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A Farmer’s truth….

This dispatch is coming to you from the Prairies, a bit more personal, more of an observation.

This is coming to you from what seems like a different world, a different topography, a different agenda. It’s a world where discussions often centre around the direction of the winds, and the ever-changing weather that those winds bring. At this time of the year, the winds are beginning to blow cooler over the wheat and canola fields, the sheaves have already been laid over, now waiting to be gathered. It is the time of the year for the annual dance with Mother Nature.

The “bins” and grain elevators stand like sentries at each dusty village or town site, anticipating the impending crop arrival. A harvest moon slowly rises in the late afternoon, highlighting the changing Fall colours of the birch, aspen, and balsam trees which lay in long lines, deciduous dividers of the farmers fields, encircling the homesteads.

One can not help but be staggered by the difference and beauty of this part of the Canadian mosaic, this lifestyle which has been harrowed out of dark rich brown fields of dirt for over a hundred years. It’s big sky country. It is such a polar opposite universe to the lifestyle found in the assorted cities across this country. Little has changed here, technology has pushed equipment advances, but the standards remain the same; hard work and perseverance are still the determinants of outcome.

Meanwhile in that other more common world, a seemingly more complex world, Ottawa and the big metropolises of Canada are now poised and have swung into election mode. The farmers watch from a distance, with both frustration and amusement. A slightly raised eyebrow often serves as a statement in its own right.

From the perspective of the plains, looking to the East, the politicians seem to be speaking in some form of language which is not easily understood by those working with and who are closer to the ground. It’s a language which seems foreign, somehow distant from reality, or at least distant from the experience of these folk. Two separate conversations, going in different directions, taking place in different parts of this country. A growing chasm in political thought and point of view. Two disparate groups.

There is an inherent distrust. When one questions or attempts to explore the roots of the these farmers suspicions– it seems to point to one thing–a perception of a fundamental lack of honesty amongst the ruling elite. They believe that there is a basic, maybe insurmountable misunderstanding, of the needs and wants of this agricultural world.

The farmers sit in the local coffee shop, where the kibitzing and haranguing of the others who join them often interrupts the more serious talk. It’s 6:30 a.m. and they huddle around a Tim Hortons coffee. It’s a bond and a dialogue developed over many years, their wrinkled hands and sun and wind browned faces proudly showing the signs of age and hard work. As they gather in the booths, it is an easy friendship, dry wit, interspersed with sparse caustic comment. And it is here, where you get exposed to the bare, often raw truths.

As we have now entered the period where the politicos have 40 days to bombard the rest of us with fatuous ads, make hundreds of promises and cater and appeal to all those city folk who hold the real power.

These two groups seem to be on an inevitable collision course. They feel that in the end they are destined to be crushed by the weight of the majority. In the political power pyramid their votes are only a small portion of the population; their wishes pale in comparison to the 905 area code or to those in the French speaking parts of the country.

They feel that the general public is being fed a narrative which is simply untrue. That political correctness has wiped out the ability for open and honest discussion. They do not feel that there is room for them, that the dialogue swirls around them and like a prairie dust storm, touches down briefly, wreaks havoc, and then leaves.

They ask continually as to why the media won’t report what is actually going on, not what the elites and the cognoscenti want us to believe is going on. They believe that the media is part of that mainstream stream of consciousness which has been co-opted.

This place is a long way from the issues of climate change and ride hailing. There are no Teslas parked in the gravel lot, just F-150’s and Chev pickups covered in the dust of the fields. Working vehicles, no polished chrome. The NDP promise lower cellphone plans, they just want cellphone coverage.

Grain prices and the latest issue of the U.S Department of Agriculture which reveal the American anticipated crop yields is much more important, more important than the CBC or CTV news out of Toronto. Prices, yields, and the weather are the talking points for many of the conversations, but the fundamental moral of most of the stories is always similar, not unlike the fishermen on the East Coast– its about the money being made in the middle. The shippers, the buyers, the retailers all making significant money whereas the growers and the harvesters cling on with reduced or diminished prices.

The canola embargo by China is not effecting the city folk, or at least in a significant way, but it is hurting these folk.

Rural crime is often a topic of conversation. When one asks about the police, they swing their arm around gesturing to the outside wide world, “Do you see any?” they ask.

When a background television on the CBC talks about the latest round of monies being given to the Indigenous it is an issue with serious resonance in this part of the country. A flash point. They shake their heads and mutter a few remarks under their breath because even here, in this conclave of white rural Canada, they realize they can not speak freely; there is no free speech when it comes to certain issues.

No one, when they are pressed for an explanation, they believe, has the ability to be forthcoming on what they see in the indigenous communities; the ever multiplying birth rates, the local hospital emergency rooms filled with the indigenous and their babies, and the constant referral to residential schools as a full justification for massive crime and incarceration rates.

Is this racism? When one actually listens to the words and the anecdotal stories, it seems deeper and a little more profound. That explanation is too easy, the racist card is candy to the media establishment, no one seems interested in digging deeper.

This group have the strongest of work ethics. To them, not working or not providing for your families is the lowest end of the expectation spectrum. To not work hard, to rely on others is both foreign to them and is morally repugnant. There is a flint edged pride in cultivating a living from this often harsh land.

The Indigenous claims of nationhood and their constant referrals to ceded or un-ceded lands does not resonate here. The constant monies being fed into a system to support economically unfeasible communities does not make “common” sense and therefore does not make sense to them.

In their view, their own ancestors settled this country and are just as much an intrinsic part of the foundation of this country. The history books are filled with stories of unbelievable hardship in trying to cut out a living, a free section of land worth dying for. In their eyes you can see the hereditary determination. Their hold on this land was earned. No one is going to take it or give it away.

And of course the biggest comeback to the politicians is “Who is going to pay for all this? Cents and dollars are measured here in a bushel of wheat, so they know the value of a few cents, a few dollars.

Round and round the conversations go, but then a train rumbles close by, interruptive, the sound drumming out normal conversation, rail cars full of oil gently sway by, hundreds of rail cars in procession, destined for the refineries on the coast.

The irony of all this oil going through the middle of these small rural towns, in clearly a much more dangerous way than through a pipeline, can not be over looked. One wonders if these trains were rumbling through Burnaby, Port Moody or Elizabeth May’s riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, whether the debate and the protests would be the same. The farmers sitting around the tables pay little attention, shrug it off, it’s just the way it is. Just another example of the political rhetoric slamming up against reality.

So as the winds cool and begin to switch to the northeast, they begin to blow a little stronger and rain seems to be in the air. The farmers get up from their tables, sore backs eliciting mumbled moans as they push back their chairs and begin heading back to their labours. It is a grudging labour of love, it is hard labour, and it is relentless.

Who is going to take their place? Their children are reluctant to commit to a life of seven day work weeks and paycheques dependent on the weather. Even they don’t blame them.

Are we witnessing the end of an era? Maybe. Life and death are more evident here, more accepted, maybe because of the interdependence of nature and the four seasons. Although, it is hard to imagine a world where everyone is a government employee or conducting whale-watching tours.

The election will come and go, politicians will promise and then renege or back away on those promises. It means little to these farmers.

For the most part, they just want to be left alone, left to their land– the duality of the land which has been forever filled with both promise and hardship.

It is indeed humbling to be around them.

Photo courtesy of the Author.

Here comes the Union..there go the Surrey Mounties–maybe….

In a rather resounding vote, the National Police Federation (NPF) has been certified as the new bargaining unit for the RCMP members. Who would of thought? Of the 14,459 ballots cast, 14,012 voted to certify, a 97% approval, a landslide if there ever was one. Vote getting the Conservatives and the Liberal political shape shifters this coming October could only dream about.

At the same time the C Division Mounties (the QMPMA), who had been wanting to strike out on their own (pardon the pun) were resoundingly told “no” by the Federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. Their albeit rather weak case was dismissed on somewhat technical grounds, in that they were maintaining that the designation of a single bargaining unit was unconstitutional; and the Board replied that they could not rule on it as it was a constitutional matter. Therefore dismissed.

It is interesting to read some of the rationale provided by the old C Division guard, like Gaetan Delisle, who testified as to the cultural differences as part of their argument. When asked to explain some of the differences he described the “anglophones” as being more “militarized and were used to receiving orders while C Division has more “discussion””. The anglophones liked to talk about “cars, firearms, and uniforms”, while they liked to talk about benefits. Suffice to say he did little to advance the melting pot duality of Canada, but the starkness of his comments should be kept in mind by the NPF, as one suspects there will be some further issues coming out of Quebec for the new bargaining unit.

In any event, the stark verdict of the vote for certification did emphasize the level of discontent; as if there were any doubts at this point in time. The ground moved in a seismic shift as some of the old guard rolled over in their respective graves, having never in their lives imagined a time when the RCMP would stop being “members” and are about to enter the era of now being “on the job”.

Ironically, two of the three co-chairs of the new NPF were part of the old DSSR system; Eddie McDonald and Brian Sauve having come up through that system, where they were at the mercy of the officers of the day, no matter how persuasive or effective they may have been. Their adjustment to the new reality will be worth watching, as their arguments one would think will need to become more strident.

As the process begins, no one should be expecting a quick response from government or in particular Treasury Board. The first “phase” will be the NPF putting forward a “request for disclosure” in order to collect the data required to prepare a “proposal” thats “comparable in the police universe”. In other words they want to see the data from the other agencies in order to help form their argument.

