It would seem that police forces (or at least police chiefs) have a major predilection towards registering things. We have cars, sex offenders and guns registered now, so London, Ontario’s police chief feels it is time to go after kegs of beer.
And he’s not the only one.
The idea is the brainchild of London, Ont. police chief Murray Faulkner, who suggests that beer-store clerks should be obligated to record the name, address and other personal information of anyone who buys a keg. Chief Faulkner says that such a record would allow his force to more easily hold someone responsible in the event of noise complaints, underage drinking and other ills connected with keg parties.
As the National Post reported Wednesday, he is backed by Kingston, Ont. chief Bill Closs, whose city devolves into a scene from a Hogarth etching once a year during Queen’s University’s homecoming week. The idea is under review by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and has already been discussed with the Liquor Control Board and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission.
It is certainly within a police chief’s right to suggest ways to address enforcement problems, but too often politicians think that, because of the source, the idea needs to be treated as serious and acted upon. That gives far too much credit to where credit may not be due.
My take on police forces, and thereby police chiefs, is that they are a necessary evil. Only required because we don’t have the common sense to follow some basic rules of society like not stealing your neighbour’s possessions and, even worse, killing him in the process and not running through red lights during rush hour. Most of which are covered under the ten commandments, plus other federal, provincial and regional rules.
What politicians and others should keep in mind is that whenever there is an enforcement problem, real or perceived, there are two basic responses from police forces: larger budgets or more laws and regulations.
The budget response is simple. “We have a problem and you want me to solve it. Give me more money and I will throw it at the problem.”
The second solution is much more dangerous. “We have a problem and you want me to solve it. Give me and my officers more power.”
I googled the phrase, “police want more power” and the first items up were:
* Police want power to crack down on offensive demo chants and slogans …
* Police want power to seize encryption keys …
* Police want the power to freeze the accounts of companies without a court order…
* Police Want More Power to Monitor Internet and Email.
Police in general have no concerns about the need to protect your privacy or your rights. Their goal is to catch criminals and they will use any methods that they can access to make their job easier. Preferably legal but they have been know to stretch the rules of engagement.
I have no doubt that if you were to allow police to set their own enforcement standards you would very shortly see mandatory fingerprinting , “show on demand” identity cards and in this day and age compulsory DNA banks. In most areas of the U.S. they already allow “no knock” raids on residences and it appears that this is also happening in Canada.
This past November when the Minister of Justice, Vic Toews, announced that he would give police a voice in appointing federal judges there was an immediate backlash from numerous sources.
When the Harper Conservatives stunned the legal community by announcing that police would help pick federal judges, it was the latest sign that the law enforcement community has vaulted to one of the most powerful groups in the country when it comes to influence on Parliament Hill.
After years of being bystanders in Ottawa’s corridors of power, police now meet with cabinet ministers while they are crafting law-and-order legislation, often stand at the government’s side when announcement are made, and enjoy generous access to senior politicians who frequently accept invitations to speak at police events.
”There’s obviously a tendency on the part of this government to pander to police interests,” laments Louise Botham, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, which defends the rights of the accused.
Now that Toews has been moved out of the Justice portfolio it can only be hoped that the New Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson will review and reverse this decision.
Law and order is fine and dandy but governments need to be very careful when they look at reducing the limits they place on police powers.