Archive for the ‘RCMP’ Category

Bill C-391: The aftermath

October 18, 2010

As anyone interested in the subject knows, Bill C-391, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s private members bill to scrap the long gun registry, went down in flames on September 22nd to a 153 to 151 vote. Although it had passed at 1st and 2nd readings, it never even got a chance to go to 3rd reading as the vote to scuttle the bill came from a motion tabled by Liberal MP Mark Holland.

The scene was set for the failure of Bill C-391 when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff set a precedent by whipping his caucus’ vote rather than allowing the traditional free vote for private members’ bills.

That brought into line all of the Liberal MPs who had previously voted in favour of scrapping the long gun registry through its 1st and 2nd readings.

NDP leader Jack Layton chose not to whip his caucus’ vote and had his MPs who had supported the bill on the previous votes stayed true to their principles we would have seen an end to the registry.

But having made the choice to let his MP’s supposedly vote their beliefs, Layton then applied serious moral suasion to coerce them to change their vote this time around.

I assume that it will never be known what promises were given, what threats were made or what pressure was applied, but in the end 6 of the 12 New Democrats who swore that they opposed the registry flip-flopped on their vote when the crunch came.

Probably the most egregious turnabout was made by NDP MP Peter Stoffer who had almost to the end stated his unwavering opposition to the long gun registry and promised that he would continue to vote for its demise.

Then the rumours started to fly that Stoffer was about to switch and two days before the vote Stoffer confirmed that the rumour was true.

This was a stunning turnaround in the eyes of many, as Mr. Stoffer was on record in the House of Commons as telling the House that…

“All I ever asked for in my 12 1/2 years was bring a bill that was very clear; end the long gun registry and I will personally stand up and support that.”

Well, his opportunity came to the floor of the House in the form Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill, C-391, and Peter Stoffer, for whatever reasons, folded like a cheap suit.

If you ever needed a moment to contemplate on how cynical and sleazy politics can be, this was one to remember.

Unfortunately, all of the blame for the defeat of Bill C-391 doesn’t lie with the Liberal’s undemocratic whipping of their vote, nor with the desertion from their publicly stated values by the NDP MPs.

The Conservatives, instead of quietly encouraging those opposition members who opposed the registry and working with them beneath the radar chose instead to use the moment as an opportunity to make political points, taking out attack ads even in the ridings of those MPs who had initially voted in favour of C-391.

This lost them considerable amounts of goodwill and was used by a number of those who switched their vote as part of their rationale for why they had changed their minds.

In the end, the real losers were all of the firearm owners across Canada: The hunters, ranchers, farmers, recreational shooters, collectors, etc.

Will we get another chance to rid ourselves of the registry?

Sure as hell not if we see the Liberal party back in power. Ignatieff, true to his ilk, while saying he wants to ‘fix’ the registry has already spoken of a ban on all handguns in the country. As has NDP leader Jack Layton.

So Mr. Ignatieff’s concept of a ‘fix’ is to make the firearm ownership laws more restrictive  and confiscate what we already legally own.

Aren’t we regularly accused of being totally paranoid when we speak of the fact that registration precedes confiscation? How did the media miss this?

Surprising news: Bad guys do bad things

July 1, 2010

It was a great plan.

To stop the wrong people from obtaining firearms and ammunition it was writ in law that a citizen would have to be vetted by the government in order to qualify for ownership; specifically through obtaining a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). This would ensure that only those anointed by the bureaucracy, through testing and background checks, would obtain the government-given right to own and use guns.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, although the powers that be assiduously worked to keep the general public safe from gun violence by confiscating guns of hunters, target shooters and collectors and dragging their owners into court based (in many cases) on police and crown prosecutors’ flexible definitions of what constituted safe storage under the law.

All the while gang-bangers and drug dealers seemed to manage to stay armed regardless of the laws of the land. And when the courts formally banned them from gun ownership they simply went back out on the streets, defied the law and got more guns. No doubt because (after all) they are criminals and their way of life is based on breaking the law.