The primary issues, of course as is always the case, will be in negotiating “wages, hours and terms of employment”. And equally predictable, the focal point for on the on the ground Mountie is pay, and they will now be vying for a 14% increase in pay, which is what they say is needed to just keep up with the current municipal contracts.

Sounds good of course to each and all, but there are some further factors which should be taken into consideration.

First, Treasury Board oversees 29 collective agreements with 17 different bargaining units. Suffice to say, this is not their first trip to the rodeo. To think that they are going to simply rollover on this is naive at best.

Secondly, the general ratcheting up of police salaries throughout Canada is economically difficult to justify in times of declining criminal numbers. As much as the membership would not like to be reminded of it, it is not easy to measure productivity in policing, and to simply go in and demand equal pay for equal work, a sound argument, may need to be bolstered with some other more sophisticated arguments.

As an aside, in the Government of Canada the average employee makes $68,456, and in 2015 the median “household” income was $70,336.00. All of which underlines that sooner or later, the salary of police officers which are all hovering around $100,000 may be looked at with a bit of a raised eyebrow,– if and when the bureaucrats become cost conscious.

Third, the Mounties already have some of the best medical and secondary benefits in policing. So if one wants to use a comparison model with other municipal agencies this may be one area where they may lose this argument.

Then there is the upcoming election.

If the free spending, no cause too small Liberals retain power will they be ripe, right after an election, to incur another big bill? Probably, since there is absolutely no evidence of the Liberals ever being fiscally prudent.

Will the crime fighting Conservatives, who continually point to fiscal responsibility be prepared to grant a 14% pay increase in times of 2% inflation. Possibly, but if any party grants a raise it would likely be increased to those levels in more manageable bites; say 3 or 4 % per year for the next three years.

The average Federal government negotiated contract usually runs 2 years, sometimes 3, so even if a substantial raise is imminent, parity with others could be short-lived.

For this blogger the area of greater interest in terms of unionization will be in the area of “working conditions”. There should be little doubt that there is a massive shakeup coming for the RCMP in terms of the human relations or labour relations process; the handling of grievances, internal investigations, promotions and transfers, all of which will be the subject of possible union intervention.

One could easily predict, that once faced with this new universe, that much of the old upper management guard of the RCMP will leave, take their lucrative pensions and run for the retirement hills.

Or maybe apply to the new Surrey Police Force.

This awkward segue brings me to the latest development in the RCMP, which is their somewhat feeble attempt to stay as the operating and relevant police force in the growing and problem laden community of Surrey. Surrey, the land of strip malls, school portable trailers, gravel trucks and gangsters may be about to go through a significant change.

The NDP, being the NDP, whether it be about ride sharing, or money laundering, when forced into a clear bend in the road, likes to avoid making clear decisions, preferring instead to study the situation. After all taking a stand is always offensive to some particular interest group.

So they have now green-lighted the plan for the new police Force in Surrey proceeding, but then to keep everyone happy have appointed the all knowing multi-talented Wizard of Government Oz, Wally Oppal to head up what is being referred to as a “transition team”. This team, made up of City and Provincial employees will “ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition”.

It is easy to interpret this as a stall tactic, but even if one accepts the good intentions of the government one would have to admit that this will delay the implementation, probably past the proposed date of 2021.

As to Wally Oppal leading this team, no one here sees a conflict, so maybe it is just me, but on the one hand he is being hired to keep the RCMP relevant on a national level (see previous blog), while at the same time helping to remove the Mounties from Surrey as some form of transitional guru. It boggles the mind, or at least a linear mind which looks for some co-relation in all this.

One must also be reminded that the former head of the Mounties in B.C. Butterworth-Carr now heads Police Services which was directly involved in the “green-lighting” of this transition. Is the appointment of Wally a slick slowing down of the process, in the hope that in the end the Mounties, or as they are now referred to as the “cheaper” option will prevail? Only time will tell.

No one in the fraying journalism world that exists in British Columbia seems to have the capacity or the interest to look a little deeper into the factors behind the calls for a new agency. So their reporting has fixated on costs, hanging on to the 10% figure as if it were some absolute truth on which the whole debate of stay or go must revolve.

In this blogger’s opinion, the Mounties have become irrelevant in the city policing environment for one reason only. But it is a big reason. It is their structure.

They are being run as a Federal government department, not as a viable policing unit which needs to bend and continually adjust to change.

It is like all Federal departments overrun with useless and redundant supervision, overly bureaucratic, and stymied by consensus on far too many levels. It suffers from a promotion system out of touch with policing needs, a system of advancement which has emphasized political need, one which does not take into account experience and knowledge of the job.

It is an organization in Surrey being run and dictated to by Ottawa, 4584 kms away from Surrey, but it is a mental distance, not a physical distance.

Meanwhile, rumours and talk are now seemingly endless as to the number of municipal police employees who will be applying for the new Surrey jobs. Vancouver City PD could lose a couple of hundred officers, and Delta and New Westminster could lose the majority of their members as police officers are always on the scent for greater monies and benefits, not to mention a shorter commute; and who could blame them. Some see the possibility that if Surrey goes, there will be a domino effect, of further and other jurisdictions moving to regionalization, which on paper and in theory would seem at least logical.

Even the white-shirted officers in the Mounties, although they maintain the public facing image and follow the dictated talking points, you have to know that behind the scenes, the pyramid climbing types are sharpening their curriculum vitae pencils. Many “loyal” senior management Mounties will be salivating at a 2nd career, retire from one, and join another, effectively doubling their salary. Loyalty to the red tunic is elusive, part mirage. After all not everyone can double dip with CFSEU, which is turning into the latest elephant graveyard for the officer rank.

One interesting rumour heard the other day was that any new agency would not hire any RCMP personnel over the rank of Sargent (the logic being of course why would you hire the problem as part of the solution). This frothing and gnashing of teeth that is going on behind the scenes although sometimes entertaining will begin to take its toll the longer the system grinds on.

Meanwhile, in the smaller ranks of the RCMP, many are gearing up and excited about being the new Canadian FBI—ahhh, finally a chance for a desk job. Brenda Lucki as the new Jim Comey, or J. Edgar Hoover, which ever comparison works best for you.

So with his thumb in the dyke of change, Mr. Oppal will attempt to stem the ever rising tide, but it is rising slowly.

Nothing is going to happen quickly, it is government after all, but there should be no mistake, the RCMP is about to become altered forever.

When Commissioner Lucki was asked what modernizing the RCMP meant to her, the reply was: “I am sort of a glass half-full kind of gal. So I don’t consider them challenges more like opportunities. And I think we can’t rush into things. ”

So, Ms. Lucki get ready, …. opportunity knocks.

But, I think you may be better served if you act with a little haste—maybe have a plan? Or those same people knocking on the door, may get a little impatient, and they may start kicking at that door.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative commons andBiblio Archives 1941Some Rights Reserved

The Ridiculous notion of “Closure”

Every once in awhile this blogger has to be reminded of the new cultural order; to be reminded that this is the new age, the age where everyone is a victim and where there is any evidence of trauma it is followed by the need for counselling. Anxiety is the new lifeblood; life counsellors, death counsellors, trauma counsellors, all part of a growth industry. Counsellors of all shapes and sizes now held up as the new absolutely necessary guides to carry us through this selfie driven world. Unable to deal with a situation? No worries, there is a help line for you.

We go even further now, now imbuing whole communities with human characteristics: “the town” is “in shock”, the community is “grieving”, the city is “living in fear”.

To counter these ailments, the pundits, the journalists and the psychologists advise there is the ever increasing need for “closure”.

“This should bring closure to the community”….

“This should bring closure to the families”…

“this should bring closure ____” ( fill in the blank with a person or a place)

Closure, closure, closure. It has now joined the annals of the most repeated and misplaced with those other words like “diversity” or “reconciliation”.

It has been uttered and repeated thousands of times and the most recent trigger has been the discovery of the two individuals responsible for the three killings in B.C.

The social order has to be restored, there is the need for healing, as two desperate and disturbed youth, Kam Macleod and Bryer Schmegelsky have been found and identified. They were rotting in the bush, in a remote part of Manitoba, a long way from Port Alberni.

The orchestra of grief on hearing the news, warms up, and within a few hours is in full throttle. The message needed to change, no longer was this a hunt for fugitives, now we had entered into the phase where everyone needed “closure”.

In the last few few weeks all had become enraptured by the homicide of three innocents in northern B.C. The search and the theories grew with each passing day as journalists burned up Whats App and Facetime with reputed experts, all of whom knew nothing and added nothing to the conversation. Even ‘Mantracker’ offered up the opinion– that they were in the woods, escaped from the woods, or were dead. Pretty safe bet, but apparently riveting journalism.

The public and whatever retired detectives could be found fuelled the speculation with more speculation.

Therefore the ending, because of this massive buildup was unsatisfactory –at least to the rapt arm chair Sherlocks and viewers of the 6 oclock news.

Not great for the future ratings.

The pair apparently were not willing to face a rather limited and dark future, not wanting to return to a society that somehow never worked for them, so they took the easy way out. It was a pretty common ending to this kind of case, but how dare they.

What sustained this possibly sociopathic relationship seems to have been some sort of twisted bond shared over coffee breaks working at Wal Mart. All hard to understand at an initial glance, but there is little doubt that the dysfunction ran deep and may come out as time goes on.

