Friday 18 August 2017

Some cops are really rotten apples  (Part One)                                        

From the streets of Vancouver and other cities all across Canada including the bustling streets of Toronto, there is a renaissance in policing, albeit a reluctant one for some. Greater accountability, due to technological advances, has brought to the public eye the sometimes ugly head of street level enforcement. It has also revealed the dynamic and sometimes violent situations officers encounter. For better or for worse, this is both the police officer’s and the citizen’s new reality

As Sir Robert Peel, the founder of modern policing described it; “The police are the public and the public are the police.” unquote

Let us as a society remember that a dependable and accountable police service is essential to the efficient and just functioning of our society. Unfortunately, it is the perception of lacking accountability that has led the public to question policing as an honest institution. The institution of policing must strive for perfection, and hold officers to account when they stray. But what part does the citizenry play in this integral relationship?

We as a society cannot demand that a police officer be everything to everyone. We cannot expect them to be social workers, mental health professionals, and medical experts in every scenario. There are people far more qualified than police officers to deal with those kinds of problems.

A police officer isn’t expected to be perfect at all times when confronted with varies situations just as it is impossible to expect that every citizen be perfect at all times when they too are confronted with varies uncomfortable situations.

Police officers wrestle with these same imperfections that we as citizens also have had to do on occasions. We as a citizenry must see a police officer as a human being. And as a human being they can expect empathy from the citizenry which is not the only antidote for the broken relationship. They, as an institution, must realize that officers across our municipalities, provinces and country are responsible for society’s distrust in their practices. Like all relationships, officers must meet the citizenry half way. Nowadays, police officers must recognize that bad business as usual is no longer appropriate or acceptable. They as individuals within their profession must remember the reason why they take to the streets and their offices everyday. We as citizens have to realize that when they are on our streets, they are emotional, scared, stubborn, imperfect and yet for many police officers, they are also courageous.

The difference between an officer and a citizen however, is that when an officer makes a decision, right or wrong, perfect or imperfect, often someone’s freedom is taken or in the cases of Sammy Yatim and Micheal Brown who were shot to death by police officers; a life is lost.

We don’t expect police officers to be placed on a pedestal above other citizens. In fact, I believe that if you were to ask a police officer, they would undoubtedly explain that they have no desire for being placed on such a pedestal.

What I am proposing is that we see officers as human beings rife with all the imperfections that accompany any human being. If citizens see an officer through her or his lens, then maybe the citizens will also find empathy for the complex positions that an officer can find herself or himself in.

Empathy from the citizenry is not the only antidote for the fractured relationship between them and citizens. We citizens and police officers alike realize that there are bad officers in our streets, municipalities, provinces and country who are responsible for society’s distrust for their unscrupulous practices. Like all relationships, officers must meet the citizenry half way. Police officers must recognize that disreputable conduct as usual is no longer appropriate or acceptable when certain police officers and their police forces fumble downward. They as individuals within their profession must remember the reason why they take to the streets and offices everyday.  They must fully uphold their motto to serve and protect all citizens, even those they don’t like.  Alas, many police officers don’t adhere to that motto.

We must remember that at some point, being a police officer meant making our cities, countries and world a better place for our families and neighbors. And they must fight, at all costs, the apt insight by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “Be careful when you fight monsters, lest you become one yourself.”

Citizens and police officers alike must realize that we are all fallible and for that reason, all of society must begin to empathize with the successes and failures in today’s policing environment. Citizens must realize that honest and decent police officers also suffer from the antics of bad police officers.

Mathew Tanel of Toronto made some interesting remarks on this subject which I will include in this article.

Much ink has been spilled about the “few bad apples” in Toronto’s police, but Toronto police have been behaving badly, as an integral part of their culture, for some time.

“Look at their behaviour during the G20: (Summit held in Toronto) not only those officers removing their identification to legitimize their behaviour as a violent mob, attacking “civilians,” but the unconscionable (and illegal) “kettling” (encircling them and not letting them leave) law-abiding citizens at Queen and Spadina.

“Const. Forcillo repeatedly cited his training as justification for shooting Sammy Yatim, an argument eerily similar to Nazi Germany’s military “just following orders.” Now a police officer is cited for pumping 14 bullets into a stationary vehicle, and four officers charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

I believe that the police see themselves as a highly weaponized para-military organization, and in their interaction with the public, their responsibility is apprehending “bad guys.” If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

“What the public needs is a cultural shift: these highly paid professionals must see themselves as part of the community they serve, their training must become more customer-focused, nuanced and skilled. They must learn to serve, not to rule. In that model, I don’t think there is room for a foul-mouthed bully like Forcillo, but I suspect he is not as much of an exception as we would like to believe.

