Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's going wrong with cops?

There’s a profoundly dark side to policing in Canada and, as more and more light is being cast on it by commissions and public inquiries, even more evidence surfaces.

Consider the recent videos of the Ottawa police brutally kneeing and kicking people in custody. There was the case of Robert Dziekanski dying after being shot up to four times by a Taser at the Vancouver airport. Now, there is the report of a respected Nova Scotia judge into the death of Howard Hyde, a man in police custody in Halifax who was shot with a Taser gun multiple times. Judge Anne Derrick raised serious questions about the actions of the Halifax police.

There are police officers in this country who have been presented with the evidence that multiple shots from a Taser gun can contribute to someone’s death, but they ignore that and happily continue to pull the trigger.

It seems in many ways as if the police are placing themselves above the very law which they are paid to enforce. 

(Personal disclaimer here: I have several very good friends who are cops and I would trust my life with them and I know the reverse is true.  It's just that I get the feeling they're slowly becoming a minority.)

We know that policing attracts certain personality types – many of them are control freaks in much the same way as professional fire fighters are often adrenalin junkies. They will be the first to jump into the water to save someone from drowning and will put their own lives at risk to rescue someone, but it’s not always altruism that drives them. It’s the rush and you don’t have to peel back very many layers to discover that.

Once upon a time, the caricature of a pot-bellied US southern sheriff being judge, jury and sometimes executioner was just that – a caricature. Unfortunately as we see more instances of police brutality and of people dying while in police custody, I have to wonder where we’re headed in terms of justice and law enforcement in this country.

Think of the Toronto cop who, during the G20 demonstrations, said he would charge a young woman with assault if she blew bubbles at him. Or think of the plastic cops working as security screeners in the airports and how many stories there are about them acting like jerks. Or think about that female special constable in Ottawa repeatedly kneeing a young woman in custody without any of her fellow “officers” stopping her.

It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a drunk, a druggie, a bank president, a surgeon or someone with mental illness, you have rights and the first one is that you deserve to be treated with respect.

I’m sure there were just as many jerks in cops of previous generations; it’s just that now we see it every day and quite frankly it’s becoming sickening. Some of the stuff we’re seeing now is the behaviour of thugs, not supposedly professional police officers.


Wisewebwoman said...

I agree VP (seems we are too much in agreement lately, ha?), it is a huge cause for concern.
I was appalled reading the personal accounts of innocent bystanders at the G20 who were arrested (without charge) and held for hours.
More to come on that yet.
Interesting that charges have yet to be brought against the misbehaving citizenry "arrested" there. thank goodness for cellphone cameras. And yes, I too know marvellous, honest and yes, gentle police officers.

ViewPoint2010 said...

And you know, www, it's the lousy ones who ruin it for the good ones. I'd say the majority of cops in this country are good decent people who really do try to make a difference in their communities but there is SO MUCH evidence to the contrary that the G20 stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, the icebergs are melting.