As evidence of that, the father wrote a book apparently while his son was running with blood on his hands, running for his life, and as it turns out his eventual death. It was now that Dad apparently took the time and had the ability to sit at a desk and type out his life story explaining how the world had made him a victim too.

A type written selfie, his 15 minutes of fame now extended.

Yes, the dysfunction is there, it usually is, likely to be strip-mined by anyone willing to undertake the process.

But everything has now changed in the public forums.

With no shoot out, or video capture, to entice the viewing internet the narrative had to change course. It was now about the need for healing. Everyone after all needs “closure”.

The mayor of Gillam Dwayne Forman said, “If you see someone that is holding it in, just make sure you let them know that help is available, and bring them to the help, or bring the help to them. One way or another we have to heal as a community”.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee speaking for the nearby Cree community where the two were found said, “for the indigenous culture, the land is our way of healing ourselves, now they can go back to the land and they can go back to that and that will bring the healing for their minds and spirits. “

As one who by choice and by circumstance was surrounded for many years with victims of violence –suspects who had committed violence, and all those secondary individuals who had somehow been touched by the violence; here is my take.

There is no such thing as “closure”.

It is the one characteristic particular to murder; there is no finality. Murder is a fascination to those of us that worked in this environment, partly because murder can never be fully understood.

Senseless death is incomprehensible to the casual observer, but unfathomable to those in that family circle or close to the situation. Everything in the lives that have been in direct contact with this case, from this point forward, will be viewed through the prism of death.

They will be forever haunted by the nature of the death, and the unsatisfying outcome.

There will not be a day, a couple of hours maybe, where they do not think of those that died. Families will break apart, couples will divorce, brothers and sisters will develop latent psychological issues –all because of a single act of violence.

The condolences will flow in, neighbours will deliver dinners to ease the family daily existence, but slowly that will stop. There will be funerals, eulogies, women in black dresses and veils, pews filled with incomprehending children. But that too will end.

The affected will then be left alone with their gruesome nightmares, trying to cope with daily existence –a going through the motions life– one where even inanimate objects reminds them of someone gone.

The religious buoyed by their leaders, will attempt to ease their suffering by pretending in their belief that there is a place where the victims can look down and be with them, comforting them in their disquiet.

Trying to cope will be never ending, a chapter turned maybe, but the book itself will never end.

For the alleged killers, their families will suffer as well. Forever tainted, forever in ignominy.

They will never escape the “look” by other townspeople.

School or work mates will be seen as having wrongly befriended the two. It will be a point of reference, a point of infamy, of having known either of the boys.

The parents of the two will be seen as having birthed and raised two children; two children who as semi-adults were capable of cold blooded murder. Nurture versus nature. People will point, snicker, but always turn away. People will drive by their houses, as if part of a Hollywood tour group, identifying the now forever damned houses as places where a satanic mind must have been hatched.

The parents of the suspects will be identified just like the Salem witches, but they will not be offered a trial to prove their innocence, to prove their inability to stop what happened. They will live forever behind closed doors.

Both sets of parents on polar ends of the spectrum, victim and suspect families will point at each other, often accusing, replaying a mistake that was made, an error in judgement, which in some sort of obscure tangential way, may have added to this outcome.

For the police the file will not end even though they do have an outcome. Behind closed doors, they will breathe a sigh of somewhat twisted relief having avoided going to trial to and proving their case in full scrutiny of the courts. God forbid there would be an acquittal. The justice system itself has averted some costly litigation, but the file will not end.

There will be exhibits, continued tips that need to be followed up on, further secondary and maybe pointless inquiries still to be done. When that is complete, the file will stick around for annual reviews and possible updates. Some officers who were left holding the case will spend months just sorting and filing the information.

For the rest of us, life goes on pretty much how it was before. We will try and ease those odd pangs of regret and the social media will be filled with expressions of sympathy, round faced emojis with streaming tears, hearts and flowers exuding empathy. All will opine that now, finally, there will be “closure”. Some may even start up a ‘go fund’ me site, which seems to be the latest panacea and repository for misplaced guilt.

The only closure is for the media as it needs a bow to be tied around the present that this story was for them.

These practised and knee-jerk anxieties seem somehow disingenuous. They may even be insulting to those truly hurting; to those who wake up every night in a cold sweat, replaying their child’s moment of gruesome death. For them there is no end in sight, no counsellor, no spirits, that will relieve their torment.

Life amongst the living is not always easy and death is never easy.

Violent death is obscure, secretive, and often profound and the grief is unrelenting.

Photo courtesy of Robert Dill via Flickr Commons – the 9/11 Memorial some Rights Reserved

In Need of Love…

Policing like most trends in society has often been described as being on a constant invisible pendulum, not necessarily evolutionary, but constantly moving to or away from its central role and the perception of that role in the eyes of the public.

In the 1950’s the cop was perceived as stern but benign face, but mostly fair. A neighbourhood icon, someone familiar with each and everyone, the good people and the troubled. Quiet justice was enforced, discreet sometimes to a fault. The cop was part of a Norman Rockwell painting, an emblem of a white middle class, protecting values of the then well-defined church and state.

The 1960’s brought on Woodstock, kids were dropping in or dropping out. An amalgam of life currents where below the surface, there was a brewing discontent, aimed at a war in Viet Nam, or more loosely, anything representing the establishment. Woodstock was the age of Aquarius, set in an unlikely location, a coming together on a bucolic dairy farm in up state New York.

But, it was also the year of Charles Manson and his followers. A vicious and random massacre of nine innocents– Aquarius now blending with Helter Skelter. The peace symbol tilted and perverted into a Nazi symbol.

Joan Didion in her book ‘ The White Album’ detailed this era when drugs were mixing with the Black Panthers; where a communal sense of well being was being curiously mixed with a sense of paranoia and detachment.

The pendulum had moved decidedly to the left. Cops began growing into the enemy. A thousand young Americans were dying every month in 1968 in Viet Nam generating protest after protest on streets and on campuses throughout the United States. During a political convention in Chicago violence erupted, cops now featured on the television screens of America beating on people mercilessly with their night sticks. The violence was now coming directly to the people through their television sets, aimed at the contented middle class as they ate their t.v. dinners on their couches and loungers.

The police represented “the man”, stalwart defenders of the establishment, tools of the rich, now being repeatedly termed racist, amid accusations of brutality. The disquieted older generation still sided with the cops for the most part, but in this Nixonian age public opinion would eventually swing to the young.

J Edgar Hoover continued building the FBI into a monolith, his iron-gripped tenure lasting until 1972. But, even this agency fell into distrust when it was learned that its agents were also gathering information on sometimes legitimate dissenters.

Policing on every front was now becoming suspect in its intent and motivations.

Extolling the virtues of remaining some distance from the bad influences of the U.S., Canada, with its hybrid French/English policing efforts began to grow in size and scope, but Canadian policing management and Canadian policies kept one eye trained to the goings on south of the border.

The RCMP now formed the nucleus of policing in Canada. It was a para-military organization from the outset where discipline and adherence to the orders of one’s superiors was sacrosanct, untouchable, never challenged, never questioned.

Gradually the influences of the neighbours to the south began to seep into the mindset of Canadians and thus policing managers. SWAT became ERT, Homicide cops became Serious Crime or Major Crime Units.

It was confusing too many, even those inside Canadian police groups, who tried to keep up with this somewhat copycatted version of policing during this growth process. Dissemination was followed by integration. Integration followed by de-centralization.

The RCMP was further confounded by trying to be all things to all people–mixed mandates, Provincial, Municipal and Federal responsibilities all overlapping in some governmental policy rubik’s cube.

Cops in Canada during the 1970’s were perceived as gentler, more open to argument or differing views than their American counter parts. They initially believed that the problems of the Chicago south side, or the Bronx could not be applied to the suburbs of Mississauga or Burnaby.

But then the downtown skids of Vancouver began to grow and expand; the Mafia took root in Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton. The Hells Angels were no longer restricted to Northern California and were not just a disenfranchised bunch of rogues.

Heroin, cocaine, and poverty began to drive the crime rates. The police both inside and outside management felt that they needed to become more like their American counterparts– more street cop, crime fighters, disciplined, and brothers in arms; the blue wall was being built brick by brick.

Crime rates, including homicides began to reach its zenith from the years 1968-1983.

It was into this generation that most of us, newly retired or about to retire baby boomers grew up and thrived. Solving the case was your reason for being, sometimes by any means; burning barns in Quebec to combat the FLQ a glaring example. You needed to be tough, you needed to exude combativeness, you always needed to get your man. It was during this time that Pierre Trudeau said “Just watch me” in instituting the War Measures Act and bringing in the army to the streets of Montreal. Even the politicians of the time had developed an edge.

Internally police officers gravitated to alcohol and cigarettes which were proscribed to combat the fear or what was witnessed on the street; a way to dull the observations of man’s inhumanity to man.

And you always respected the uniform, the symbol of what you stood for, some battles won, some lost, but it was us against them. You were proud to be standing in blue.

Then the pendulum began to swing left, just like in the U.S. Criticisms of the police and their policies began to emerge. The barn burning turned into the MacDonald Commission, which would eventually strip Security Service from the Mounties and lead to the formation of CSIS.

Problems were identified as originating with policing not being representative of the very population over which they held sway. Policing was portrayed as neanderthal, incapable of adapting to the new realities.

