There is something eerie in scenes like this. Imagine it being you.
- Boston: It is now possible to shut down an entire US city under martial law (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
There is something eerie in scenes like this. Imagine it being you.
First, here’s the video of the incident. You judge and decide if two days suspension is adequate for this behavior.
Second, I am grateful for videos and the age of social media. Cops cannot hide behind their badges anymore. Lou
A Victoria police constable has received sanctions in a case that received wide attention after video of an arrest surfaced on YouTube.
Last month, a B.C. police complaints commission hearing ruled Const. Christopher Bowser used excessive force when he kicked and kneed a man outside of a Victoria nightclub in March 2010.
Now, following the commission’s disciplinary hearing, Bowser is being suspended for two days without pay. The adjudicator also ordered Bowser to undergo six hours of training in use of force with an emphasis on de-escalation training and must participate in counselling to address any potential anger management issues.
The Victoria Police Department says it is reviewing details of the decision to see if any changes need to be made in the force.
Other police forces in B.C. have had officers investigated by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner after arrests were filmed and shared.
In January 2011, a freelance photographer captured footage of a violent arrest in Kelowna, where an RCMP officer kicked a 51-year-old man in the face.
The mountie involved in the incident, Const. Geoff Mantler, was suspended with pay pending the outcome of internal and criminal investigations. Mantler was later charged with assault causing bodily harm, and his lawyer entered a guilty plea in court in December.
In March, footage of a Vancouver police officer allegedly punching a detained man in the head was filmed by a friend of the man, and posted to Facebook.
The OPCC determined the incident warranted an investigation, and one is currently underway.
Anti-police demonstrators in Montreal marched to the site of a tragic shooting Wednesday night where two people, including an innocent bystander, were killed by officers’ bullets.
Then they began smashing windows.
Members of the crowd picked up materials from a construction site and hurled them as projectiles.
They pelted bricks and chunks of broken concrete at about a dozen commercial windows, including restaurants and coffee shops. Several of the windows shattered.
An outdoor portable toilet was overturned and tossed into the street. Buildings, streets and at least one onlooker were splattered with pink paint tossed by demonstrators.
Many of the 200 protesters were dressed head to toe in black or wore black bandannas to conceal their faces, garb commonly worn at rowdy protests.
They chanted slogans and held signs denouncing police violence. One giant banner said, “Never again.”
Dozens of officers on motorcycles kept an eye on the crowd in a city with a history of violence at anti-police protests.
Later, officers in full riot gear marched through a downtown street banging their batons on their shields in unison, forcing a large gang of demonstrators to disperse.
Some protesters quickly shed their dark clothing to blend back in with the peaceful activists.
In the end, this protest was quieter than recent anti-police events in Montreal. The police department said there were no arrests, no injuries and four windows were smashed.
This march was prompted by tragic events Tuesday, when police shot and killed two people: a homeless man allegedly wielding a knife and a bystander who was on his way to work at a nearby hospital.
Minutes before the demonstration turned unruly, the crowd paused at the scene of the shootings just outside the Université du Quebec a Montreal. One man speaking into a megaphone reminded fellow protesters that the blood of the victims was still visible on the rain-soaked sidewalk.
“We don’t forgive, we don’t forget,” the masked man shouted — in both English and French — into the megaphone.
His remarks prompted cheers and whistling from the crowd around him.
“I’m here to demonstrate against police impunity,” said another protester who would only call himself George.
“I’m here to protest in favour of . . . an independent inquiry committee, because cops investigating cops over these shootings — it just doesn’t work, man.”
Numerous critics are calling for a change in the way Quebec handles police-related shootings.
Any shooting in the province involving an officer’s gun is investigated by an outside police force. Provincial police have taken over the investigation into Tuesday’s deaths.
Critics say the system lacks transparency and police investigators ensure their colleagues never have to face justice.
“There was another murder by police and the other murders that happened in the past were never punished — I think that’s a problem,” demonstrator Jean-Luc Simard said Wednesday before the march.
“We know the same thing is going to happen again — the Sûreté du Québec [provincial police] will justify this assassination.”
