firearm. Notably, that of Corrie Ellison was not able to be linked to any firearm possessed by Wortman. 
I noticed that Ms. Byrd became emotional when going through the forensics report with respect to the death of Kristen Beaton. Though these are reports about deaths, the details are somewhat technical and repetitive in nature, and Ms. Byrd’s voice and affect had been fairly flat until that point, making the onset of the emotional reaction all the more unexpected when it happened. I do not wish to be unkind to Ms. Byrd, but would note for young lawyers that it is important to control your emotional reactions at such times so as not to detract from your credibility as a professional.
After the first presentation, we received two presentations from Commission lawyer, Jennifer Cox. These were presentations of expert reports by Saint Mary’s professor, Blake Brown, and University of California Santa Clara Professors Tober and Bridges. I had expected that we would be hearing from the experts directly, potentially with the chance of them being subjected to follow questions or cross-examination from the counsel for the other participants. This was not to be, and Ms. Cox presented both reports herself.
Parker Dunham noted on Twitter that the gold standard of inquiries in Nova Scotia (and perhaps Canada) is the Marshall Inquiry, which had only three lawyers, one investigator, and one communications person. The Mass Casualty Commission on the other hand has at least 15 lawyers, eight investigators, and four communications staff. Perhaps the strategy of having various lawyers conduct presentations is a way of giving each some public speaking parts, but it is not the best way to present an expert report, particularly when it would be so easy to have the expert appear by video to make the presentation themselves (as the witness, Benjamin Sampson later appeared from Toronto).
Mr. Sampson was listed as a “technical witness” and lived up to his billing. He testified about the methods used by forensic labs to identify how bullets are linked back to particular firearms. This testimony connected back to some of what Ms. Byrd was presenting in the morning, and hearing it in isolation made me think it would have made sense to have Mr. Sampson analyse the individual details of the casualties and crime scenes while giving his evidence, rather than separating the two sides of the story. 
Instead of making this natural connection, we had the disorienting experience of Ms. Byrd listing the forensic details of each deceased in the morning, and Mr. Sampson talking about how conclusions on the forensic evidence for each may have been reach in the afternoon. It almost seemed designed to make it all less interesting. 
Tomorrow will see Al McCambridge speaking further about RCMP uniform disposal procedures, and then there will be participant submissions on the Access to Firearms evidence.

The Mass Casualty Proceedings were focused on firearms today, starting with a Foundational Document presentation on the gunman’s acquisition and possession of various firearms used during his killing spree, followed by presentations of expert reports, and then finally a “technical witness” on the issue of forensic investigations.
The first presentation was from Commission lawyer, Amanda Byrd. She presented the Foundational Document on the firearms that the perpetrator possessed, and those that were used during the killing spree. In most cases, the firearms were able to be traced back to their sources, some of which were in the United States. Wortman did not have a license to possess a firearm, but was able to obtain guns illegally, and sometimes smuggle them across the US border from Maine.
Ms. Byrd then reviewed some of the complaints that had been made to the police about Wortman, dating back to 2010, 2011, and 2013.
After reviewing those incidents, Ms. Byrd reviewed each of the individuals who were killed, and outlined the evidence of what was known in each case from a firearms forensics perspective. Most of the deaths could be linked to a particular firearm. Notably, that of Corrie Ellison was not able to be linked to any firearm possessed by Wortman.
I noticed that Ms. Byrd became emotional when going through the forensics report with respect to the death of Kristen Beaton. Though these are reports about deaths, the details are somewhat technical and repetitive in nature, and Ms. Byrd’s voice and affect had been fairly flat until that point, making the onset of the emotional reaction all the more unexpected when it happened. I do not wish to be unkind to Ms. Byrd, but would note for young lawyers that it is important to control your emotional reactions at such times so as not to detract from your credibility as a professional.
After the first presentation, we received two presentations from Commission lawyer, Jennifer Cox. These were presentations of expert reports by Saint Mary’s professor, Blake Brown, and University of California Santa Clara Professors Tober and Bridges. I had expected that we would be hearing from the experts directly, potentially with the chance of them being subjected to follow questions or cross-examination from the counsel for the other participants. This was not to be, and Ms. Cox presented both reports herself.
Parker Dunham noted on Twitter that the gold standard of inquiries in Nova Scotia (and perhaps Canada) is the Marshall Inquiry, which had only three lawyers, one investigator, and one communications person. The Mass Casualty Commission on the other hand has at least 15 lawyers, eight investigators, and four communications staff. Perhaps the strategy of having various lawyers conduct presentations is a way of giving each some public speaking parts, but it is not the best way to present an expert report, particularly when it would be so easy to have the expert appear by video to make the presentation themselves (as the witness, Benjamin Sampson later appeared from Toronto).
Mr. Sampson was listed as a “technical witness” and lived up to his billing. He testified about the methods used by forensic labs to identify how bullets are linked back to particular firearms. This testimony connected back to some of what Ms. Byrd was presenting in the morning, and hearing it in isolation made me think it would have made sense to have Mr. Sampson analyse the individual details of the casualties and crime scenes while giving his evidence, rather than separating the two sides of the story.
Instead of making this natural connection, we had the disorienting experience of Ms. Byrd listing the forensic details of each deceased in the morning, and Mr. Sampson talking about how conclusions on the forensic evidence for each may have been reach in the afternoon. It almost seemed designed to make it all less interesting.
Tomorrow will see Al McCambridge speaking further about RCMP uniform disposal procedures, and then there will be participant submissions on the Access to Firearms evidence.

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YouTube Video VVVjMGxmdnFpNHMzWk9wNmY1QzQtWkVRLnB4UXpOQ3F1RE40

MCC Day 17 - Firearms Evidence and Experts

Adam Rodgers 494 views May 3, 2022 8:59 pm

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