Thursday, April 10, 2008

Anger Cannot Be Dishonest - Calgary Police Brutality Allegation

"Anger cannot be dishonest." - Marcus Aurelius

Having recently considered the question of who the citizenry can rely on to "police the police" I feel compelled to comment on a recent video making news in our city and indeed across the nation:

http://www.calgarysun.com/media/policevideo/policevideo.html

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2008/04/09/cop-video.html

I've chosen to quote a Roman Emperor known for stamping out corruption during his reign in this thread because I struggle greatly to accept official comments by the newly minted head of the Calgary Police Association who is quoted describing what is seen on the video both as "proper" and "appropriate" police conduct.

I guess the comment I have the biggest problem digesting (after watching a man get pushed down the stairs by a CPS officer) is this one:

"He was not pushed down the stairs." - John Dooks, Calgary Police Assoc.

See, the problem is, he was pushed down the stairs and unfortunately for the officer in the video, saying it didn't happen won't make it so.

Now, I'm a criminal defence lawyer, so I know about "spin" and trying to qualify circumstances in an effort to improve the look of a set of facts...and I accept that it is possible the suspect here might not have "tumbled head over heels" or been injured ultimately.

But not because he wasn't pushed down the stairs. He was. It's really that simple.

Mr. Dooks is also quoted saying that all the officer did by dragging the suspect in front of a stairwell before kicking him from behind was "simply brought the man to his feet."

I guess I'm a simpleton, because where I come from, you bring someone to their feet by pulling them up...not dragging them in front of a set of stairs and pushing them down. And if a major metropolitan police force has no better control methods at their disposal for dealing with what the officer himself apparently described as a "passive resister" then Lord, help us all.

If the suspect did go down the stairs on his feet he is either adept at protecting himself when propelled into the opening of a stairwell, or lucky, or both. Regardless of the outcome (I hope it is true that he didn't tumble and wasn't hurt) I challenge Mr. Dooks or the CPS to show me in the training manual where what happened on this video is what police ought to do in such circumstances.

I mean, I guess if it was proper and appropriate, we can count on the CPA and CPS seeking permission to use the tape as a training guide for new recruits right?

Oh, and lets not forget...the officer was justified because the suspect "was physical with police" earlier and off-camera. What is that supposed to mean? How stupid are we really? So, he was permitted to assault the officers physically before without consequence, but subsequent "passive resistence" get's him a toss down the stairs????? And, sorry Mr. Dooks, but I think what you just did is say it was appropriate and proper for your officers who were treated "physically" by a suspect to leave him unsupervised and unrestrained up against a wall for a while with some other suspects.

Is that Chapter Two of the CPS training manual?

And as for Mr. Dooks making comments suggesting ulterior motives by the guy who submitted the tape to the media...and quickly pointing out he has been ACCUSED of a criminal offence recently, that's what I call the leader of Calgary's police men and women trying to incite the public to rush to judgments in the very manner he asks them not to do to the officers in the tape. It is not really that hard to understand why a citizen would be wary of coming forward to the police with a tape like this, especially if what they get for it is an immediate and public character assassination.

Admittedly, I much prefer Chief Hanson's take on the situation...he has ordered a full internal affairs investigation and will wait for the results of same before making any judgment. Good. Now, if only I hadn't personally seen CPS take literally years to conclude investigations into allegations of police misconduct, I might be willing to just sit idle.

Further, in the event that a discipline hearing is recommended, it can be done in private. Further still, even if done in public, there is no obligation (nor previous track record that I can find) for the police service to actually ever tell anyone about the RESULT of such hearings.

Many would argue, this is the most elaborate system of "spin" there is. In the face of a videotape that doesn't look good for the officer...defer judgment. Then kill a couple years so people forget and quietly make a decison and don't tell anyone what it is.

I would rather see a police service and police union (police commission, mayor, Solicitor General etc.) be honest with the public. Admit that what they see in the videotape troubles them and causes serious concern about what happened in this police-public interaction.

Include the caveat that we do need to wait before making any final judgments, but don't come out and say it all looks good. Then, investigate immediately and decide whether or not to charge or discipline within weeks, months if necessary in a major case, but not YEARS.

Then, inform the public about the findings of the investigation and the ultimate outcome.

I can't speak for everyone else out there, but I would gladly place my trust as a citizen in that type of a police discipline process.

My take...this officer got angry...and anger cannot be dishonest. I've heard similar things said about pictures not being able to lie. I guess given the way this thing has been handled so far, and the fact that we are land-locked in Calgary, we will have to do without the Coastguard and rely on the proliferation of digital security video to police the police.

No one else seems to really want the job.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unionization in police agencies should never be allowed. Unions exist for the sole purpose of enhancing the quality of life for members. This inequitable arrangement in an egalitarian society is unacceptable, protecting police officers first and citizens second. I don't know of any citizen who is able to hold a press conference and publically profess innocence. I don't know of any citizen who is allowed to flout the courts and sit at the table with their lawyer in lieu of the prisoner's box. Finally, police unions are some of the largest lobby groups in the country whose crusades lean toward a war of attrition on the rights of Canadians. Police Officers see the Charter and the Feeney act as unnecessary impediments and while certainly their violation will withstand a conviction in the courts, they mean very little in the streets to some cops. At that point they blame the system subsequent to having initiated a charge based on their own illegal activity. We need accountability now.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it odd, that the links to the videos are producing pages where the videos have been removed or are not working? Not that I am suspicious or anything...

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are idiots...Most of all you BATES... A defence lawyer talking about justice... Really?

11:22 AM  
Blogger M Bates said...

Dear Anonymous,

I just don't know how to overcome such a compelling and well-structured argument as "you're an idiot Bates" so I will have to elect not to counter.

(Even though I have been so waiting to pull out the "I know you are but what am I" response ever since it worked so well in Grade 6).

I guess the idea that justice should be the same for all accused whether a police officer or not is not allowed to be expressed by a defence lawyer? Would it be acceptable to you if I became a Crown prosecutor and then made the argument?

2:51 PM  

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