It was gradual, as the old guard kicked up a fuss over the hiring of females in the early 1970’s, but the theory being that women would bring a more humane and understanding attitude to the hardened police departments managed to hold sway. There was a loosening of physical height and weight restrictions to try and be realistic in terms of the physical differences between man and woman, or the different ethnicities. The Bill of Rights in the United States became the Charter of Rights in Canada. Some still saw it as a general slide into policing oblivion.

The pendulum continued to swing to the outward reaches of the left. Representation became inclusion in all its forms. Natural recruiting programs, since they were still failing, were replaced by affirmative action hiring, promotional incentives dangled in front of all who had the cultural genetics to claim to be one of the dis-enfranchised.

Police wanted to be one with the public. Not distant enforcers, but caring, understanding and educated in the cultural differences, and therefore as the theory went, trusted by these groups to the point that they were better able to deal with crime.

A subtle switch to crime prevention, crime enforcement now in the background to a myriad of social worker styled programs –community outreach, school liaison, bike patrols, and victim services.

The police now wanted to be loved. They are being ordered and taught to be more sensitive. They wanted to be seen as persons who suffered from the same problems as the general public, no longer the immovable rock of authority, but able to cry and empathize. We are people too and we need a hug from time to time.

If everybody grew to love the police, the job of policing would be better served–again, in theory anyways.

And more dramatically in terms of its effect, the Mounties decided that it was ok to be political in their ongoing battle to be sympathetic to all causes, whether it be gender, ethnic or life-style based.

Recently Surrey Detachment hung the Gay Pride flag at the detachment. It was met with some opposition, and even the City of Surrey declined to enter into this political fray in case of appearing to one-sided. The local Mounties did not see a problem.

In a recent circulating video a red serged Mountie, also in Surrey, became another one of the “dancing cops”; this Mountie lip syncing to Queen–mincing and strutting at the Gay Pride festival to the applause of those attending.

Many are beginning to feel brave enough to voice concerns over this latest evidence of the pendulum going too far. They point out that Section 37 (d) of the RCMP Code of Conduct states that the Mounties are to “avoid any actual, apparent or potential conflict of interest” and according to the deportment guidelines, Section 7.1 of the Code of Conduct ‘Objectives’ states that “members behave in a manner that is not likely to discredit the Force”.

Does this most recent caricature of a gay Mountie cross the line? it all depends on where you think the pendulum is right now.

Does the striving and quest for acceptance and love by all supersede the need to be neutral? Does it allow for such obvious pandering? The local RCMP justify it by saying “the RCMP lead by example in promoting diversity and inclusion”.

Management does seem to have lost the ability to see that this was a political supportive statement of a specific political group and its mandate, being still blinded and forever loyal to the government led need for “inclusion”.

Under this obvious strategy the obvious question that never seems to be asked is, does it work?

Did years of marching in the Pride parade in Toronto, aid or hinder the gay community criticism or aid in the investigation of the Bruce McArther killings? The Toronto Police , despite their loving efforts, were even disinvited to the parade this year. (Of course, the Toronto Police Chief vowed to work harder to understand why they have been disenfranchised. )

So the pendulum slows slightly in its grind to the left, but police management seems unable to change track, unable to move away from this politicization of their agency.

The overall effects of the politics of inclusion will probably be unknown or even measured in the coming years, as government rarely looks at things that don’t work; but cracks are beginning to show. Surrey RCMP faced protestors in the raising of the Pride flag and one could argue that the attempt to switch from the local RCMP detachment to a civilian Force is the result of people tiring of the current political model of the RCMP, that they just want safer streets.

In somewhat menacing fashion, right wing political populism is growing around the world, reflective of a changing mood, whether it be to immigration or justice.

There is evidence of growing crime rates after being at all time lows.

Some may argue that all this political pandering works, but only when political culture remains calm, when the public is economically content. That too may be changing. One only needs to look once again to south of the border.

The middle class is in jeopardy, being gradually forced to two ends of the wealth spectrum. Economics or more specifically, economic power, may be a better measure of the need and demand for policing change. Poverty breeds unrest. Unrest breeds violence and a call for stricter policing.

In Canada, the latest ‘Breaking News’ and the fodder for all amateur sleuths and commentary is the ongoing search for two Port Alberni teenage alleged “killers”. The focus on the police intensifies with each passing day.

What does the public want? Do they want empathy over their public safety being threatened? Do they worry about policing models of inclusion?

No, they want the two caught.

All the dancing in the world is not going to change that.

The pendulum seems to swing back in times of trouble, when the policing role gets stripped down to its barest essentials. The key is to let it return to some middle ground without going too far to the very dangerous right.

The public don’t want to love you, they want to respect you.

Photo courtesy of CTV and Global News – Some Rights Reserved

Civilian Oversight – Optical Illusion?

Well, it took about ten years from when RCMP management was called “horribly broken ; then a further two reports, one by Auditor General Sheila Fraser and the other by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission calling for change in 2017–all before Ralph Goodale in January 2019 announced the formation of a 13 member civilian oversight committee to “give advice on best ways to manage and modernize the Force”.

Commissioner Lucki called the announcement in practised dramatic tones, an “unprecedented journey”, which will lead to a “healthier and more diverse police force”.

Several more months of delay followed before in June 2019 they finally named the chosen 13. The numbers are reminiscent of the last Supper and the 12 Apostles. One wonders how they arrived at this number? Who is the tie breaker and gets to play Jesus?

Religious comparisons aside, this whole political play raises the rather obvious question as to whether this is a serious effort on the part of government, or is this the latest of some pre-election pandering to the unwashed masses? Is it a band aid when many believe surgery is needed?

If one is to make a decision, one must first consider the makeup and structure of this committee.

The estimated cost for this committee is $1.56 million per year, not an unusually high amount (about $120,000 per year per committee member); especially when one considers that just a few days ago the Mounties announced their latest thumb in the sexual harassment dyke; another $100 million for civilian members or public servants harassed or hurt by those old, leering, ass grabbing Mounties of the past.

Suffice to say the RCMP is not investing a lot of money on this righting of the administrative ship.

The structure of this effort is also somewhat puzzling.

It would appear that this ‘oversight’ group is there only to give “advice”.

It is not there to re-write or reform policy, but to tell Lucki and Goodale what they would recommend. Goodale had already gone on record in that the committee will not be dealing with any operational policing matters. Goodale stated that the committee will not “have any direct role in policing operations, which will remain the purview of the independent RCMP”.

This of course raises the obvious question as to the effectiveness of a group which only gives recommendations to a politician who always has his finger in the air testing the winds of change. When pressed by a reporter as to the effectiveness of such a committee, Goodale defensively added that the Minister could issue “directives” based on recommendations coming from the Committee.

Commissioner Lucki who is about to lead the Mounties on this “unprecedented journey” said that she would meet the Committee for the first time “sometime” in “the upcoming months”.

With young Mounties jumping around trying to get into the station wagon, clearly Mother Mountie is in no hurray to get going on this trip of a lifetime. Needing to pump up the value of this exercise, she obliquely added, “their advice will provide additional, valuable perspectives to help us make decisions that support our people and the communities they serve”.

She later said that she planned on meeting with this group 3 or 4 times a year. Quarterly in other words. Now anyone who has graced the corridors of HQ, or any government department will tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, gets done without dozens of “meetings” usually choked down between bitter thermos coffee and chicken wraps. Meetings, often to arrange other meetings– never-ending discussions which often spiral into infinity, no resolution in site.

Finally, the mandate of this current group of committee members is a mere 18 months. One would have to assume that they are then to be replaced, by another group of committee members and the process could start anew.

18 months is about time enough to order office supplies, get new business cards printed, and get some cafeteria jello in your belly.

Nothing in government gets done in 18 months; it’s a political, logistical, impossibility. It took six months for the government to decide who was going to be on the committee.

As to the members of this new committee, well first and foremost you better be on the Liberal end of the political perspective, conservatives or any other political stripe need not apply. The eventual chosen could have fallen out of any Liberal convention gathering in Ottawa– all would be waving their brightly coloured red placards with stencilled slogans crying for diversity and inclusion.

So who are the lucky thirteen, in the apparent overwhelming number of applications that were received? (the Liberals said the delays were caused by the many applicants)

The thirteeen are; Richard Dicerni, Leanne Fitch, Randy Ambrosie, Elaine Bernard, Angela Campbell, John Domm, Ghayda Hassan, Maureen Darkes, Douglas Moen, Wally Oppal, Kevin Patterson, Keith Peterson, and Emoke Szathmary.

There are a couple of eyebrow raising selections in this group, but most of the membership is quite predictable, at least in terms of their backgrounds, even if their names are not easily recognizable.

Seven men and six women. Good balance on the gender teeter-totter keeping in mind that whoever is going to play Jesus will need to be standing in the middle.

Five list themselves as academics or public servants, so the ivory tower will be looming large over the proceedings, government jargon will rain down, political niceties will be evident, Senate committee style protocols will be observed.

There is some police representation, albeit a little suspect.

From the policing world they chose a female, Leanne Fitch from that hotbed of city policing–Fredericton, New Brunswick. There are a total of 113 officers on the Force there, and Ms Fitch recently gained headlines in that city by not replacing retiring officers in a budget cutting initiative. But she is female and was named officer of the year by the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement and the International Association of Women. Goodale could not possibly ignore the opportunity to hit so many boxes in one move.