Now you would think that this would be obvious to everyone, particularly the police, who deal with the unlawful segment of our population of a frequent basis. However a recent discovery seems to have caused them some consternation.

Six people have been charged with operating a forgery ring that has stolen hundreds of identities.

Police and RCMP searched a home in downtown Edmonton and discovered counterfeiting equipment, along with hundreds of forged documents and cards. A sword disguised as a walking cane was the sole weapon found in the home.

One man was allegedly in the midst of forging firearms possession and acquisition cards when police arrived. Cpl. Julie Macfarlane-Smith, of the Edmonton commercial crime section, said such forged documents could enable the unauthorized purchase of guns and ammunition.

The police spokesperson seemed a bit taken aback by the brazenness of it all.

Cpl. Julie Macfarlane-Smith of the RCMP’s commercial crimes section said she’s never seen forged firearms licences before.

“It’s quite a process to receive (a legal) one,” she said, “and to think it’s a matter of changing a face and the accompanying data (on a licence) so someone can say, this is who I am and I’m here to buy a firearm or some ammunition, it’s seriously a concern.”

Sources close to Edmonton’s gangs have said guns are easy to obtain, but bullets are scarce on the street. The reason, they say, is because you need a licence to buy ammunition from a retailer.

They suggest that if bullets were more accessible, there’d be a lot more shootings in the city.

If criminals can get their hands on forged licences, McGowan said, “it’s particularly worrisome. What are we going to do next if there’s any prevalence of this?”

Indeed. What are we going to do?

I suppose we could pass more laws to make the point that it’s really, really bad to forge documents or obtain guns illegally. Or even reiterate that stealing is really, really frowned upon by society.

But I suspect it wouldn’t make a lot of difference one way or the other.

It’s not as though these particular bad guys were just concentrating on firearm licenses.

They found hundreds of stolen and forged pieces of I.D., including bank documents, credit cards, driver’s licences, birth certificates, Canadian citizenship papers, Treaty and Metis cards and company I.D. cards. They also seized computer equipment and software to print counterfeit cash….

After all, if you can manufacture driving licenses, birth certificates and citizenship papers, firearm Possession and Acquisition Licences are just another run on the production line.

All of which goes to the truth that if you pass a law limiting access to a product or even banning it outright, most people will try and comply even if they strongly disagree with its premise.

But if there is a market for that product and money to be made, clever people who don’t give a damn about the law or the rules will find some innovative and of course illegal way to bypass the system.

And in the meantime politicians will look to pass more laws to do the work that their old laws failed to do and the police will continue to do photo-ops of the “arsenals” that they have confiscated from the homes of those the bureaucracy, through their laws and regulations, has arbitrarily designated as criminals.

And somewhere, in a basement possibly near to you, a printing press is rolling.

An amazing thing occurred in Parliament last Tuesday

November 10, 2009

A truly amazing event took place in Ottawa this past Tuesday.

Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner‘s private members bill C-391 to eliminate the federal long-gun registry, passed on second reading by a vote of 164 to 137. This was amazing on several different levels.

Firstly, it was a private members bill which rarely get passed, unless it deals with some innocuous, motherhood issue. But this was a controversial piece of legislation, that had anti-gun groups frothing at the mouth in frustration and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) pumping out misinformation in a desperate attempt to garner support to defeat the bill. But that didn’t happen.

Secondly, the Conservative government, after having torpedoed Garry Breitkreuz‘ Bill C-301 ,which would have killed the registry as well as clearing up several other inequities, and then engineering a Senate bill (S-5) which they said would eliminate the registry, but in reality would have simply taken the long-gun registry out of the federal government’s purview and passed in on down to the provinces, backed Ms. Hoeppner’s bill so enthusiastically they ran the risk of alienating even the opposition MPs that were already in favour of scuttling the registry. I’ll park my paranoia on that one.