In a bizarre twist, reports emerged just as the protest began that Quebec provincial police officers were involved in another shooting in the town of Rawdon, Que.
Two officers intervened to help a man who, police say, had been attacked. After an altercation, provincial police say one of their officers fired at a man they allege was causing the disturbance.
The man was brought to hospital and his injuries were not considered life-threatening.
© The Canadian Press, 2011
23 April 2011
Hundreds of people set up burning barricades and hurled rocks at police as an anti-Tesco protest in Bristol rapidly escalated into a bloody running battle between officers and residents.
A Tesco Express store in the bohemian neighbourhood of Stokes Croft, in the north of the city, was the focal point for the violence, with police claiming that they had uncovered a plot to petrol bomb the store, which opened eight days ago to widespread hostility from the community.
More than 160 police in riot gear, officers on horseback and reinforcements from neighbouring forces fought with protesters for seven hours through the night until dawn yesterday. A swelling, increasingly angry crowd of 300 people upturned bottle banks to gather glass to bombard officers.
Police were accused of provoking violence with heavy-handed tactics, using batons and setting dogs on innocent bystanders, although eyewitnesses noted that officers became more aggressive after a concrete block was thrown at them from a rooftop. Eight policemen, and several members of the public, were taken to hospital.
The riot resulted from increasing tensions between the retail giant and the community of Stokes Croft, where the majority of residents were vehemently opposed to the opening of the store, believing that it threatens local shops and risks wrecking the character of the area, which is dubbed “Bristol’s cultural quarter”. The local regeneration has been credited to its small business owners.
Tesco controls a great deal of the UK grocery market, with £1 in every £3 spent on groceries in the UK going into its tills. As of February, Tesco operated more than 2,600 stores in the UK, the majority of those under the Tesco Express banner.
The Stokes Croft store, the 32nd Tesco in Bristol, was gutted by protesters, who forced up the metal security shutters and lit fires. The shop has been shut, with the message “CLOSING DOWN SALE” sprayed on a placard placed in front. A heavy police presence remained in the area last night, including officers and riot vans, and investigators searching for forensic evidence. No other shop on the street was touched.
The spark for the riot was a police raid on a squat known as “Telephathic Heights” opposite the Tesco Express, based on the belief that a petrol bomb attack on the store was imminent. Hundreds of residents turned out in support of the squatters, who have played a part in regenerating the neighbourhood, and chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!”
“The police steamed in and dogs were used,” said Bristol East’s MP, Kerry McCarthy, who went down to the scene in the early hours of Good Friday after being alerted to the heightening violence, and was herself shoved by police. “There were people being roughly treated.” She described the violence towards police as “obviously very unacceptable”.
The opening of new Tescos around Britain has been met with sustained campaigning. Yesterday’s anti-Tesco protests are the most violent manifestation so far of swelling currents of resentment against corporate giants. Vodafone, Topshop and Barclays have all faced protests in the last six months, in the form of direct action against their shops and branches – demonstrations organised by the activist network UK Uncut, which did not have anything to do with yesterday’s demo.
Anger within Britain’s protest and anarchist movements is mounting, alongside a willingness by some to fight police given the opportunity, after police in London were accused of aggression in dealing with anti-cuts demonstrators last month.
Nick Jones, a primary school teacher, said a peaceful protest quickly turned ugly: “Between 2.30am and 4.30am there were bottles and rocks thrown. I saw a police officer get hit in the face and go down – he was taken away in an ambulance. People had weapons. They had swords and shields. It turned from ‘interesting’ to ‘scary’ very quickly.”
Jessie Webb, a barman at The Croft pub, said police were “heavy-handed” towards a crowd which just turned up to watch the arrests. The police caused it [the riot],” he said. “They turned up in large numbers and it attracted a crowd. Then they charged into them.”
A 22-year-old, who did not want to be named, said he was hit with a baton despite not being involved in the protest: “I saw them [police] hitting people who were definitely not involved in the violence. They were doing random charges and cracking people indiscriminately.”
