I consider myself to be a law and order guy. I have always been a proponent and big supporter of the police. My dad was in policing for 38 years.
He trained military police and was on duty in Canada and in Europe and dealt professionally for his entire career with police services from across Canada. He always told me that if I felt troubled or threatened in any way to call the police and they will help. I used to tell my kids that. Now I am not so sure. Lately it’s hard to tell who the good guys are. I even have a person on our staff who I greatly respect who asked not have his name in this issue because he said “the police don’t like criticism.”
As our cover story shows, there appears to be a systemic problem in policing across Canada. The last few years have seen a litany of disturbing cases of police in Canada assaulting its citizens. Poor judgment, poor training, aggressive and boorish behaviour, and a pervasive us versus everyone else mentality seem to be the norm across Canadian police forces. There is a general perception in our society that the police have become a power onto themselves and no longer exist to “serve and protect”. Police officers are subject to the same laws as the rest of us. When they do not obey the rule of law themselves, or break the law, they cause damage to the very fabric of our democratic system. This is why it is imperative that police services have the highest standards of leadership and be led by people who are prepared to be held accountable for the actions of their police constables. But what do you do if the police leadership itself is setting a bad example or is prepared to turn a blind eye to police malfeasance.
Leadership experts will tell you that in any organization the tone is set at the top.
Ottawa Police Chief Vern White seems to have no idea what is going on in his own cellblock, the Toronto Police Chief misrepresents the facts and spouts innuendo to discredit a citizen in an SIU investigation on a live CBC radio interview, the Vancouver Police Chief doesn’t charge anyone for 5 months after the Stanley Cup riots even though he has loads of video evidence, Montreal’s Police Chief does not account for how two of his officers shot an innocent bystander dead on the street. The former Commissioner of the RCMP is accused by his subordinates of having anger management issues, a London Police Sergeant with years of service Tasers an 11-year-old boy in the head without issuing a warning or using other methods to control the situation.
Chief White’s response to the Stacy Bonds case was deplorable, matched only by the ignorant comments of Ottawa Police Association President Steve Boucher and the chronically inept President of the impotent Ottawa Police Services Board, Eli El- Chantiry. They should all resign.
Police officers are only human and, like everyone else, they are going to make mistakes. Nonetheless, with great power comes great responsibility. With their privileged role in society, police forces must be transparent in admitting to errors and account for their actions to ensure public trust and faith in them is maintained. Expecting the highest degree of professionalism at all times from our police services and calling them on the carpet when they do not deliver makes for a better police service and stronger communities.
As we go to press the main story in the national news is about Catherine Galliford, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Policewoman and the high profile spokesperson who was involved with the Air India bombing probe and the arrest of serial killer Robert Pickton. She alleges that she faced sexual advances from senior RCMP officers during the 16 years she was with the force. She went off duty sick in 2007 and is now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She alleges that one of her bosses tried to have sex with her and she has been asked by her bosses to sit on their knees. “It just got to the point that after I had about 16 years of service, I broke. I completely broke,” she said. It is both sad and maddening. What is really broke is the leadership in Canada’s policing.