Thirdly, the leaders of two of the three opposition parties, Jack Layton for the NDP and Michael Ignatieff for the Liberals stayed with the normal practice of giving their members a free vote on a private members bill.

So despite the wailing of the anti-gunners, who did their best to convince all and sundry that the loss of the registry would mean bodies piling up in the streets, and the CACP  who were in turn predicting a complete breakdown in law and order should the registry disappear, 12 NDP and 4 Liberal MPs voted with the Conservative minority to take it through 2nd reading. The Bloc of course, having their own agenda, voted solidly against the bill.

What was also interesting was the amount of media commentary that was in favour of getting rid of the long-gun registry. We saw numerous columns , articles and editorials in the newspapers supporting the Hoeppner bill – a long time coming, but encouraging to see.

So is it a fait accompli that the registry is on its way out?

Not by a long shot. There is a process.

From here it goes to to committee, in this case the Public Safety Committee, for modification or approval and already opposition members are bragging that they will gut the bill at this level. The Public Safety committee is made up of 12 members, one of which functions as the chair. Looking at the names on the committee it is apparent that it is evenly split between those who voted for Bill C-391 and those who voted against it. But, the chair -in this case Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz who has fought against the federal firearms legislation since its inception – only votes in the case of a tie which actually gives the opponents of the bill a voting majority.

If the bill survives this stage it goes back to Parliament for 3rd reading and provided that the opposition MPs stay true to their 2nd reading vote, and the vote is once again a majority in favour, it then goes to the Senate for for review and approval.

At which point the registry would disappear from our lives.

At least from some of our lives, as Quebec is already making noises about setting up a provincial registry, which is something they have wanted for some time.

Will Bill C-391 make it to the finish line? Good question.

The vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee is Ontario MP Mark Holland who has been the Liberal party’s stalking horse on this issue promoting the Liberal’s pro-gun control position at every opportunity, which bodes no good for the committee process.

On the other hand, the bill is very simple and straight forward. It get rid of the long-gun registry. No more and no less. If, as I understand, the committee in its deliberations cannot materially change the intent of the legislation there may not be much that they can do to corrupt Hoeppner’s bill.

At this point only time will tell.

Different times: Simpler Times

May 21, 2009

I need to qualify these comments by saying that every incident that the police get caught up in is unique and judgments are made based on a lot of factors. In this case a spouse was involved and the man was an unknown factor.  It became a major manhunt.

Keremeos RCMP Detachment summoned and coordinated resources from neighboring detachments and units, including Oliver/Osoyoos and Princeton Detachments, South Okanagan Traffic Services, Integrated Border Enforcement Team, two Penticton Police Dog Services units, Princeton RCMP and South East District Air Services Helicopter Air 4 in order to conduct extensive patrols of the area. Approximately 15 officers combed the Ashnola area West of Keremeos near the Cathedral Lakes Provincial Campgrounds, shutting down Ashnola Road to ensure the safety of persons in the area.

It just reminded me of a situation many years ago in Watson Lake in the Yukon where a local trapper got into a confrontation in the local bar and went back to his cabin outside of town telling everyone if the local RCMP constable came after him he would shoot him. Of course this got reported to the officer, who was expected to charge out there and take the trapper into custody. But he didn’t, explaining that if he did that he just might provoke a tragic incident and that the trapper was of no danger to anyone back in his cabin. The next morning the constable went out to the cabin and arrested the trapper, now sober, hungover and in a different frame of mind. What could have been a serious incident was just a routine bit of police work.

Again, certainly not to say in any way that the Keremeos incident could have (or should have) been handled any differently than it was, and in Watson Lake it was a small northern community where the local RCMP officer knew his constituency personally. But I wonder if the Watson Lake incident was to happen today whether it would be handled in such a low key manner, or whether the ERT would be flown in from wherever and it would be a major news event .

Simpler times.