Jonathan Taphouse, a Bristol photographer, described some officers as behaving “completely out of control”. “It seemed that they didn’t understand the politics of the area,” he said. “It was only a few who kicked off, and there was no real need for a riot,” he added. “Residents were woken up and some joined the protesters. This wasn’t inevitable – the actions of the police caused the reaction.”
Gus Hoyt, a Green Party council candidate for Ashley ward which includes the site of the Tesco store, said he had been “terrified” as the violence escalated, adding that the scenes reminded people of the riots in nearby St Pauls in 1980: “People who remember the 1980s can’t believe this is happening again.”
Ms McCarthy, who is a shadow Treasury minister, added: “I question why the police op was carried out in an area where a lot of people were out drinking. It didn’t seem to be a particularly sensible time to carry out an eviction of a squat that has been there for a long time.”
Avon and Somerset Police said its officers’ actions had been “fully justified”, citing the discovery of petrol bombs and arrests of four offenders who represented “a very real threat”.
Tesco said the store on Cheltenham Road would remain closed while the damage was assessed, but that it would defy local resentment and reopen the supermarket. A Tesco spokesman said: “We strongly condemn the violence in Stokes Croft and the injuries caused to the members of the police who worked courageously to protect the public and businesses in this area, including ours.”
Claire Milne, co-ordinator of the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign, said: “The homogenisation of the high street is the antithesis of the creativity that exists here. There is also a strong sustainability and organic movement here.
“Last night was the inevitable result of a retail behemoth setting up in an area that simply does not want it.”
Additional reporting by Christopher Brown
The Campaigners Taking on Tesco
Manningtree, Essex, October 2005
John Caldown, a 54-year-old trader, sat in the path of the 30ft lorries delivering to a Tesco Express and stayed for several hours until the lorries were forced to cancel delivery. He claimed the store was taking local trade and clogging up roads. The store remained open but used smaller delivery trucks.
Shepton Mallet, Somerset, February 2006
Oliver Carter, an environmental activist, climbed into one of the trees set to be felled to make way for a new Tesco. Despite claiming to have vertigo, he stayed put for 11 days until a court order allowed police to evict him.
South-west and Sheffield, March 2008
A “Stop being rotten to chickens” campaign by the animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming organised protests outside three stores in Sheffield and a number in Somerset and Devon after Tesco refused to switch to free-range chicken and eggs.
Central London, April 2009
The words “Every little hurts” were daubed in green paint across 27 Tesco stores by members of a women-led environmental activist group, the Climate Suffragettes. Protesters stencilled the slogan together with a picture of two energy-saving lightbulbs and the Tesco brand name to draw attention to the store’s “Flights for Lights” promotion which offered customers air miles for switching to energy-saving lightbulbs.
Bristol, March 2010
The Tesco Express on Cheltenham Road first hit headlines in 2010 when protesters occupied the site, buried their arms in concrete and superglued themselves to walls. Forty officers including dog handlers and mounted riot police were called in to try and disperse a crowd of some 300 people.
Shepton Mallet, Somerset, September 2010
More than 600 shoppers and traders joined together in a petition against a Tesco café opening at Shepton Mallet’s Townsend Retail Park store. Locals were concerned that it would be a drain on high-street business, and campaigners said that 20 per cent of signatures came from the traders themselves.
Hinckley, Leicestershire, November 2010
Farmers for Action have blockaded Tesco distribution centres with tractors a number of times, most recently at a major depot in Leicestershire. The blockade resulted in a two hour stand-off before senior management were ready to talk.
Taking a page from Officer Alex Murphy, police officers in Brazil will soon be adding a layer of cyborg tech to their law enforcement toolbox via glasses rigged with facial recognition tech. The glasses, dubbed “RoboCop” glasses, scan faces in a crowd and check them against a criminal database, and officers in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo have already been through demos with the technology.
At distances up to 50 yards, the glasses can reportedly scan 400 faces per second, comparing 46,000 biometric points on a person’s face against a database of terrorists and other criminals. If a match is made it is indicated by a red light that appears within the glasses frame, allowing police to zero in on those people with problematic pasts (or currently questionable legal statuses) without having to put police and citizens through the tedium of random ID checks.
