Appeared in the North Shore News – February 28, 2014
The media grabbed the shallow story. They missed the deeper story. We do that, I’ve done it. Talkin’ about the West Vancouver Police Department “scandal.”
The real yarn here is the backstory — disgraced ex-cop Kash “The Stallion” Heed’s free pass to claw his way back to political respectability and power. Is this man a reliable witness to sickness in the WVPD?
No media report I’ve seen (delighted to be corrected) ran a word on the rise and fall of Heed, brief chief of the police force he now slags for endemic sexism, racism and bullying. And, granting him some credibility, West Vancouver Mayor Mike Smith agreed with that assessment, and is committed to cleaning the stables, though troubled that Heed’s “broad brush” tarred the whole department.
Heed was quoted at length in a recent scoop by Province reporter Sam Cooper about a 2013 WVPD survey showing nearly 70 per cent of the 83 police officers were very dissatisfied, a harsh comment on present Chief Constable Peter Lepine’s leadership. Now, some history:
Heed, a 29-year police veteran, unsuccessful in applying for chief of the Vancouver PD, was hired by the WVPD in August 2007. He replaced Scott Armstrong, after an officer in an off-duty car accident admitted to driving after drinking with others at the WVPD station. Armstrong had the honesty to admit alcohol was sometimes drunk on site, as he’d done himself. Not rare at cop shops, I suspect. (Incidentally, is there still a beer fridge in Victoria’s Legislative Press Gallery?)
Heed cleaned house. Or some said. Any new chief in the milieu of ambitious, A-type cops — well, no surprise, some win, some lose. Anyway, Heed replaced his four top cops. There were suits, at least one since dropped.
Early on, Heed controversially scrapped the WVPD’s DARE program against drugs in schools. Later, without apparent irony, he claimed West Van students were among the heaviest drug users. Later still, he went to a U.S. conference of officials with “liberal” attitudes toward drug enforcement, i.e. that it wasn’t working.
A consistent Heed hobby-horse was melding Vancouver area police into a single force. Wonder whom he had in mind as chief?
Then there was the incident when — a no-no of astounding proportions for a top officer — Heed told a police board member that a workplace colleague of hers was under investigation for pornography. This paper’s James Weldon and Jane Seyd dug out the story. Lo, it was the board member who took the fall. Her contract wasn’t renewed.
On Feb. 19, 2009, Heed, only 18 months into a five-year contract, announced he was resigning — without, Mayor and WVPB chairwoman Pamela Goldsmith-Jones insisted, any previous hints or explanation, except that it was for “personal reasons.”
Heed’s lasting legacy was the bold repainting of West Van police vehicles, bearing the now-ironic logo: “Serving with honour.”
The board was told Heed would be paid until March 6. Wrong. A deal was quietly struck. He received full salary, about $40,000, until May 19. Which happened to be seven days after the 2009 general election. Which Heed, apparently discovering his personal reason for quitting as WVPD chief, won as Liberal candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview.
Later Heed was to boast on Bill Good’s CKNW show that for years Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell had wooed him into politics, perhaps the source of speculation that the new MLA was tipped to be a future premier.
Heed quickly became a media darling. Ian Mulgrew, that tireless pusher of legalizing marijuana, ran a Sun story under the headline “The Man: Heed is just what the doctor ordered as Liberals stumble in justice area.” (That “doctor” should have been sued for malpractice.)
Before this political career, Heed’s most enduring utterance was recorded in 2008 on one of his later election team’s Blackberry, as reported by the Province’s Sean Sullivan:
“Think of things this way: You are a trainer that has a few horses in your stable … Wally (Oppal) is getting on and needs to be put out to pasture soon,” referring to a faithful B.C. public servant I much admire. “You have a stallion that has been in training for some time and you and everyone else know he’s a winner, but can’t wait on the sidelines forever.”
Heed was made solicitor-general, B.C.’s uber-cop. In that role he had to decide whether the West Van chief of the day, in indiscreetly discussing the pending charges against the man on pornography counts, had broken the law. That chief being — Kash Heed. The issue went through bureaucratic hoops and was left somewhat in the air because precedence was that the law — since changed — applied only to active, not past, police officers.
Worse followed. During the election campaign Heed’s headquarters pumped out a pamphlet, in English and Chinese, viciously smearing his New Democrat opponent, Dwaine Martin.
Heed — a career cop for 30-odd years — claimed he didn’t know of this wrongdoing, right under his nose. He lost his cabinet job. An auditor hired by Elections BC found campaign overspending. Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer crisply summed up the last act of this seedy drama: “The case led to the political ruin of Kash Heed. … He lost his seat at the cabinet table, was fined $11,000 for overspending and did not run again. His campaign manager was fined $15,000 and sentenced to one year probation and 200 hours of community service.”
Kash Heed began his brief political career as a rumoured crown prince to the Liberal leadership. The media’s recent silence on his past invites his return from exile.
© Trevor Lautens, 2014