Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can I Trust You With My Life?

Dear Sgt. Patrick Webb,

As Alberta spokesman for the RCMP, I ask you this question. Can I trust the members of Canada's historic national police service with my life and the lives of my family?

I expect that you will deliver an emphatic "Yes, Sir!" to my question without even a pause. What else could you say in your position?

But with the greatest of respect Sergeant, I have deep reservations about whether I can believe you. I say this not in some form of jest as I often comment on this website, but with absolute sincerity.

I grew up in small-town Alberta with all of the small-town things that come with that lifestyle. By and large, we never did really bad stuff, but we had our fair share of face to face encounters with the members of the local detachment.

But back then those encounters were virtually all with respectful professional policemen and policewomen...even if some in the crowd were drunk / belligerent / or coming off with something intelligent like "F-ck you pig..."

I never once feared getting kicked in the face while following a member's commands:

[As the "suspect" is charged with careless use of a firearm hours after the incident, can I expect to see the member charged with aggravated assault while carrying a firearm sometime next week? I suspect not.]

It would never have crossed my mind that if I drank too much and had to sober up in "the tank" that I would be brutally beaten upon being released:

I would have, ironically, called you a liar if you had told me about two members being charged with perjury within a 12-month period:

I never had any reason to think a routine traffic stop would lead to me being beat up by the very people sworn to the mantra "Maintiens le droit".

I didn't ever ponder whether visible minority recruits were subjected to racial slurs and profanity about their culture from their Depot instructors DURING SENSITIVITY TRAINING and then fired based on fabricated performance reviews after complaining of the racist treatment:

We didn't see regular news stories of officers being charged with criminal offences and certainly not pleading guilty to fraud:

A story of a senior Mountie forging documents to cover up the fact that his unit was breaching court orders and conducting illegal wiretap investigations was at best a plot for a bad made for tv movie on late night CBC...not an in-court admission:

[Whatever happened to this guy, by the way?]

Let's see...more savage prisoner beatings:

Charges for breaking into a house:

Charges for criminal harassment, extortion and fraud:

Then there's getting charged for murdering another police officer:

Then getting charged for murdering a wife:

Then there's not getting charged for what many Canadians consider murdering a guy at an airport...complete with "deliberate misrepresentations" under oath in order to justify the members' actions:

Then there's actually killing a guy in cells (although, admittedly, I have to go back a few years to catch that one and in fairness the conviction is only manslaughter):

And sadly...I could keep going...

I think I speak for plenty of Albertans and Canadians as a whole when I ask, "What has happened to the RCMP that I used to know?"

Now, you might be wondering why I write to a lowly (no disrespect intended) Alberta spokesperson rather than go much higher up into brass territory with my question. Well, the answer is simple in light of current Alberta events.

In the midst of the inquiry into the Mayerthorpe tragedy - an incident on which I write nothing out of respect for the fallen officers and their families - the news breaks of a man shot to death in Canmore while wielding a replica handgun:

Not surprisingly, public debate has whipped up over whether this was a "good shoot" now that we all know the officers were not in any actual danger from the fake gun. Of course, we are all sitting in our living rooms in front of computer and tv screens with the benefit of many comments thrown around about how the officers should not have fired are 100% unfair in my view.

That said, the story and the comments got me inspired to write this post...because I started thinking about how this would have played back when I was a teenager...back when the RCMP and its members were not mired in criminality and controversy on a daily basis.

There was trust. We trusted you. We would have assumed that it was a good shoot and would have approached any suggestion to the contrary with a great deal of skepticism. But with the items I have noted above, our confidence has been shattered. Utterly lost for many of us.

I want to trust the RCMP with my life. I really do. I want to return to a time when the uniform commanded respect because virtually every officer who wore it EARNED that respect every day in every way. Is the whole force bad? Of course not. Are there dozens way too many examples of those that are? I wish there wasn't...but the evidence speaks for itself.

Can I trust you with my life?

If you say 'yes' as I have suggested you would, then my follow up question is borrowed from the last word spoken by a dying Robert Dziekanski - "Why?"

Yours truly,

Michael Bates
Calgary Criminal Lawyer