Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Where is the transparency?

Winnipeg's police chief needed to be out front

  • Print
Chief Devon Clunis was questioned by media Wednesday as to why it took Winnipeg Police six days to release the cause of death of Andrew Baryluk as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Chief Devon Clunis was questioned by media Wednesday as to why it took Winnipeg Police six days to release the cause of death of Andrew Baryluk as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Photo Store

It had been a week since an "armed and barricaded" standoff in front of 512 Stella Ave. led to shots fired and the death of its only resident.

Yet police hadn't released the cause of Andrew Baryluk's death, or much else about how police handled the tragic incident.

And police Chief Devon Clunis had said even less publicly. Nothing, in fact.

So Wednesday morning, I decided to send him an email asking him if he would answer some questions.

That email was sent at 10:55 a.m.

About an hour-and-a-half later, at 12:24 p.m., Clunis responded.

"Hello Gordon: It is my intention to provide further details on this incident in the very near future. I will ensure all media outlets are advised."

Just over 50 minutes later, at 1:15 p.m, the police public information office announced Clunis would be giving a media briefing "update" on the case at 3 p.m.

That was quick. And purely coincidental, according to what Clunis told me later. Still, it offered the perception of a timely response the family, the public and even the police would have been better served with a day or even two days after Baryluk died.

Not nearly a week later.

Finally, at Wednesday's afternoon news conference, Clunis did reveal the cause of death: a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It's hard to imagine the autopsy, conducted late last week with homicide detectives present, didn't reveal that same outcome; a single shot of a specific calibre that is unlikely to match police-issue ammunition.

Clunis couldn't say whether that was the only shot fired from the suicide weapon found at the scene.

He couldn't even say what kind of firearm Baryluk killed himself with. And allegedly fired at approaching tactical team members.

There were other details offered. But from what I heard Wednesday, most of what the chief said - if not all of it - could have been revealed days ago.

Yet, here we newshounds were - six days later - taking the scraps of information our police "handlers" tossed our way.

What took so long?

"In the perfect world, we would love to be able to give you information instantaneously. But these are complex investigations."

Clunis's answer smacked of disingenuousness.

I told the chief about a Boston Globe brief I read Monday morning. It was about a state trooper who shot and killed an armed and barricaded man. The shooting happened Sunday, the day before.

Why don't we have the same kind of police promptness here?

"I'm not saying what we do is perfect," Clunis responded. "But, again, things happen very differently in the U.S. than they do in Canada. I'm not saying one is right or wrong. And I'm not saying the time frame is acceptable to everyone."

Clunis went on to suggest being prudent with the release of information was more important than being prompt.

"In my perfect world, yes, we would like to get you the information sooner."

Police in the U.S. appear to be aware of the need to offer as much information on police-involved events as possible.

The voting public demands it. Police get it and have for decades.

I asked if police had learned anything about being more timely with the release of basic information that isn't going to interfere with an investigation. Information that will offer more transparency. The kind of transparency and timely disclosures - I was thinking, but didn't say out loud - that don't make the public suspicious and leave the service looking as if it's hiding something, even if it's not.

After all, police recently cited transparency as part of the rationale for refunding more than $1 million in traffic tickets because they were wrongly worded.

But we still can't get the type of transparency we should when a man dies in a police-involved case.

Clunis responded by referring to himself as "very open and transparent."

That's not the way I saw it this time.

On a case like this, the chief of police needs to be out front when it happens, not long after a grieving family member is left to tell a radio show Wednesday morning it was "murder."

Finally, I asked the chief if the family had been told about the cause of death.

Yes, they had - that day.

In fact, the hour the news conference was happening, two homicide detectives arrived at the Garfield Street home of Baryluk's 66-year-old brother, Bill Baryluk.

Before they arrived, Bill's wife, Colleen, had been looking through photos of Andrew Baryluk as a younger man, when he loved to dress up on Halloween and have fun with the kids in the family.

"He was the life of the party," she recalled. "The brightest light in the room."

Then Bill finally learned how his kid brother's light went out.

And soon, he was angrily telling the officers to get out.

"It was not a good day for these guys to come," Colleen said. "Of all days."

No, the police didn't get their timing right there, either. Bill had just returned home from burying his brother.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2014 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jets defencemen ready to face adversity

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS STANDUP - pretty sunflower in field off HWY 206 near Bird's Hill Park Thursday August 09/2007

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google