As far as crowd security is concerned, it’s a pretty cool piece of technology if it works as advertised. And Brazil is due to have some big crowds passing through in the next few years. Aside from being an international tourist destination year round, cops in Rio will have to secure both the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, and police there hope to have the technology widely deployed by that point.
Justice Grant Burnyeat found the District of Saanich vicariously liable in the death of 33-year-old Majencio Camaso and awarded his widow, Teresa Camaso, $238,912 damages and his daughter Christine, who was three when her father died, $115,000.
“This is not about money, this is about finding justice,” Teresa Camaso said later.
“I knew from the very first day something went very wrong. I want to give a message out there that police have power. I don’t want anyone else to experience what I’ve gone through.
“If this case can prevent the same thing from happening again, it’s a big win for me.”
Just before 9 a.m. on July 11, 2004, Teresa Camaso called 911 to get help for her husband. She told police dispatchers he was mentally ill and off his medication.
Camaso had used gasoline to set fire to the floor of their apartment. When police arrived about 10 minutes later, Camaso had left. Const. Kris Dukeshire chased him to the playground at Richmond Elementary School. Camaso armed himself with a crowbar and a pipe and ran towards Dukeshire, who fired three shots.
Burnyeat found Dukeshire was not acting on reasonable grounds when he shot Camaso.
Dukeshire pursued a mentally-ill man as though he had committed the most egregious of crimes, said Burnyeat. He did not communicate properly with Camaso, who appeared scared and agitated.
Dukeshire went directly to the use of his firearm, said Burnyeat. He failed to call for backup and pursued Camaso on his own without knowing where the other officers were.
Although Dukeshire knew Camaso was mentally ill, “he continued to shout commands in a very loud voice rather than attempting to use calming tones to assure Mr. Camaso he was not there to harm him,” said Burnyeat.
Dukeshire advanced on Camaso with his gun drawn, although he intended to handcuff him. He did not fire a warning shot, said the judge.
“Even with one or two potential weapons in Mr. Camaso’s hands, Const. Dukeshire, who weighed almost 100 pounds more and stood almost a foot taller than Mr. Camaso, could not have had a reasonable belief that it was necessary to shoot Mr. Camaso for his own preservation. It was always apparent to Const. Dukeshire that Mr. Camaso did not have a gun in his hands.”
Burnyeat also found the Saanich police investigation into the death of Camaso was negligent.
“There is no excuse that would justify how the investigation into Mr. Camaso’s death was handled,” he wrote.
The officers involved in the incident were not separated and were allowed to leave the department without being interviewed. No one insisted the officers make notes of what happened. Identical use of force reports were prepared and signed by all three officers. A press release stated the level of force was appropriate, even though the officers had not been interviewed.
“This early conclusion may well have resulted in the poisoning of a later review of whether or not this conclusion was the case and a poisoning of the recollection of the three constables,” said Burnyeat.
The press release also contained inaccuracies, noted Burnyeat.
Burnyeat also found Saanich police were deficient in providing officers with education about mental health issues, although he was encouraged to see a more recent service and policy review has included recommendations on an emergency mental health team.
Dukeshire is still serving with Saanich police. Department spokesman Sgt. Dean Jantzen said it will review the court ruling in the coming days.
A Shooting and Police Failure
Times Colonist editorial
It’s not surprising that some people are questioning a judgment that awarded $353,000 to the family of a man killed by a Saanich police officer.
I It’s judgment and its careful analysis of the sometimes shocking evidence. also clear that most of them have not read the
That evidence shows Const. Kris Dukeshire was grossly negligent in dealing with Majencio Camaso, as B.C. Supreme Court Justice Grant Burnyeat found.
The officer was in a difficult, frightening situation. But his actions violated Saanich police policy and accepted practice. They took a difficult situation and made it worse. And they ended with a death that might have been avoided if proper police practices had been followed.
Camaso, who was mentally ill, was unarmed and following orders to lie on the ground when Dukeshire approached him and attempted to handcuff him; the man then ran back to his car and emerged with a pipe and a crowbar. Policy and proper practice called for the officer to keep his distance, de-escalate and wait for backup.