Update on Alberta taser death

May 16, 2009

Well, really not much of an update as the medical examination could not determine the official cause of death.

An inquiry into the death of an Alberta man shocked three times by an RCMP stun gun couldn’t come to a conclusion about what ultimately killed him.

In a report released Wednesday morning, provincial court Judge Monica Blast said the most likely cause of Jason Doan’s cardiac arrest was “excited delirium,” but because no underlying medical diagnosis could be identified as the trigger that put him into that state, the cause of death remains “undeterminable.”

Without a cause of death, the judge said she had no recommendations.

Although the exact cause of death could not be determined by the medical examiner it is really hard to believe that the tasering did not contribute in a significant way. It’s just too much of a coincidence.

Regardless, it is hard to fault the police on this incident. When you get a highly disturbed individual that you can’t calm down and fights you there are only a few options available and none of them are gentle. In this case the taser would seem to have been a reasonable choice.

Doan was arrested on Aug. 10 after several Red Deer residents called police complaining a soaking wet man was yelling profanities and threats, as well as smashing windows on vehicles. Doan struggled with the first two RCMP officers who tried to arrest him, using a stick as a weapon.

“Doan displayed enormous strength, stamina and endurance and appeared to be impervious to all of the pain compliance techniques used on him by police in their attempt to subdue him,” the judge wrote.

The officers had one handcuff on Doan when a third officer arrived and threatened to use a Taser on him if he didn’t comply. The officer used the Taser, set on touch-stun mode, three times on Doan’s back. On the third try, Doan’s resistance “eased off” and after a few seconds he said “Please help me,” the judge wrote.

Police got the second handcuff on him and noticed he was turning blue. The officers tried to help him, performing CPR, until paramedics arrived, took over, then took him to the hospital.

It’s easy to second guess, but I don’t think that this one in any way compares to the Robert Dziekanski case.

Another RCMP taser death embarrassment?

May 7, 2009

There is no detail on this story yet, but it could be the makings of another public relations disaster for the RCMP.

A man died in a southern Alberta hospital after RCMP shocked him with a stun gun.

In a press release, Brooks RCMP said they responded to a call Wednesday night about a man who was “observed to be injured and causing a disturbance in a residential area of the community.” Emergency medical workers also arrived.

Police gave few details, but said they used a Taser on the man.

“The adult male then experienced medical distress and was immediately provided with emergency medical assistance. The male was transported to Brooks Hospital where he later died,” police said.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which looks into all deaths in the province involving police officers, is investigating.

We’ll keep a watch for any further news stories on this one.

RCMP Spin

April 24, 2009

I was listening to the radio a couple of days ago and they were interviewing the new RCMP communications officer about the information that the Force had issued immediately after the tasering and death of Robert  Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport. The officer was pushing the story that the information the RCMP had initially issued to the public was an honest mistake and was insistent that even if the video hadn’t been made of the incident that the true story would have eventually come out, reiterating numerous times that “truth would out”.

It was not a very convincing interview – at least not from my point of view. The police are well known for protecting their own. The ranks close.

But even if it was an honest mistake the decision was made to not issue a correction.

An RCMP spokesman said Wednesday that top police brass made a
deliberate decision not to correct misinformation the Mounties had told
the media about Robert Dziekanski’s death, and also admitted the RCMP
didn’t want a damning bystander video of the Tasering released.

and that

the misinformation about Dziekanski wouldn’t be corrected until the file was closed.

The media spokesman that I listened to on the radio said that it was important for the police to be truthful and factual about information that they give out to the public in order to maintain their credibility and the trust of the public. Unfortunately they seem to be recognized this truism a little late in the game.

However it appears that what police may have learned from the Dziekanski affair is more about making sure that no one is allowed to take any pictures where they are involved in an incident.

In this case seizing equipment from a professional photographer working for the Province newspaper:

Vancouver’s chief of police has apologized for the seizure of a newspaper photographer’s camera following a police shooting on Sunday, and clarified his department’s policy for seizing cameras and video equipment.