There is also John Domm, a former Chief of Police for the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. At the time he was the Chief of Police they were not even a fully mandated police department which did not occur until 2018. He is also a member of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association. Two more checks for Mr. Goodale.

Doug Moen, a lawyer and public servant helped establish the Saskatchewan Commission on First Nations and Metis Peoples and Justice Reform. Check.

Keith Peterson was a former member of the legislative assembly for Nunavut. Check.

Elaine Bernard is an academic and according to her listed resume is a “proponent of the role of unions in promoting civil society”. Actually, this could come in handy when members begin trying to figure out the union dues they will soon be paying. Check.

There is Emoke Szathmary, the former president of the University of Manitoba, an advocate for “diversity, inclusion and accessibility”. Check.

There is the head scratching appointment of Randy Abrosie, a former member of the CFL and the current commissioner of the CFL. Apparently he has “championed diversity”, which may explain his selection, but maybe he just needs to stick to making the Toronto Argonauts viable again and avoiding any talk of concussions. No check mark here.

Finally there is Wally Oppal, who I am going to proclaim as Jesus for the time being, as he miraculously walks over water into another government contract. The 79 year old Wally just does not seem to want to retire, but one has to wonder whether he represents a new, modern voice. This savant of double dipping goes on; and on, and on.

One must not get the wrong impression. All of these people are well educated, accomplished in their professional lives. They should have some good “suggestions” in areas where the senior management Mounties have proven themselves utterly of no consequence.

But there are many questioning this Committee and its ultimate effectiveness.

The always available for a quote Robert Gordon of Simon Fraser University said “I don’t think the mandate, at this point, is to undertake the significant restructuring and reform of the RCMP that is required…It’ll be settling problems that have arisen inside the house as opposed to problems that have arisen as a result of the structure of the house”.

Other questions arise. Will Mr. Goodale be still around after October 2019?

Will Commissioner Lucki turn into some sort of leadership firebrand, able to forge ahead without her political Prairie brother in arms, while relying on those Executives who now encircle her, many of whom who have contributed to this mess?

Maybe she underestimates the problems.

On May 30th, 2018 Ms. Lucki appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Her primary testimony was about indigenous, harassment and diversity issues, which seems to be the focus in Ottawa, seemingly oblivious to the myriad more substantial issues facing the RCMP.

She ended and summed up her testimony this way: “I tell my staff, don’t ask me how to fix it because my answer is going to be “”We’re not broken””. Because we are not broken”.

“Do we need to innovate, and do we need to modernize? Absolutely…”

“We’re not broken and I am not here to fix it but we need to move forward from those past experiences, and if we don’t, shame on us. If you have a great idea of how you can help me to navigate things, don’t be shy to call me”.

Well Ms. Lucki, many believe that the RCMP is in fact kinda broken and actually we expect you to fix it.

So maybe call that Committee and maybe meet them every week, or every day, and not just in a few months; then listen to those voices who are from outside the RCMP, listen, and then have the courage to lead.

For all the rest of you out there, her phone number is 613 993-7267, because apparently she would like you to call with any ideas you may have.

(If that doesn’t work, the website tells yo how to fill out a “contact form”)

Currently, this committee in both form and structure looks like a political stop gap measure, one which garners a few headlines, speaks to the liberal left, and holds out little hope for the working officer.

So maybe Canadians should be calling 911 and not waiting for a callback from the Commissioner’s office.

Photo Courtesy of Matty Ring via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Project Trooper more like ‘F Troop’

Often, well maybe not often; but occasionally, a small tinge of guilt washes over this blogger when finding myself caught up in writing a seemingly unending narrative of incompetence, inefficiency and political nonsense which has been affecting our National Police Force. It seems to imply that no good work is coming out of the Scarlet force, which is not accurate, but it also seems to imply that this is a phenomena only found in this increasingly burdened institution.

As I write this, another video has surfaced taking aim at the RCMP police response to a remote Indigenous community where the officer, gun drawn, is screaming at the arrestee that he is going to kill him. Off with his head the sanctimonious Indigenous scream, the ‘breaking news’ media jumps on board, and near the end of the story you find out that the man was actually in possession of a machete and was being arrested in the heat of the moment. But I digress.

The Mounties are wearing a dark silhouette in the media range at all times, awash in nonsense, but we should not lose sight of the fact that other municipal and Provincial Forces are assuredly giving them some hearty competition for dunce cap awards. There is a pandemic in the world of policing; seemingly fuelled by politicalization, but its stem cells are inexperience and the evaporation of supervision.

A couple of months ago, the Vancouver City Police were exposed.

Recently, well regarded Justice James Williams (a former RCMP officer in years gone by- with impeccable credentials) took aim at the Vancouver Police Department and the investigators involved during the trial for Project “Trooper”.

Let there be no mistake, this is not about the Vancouver Police simply stumbling and falling in an investigation, the investigators in this case managed to blow up this case in grand fashion.

They never learned, we find out, that there is a Charter of Rights in this country and once in awhile you have to pay it some attention.

Again, this was not some low level drug case or a break and enter case that got effectively gutted, these officers displayed their lack of investigational chops on one of the biggest fentanyl trafficking cases in Vancouver.

You remember fentanyl? That drug which is causing hundreds of people to die. It is hard to imagine that the Vancouver Police Department investigators missed the myriad of stories and newscasts talking about this latest killer of the downtrodden. Hard to believe that they did not realize the importance of this case and the media attention it would garner.

At the conclusion of this 7 month long investigation, Supt. Mike Porteous boasted of the great impact resulting from their investigation, as he stood before the usual display of guns and drugs spread out before him.

And it was good work.

They seized $1.8 million in drugs, 20.5 kgs of cocaine, 1.6 kgs of heroin, 12.2 kgs of methamphetamine, 23,000 fentanyl pills, and 228 kgs of phenacetin.

Just as significantly they also seized twelve guns, a crossbow and eight vehicles.

A good haul and at the time that deserved a round of applause and the Vancouver Police Department upper echelon certainly did not miss the opportunity to present themselves as crime fighters of the highest order.

A total of six people were arrested and charged, with the kingpin Dennis Alexander Halstead as the primary target, and Jason James Heyman as a secondary “business” associate.

A couple of the dealers in the group, Charleen Terresa Fintray and Cameron Mak, probably as not well represented, pled guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking on two counts and are now awaiting sentencing. With little doubt they are now kicking themselves for cashing in early with a guilty plea.

Of course anytime you put yourself on a pedestal, there is always the danger that someone will along and kick out the stool beneath your feet.

Four years after the arrests in 2015 we now learn that the senior investigative drug echelon of the Vancouver Police Department didn’t seem to comprehend when a search or a general warrant is required.

In summing up the various misdeeds, Justice Williams pointed out some of Charter breaches by the Vancouver City Police and summarized that “These breaches, considered individually and cumulatively are of such seriousness and impact that, having regard to all the circumstances, admitting that evidence in the trial proceedings would bring the administration of justice into disrepute”.

Somewhat sadly he then added, “society deserves a better outcome”.

Some basic tenets of an investigation and the tools that are commonplace in any investigator toolbox seems to have been misplaced, overlooked or ignored.

The circumstances under which a warrant is needed and how the results of searches needed to be reported, seems to have been an illusive concept to these future Serpico’s.

So what happened? Was this a case of a Judge stretching the rules and provisions of the Charter as some in blue may argue. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have been the case.

First, the VPD set up a months long video surveillance of the residence without a warrant. The courts have long held that if police are going to train a camera at a residence, that it is intrusive, and therefore requires judicial authorization. The VPD ignored this.

The VPD then swabbed vehicles and residences associated to the suspects; also without a warrant.

Not quite done yet, the investigators also obtained passport photos of the individuals; again without warrant.

As a result of these breaches, the subsequent searches of Halstead’s Coquitlam home, Heyman’s Surrey apartment, and an alleged ‘stash’ house in New Westminster on March 11, 2015 were all effectively ruled warrantless and therefore breaches of the accused rights.

There were a total of seven searches conducted, involving six or nine officers at each location. So there was a total of between 42 and 63 officers during this operation, all overseen by an Inspector. Suffice to say that there was a significant number of officers involved throughout the case, who collectively, apparently did not know some basic law.

There were more breaches.

When arrested, the Judge ruled that the police stalled the accused when they asked to speak to their lawyers.

They then failed to file reports of the searches in a “timely manner”.

The delay in access to counsel interestingly was under the guidance of the Inspector in charge himself. The Inspector made an arbitrary decision to delay allowing the accused counsel, then when called into question in court, he could not explain the reasons for which he had issued the temporary order.

The reports which were delayed and called into question centred around the Form referred to as a 5.2. This report is made to the Courts when police seize items from an accused under or not under warrant which according to the Criminal Code needs to be filled out as “soon as practicable” and is generally done within a few days of any seizure once all exhibits have been catalogued. It is a bureaucratic necessity, tedious to say the least, but central to the rules of search and seizure, and the principle and the form are taught at the most basic levels of policing academies.

Judge Williams stated that “it is somewhat disconcerting that VPD training was inadequate in this regard”. He further adds that it was apparent that “there was no supervision in place…”

It should be noted that the officers did file the reports. But they did so several weeks after the seizures. When questioned at trial as to the delays, one officer stated that “she had to deal with the evidence as to her other police activities…”. In other words, she was busy.