Dukeshire’s errors, however, are at least understandable. People make bad decisions.
The Saanich department’s negligent and misleading handling of the investigation is not understandable.
A shooting death -no matter who is involved -is treated as a homicide. The scene is to be secured, evidence gathered and a full investigation launched.
The Saanich police, according to the evidence, did not do this. The two officers who witnessed the shooting were not separated and interviewed. They went back to the station, then out for coffee “and were allowed to leave headquarters without being separately interviewed or interviewed at all,” the judgment notes. That violated policy and good police practice. None of the officers were asked to make notes of what happened -also standard practice. They were not interviewed for three days.
Policy calls for written use-of-force reports from officers involved in such incidents. Instead, someone drafted a four-sentence report and all three officers signed it. The report was also inaccurate. And Dukeshire was not asked for a statement about the shooting for three days.
The delays were inexcusable. The court was told that interviews should be done as soon as possible, while memories are fresh and before people’s recollections are affected by their conversations with others.
The delays were particularly damaging because of other actions of the Saanich department.
On July 12, the day after the shooting, the department issued a press release saying the detective division had “conducted the preliminary stages of their investigation.” It presented an inaccurate, incomplete and misleading version of events, the court found.
And the news release suggested there were no serious concerns about the shooting. “At this point, we are confident that the level of force that unfortunately had to be used in this incident was appropriate; however as we have previously stated our investigation and subsequent external reviews will include an examination of the policies and procedures regarding the use-of-force continuum,” the release concluded.
That was an “extraordinary” conclusion, Burnyeat found, as the department had not yet interviewed or had written statements from the officers involved.
The release -and wide media coverage, including in the Times Colonist -also meant all three officers were exposed to the “official” version before providing statements. “The press release contained numerous inaccuracies which may well have resulted in a poisoning of the later statements of the three constables and in the poisoning of the later review by sources inside and outside the Saanich Police Department about what had occurred.”
Meanwhile, other witnesses were questioned immediately. Camaso’s wife was interviewed on video at the police station 90 minutes after the shooting and within 30 minutes of being told her husband was dead.
There were many other problems with the investigation. A bullet fragment was found at the scene three days after a supposedly thorough search; no test for gunshot residue was done on Camaso’s clothing to determine how close he was at the time of the shooting; no follow-up interviews were done to resolve conflicts between Dukeshire’s version and other witnesses; and other investigative techniques weren’t used.
There is “no excuse” which would justify how the investigation was handled, the court found. “The investigation was other than in accordance with good police practice, other than in accordance with what society should expect from a modern police force, and other than in accordance with the duty of care which would have been owed if Mr. Camaso had survived.”
The judgment is a reminder of the inability of police departments to investigate themselves.
For whatever reasons, the investigation was negligent. The officers involved were treated differently than any civilian would be in a similar situation.
There will likely be criticism of the decision. Sympathy for Dukeshire is understandable. But some early reaction has been uninformed, or based on the misinformation in the Saanich police news release. For example, the judgment’s observation that Dukeshire could have fired a warning shot was drawn criticism, yet Saanich police policy says warning shots can be used in such situations.
The judgment -Camaso v. Egan -is available on the B.C. Supreme Court website.
There is also link at timescolonist.com.
It is disturbing, but worthwhile, reading.
Sign of the times ?
VANCOUVER — Say you’re a wayward teenager looking to score some dope. Who do you call?
Certainly not your mom.
But that’s exactly who some youth in Abbotsford, B.C., were contacting for drugs before police busted a dial-a-dope marijuana delivery service run by two women, who are mothers of young children.
The women — Richelle Lotte Dyck, 27, and Nicole Angelina Haller, 34 — pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count each of trafficking in a controlled substance and were sentenced to four-month and six-month conditional sentences, respectively. They will also serve one year on probation and are prohibited from possessing firearms for 10 years.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the case was unusual, given that the pair were mothers who had elementary-age children, but that the recruitment of women and girls into the drug business was a disturbing trend.
