Monday, 27 February 2012

Overreaction is akin to stupidity

Being human, there are times when we overreact to something that confronts us. But some people react in such a manner that the use of the word ‘stupidity’ when describing their reaction is being kind. I am going to tell you a true story of an event that took place recently in which the police overreacted in such a manner, it makes us wonder if these cops are in the right profession.

The four-year-old daughter of Jesse Sansone was in a kindergarten class in a school in Kitchener, Ontario when she drew a picture of a man with a gun in his hand.

“Ohhh. What do we have here?” asked her teacher. The little girl said that the picture was of her dad getting bad guys and monsters.

The teacher then contacted the principal of the school who then called Family and Children's Services who then called the police. Meanwhile, the school called Jessie Sansone and asked him to come to the school, which he did. When he arrived at the principal’s office, his daughter was in the office and so were three police officers.

Now we all know that there are really bright police officers serving us in our police forces but there are also some really stupid police officers whom the word ‘dimwit’ is applicable and the use of it when describing some of them is not being unkind at all. Some dimwits from the police force in Kitchener were in the principal’s office

When Sansone arrived at the school to pick up his daughter, the Waterloo Police dimwits arrested him for possession of a firearm. But the ‘firearm’ turned out to be a plastic toy gun that shoots foam darts. Now what did these dimwits do when they learned that the ‘firearm’ was really simply a plastic toy? They did what you would expect dimwits to do. They arrested him and took him to the police station.

It was bad enough that they arrested the man for being in possession of a plastic toy that shoots foam darts but they went further in their ‘quest’ for the truth. They ordered him to take off all of his clothes so that they could strip search him for any other ‘weapons’ they might find on his person.

When ordering him to bend over so that they can look in the crevice of his butt, did they hope to find a gun protruding out of his ‘you know what’? Instead of giving him his clothes back, they gave him a blanket to cover himself with while they no doubt began an extensive search of his clothes for another gun, or perhaps for ammunition.

Think about it. If his daughter had drawn a picture of a bazooka, would they strip him and tell him to bend over so they can determine if he has a bazooka stuck inside his ‘you know what’? Suppose his four-hear-old daughter had drawn a picture of a tank or worse yet, a bomb? At what point would the stupidity of the dimwits end?

Meanwhile, the couple's four-year-old daughter was taken from them and handed to a social worker as Sansone's pregnant wife waited for over two hours, wondering where her children were. As it turns out, all of the couple's four children had been at Family and Children's Services, being interviewed by social workers.

"So, my wife was really panicking at that point," Sansone later said. "So her and the detective drove down to children's services. They questioned each of my children. At that interview, I wasn't there, my wife wasn't there, but my boys, all they know right now is: 'Daddy and guns, guns and Daddy' my kids knew all the police were at the school because of me. Now I have to explain to them how much of a mistake this is," he added.

All this occurred over a picture of a toy gun that shoots out foam darts drawn in crayon by a four-year-old girl.

"So many people dealt with this situation in the wrong way," Sansone said. That was a very good observation on Sansone’s part.

The school, the police and the Family and Children's Services defended their actions, saying that when a child draws a picture of a gun, they have a responsibility to act. I don’t take issue with that. However, they dealt with this problem the wrong way. What should they have done?

First of all, the school principal was right to call the police and the police were right to come to the school. But once Sansone arrived in the principal’s office, the police should have asked his daughter in her father’s presence to describe the gun in better detail than what she had drawn on a piece of paper.

The police could have asked, “Did you ever hear any loud noise when the gun is fired?” She would have told them that it shoots foam darts. That would have resolved the issue right then and there. But of course, the dimwits didn’t go that route. They still had visions of a real gun that shoots bullets in the hands of a really bad man, blah, blah, blah.

The family is trying to decide what to do next, and they are finding a new school for their children to attend because in this particular case, their action ended up slandering an innocent person and damaging an entire family.

Family and Children’s Service executive director Alison Scott correctly said, "From a public safety point of view, any child drawing a picture of guns and saying there are guns in a home would warrant some further conversation with the parents and child.”

I would be less than honest if I didn’t add that the police did apologize to Mr. Sansone when they discovered their mistake.

One should keep in mind that gun laws in Canada are much different than they are in the States, but this incident illustrates what happens when a country has stringent laws with respect to the possession of hand guns and the laws can be overly oppressive.

