When cops can't get their stories straight: Corporal Richard Dozois

On May 17, 2014, Patrick John Doran published an article called “The Bully In Blue: Constable Colin Leo Folk,” detailing the ridiculously inconsistent and contradictory voir dire hearing testimony of one of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers involved in the arrest of Aaron Joseph Harms.
Constable Colin Folk was one of four officers who were excluded from testifying at Harms’ sexual assault trial because their testimony was ruled less than credible; indeed, the most credible aspect of their testimony was that it implicated them in the violation of Harms’ Charter rights (similar to US Constitutional rights). The other officers were Corporal Richard Dozois, Constable Larry McDonald, and Constable Thomas Parker. All four of the officers who handled the incident on the night of the arrest screwed up so badly that they were not permitted to give evidence at the trial. I can’t help but envision the Keystone Cops scrambling around, bumping into one another, and in general making fools of themselves. Fortunately, their lawlessness and idiocy helped lead to Harms’ acquittal. Unfortunately, their lawlessness and idiocy led them to arrest and imprison a man they knew was almost certainly innocent.
The voir dire hearing was held October 7, 2013, the first day of Harms’ trial for an alleged sexual assault on his perjurer stepdaughter Angel Roberts, which allegedly occurred in May 2011. A voir dire hearing is a “trial within a trial,” often held without the jury present, the purposes of which include determining the admissibility of evidence and the competence of witnesses.
The hearing began with Folk’s testimony, much of which was reported in Doran’s article, and I will refer to it here as well.  Dozois’ testimony ranges from evasive to blatantly contradictory. It begins with a relatively innocuous omission that might easily go unnoticed. When Crown Prosecutor Joyce asks Dozois how long he has been a member of the RCMP, he answers (page 45):
20   A:  About 14 and a half years.
22   Q:  Where have you been stationed during that period of time?
23   A:  Eight and a half years in Morinville and the remainder of the time, 4 and a half years, in Athabasca.
As the average nine-year-old can tell you, eight and a half years plus four and a half years equals thirteen years. Not fourteen and a half years. Where was he during the other year and a half? Does it matter? Chances are the answer is totally unrelated to this case, so why lie? Why take an oath to tell the truth, then promptly tell even an innocuous, by-omission white lie? Why would Dozois begin his testimony with an inaccurate statement and risk being exposed to the world as dishonest, stupid, and/or careless to the point of negligence?
If the above was his only lie, it might be a fluke, but much of the rest of Dozois’ testimony is even more confusing. In his account of the events that transpired in the Harms residence, he contradicts not only himself but also Folk. As the first officer on the scene, Folk testifies that he had called for backup as soon as he saw Harms in possession of a gun. According to transcript page 46, Dozois describes the summons to Prosecutor Joyce as “not standard.” He doesn’t elaborate on how it deviated from what he called “standard.” Later, under cross-examination by the defense (Ms. Hayes, page 57), he agrees that it was not “like an officer in distress type call.”  These statements are not specifically contradictory, but they are conveniently vague in that they allow him to later claim that he was both keenly aware of the situation and yet not really paying attention.
36   Q:  After the initial complaint comes in and you find that Constable Folk is going to
37          attend, what happens from there?
38   A:  Constable Folk radioed me and provided me with — I’m not going to say a standard —
39         it appeared with what came over the radio that he required my assistance to the
40        residence that he went to.
then …
 28   Q:  MS. HAYES: When you were requested by Constable Folk to attend at the 
29           residence, it certainly wasn’t like an emergency call; correct? It wasn’t like an officer
30          in distress type call?
31   A:   No.
Dozois then describes the events leading to his arrest of Harms (one of two different arrests described in this hearing). He testifies that he had responded to the backup call and entered the basement, where Folk and Harms were in conversation, seated on a couch. He claims that he didn’t recall the specifics of the conversation (Joyce, page 48). However, he also claims (to Joyce, page 48, and to Hayes, pages 58-9) that due to Folk’s demeanor, and also due to the not-quite-standard nature of the backup summons, his senses were heightened and he listened carefully to what Harms said.
2    Q:   After being advised that Constable Folk is downstairs what did you do?
3    A:   I went downstairs.
5    Q:   And what did you observe downstairs?
6    A:   In the basement I observed two people, Constable Folk and Mr. Harms, and both
7           were in conversation when I came downstairs.
9    Q:   Where were each of these people located?
10   A:   They were seated on the couch in the basement.
Then to Ms. Hayes:
1     Q:   So when you went in and were directed downstairs, I know you’ve indicated you were
2           acting in a professional manner, so certainly upon seeing two people talking I suspect
3           you just hung back a little?
4     A:  No. When I went downstairs I was within a few feet.  I walked right op to where
5           they were.
7     Q:  I apologize. That’s probably awkward on my part in terms of questioning. I guess I
8          meant you didn’t go and immediately insert yourself into their conversation?
9     A:   No.
11    Q:    You let them continue their dialogue that they had going on back and forth?
12   A:    Yes.
14    Q:   And your evidence today is that you simply don’t remember what they were talking
15           about?
16    A:  That’s correct.
18    Q:  Would it be safe to say that they were talking about something related to the
19          investigation?