“I think it’s a regrettable sign of the times, that for many of the criminal organizations and gangs a lot of the rules that existed a decade ago have gone out the window. The people being recruited are getting younger and we have seen recruitment of more women and girls, where a decade ago that would have been almost unheard of,” he said.
“From a law enforcement perspective, we think it’s due in part to depletion in the ranks (of gang members), but also from a social perspective, it’s also an indication of greed.”
The moms were busted last June after police received a tip from a local middle school student. The student handed police a business card advertising the dial-a-dope ring after hearing police make an anti-drug presentation at his school.
Police set up an undercover sting, posing as customers who made a buy outside of St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary school, a spot the moms chose. The pair showed up on June 23 carrying 100 grams of marijuana and $400 cash and were promptly arrested.
It was a scenario straight out of the hit Showtime TV series Weeds, where a single widowed mother turns to marijuana dealing in her tony subdivision to help pay the bills and quickly finds herself over her head and evading cops, other criminals and dealers.
MacDonald said the force applauded the student’s judgment in handing over the card to police, and hoped to encourage other youth to do the same.
“Some kids collect these dial-a-dope cards or keep them so that other kids think that they are cool. Others have them because they phone and place orders. But he took that card out of circulation. He could have thrown in garbage, but he felt the need to go beyond that. And by coming to us we were able to arrest two people.”
What will be the excuse this time ? Again, the RCMP is showing that they are not here to enforce the laws of the land equally . Instead they follow their own agenda. They are going after marijuana growers as if they are criminals. I state that there are more “criminals” in the RCMP than in all the legit, legal, pot growers in the land. The RCMP has got to go. Dismantle the force and replace it with a regional, accountable police force that will obey the will of the community it patrols rathet than forcing their own antiquated views on the people they “govern”. They do act as “governors” instead of enforcers of the laws of the land.
A 62-year-old woman from the Castlegar, B.C., area says RCMP raided and damaged her property and hauled her to jail even though she has a licence to grow marijuana.
Velma Mullaney said that despite a Health Canada permit that allows her to grow 98 plants, police showed up at her rural home last month, kicked in the doors, cut off her electricity and confiscated her marijuana.
The officer in charge refused to look at her permit or count the plants, the grandmother said.
“He kept saying, ‘You are way over in plants,’” Mullaney said. “I said, ‘Get those guys to go in and count them and you’ll see everything is legal.’ And he kept saying, ‘You are way over and you are going to jail.’”
Mullaney was taken to jail and later released. No charges have been laid.
Her lawyer, Don Skogstad, said he doubts charges will be forthcoming.
“It is one thing to believe you have grounds for illegal activity,” Skogstad said. “But once you get there and you can see how many [plants] there are and know about the licences, why don’t you just leave?”
He said Mullaney may sue the RCMP for damages and file an official complaint.
Police would not comment on the case.
By Daily Mail Reporter
31st March 2011
If this happens in the UK where police are perhaps one of the more ethical police forces in the world, don’t you think it is happening in North America ? Especially since the Canadian and American police forces have gone so right-wing in the last twenty years that it is not even funny ?
Dozens of police have been caught using equipment at work to spy on their neighbours or partners – and 20 have left the force as a result.
Lancashire Constabulary officers and staff breached data protection laws 84 times in the past three years, an investigation has revealed.
After disciplinary hearings, 13 members of the force were dismissed, seven opted to resign, with many more given final written warnings.
Abuse: Some 13 Lancashire Police officers have been dismissed after they were found to have used work computers for their own personal curiosities
Breaches include officers accessing police computer systems to access classified data about potential and ex-partners, disclosing private information to family and friends, spying on ongoing cases and misusing Facebook.
Lancashire Constabulary last night said data breaches ‘will not be tolerated’.
The data has come to light thanks to the Freedom of Information Act – and a string of allegations has been uncovered, including:
Bobbies on the beat: Lancashire police said they will not tolerate abuse by their officers
Clampdown: The Lancashire police website shows that all crime is down 9.6 per cent – but they now have 20 less officers
Requests for a breakdown of breaches by police station were rebuffed by Lancashire Constabulary amid fears that information could lead to officers’ identification.