And this from a man using his cellphone to film the police shooting of a Vancouver homeless man:

Smolcic said he was across the street when he saw Hubbard slowly pull a knife from his backpack, and then one of the two officers on the scene pulled out their gun and shot the man.

Smolcic said he did not see Hubbard advance toward the officer before he was shot.

“No, absolutely not. He was very shaky, but he wasn’t making any moves toward the police at all that I saw,” he told CBC News.Maybe a different lesson was learned.

Smolcic said he continued to film the incident after Hubbard was shot, until he was approached by an officer.

“He saw me filming and he came up to me and he asked to see my cellphone. He had my cellphone for a few minutes, and it appeared as though he was previewing the film. He gave me back my cellphone, probably about four or five minutes after he took it, told me to get lost, and of course, I did.”

The diminishing RCMP image

April 9, 2009

mountie

Tasers and the police

February 25, 2009

Tasers are not dangerous and all police officers should carry one but they are used too often and should only be used when there is a physical threat to the officer.

All of which was a mixed message from the spokespersons for the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police held a news conference Tuesday to outline a 13-point position paper on conducted energy weapons.

They spent almost the whole event defending the devices, and lashed out at claims they’re potentially deadly. They cited two cases where Tasers might actually have stopped people from killing themselves.

Ontario Provincial Police chief Julian Fantino taunted Taser critics, saying they’d never walked in an officer’s shoes and probably couldn’t even pass a basic training course.

“Tasers save lives and that’s the bottom line,” Fantino said. “We decided it was time to set the record straight.”

But the message remained muddled.

Police alluded to multiple studies that disputed Tasers’ capacity to kill – but couldn’t name a single research paper they’d consulted when pressed repeatedly for specific citations.

At the end of the news conference, officers acknowledged that Tasers had been used too often. And they conceded that the weapon has been used in cases where suspects presented no threat.

This after the RCMP earlier made a similar concession, admitting that there was a “distinct possibility” that tasers have caused several deaths in Canada.

A distinct possibility? Over 20 people have died in Canada after being tasered by police.

In fact the RCMP quietly changed its policy in June, 2008 to instruct their members to only use their tasers if there was a direct threat to an officer’s safety.

Much of this reluctant change in policy was driven by the death of Robert Dziekanski after being tasered by RCMP officers in the Vanouver Airport on October 14th, 2008. But it was only because a civilian had caught this incident on video and it became public that it generated so much negative publicity for the police.

There is definitely a place for the use of tasers by police. Certainly the taser is of great value in any situation where the only other option would be for the officer to draw his firearm. The risk to a suspect’s health from an electrical shock is certainly far less than a bullet in the chest.

But, as even the various police organizations admitted, the taser has too often been used improperly. Sometimes simply as a punishment.

One incident that did get reported and publicized happened in November, 2007 in Kelowna, B.C.

A RCMP superintendent has apologized to a B.C. senior who was Tasered last month after double parking his vehicle in downtown Kelowna.

However, Supt. William McKinnon said in a news release today his issue was not that the officer fired his Taser, but with the fact he used it while the victim was still in his car.

John Peters, 68, a newspaper carrier and stroke victim, told the media last month he was shocked twice with the weapon after two Mounties confronted him while he was briefly stopped on a downtown street.

Peters admitted he was double parked at the time and he drove away from the officers when they told him he was getting a ticket.

But that did not justify what happened next, his wife told CanWest News Service in November.

Peters stopped his car at the end of the street. And before he could get out, one of the officers blasted him with a Taser. Once he was out of the car, he was Tasered again, his wife said, and arrested for obstruction.

Today, McKinnon defended most of his officers’ conduct. Peters, he said, “failed to co-operate with police” and “exhibited combative behaviour,” which justified the use of the Taser.