A second officer excused the delay as she was “ill for some time after the search warrant execution and that her work schedule was limited (she worked a four day per week shift assignment) together with the volume of the police work she had to do….” So she too was busy and this was compounded by her limited work schedule.

One of the above officers testified as to not knowing there was a time limit on filing the 5.2 report, but guessed it was “60 days” and was unaware as to it being as “soon as practicable”.

There was one officer who was involved in a search of a Rochester Avenue address who simply did not fill out the form as required by Section 489 of the Criminal Code.

All of the officers involved in the breaches of the reporting were Detective Constables. Officers one would assume who were selected and elevated from the street units due to their abilities to these specialized units.

Confronted by the media as to the reasons for this implosion and the VPD now facing the possibility of having to return some of the seized items while watching the primary suspects walk out the courtroom doors; the Vancouver City Police stated: “No comment”.

No doubt banking on the passage of time to wipe out any memories of this incident.

Were there any repercussions for any of the officers involved? Not likely.

Was there any accounting of all the monies being spent in this case, all to no avail? Also not likely.

What is the most frustrating of all this is that these errors were not grievous in terms of the actions or more accurately the lack of action on the part of the officers.

This case was lost because of a lazy and disquieting unawareness of the basic principles of investigation, committed by officers with some seniority who missed the lessons covered in basic academy training. How is this possible. The Form 5.2 through mere repetition during the course of an officer rising up through the ranks should have been an involuntary response to the seizures.

The Inspector who ordered a delay in allowing the accused to access counsel may have been allowed, if only he could have articulated reasons that can often validate such a course of action.

The investigators who placed cameras at the residence have no excuses.

The Crown counsel who reviewed this file prior to charge, and prepped for the court case should have seen this breach upon further examination causing one to wonder what level of scrutiny did the Crown undertake before embarking on a lengthy and costly trial.

Of course, Crown is always unaccountable in this Province.

Inexperience and a lack of supervision were on full display.

As one who had the utmost respect for the Vancouver City Police and who worked jointly with many in the Major Crime sections through the years, this case was a revelation.

The investigative officers of the VPD in earlier times always exuded experience and court savvy. It is unfathomable to think that in those earlier times they would not have been up on the latest court rulings regarding search and seizure and would not have forgotten to fill out the basic paperwork. They also would have spent many years getting to these specialized sections.

It seems to be time for the Vancouver City Police to re-group. Supervision and training need to once again come to the forefront in trying to overcome the vast loss of credibility and experience that logistically, like all police agencies, has impaired them as an organization.

They are fortunate in being an organization of about 1300 officers; it is a ship that can be turned, unlike the RCMP group of 28,000 who are under the helm of the Liberal party in Ottawa who insist on steering the ship towards the iceberg, while the orchestra plays on.

This is the age of close examination of everything the police do, they are on trial not the accused. It is not the time when one cannot forget or ignore the law or the building blocks of investigation. It is expected of them and it should be demanded of them by their supervisors.

There is a general need for all police to get back to basics. Let’s spend less time on initiatives blowing in the political winds, less time worrying about gaining acceptance in the various ethnic, religious or gender groups and more time on delivering a case through the courts. Less time on media spin, more time on understanding the ever changing laws of this country.

The public in this country need to see the police as fair, thorough and competent, unswayed by political machinations or initiatives. They are the backbone of the justice system from which all else flows and the public needs to trust them.

Does the public care when they have been victimized that the officer is short, tall, black, white, male or female? What they want is to know that the officer is a professional.

The public does not want police department empathy, what it needs is to know that if they bring forward a complaint that it would be investigated thoroughly and honestly, without prejudice.

The mandate of the police despite the many social worker styled popular policing initiatives remains the same. The police are there to understand and enforce the laws in this country in an objective manner that withstands scrutiny.

That in itself is a massive undertaking requiring great vigilance.

What separates a good investigation from a bad investigation, or a good officer from a mediocre officer is in the details. The devil as the VPD found out, is in those details.

What does the public want?

They want the Blue Wall back.

Photo courtesy of Kris Krug via Flickr Commons…Some Rights Reserved

Defending the only slightly Indefensible…

In the last few days, politicians, political pundits and radio and television personalities have been sending themselves into a tizzy, into another anti-police feeding frenzy. The water has been chummed this time by a videotape resurrected from a 2012 criminal case which captured an interview between a police officer and a 17 year old female held in an interview room in the West Kelowna RCMP detachment.

It was not dug up by intrepid reporting, Global News had the videotape sent to them. Now, the edited version has been virally shared, with Global News direly warning for those softened listeners, that it is “hard to listen to”; no doubt in an attempt to draw in more viewers as it is like saying “look away there is a car accident”.

It took hold and it has now been called “abhorrent” by our illustrious Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety, whose opinion blows in the political wind incessantly, shifting with any voter high pressure system.

My favourite Judge, Marion Buller said that the interview put on display “racist stereotypes of Indigenous women” and it rose out of the “historical tension” due to residential schools. Keep in mind that Buller finds all that ails Canada and the indigenous can be summed up in the residential schools.

Jenna Forbes of the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Services Society was “outraged” and asked whether this type of questioning was “part of policy”.

On Simi Sara’s talk show on CKNW, which is affiliated with Global News –in her best holier than thou voice proclaimed that this was “unacceptable” and questioned whether the officer involved had been “fired” for such an atrocious breech of the public standards. Of course she was echoing and re-enforcing the prevailing wisdom spewing forth from the usual go-to for comment “experts”. Thirty second encapsulations bounced around the internet and across Canada, each indignant voice louder than the first, all calling for the head of the officer involved.

The new E Division Commanding Officer finally feeling the pressure weighed in on the video; announcing a “fulsome review”; and throwing a little pre-judgement in for good measure, “on the surface this case doesn’t appear to align with public expectations or the current standards and practises in place”.

Clearly she was making an attempt to say that was the way then, way back in 2012, but now, things are better.

In this more aware year of 2019, the RCMP , according to the Commanding Officer was now “supporting victims”, and members were being exposed to a “course recently updated”. The strategic spin doctors of the RCMP went further commenting that they were advancing “cultural competency training…trauma informed investigations and an advanced course for sexual assault investigation”.

The cultural reference was because all commentators noted in their reporting that the female victim was “indigenous”, intentionally putting a match to spark the gas line of indigenous reconciliation outrage.

Experts ran to the flame, braying about another example of the police being incapable of understanding their culture, just another example of the ill effects of colonialism.

The officer involved no doubt could not have felt more alone.

In viewing the video, nothing will get around the fact that the officer asked inappropriate questions. That is apparent and should never have happened, the questioning of whether she was “turned on by it at all” showed a glaring lack of knowledge of the nature of sexual assault.

However, if you examine the circumstances, it may be in-appropriate and completely unfair to rush to such a harsh judgement. The commentary on this subject comes from those that have never been in that interview room, let alone investigated any sexual assaults.

Some of the questions and the perceptions that arise from this videotape need to be looked at through an investigators lens.

First, this videotape did not surface as a result of a complaint coming forward from the female, or some representative of her about the investigation or the lack of charges. One should always be somewhat suspect about the release of information which may aid someone in their particular cause or pursuit.

It is the result of a civil suit, totally unrelated to the crime of sexual assault.

It is part of the evidence that surfaced as a result of an investigation into a social worker in 2012, Robert Riley Saunders. It was alleged that Saunders stole monies from some teens, including the female in the video; monies that were forwarded to them through the Ministry over a four year period totalling $40,000.00. Basically he was taking monies from vulnerable clients and putting it in his own bank account.

The female youth victim, one of a dozen, was forced, according to the civil claim, to living on the streets and into a life of drug addiction using meth, crack, cocaine, and MDMA.

On March 4, 2012 the female youth then made allegations of a sexual assault. The two defendants in the civil case, (as by now another female social worker was named as a defendant), countered, along with the girl’s foster parents, saying that the female victim was “falsifying the allegations for an excuse for using drugs”.

We also learn that this same female victim alleges that she was sexually assaulted by her grandfather earlier in life. She makes reference to it during the videotape. She says on the tape, “nobody believed me then and nobody believes me now”.

The officer responded, “I have reason to believe what happened in your past, but I do have a lot of concerns about your story here”. Earlier the officer, had said that he wants to probe “inconsistencies in her story”. No doubt some of that concern centred around the fact that the victim said she “didn’t not say no” to the alleged assailant throughout the assault. It should also be pointed out that she was making this allegation against an “acquaintance”.

This of course is possible as she said she was “scared” but some further layering of the explanation was needed.

All this is to say is that regardless of who is telling the truth in this case, what had been raised was a possible alternate story, a possibility that there was some fabrication on the part of the victim. To an investigator tasked with getting to the truth, you are now in a position where one must consider a couple of different narratives. Therefore that has to form part of your questioning of the victim. As a truth seeker any investigator can not have a tunnel version of the truth, one needs to walk the middle road, consider all possibilities.

There are some in this current political environment who believe that there is no such thing as a made up sexual allegation. This blogger is not one of them and has been involved in a number of investigations where some allegations were clearly false and were eventually proven to be in fact pure fiction. This goes counter to the #metoo movement and the left leaning liberals which constantly assert that no woman is capable of lying under these circumstances. That is just factually incorrect, regardless of how acceptable that dogma has become.