20         Yes.
22    Q:  Or did you –okay.
23    A:   Yes.
25    Q:   So would it be fair to say you don’t remember specifics, but it was clear to you upon
26           arrival that they were talking about this incident?
27    A:   Yes.
29    Q:   And it was a back and forth, both of them were stating things, asking questions. It
30          was an exchange between two parties?
31    A:   It was.
33    Q:   When you referred to hearing the admission made about the clothing being removed,
34           was that something you elicited or something that was said between the two of them
35           that you overheard?
36    A:   That’s what I overheard.
38    Q:   At that point is when you chose to insert yourself into the investigation?
39    A:   Yes.
41    Q:    That’s fair?
1      A:    Yes.
3     Q:     So the best we can say is they’re clearly having a discussion about the investigation,
4              that disclosure is made, and then at that point you arrest him.
5     A:    Yes.
7     Q:    Now, when they are having the discussion on the couch, certainly no one’s in a good
8             mood; that would be fair to say?
9     A:   That’s correct.
11    Q:    But at the same time there’s not physical contact between the parties?
12    A:   No, there’s not.
14    Q:  There’s not a sense that either on the part of Mr. Harms or on the part of the officer
15          that either one of them is about to lunge at another or anything like that?
16    A:  My senses were heightened in the basement as a result of being summoned to the
17          residence by Constable Folk in the fashion that he summoned me. When I got to the  
18         basement, his eyes were averting to the corner, so I knew that there was something
19         that he wanted to get my attention about. I couldn’t see. The basement was dimly  
20        lit, and Constable Folk’s demeanour was not normal to me.  
22         Mr. Harms was agitated, and maybe nothing specifically said at the moment that  
23         would indicate that a violent interaction was going to take place, but I was very  
24         focused on my being in the basement and to assist Constable Folk with Mr. Harms.
25   Q:   And I guess the fair way to say it, you’re alive to the possibility that something could
27          happen, but at present there was no immediate need to intervene. Is that a fair way
28          of describing it?
29   A:   Yes.
Why would Dozois find it necessary to portray himself as relatively oblivious to the conversation between Folk and Harms while simultaneously being alert enough to catch Harms’ alleged “disclosure.” Obviously, he must have heard the disclosure in order to have arrested Harms, and also obviously, with two officers testifying to having heard the same confession, it would sound more like the truth. However, as Folk’s supervisor, Dozois couldn’t afford to testify to hearing Folk questioning Harms without having cautioned him of his Charter rights. To do so would clearly condemn Folk. The moment Folk walked down the basement stairs and saw the gun (which he didn’t know was a replica), he had probable cause for an arrest. He should have cautioned Harms immediately before asking him so much as “What’s going on?” Folk blatantly violated Harms’ Charter rights, and Dozois testified that he (rather conveniently) didn’t hear the specifics of the conversation that occurred before the arrest. Perhaps all of his senses were “heightened” except one—his hearing.
[Incidentally, this isn’t even the first known case of Rick Dozois not testifying to the details of potentially critical on-scene conversations. In 2005, he attended an accident scene during which an RCMP rookie’s actions likely contributed to a horrifically fatal secondary crash. During the subsequent trial, Dozois didn’t discuss those conversations either.
After briefly helping to clear the scene, Kehler said he consulted with the other two officers and it was decided he should retrieve the patrol car. He can’t remember who made the decision, or whether the decision was made by consensus. Dozois made no mention of the conversation in his testimony.” ]
Back to the case at hand: immediately after Dozois contradicts himself on the witness stand, he further distances himself from any violations that Folk may have committed with this exquisite example of verbal sleight of hand (page 59):
31    Q:   Is there a reason that you did not personally charter and caution Mr. Harms upon
32          arresting him?
33    A:  Constable Folk entered into the investigation at the residence and was dealing with
34          Mr. Harms. My role was to assist Constable Folk in a backup scenario, and
35         Constable Folk, who was on duty that night, and the first arriving on the scene, and  
36         myself being called back for an overtime shift, it wouldn’t necessarily be normal for  
37         me as a supervisor, to take over the arrest and caution. That’s not saying it
38         can’t be done.
Makes you wonder what kind of supervisor doesn’t step in to correct an officer who is breaking the law.
In addition to contradicting himself, Dozois provided testimony that is in direct conflict with Folk’s testimony. Both of them claimed to have arrested and handcuffed Joseph Harms.
From above, Rick Dozois:
3     Q:     So the best we can say is they’re clearly having a discussion about the investigation,
4             that disclosure is made, and then at that point you arrest him.
5     A:   Yes.
 From page 17, Colin Folk:
18    Q:  Okay. And then what happens after your backup arrives?
19    A:  I advised Corporal Dozois of the situation when he came downstairs, and I advised
20         Mr. Harms he was under arrest. I handcuffed Mr. Harms, took him out to my 
21         patrol vehicle, and read Mr. Harms his rights verbatim.
So who made the arrest, and when? Who was in charge? Who said what, and when? Does the police academy teach classes in obfuscation and selective memory loss? Is it any wonder the judge found these two officers “less than credible” and prohibited them from testifying in the rest of the trial (and the two other officers in this little club)? I hope Crown Prosecutor Joyce sincerely thanked that judge for sparing her the humiliation of having to parade these clowns in front of a jury.
Link to Joseph Harms’ blog: http://wheatkings.blogspot.ca/

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