However, he added that the officer erred when he fired the weapon while Peters remained seated in the car.

“We, in turn, regret this particular action and have apologized to Mr. Peters for this tactical error in judgment,” McKinnon said. “Due to the fact that such a serious error was made by the police officer in question, I have ordered a code of conduct investigation.”

In November, Peters was charged with obstructing the peace, resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer.

But today, McKinnon revealed that the Crown wouldn’t proceed with any of the charges.

Now I don’t know this gentleman, but I have seen him on numerous occasions and he is a small, slight man who I find it difficult to believe would cause a police officer to feel physically threatened and I would suggest that if the officer was then he is in the wrong business.

But even then the RCMP official would not admit that the use of taser in this instance was improper, only that it shouldn’t have been used when the man was in his car.

A review of RCMP incidents showed that 4 out of 5 suspects hit by a stun gun were unarmed and that the taser was used more to ensure compliance than to stop a violent confrontation.

A Canadian Press analysis of Taser incidents reported by the Mounties reveals that more than 79 per cent of those zapped were not brandishing a weapon.

In just over one-fifth of cases, the suspect had a knife, bottle, club or other weapon.

The figures, compiled from hundreds of partially censored pages filed by RCMP officers, highlight police preference for the 50,000-volt tool that helps them control dangerous situations with usually minimal injury.

But they also suggest a pattern of use by the Mounties as a quick means to keep relatively low-risk prisoners, drunks and unruly suspects in line.

Hopefully the new policies voiced by the various police forces will be strictly enforced and we will see less casual use of the taser by police officers.

Final thoughts on Robert Dziekanski

December 7, 2007

As the media blitz dies down, I doubt if we will ever know all of the facts as to where most of the blame lies in Robert D Dziekanski’s death at the Vancouver airport.

From the beginning, I thought that once the investigation got underway we would find that much of the blame would get passed back to Customs. Dziekanski spent at least nine hours in that area and if he had passed through there into the main area in the normal amount of time there would never have been a confrontation.

But when you read the details of his time in the customs area and what transpired there the view gets a little fuzzy. He did get processed and he did have an opportunity while being processed to talk with someone who had at least a working knowledge of the Polish language. But once processed, he went back to the baggage area inside the secure section. Not only did he have a language problem he was also a very inexperienced flyer who had no knowledge of how the traffic flow went.

There have been comments made in the media that the Airport ‘lost’ Dziekanski, but in the time he was in the Customs area, 4,000 other travelers passed through. One person doesn’t even register.

The Airport management has said that they will add more surveillance cameras etc., but technology will not solve the problem. You need more intelligent communications between the various organizations and that did seem to be lacking, or perhaps more to the point, a lack of responsibility to follow through on any communications received. Not an uncommon problem in large organizations: no-one takes ownership of the problem.

Which of course brings us back to the taser issue.

There seems to be no question that the RCMP officers were far too hasty with their use of the Taser gun. There appeared to be no attempt to make any verbal contact with Dziekanski. They went with what appears to be the new police philosophy when dealing with disturbances: Taser first and defend your actions afterward. In this case, they added to the problems by piling on in the aftermath – which also seems to becoming a standard technique. Whether Dziekanski’s death was caused by the multiple shocks the RCMP officers gave him or by the physical trauma is something that hopefully will be determined by the medical examiners.

Regardless, the tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski is only one incident in many that have been recorded across North America and the use of the Taser is very much being questioned by the media and politicians and is being vigorously defended by police spokespersons.

 

I have always thought that that the use of the Taser by police had great promise for certain situations where, with no other option, they would have to resort to the use of deadly force. Unfortunately the Taser seems to have become the police go-to tool for any and every situation short of using deadly force. In fact in reading of some of the incidents I get the distinct impression that it is being used as a punishment tool.

It’s not that the Taser is a bad tool for police work, it’s just that it is being used far to casually by police and in many cases its use would appear to border on abuse.


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