So this particular investigator, under these circumstances, has to consider that this particular female, who was living a street level existence and addicted to drugs, could possibly have an alternate reason for coming forward with this story.

One should also note that this female, in the days or months following this interview, wrote a letter of apology to the accused and the RCMP for making this sexual assault investigation.

Of course, it is now being claimed that she was “allegedly forced by her social worker to write letters of apology to the accused man and the RCMP for wasting their time”.

The female victim, now no doubt re-enforced with a lawyer and a civil claim now says that she has been “re-traumatized after watching the video”.

Again, this too could be true, but there is a great deal of evidence which this investigator could not ignore in terms of the line of questioning.

Secondly. The interview and the way it was conducted had absolutely nothing to do with this female victim being indigenous. Listen to the videotape and if anyone can find anything suggesting that this interviewer was being racist, or that some line of questioning would lead one to this conclusion, they need to step forward and point to it.

What critiques are doing is implying that the line of questioning is the result of her being indigenous, not understanding that this line of questioning would occur, and should occur if an investigator is divining the truth no matter who the witness may be. The wording of some of his questions can be criticized, the intent of his questioning should not be characterized as racist.

If a victim or witness or suspect has raised a different set of facts than that has to be explored. An investigator or an interviewer should be criticized for not exploring these and all venues, but the exploring or questioning easily leads to criticism in the techniques used by the arm chair quarterbacks.

Hopefully the police have not reached a stage in this country during an investigation when they can be told that there must be wholesale acceptance of everything being put forward. Remember, it has been said, “it is a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.”

There are also some questions that need to be explored about the time leading up to the conduct of this interview and of the logistics surrounding the taking of this statement.

For instance, was there someone monitoring this interview as is the usual protocol?

Was this investigator ever given instruction on interviewing techniques?

How many interviews of this ilk had he ever done? What level of supervision was given with regard to the conduct of the interview?

The RCMP management can talk about sexual assault investigator courses. But was this particular officer ever on one? Quite often those types of courses go to the specialized units, and the general duty cop is the last on the list for such specialization.

There has been a lot of questioning of why there was no female present acting on behalf or as support? One must remember that this person is a witness, a victim witness, she is not a suspect. Her story could be suspect, but she is not being treated as a victim in these circumstances, therefore there is no legal need for someone to be present.

Police also try to avoid having more than one person in a room for a witness interview, for fear of interference, or coaching. If she wanted someone there and had asked for it, it is likely that she would have had that choice if it would help her in feeling secure. But this would not be likely at the age of 17. If she had been under investigation for possible charges, then the rules would be entirely different.

So should the officer have worded his questions differently? Of course, the questions showed a lack of knowledge, not evil intent.

The ability to talk to people, to interview, is an art, learned over time and through repetition. You need to go “into the room” to get proficient. It takes years to be both a listener and a talker– especially when that person may be trying to deceive. Some say the skill is being lost in the millennial generation, dominated by the land of laptops, a growing perception that interviewing is a specialized skill that warrants specialists and special training. That is not the case, it requires a willingness to enter the interview room and run the risk of being fooled, maybe hundreds of times, and those that do should not be chastised by the 20/20 hindsights of the courts and the academics. Some would argue that it is the greatest skill needed by a police officer.

No doubt this officer will get some sort of discipline letter, but if that is the case, let’s give one to his Supervisor and on up the line.

To debase and libel this investigator as being racist is completely unfair and one would hope that it would be actionable.

And while you’re at it let’s give the likes of Marion Buller, and Jenna Forbes a ride in a police car for a couple of shifts, and let them do some interviews.

And as they enter that drab room at 2 o’clock in the morning, tired, and having to perform on camera for later court scrutiny– give them a hint…. not everybody tells the truth to the police.

Photo Courtesy of James Cridland via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

The MMIWG –as Predicted: Wasteful and Disturbing results

A lunatic, admittedly an antiquated term, comes from the latin “lunaticus” or “moonstruck”, referring to a mentally ill person, or as in this case, a person who is dangerous, foolish, or unpredictable. So this blog’s nomination for the most moonstruck politician in this current age is Marion Buller– the head of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls public inquiry –which is about to end (finally) its over two year long reign as the most ridiculous waste of taxpayer money in the last number of years.

This blog wrote about the then pending inquiry in February 2017; with a prediction that it was a massive waste of time, that it was pandering to the Indigenous but offered little to no hope of it helping the indigenous. Well, it has more than met all expectations and its delayed final report will hit the new stands on June 3rd, 2019. This too is late, and late after even having won an extension as it was originally supposed to be concluded in November 2018.

This inquiry started out with a projected cost of $70.5 million so from the start it promised to be the most expensive inquiry in Canadian history. Two years in, they then had the audacity to ask for an extension, wanting another two years which they didn’t get. They did get another $50 million bringing the un-official total cost in the neighbourhood of $120.5 million.

This group is so blind to taxpayer consideration, that in honour of their massive and brilliant undertaking, they are going to have a party and fund over 100 Indigenous communities to thank all the participants and in celebration of the “conclusion of this journey with us”. It is fully expected, that Jody Wilson-Raybould will enter the official party carried by six, like Lady Gaga at the 2011 Grammy’s; an entry befitting the media’s patron saint of reconciliation.

If ever there was a gathering of people with a one dimension interest and with a single purpose in the guise of an actual inquiry, this was it. The people assigned to this working group, started off with a set of beliefs and then set out to prove it, with a surfeit of anecdotal evidence. Witnesses testifying to a time frame between 60 and 100 years ago, often anecodotal, often based on story telling.

According to the inquiry of course, in their words, they have been diligently working on “exposing hard truths about the devastating impacts of colonization, racism, and sexism…aspects of Canadian society”. That was clearly their reason for being and that is what they set out to prove. There was no inquiring in this inquiry.

Throughout this time the inquiry has been persistently hampered by allegations of mis-management and in-fighting, and even factions of the indigenous wanted it scrapped.

According to their own web site, there was a total of 2386 participants; 1484 family members and “survivors” (the last residential school closed in 1996- some 23 years ago- to date the indigenous have been paid out $1.9 billion in compensation) and 819 of these participated through “artistic expression”. This inquiry was calling it “evidence” even if that evidence came through traditional story-telling and art. With this level of understanding of what actually constitutes evidence you should not be surprised later in this blog as to what some of her recommendations will be.

There were 83 “experts”, “knowledge keepers” (my favourite term) and “officials” providing testimony.

In January 2018, the Executive Director of the Inquiry, Debbie Reid resigned. The previous Executive Director had already resigned, as had one of the Commissioners. Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett had by now began admitting that she was concerned about the number of staff withdrawals. A total of eight people had resigned or been fired at this time.

In June 2018 Commissioner Audette threatened to resign because her request for a two year extension had been declined by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

Audette, returned to work a couple of weeks later and began to make excuses for the final report saying that “the final report will not be as comprehensive as it could have been” when she had been only given another six months and not the two years she requested.

In July 2018, lawyer Breen Ouelette resigned, the sixth lawyer to do so stating that the “inquiry was speeding towards failure”. Their primary allegation being political interference from the Federal government, that there was a lack of “transparency, communication and effectiveness.” Actively biting the hand that fed them.

In October 2018, Ms. Buller and Commissioner Michelle Audette were already expressing concerns that the government had not acted quickly enough after the release of its mid-term report. Buller described the interim report as “ground-breaking” and she was concerned that the final results may be ignored. She said that it was “horribly disappointing not only to us but to Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people all across Canada”. Ms Buller may be over stating the inquiry and its eventual impact, as there are very few people in Canada who would have read it at this time.

In November 2018 two further staff members left. This was in keeping with the mass exodus of staff, which by now had reached an epic 30 staffers.

It was about this same time that co-counsel Jennifer Cox, became the 7th lawyer to leave the inquiry. Buller of course had no comment, and the lawyers who are bound to confidentiality, conveniently remain muzzled.

Now, with only a couple of weeks to go before issuing the final report, the inquiry is still in front of the Federal Court trying to get access to two RCMP files. They are arguing that these two files represent the core of the inquiry’s mandate to look into the systemic causes of violence against indigenous woman.

Seems a little late to say the least, not to mention that they have had access to many files during this two year period, a total of 119 investigations, 23 of which were related to ongoing investigations. Department of Justice counsel argue that the two files aren’t necessary. The inquiry lawyer Ravi Hira said that there are deficiencies with “one of the cases”. A little suspicious to say the least. Even the Judge asked how they were going to possibly review two large files and still make it to the report.

Throughout this agonizing process, the Federal government remained mum, did not step in, forever fearful of being accused of being big colonial brother. Hoping beyond hope that all things would get worked out by some miracle of bureaucracy.

This inquiry was an act of appeasement. Bring all the indigenous together, give them unlimited funding, give them legal and technical resources, and then have hundreds testify to the same issue.

If you spent any time at all watching these the public hearing proceedings you will have seen the same thing, played out daily for hours upon hours.

A woman or man tearfully testifying, unscripted, often meandering off topic, and never a question asked as to the truthfulness of the testimony. All that was said was accepted. There would be rows of counsellors, holding religious or sacred icons comforting the woman, nodding sagely, dramatic empathy oozing. A parade of tears, some real, some brought about by pointed prodding.

The Indigenous political factions are consistent in only two areas as this Inquiry found out.

