Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Police Officers Should Stop Lying

"We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

- George Orwell

I think of myself as being at least reasonably intelligent, so here I go...

"One day before he publicly apologized to Robert Dziekanski's mother for the Mounties' role in his death, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass e-mailed an RCMP member assuring him the apology did not mean the force was sorry for anything specific its officers did."

What exactly was the Deputy Commissioner referring to then when he sat beside this mother of a son killed at the hands of 4 RCMP officers and said, "Your son's death is a tragedy and for the role the Force played in this tragedy, we offer our sincere apology."

Must have had his fingers crossed.

This after the outrageous testimony that the police officers involved in the incident tried to sell along with a bottle of "stupendously superb" elixir...

So, let's see, false apologies, false explanations to other members about those apologies, false testimony by the officers involved...even in the face of video showing the contrary...police not looking too trustworthy here...

That tazer case is so unbelievable, though, it must just be a wart on the surface of otherwise pristine skin:

“Actually, the lies go far deeper than even I realized. As I interview police officers, I find out that literally everything internal is built upon a system of intricate lies. Lies about overtime, lies about work schedules, lies about people in custody (does anybody check an accused in a holding room every 15 minutes?)

“As you rise in rank, the premise is this: the less you know and the less you do the better everything gets for you. It’s absolutely crazy. If you get into trouble for anything, lie your face off unless someone’s got you on video, and even that is subject to lying.”

Sounds like some journalist with an axe to grind...not much credibility...oops! Actually, that's a retired Winnipeg police officer that wrote that one...

Okay, but overtime...routine boring tasks...that's stuff everyone fibs about...I mean when it comes to important stuff, that's where we can still depend on the honest police officers that we tell our small children to trust without reservation...right?

"The decision to stay the charges comes after testimony revealed a fabricated memo about wiretapping concerns by RCMP Sergeant John Roskam, a longtime member of the force who was head of the wiretap unit in Ontario.

Sgt. Roskam, who insisted he acted on his own, revealed under cross-examination last November that there was both a fake memo and a real memo in responding to lawyers concerns about wiretaps and whether the force was not complying with court orders.

“I was flabbergasted that a senior police officer would fabricate disclosure in a criminal matter,” said Michael Lacy, the defence lawyer who discovered the existence of the real and fake memo last fall when he asked provincial prosecutors in an unrelated case for documents related to RCMP wiretap procedures.

“The RCMP deceived the Crown as well,” said the defence lawyer, who called for an outside police force to begin a criminal investigation."

A fake memo?!?!?! Regarding police failure to follow a court order?!?!?! Fabricated disclosure in a criminal prosecution?!?!?!? Deception of the Crown prosecutor?!?!?!?! Yikes!

Okay, okay, but the saving grace is that the cop admitted his wrongdoing on the witness stand...I mean, sure lying to cover up breaches of court orders is not a "best practice model" to borrow some corporate lingo, but hey, police still tell the truth in the actual trial...don't they? Please tell me they do...

"The conduct of the police that led to the Charter breaches represented a blatant disregard for Charter rights, further aggravated by the officer’s misleading testimony at trial...The price paid by society for an acquittal in these circumstances is outweighed by the importance of maintaining Charter standards. Police officers are expected to adhere to higher standards than alleged criminals." the Supreme Court of Canada is assessing police behaviour relative to the crooks they are supposed to be stopping...this is not getting better...

Okay...I'm panicking a bit now...what can I salvage? Got it...It's not like police are storming in riot gear unprovoked up to a student cheering his favorite team and savagely beating him within an inch of his life, hospitalizing him and then completely fabricating a story that he attacked them and their horses and that he got injured when the horses kicked in reaction to his assaults...all because they didn't know they were caught on CCTV...

OH COME ON!!!!!! Police guys, seriously, I'm trying to help you...throw me a bone for crying out loud!!!!!!!!

Good thing that video was from the US (a.k.a. police brutality central). When police get rough in Canada it is because the perp refuses to follow commands to get on the ground...'cause if he did get on the ground when told to, he sure wouldn't get a Jan Stenerud-like kick to the ribs...

Okay, I'm done.

Maybe, I will just re-state the obvious. Police officers should stop lying.

And prosecutors and judges and the rest of us should stop pretending like police officers are not fraught with the same human frailties possessed by those of us who do not carry a badge.

Michael Bates
Calgary Criminal Lawyer

Friday, June 11, 2010

Real Life is Not Hollywood

I am writing to stand up for Cst. Jens Lind of the Calgary Police Service following what has become, in my view, completely misguided criticism of his lack of heroics following a fiery car crash that made headlines in our city.

Online would-be Supermen and Spidermen (and probably some Wonderwomen too) have gone as far as to overtly accuse Cst. Lind of letting an 18 year old kid die through his indifference to the emergency of the burning car smashed up against a house. Such comments are totally unfair.

I've watched the terrible quality home movie of the officer arriving on scene and going to work...and I concede, it makes for an incredibly boring action flick. The car doesn't explode, there's no upside-down motorcycles shooting lasers while the officer goes into freeze-motion and dodges the bullets of a fleeing suspect. There's not one close-up of the grimacing protagonist as he defies physics swinging perilously over a hazard of certain death with 14 fatal wounds that somehow are not even slowing him down nor any catchy one-liners that make us all want to go out and buy a Cst. Lind costume for Halloween this year.

Nope, that home movie just shows a glimpse of plain old boring reality. A police officer arriving on an impossible scene. Driver most likely dead before he even put his marked cruiser in park, and kid somewhere in the vehicle dying...unknown to anyone else. There's a fire...a man calling out that a woman from the house is injured...passersby who likely mean well but are too naive to realize the jeopardy they would be in if they come too close...and a number of other issues I am sure...we just can't see them on the video.

The officer wastes no time in sending a call for EMS, fire and backup, popping his trunk to get his too small standard-issue fire extinguisher, and then walking calmly straight up to the unknown situation to see what he could do to keep everyone safe and get anyone help who needs it.

There's no improbable dive across the lawn, no full speed run so he can jump far enough to grab the edge of the car before it falls off a cliff. Nope...Cst. Lind appears to just do his job. That the kid would later be found alive long enough to die in hospital instead of on the scene does not mean that Cst. Lind should have run around like a chicken with its head cut off just to make onlookers feel like he was sufficiently earning the right to be called an action hero.

Unless further investigation turns up evidence to the contrary, Cst. Lind has absolutely no responsibility for the tragic outcome of this attempted vehicle stop. He didn't flee police, he didn't crash the car, he didn't start the fire, and he didn't drop the ball.

What happened was real life. Not a video game or a summer blockbuster. Cst. Lind should not have to apologize because his performance did not entertain those of you that think "Grand Theft Auto" or "Gone in 60 Seconds" is real. We should all be thinking sympathetic thoughts for the family and friends of the deceased (no matter what kind of history the driver might have had), and hoping that Cst. Lind is not haunted by what he had to deal with at work that day.

And to all those callous critics...CPS is recruiting...

Michael Bates
Calgary Criminal Lawyer