Police watchdog rejects expert witness



A recent decision by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to discontinue using a pro-police expert could mean the police watchdog is leery of appearing biased towards cops.


CBC reported on August 30 that deputy police complaint commissioner, Rollie Woods, said the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner would never again use the expert testimony of Bill Lewinski, a behavioural scientist and executive director of the Force Science Institute.


Lewinski’s testimony during the Commissioner’s investigation into the fatal shooting of Paul Boyd by Vancouver Police Department Const. Lee Chipperfield in 2007 was the subject of a CBC investigation, which found Lewinski had been barred from several police investigations in the United States. 


Lewinski, whose Force Science Institute trains police and other law enforcement officials regarding the “science behind deadly force encounters,” testified Const. Chipperfield was experiencing “inattentional blindness” when he killed Boyd, meaning he didn’t see things he wasn’t focusing on.


Rick Parent, a former Delta police officer and current associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology, says it’s strange for an investigating body to refute the testimony of one of their own witnesses “because expert witnesses typically base their opinion on a body of knowledge and a body of experiences, depending on what they’re dealing with.”


Parent says it could have something to do with new eyewitness footage released earlier this spring that shows Boyd crawling on the ground just before he was fatally shot, or it could also be an effort by the Commissioner not to appear biased towards police.


“[The Commissioner’s] in one of those no-win situations where the police have difficulty with them, and the civil libertarians have difficulty with them,” explains Parent. “They’re trying to maintain their credibility as an investigative body, and that’s your number one concern as an investigative body. 


“Once they lose credibility because they’re biased or they lack in-depth decisions, then nobody is going to put a lot of credence on what they come up with for findings.


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