Just before two in the morning, on March 9th 2009, Leroy Smickle was alone in his cousin’s apartment when suddenly the police smashed open the apartment door with a small battering ram and caught Smickle red-handed with a loaded handgun in his hand while posing for the camera on his laptop so that he could put the picture of him holding the gun in Facebook.

Now let’s agree on one thing. That was a very stupid thing for him to do. Even if the police hadn’t come into the apartment at that moment, they sooner or later would have seen what was in the Facebook because they were already planning to arrest his cousin whom they suspected had illegal guns in his apartment.

Smickle spent five months in custody before he was released on bail. When the matter came up for trial in February 2012, the trial judge (Anne Molloy) was deeply concerned about the consequences this foolish man was going to face. In Canada, being in possession of an illegal handgun is automatically punishable for three years in prison as a minimum sentence.

The judge didn’t think that Smickle’s action warranted that kind of punishment but it appeared that she would have no other choice. But she did have a choice. She declared that the mandatory minimum sentence for possession of an illegal gun was contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment that was fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerant so she struck the law down. Now keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the law is no longer valid. She was simply saying that it wasn’t valid in her court. Nevertheless, Smickle’s actions were deserving of punishment so she credited him with the time he served in jail and gave him a conditional sentence of house arrest for five months. He can still go to work, shop for groceries and go to church while serving the conditional sentence.

I remember when I was in my early twenties back in the mid 1950s, I took some of the members of my scout troop hunting in the forests of the mountains near Vancouver, B.C. and we carried our rifles unsheathed in a public bus. No one on the bus thought that odd because it was a common practice then.

A month after I purchased the handgun, I placed it in the drawer of my boss’ desk in the YMCA where I worked as the Assistant Boy’s Work Secretary. Two days later, some boys broke into his office one night in hopes of finding money some money and discovered the gun instead. Less than a week later, they were caught with the gun and the gun was returned to me with the hammer broken.

However, in 1962, I was charged with being in possession of an unregistered hand gun (38 calibre Smith & Wesson). It was in my apartment hanging on the wall. In those days, there were no laws then that stated that guns had to be securely locked up. Actually I registered the gun with the RCMP when I bought it in 1954 however; I didn’t know that I had to re-register it every time I moved to a different address. When the police realized that the firing pin was inoperable, they withdrew the charge but took my gun away to be destroyed.

It is imperative that gun owners securely lock up their guns and their ammunition. In Port Orchard in the State of Washington, a nine-year-old boy brought a loaded 45-calibre handgun to his school. He carried it in his backpack. Somehow, it went off when he slammed the backpack on his desk and a bullet struck an eight-year-old classmate. At the time of this writing, she is in critical condition with injuries to her abdomen and arm. The boy was charged with assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. He told the police that the gun belonged to his dad. Obviously, the gun was not locked up and instead it was easily obtainable by his son.

Many years ago, two boys and their parents lived next door to my aunt and uncle in Creston, B.C. One day, the boys were playing with their dad’s handgun and pointed it at a neighbour’s kid who was visiting the boys. They didn’t know that the gun was loaded. The trigger was pulled and the boy was accidentally shot dead. That gun was also not locked up.

I certainly don’t take issue with our gun laws in Canada. I am in favour of severe punishment for criminals who possess handguns. In February of this year, a man and woman (both being 22) were arrested after the police found an illegal loaded handgun and a bulletproof vest in their apartment. They will be facing a minimum of three-years in prison and rightly so. We don’t want gangsters and their molls being possession of handguns and bulletproof vests.

There is no doubt that if what had happened to the Sansone’s had happened in the U.S., the school and the authorities would be facing a massive lawsuit from angry parents. It is my opinion that the Sansones should sue the police in small claims court for the maximum of which that court upper limit is $25,000 because now the Sansones are left to pick up the pieces after the police have turned their lives upside down.

Mr. Sansone said, “The first thing my daughter said when I saw her was, ‘Daddy are you mad at me?’ That sums it up to me.” Of course he wasn’t mad at his little daughter. He is rightly mad however at the adults that mistreated him and his wife over a plastic gun that shoots out flam darts. As the title of this article says: “Overreaction is akin to stupidity.”

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