Last week, Kamloops This Week published a series of stories detailing the origins of the current gangland war that has led to numerous murders, at least one kidnapping and various robberies and assaults, and those behind three gangs involved in the violence.
Shortly thereafter, Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie, the detachment’s media-relations officer, issued a release, claiming the KTW articles contained “information known to be inaccurate, mixed with factual content.”
KTW immediately contacted Shelkie to ask specifically what information in the stories was inaccurate so it could be corrected in a follow-up story.
Shelkie replied that she did not have that information and referred the request to Simon Pillay, the staff sergeant closely connected with the RCMP’s investigation of organized crime in the city.
Pillay declined to elaborate, as he did when interviewed last week for the feature article.
It should be noted that KTW’s weeks-long investigation into why the drug-related gang-involved violence has become so potent and who is involved included interviews with people in the law and justice system who have deep knowledge of the issue.
Some of the information gleaned from those sources was information previously released by police and some of the information came from publicly available court documents, but much of the information was not previously made public.
Armed with all the information — a timeline of events alongside the various players in the three gangs vying for control of the city’s drug trade — KTW reporter Tim Petruk met with Pillay and asked the officer to review the data and advise as to what is accurate and what is not accurate.
As detailed in the published stories, Pillay declined, saying, “There’s very little we can refute or confirm.”
It should also be noted that KTW, upon advice of sources, decided to withhold names of some of those involved in the gang scene due to the possibility identifying them could place them in danger.
In the absence of the RCMP confirming the veracity of information when given the opportunity to peruse that information, we are left considering the sources of that information — and we are confident with the information provided to us by those sources.
(A similar scenario played out in 2016, when a KTW story on rising gang activity was dismissed by RCMP as being inaccurate. Shortly thereafter, it was learned police had indeed been investigating for some time a new violent gang that had arrived in Kamloops — the Wolf Pack.)
There are reasons why police legitimately cannot release information on incidents and there are times when police simply will not release information on incidents, with the media unaware of those reasons.
When Kamloops is the midst of the worst gang violence in its history, with police saying one death likely being that of an innocent man targeted in a case of mistaken identity, the public has a right to know why this is happening, who is making this happen and what is being done to address the carnage.
We have tried to provide that information with last week’s stories and we invited the police to weigh in.
There is no doubting Mounties have done a remarkable job in identifying, arresting and having the Crown lay charges against many suspects in the violent incidents that have plagued the city.
The speed at which arrests have been made and charges laid is impressive.
It is our duty to continue our coverage to give the public context surrounding those arrests and the pending trials, beyond what can be found in press releases.