But a special constable and police constable based in the West Lancashire ‘Southern’ division were among those to face data breach allegations.
And another PC faced claims he used police systems to check residents in a Tarleton street prior to purchasing his home there.
The same officer is alleged to have accessed other logs relating to a complainant and their neighbours, and divulged the information to a third party.
But the force ultimately took no further action.
The use of restricted data systems is audited by the police’s Professional Standards Directorate, which investigates alleged breaches.
Sanctions range from advice, to formal written warnings and reprimands and, for the most serious offences, dismissal.
A spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary said the force would always take ‘robust action to investigate when necessary’.
He continued: ‘Lancashire Constabulary expects the highest standards of professional behaviour from all employees in relation to information security.
‘The public rightly expect that we maintain the security and integrity of all information held on police databases and it is paramount that we maintain their confidence in our ability to do so.
‘We audit how our staff access information to ensure that it is for policing purposes and that they are using that information lawfully and appropriately.
‘The misuse of police systems by any individual staff member will not be tolerated.’
Police deserve to be admired and respected to the extent they protect society from violent criminals, theft and fraud, rape and other social evils.
But the respect they deserve can only be earned by careful attention to the law themselves and respect for the citizens they serve, whether they be drunk or sober, rich or poor, right or wrong, good or bad. Respect is a mutual thing.
It is shocking to hear of a policewoman stabbed, perhaps just because she was in uniform. It is equally shocking to hear police have shot to death Jeff Hughes and Ian Bush, or kicked a couple of people into unconsciousness to prevent a fight, or arrested someone like Mike Stebih for no good reason.
The point of this is simple. If police want to continue to be respected, they must earn it through a transparent scrutiny of their own dubious acts or questionable conduct.
To think police don’t break the law on occasion would be naïve. To think prosecutors who rely on them every day as professional witnesses can impartially determine if they have broken the law or that lawyers who work with them every day can be counted on to look with dispassionate objectivity is downright childish.
There is a growing gulf between the police and public trust, which can only be fixed and crossed with any hope of restoration of faith when the police are judged for their conduct by the public themselves and not by their constant co-workers in the system itself.
This can be accomplished by an equally simple modification to our law. Every police action causing death or grievous bodily harm to a citizen should be subject to an inquest, which must commence within a short and reasonable time.
At this inquest a jury should be empanelled, which has the power to attribute fault and law charges under the Criminal Code. Any aggrieved party should have standing to appear, testify and be represented to call evidence and cross-examine witnesses, just like at a coroner’s inquest today.
The results of the jury’s verdict would be binding and unappealable. They could lay charges and could recommend remedial action. The minor modifications to the Coroners Act and the appointment of legally trained coroners would cost money, but respect for law is not cheap and the absence of it causes a violent breakdown of the whole society and the safety and security of police and the public.
If police want respect, and they should deserve it, they must stand before the public as equals, not above us with the protections of their friends, in a legal system most of us do not even understand.
I do not want to wait from Oct. 23, 2009, to perhaps April 2011 for an inquest into the death of Jeff Hughes, who was shot to death in Nanaimo in the presence of more than five police officers, to know what happened and why.
Is there a shortage of witnesses? Can’t they remember what happened? If we wait much longer, they may have that excuse.
Is the public satisfied when teenager Ian Bush is shot in the back of the head by a lone RCMP officer, less than an hour after his arrest for having an open beer bottle, and the attorney general declares no charges are warranted?
If Robert Dziekanski had not been on video, would there be a public inquiry? How difficult is it for us to see a person kicked in the head and hear that a prosecutor in the privacy of his or her office has decided no charges are warranted — and hence we are assured justice is done?
The essential ingredient of a society where citizens and police are in agreement on the enforcement of the law is simply that the law applies to police and citizens in equal measure. The police cannot be above the law. With the present system of accountability, that impression is well-founded.
To remove the present lack of trust, true accountability must be restored. My suggestion would go a long way to achieving that end.
Doug Christie is a Victoria lawyer.