“And, by the way, in this revised scenario, there should be no room for the police to use hollow-point bullets, whose only feature is that they are more likely to maim and kill than regular bullets, nor for the assault weapons now on order. If we are going to pay these people more than $100,000 a year (on average), we should expect a commensurate level of professionalism.”  unquote

Brigitte Nowak of Toronto also made some interesting remarks on this subject which I will also include in this article.

It’s hard to be a cop in Toronto at the moment. A bloody handful of brutality, deceit and allegations of perjury have raised questions about the integrity of the Toronto Police Service. The blue code of silence that prevents honest officers from reporting wrongdoing in their departments prevails.

“The public has learned the only way to snag cops is to catch them on camera. They are using their cellphones almost on impulse looking for some impropriety. Toronto police are having body cams slapped on them. However will the public really want to see what cops see?

“The police were hired to help people. Some bad things have happened and suddenly they are the bad guys.” unquote

Vincent Last of Brampton also made some interesting remarks on this subject which I will include in this article.

“The all-to-frequent troubling incidents somewhat extend from some peace officers’ limited understanding of their authority and responsibilities. The Toronto Star has for years had periods of themed-reporting when unsupported-in-law police practices focused on select communities.

“I remember my disappointment when the steam ran out of the Star’s reporting on the number of “invisible” offences for which some drivers were solely charged. The whole carding issue, though not yet dead, has not yet been properly addressed by the press. Too often, news reporting fails to bring a story to proper conclusion. The commercial media claims the right to inform the public, yet passes on the responsibility to educate.

“In today’s Wheels section, (of the Star) a representative of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is quoted as saying, “In Ontario, police have the Highway Traffic Act authority to ask for driver’s licence, vehicle permit and insurance, if there are reasonable and probable grounds for a traffic stop.”

“Although the law isn’t explicitly written like that, the implication, when taking all relevant laws into account, is that police have to operate within the bounds of all laws, and it is those laws that define what is, and what is not, the lawful performance of a peace officer’s duty; which includes the requirement to have reasonable and probable grounds that an offence has been committed.

“This is the foundation upon which a peace officer’s training should focus (to) know the boundaries and how to operate within them. Too many wear the uniform or otherwise carry the badge but do not understand the limitations of the authority with which they have been entrusted.” unquote

Brian Williams of Belleville also made some interesting remarks on this subject which I will include in this article.

“Police misconduct and their getting away with only a slap on the wrist doesn’t seem anomalous to me. There are daily reports of some form of police bullying. man-handling, using excessive force, escalating situations rather than calming them  and finally of police wounding and killing citizens. Whether they are “black” or “mentally ill” seems to me to be besides the basic point of unnecessary and excessive reactions by police that end up killing unarmed (or armed with scissors or a small blade) citizens.

“I have been trying to get figures for the number of deaths caused by police in a year in Canada, in Ontario, in Toronto with no success. Are these tallies being kept? Can they be accessed? As the crime rate has declined, police violence has increased. I think that the training police receive has them use their bodies and voice to intimidate citizens, even ones like me.

“It seems we have a lot of police still standing around doing nothing at every construction site, other police grabbing speeders as a money grab rather than service — and when a robbery is called in one is told they can’t do anything. Yes, change is needed. But it’s not a question of image.” unquote

Michael Farrell of Oakville said, “Toronto’s population needs to be vigilant when it comes to cops; our police have a serious, serious problem on their hands. It’s not just the big crimes they (allegedly) commit or the ones they have been convicted for; it’s the everyday dishonesty and entitlements exhibited by the rank and file that should really unnerve and enrage our citizens. Rogue cops? Nonsense. This stuff is systemic. I turn on my phone’s camera the instant I spot a cruiser, just in case. Our uniformed, non-informed and reckless police constables are capable of anything. That’s the rule, not the exception.” unquote

Martina Gail of Toronto said, “Never in our nation’s history had Canadians seen such lawlessness on the part of our once-proud TPS (Toronto Police Service) until the G20. And how was it handled? The TPS’s command, from the chief on down, downplayed the evidence and retreated to bureaucratic paralysis while the rank and file circled the wagons, claiming to not recognize any of their fellow officers.

“Meanwhile, the Police Services Board cowered and shamefully left the force to sort itself out. As we all know, the vast majority of offending front-line police and their commanding officers were never meaningfully held to account for their brutal and illegal actions. Now, five years later, there’s increasing incidents of cops going Rambo with their firearms, lying, planting evidence and assisting the cover-up of wrongful policing by fellow officers.

“Public trust of the TPS took a traumatizing blow during the G20. But obfuscation by those bodies that could have brought justice and restored public confidence has simply opened the door to further corruption and a downward spiral of public trust.” unquote

There are many other citizens who have nothing but contempt for far too many of the members of the Toronto Police Service. That is most unfortunate because the vast majority of the police officers in Toronto are decent law-biding citizens. It is the rotten apples that spoil the images of the remainder of the police officers in the barrel. 

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