First, a time in history when they were present on the land before the arrival of the Europeans. They were here first and this translates according to their broad interpretations, to some form of veto over all things in Canada.

Secondly, they now realize that this is their golden moment, the Federal coffers have been opened up and they have a national government seeking their approval. All levels of government are woefully short of ideas on how to solve the multitude of indigenous endemic problems. So they throw money and apologize profusely.

However, other than for these two factors the indigenous groups are divided along hundreds of political lines. Some are wanting to invest in pipelines, some are protesting, but all are seeking financial redress of varying description. Others argue that they are one of two nations in this country. Some are arguing for laws to protect their rights while others argue that the laws of Canada do not apply to them. While some want to return and preserve culture and language, others are chasing dreams of casinos and medicinal marihuana stores.

This in-fighting infiltrates any and all proposed policy options, making it almost impossible to reach consensus. They don’t even agree on the Inquiry itself, some calling for another inquiry, some just giving up.

The only constant is the constant outreach for more funds and the hundreds of lawyers now pursuing those dreams on their behalf. The lawyers also being funded by the government.

It was clear from the start that the “inquiry” was made of a political necessity, not necessitated as should be the case by an actual need to know. The statistics already pointed to the hundreds of factors that result in missing and murdered indigenous: poverty, lack of education, drug and alcohol abuse, housing, nutrition, criminal activity, staggeringly high birth rates etc. It has already been calculated that 80% of the violence against indigenous women and girls is perpetrated by their own, their families, the friends, and the neighbours.

All this was known before the inquiry and the factors will still be the same after the inquiry.

The original Commissioners of this “Inquiry” were Buller, a member of Saskatchewans Mistawsis First Nation; Michelle Audette an Innu woman who failed to win a Liberal seat in Quebec; Qajaq Robinson a Nunuvut born lawyer who was legal counsel at the Federal Special Claims Tribunal; Marilyn Poitras, a Metis law professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and Bryan Eyolfson, a First Nations lawyer who served on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and also in the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The appearance of bias and slant could not have been more obvious. If there was an inquiry into the oil industry and all the Commissioners worked for Exxon and Shell would it be considered fair? If there was an inquiry into policing and all the Commissioners were members of the police would it be considered fair? Would there be an outcry? Of course, so why was there no outcry in the most expensive Inquiry ever taken on in Canada? Interestingly, the media was and remains completely mute.

So after this smorgasbord of like-minded social workers, lawyers, counsellors, and commissioners finish draining millions in their efforts, they are about to present that final report.

Recently, Marion Buller gave a hint of what was to come.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs over Bill C-75, Ms. Buller suggests, that if it is an indigenous woman that is murdered, then it should be automatically first degree murder. She believes that the Indigenous should be treated differently legally, by the courts and the judges, in that they should get special consideration.

There are only certain provisions in the Criminal Code which allow for this automatic update to 1st degree murder; the killing of a policeman, a corrections officer, or in moments of terrorism.

But now, this former B.C. Judge, Ms. Buller, believes there are different classes of victims, and that the indigenous death is more serious than the others. The policeman and the corrections officers have been singled out as the jobs they do entail the protection of the general public. Ms. Buller now wants charge determination dependent on the colour of your skin or heritage.

She deems that this would be an act of reconciliation.

It would mean an automatic sentence of life and no chance of parole for twenty-five years. When it was pointed out to her that indigenous women are for the most part killed by their own, she was therefore advocating putting indigenous killers in jail for longer periods of time; she seemed taken aback. It was almost like she had never had seen that possibility.

The recommendation is ludicrous of course. Or is it?

With a coming election and the Liberals desperate to put Jody Wilson-Raybould behind them, would they consider such a criminal code change as an act of appeasement. Another apology if you will.

If you don’t think so, consider the latest Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning the tragic case of the death of Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous sex trade worker. The accused was acquitted, but the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for “manslaughter”.

Justice Moldaver in a 4-3 decision writing for the majority stated in the decision: “As an additional safeguard going forward, in sexual assault cases where the complainant is an indigenous woman or girl, trial judges would be well advised to provide an express instruction aimed at countering prejudice against Indigenous women and girls”. It is not going as far as Ms. Buller, but it’s at the top of the hill, looking down the slippery slope.

Qajaq Robinson, of the MMWIG, who of course intervened in the case, called it a “tremendous step forward” saying that the courts have recognized that “in cases of sexual assault against Indigenous women and girls, that there is an obligation on the courts, on judges, to be gatekeepers to ensure that bias, prejudice, racism and sexism do not form part of the evidence…”

Again, on first blush this too seems somewhat logical, but there was no evidence of this being the case in this trial, it is based on a presumption.

Complicating this was the fact that the victim was engaged in a 2nd day of prostitution with this same man and the Crown argued that it went towards a determination of “consent” and therefore evidence of the victim being a paid sex worker was relevant.

So a new trial has been ordered.

But now have a Liberal leaning Supreme court warranting “express instructions” in the case of an Indigenous victim, a Federal Liberal apologist government, and a completely biased and unapologetic special interest Inquiry, all of whom may be taking us down a very dangerous road.

Section 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of rights says that “everyone is equal before and under the law and has right to equal protection and equal benefit under the law”.

Apparently Ms. Buller doesn’t agree.

Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Press — Some Rights Reserved

Dear Jennifer…

Ms. Strachan, let me be one of the first to welcome you back to beautiful British Columbia — the land of the highest gas prices, mountains, water, big trees, horrendous traffic, and where the Green Party has a pulse.

Being a born and raised Okanagan girl, no doubt you are feeling the geographic magnet that is B.C., and like Dorothy in Oz, you probably wanted to return– as there is no place like home. So with a click of those RCMP high-browns and the nod from Wizard Lucki you are now on your way.

It’s been awhile, over 16 years since you were in the policing world here in Lotus land and a lot of things have changed, so I feel bound by some inexplicable duty to give you at least a heads up on what to expect.

Let us first deal with the politicians in this land who you may end up spending some time with considering your new role. The Green party has locked arms with the NDP to see who can be more righteous; who can spend the most money, and clearly would have a love for any future unionized RCMP. It is a mixed political blessing though, as they are not pro-police necessarily, more in favour of groups like the Pivot Legal society, or the Elizabeth Fry Society.

The Federal world of Justin Trudeau and their policies still have an audience out here, even though they seem to be in a political free fall in the other parts of the country.

So don’t be fooled by the blooming Conservatism of the west throughout the Prairies. The right leanings of political philosophy has not seeped over the mountains, conservatism is merely a mirage in this marihuana infused land. There is more chance of Jody Emery being elected out here than a Jason Kenney.

President Bush was chasing Saddam Hussein when you left B.C.and the Americans were about to invade Iraq.

Paul Martin was the Liberal Prime Minister (probably one of the last times the budget was balanced).

Giuliano Zaccardelli was the Commissioner of the RCMP (who was impugned for irregularities in the management of the Pension and Insurance fund).

The RCMP was heralding the first female officer to be placed on an Emergency Response Team and the wave of female empowerment was in its infancy.

This unparalleled growth in female advancement is being mentioned because Commissioner Lucki decided that in announcing your move to head up E Division, she felt that she needed to underline your gender and not your curriculum vitae. It is a bit of the elephant in the room when it comes to the succession plan for E Division.

Ms. Lucki seems pretty one dimensional so far, aiming to fulfill her proscribed and dictated agenda, but in including you she makes you appear as a pawn in her Liberal sanctioned corporate strategy. It clearly drew attention to the possibility that your gender was a central characteristic that was needed for one to get this job. In the end it detracts from your resume, taints the appointment, and tends to confirm thoughts of the older guard.

For the record, I don’t believe the average RCMP officer gives a whit as to whether you are a woman, a man, or a variation of the two. Whether you are green, brown, wearing a turban, or wearing a Scottish tam means nothing in the current real world of policing. Gender does not imbue anyone with intelligence or leadership skills although it is quite clear that the two are equated in government corridors of power.

Putting all that aside, you are here to replace Butterworth-Carr, who heralded not only her femaleness, but her indigenous background, and she had zero impact. She didn’t stay long, enticed by an offer to join the politicos in Victoria. She used a quick stay on the job to springboard into the double-dipping pool, no doubt financially setting herself up for a lucrative run towards pension. It is hoped that you may still a little longer, as the wheels of government turn very slowly, the ability to have any impact takes years not weeks, so some time on the job is needed.

You will be hampered upon your arrival as senior members of the RCMP demographic bubble are leaving, the experienced baby-boomers are reaching their logistical end. Some, like Butterworth-Carr, have discovered a tunnel under the Georgia Strait which leads directly to the Provincial government coffers. The sands of time are changing, whether that is good or bad we will see, but there is little doubt it is creating a vacuum in terms of experience.

Since your departure from the West, almost the entire latter half of your career seems to have been focused on O Division and HQ.

You were the District Commander for N.E. Ontario from 2009-2012; then the Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations in Ontario (interesting in that in Ontario the RCMP is not responsible for most criminal investigations) from 2012-2016; then up the ladder once again to being the Commanding Officer of O Division from 2016-2018.

And of course what resume would be complete in this day and age without being the Officer in Charge of Operations Policy and Programs in Contract and Indigenous Policing in Ottawa. You then followed that by becoming Deputy Commissioner for “Specialized Policing Services”. A steady rise for sure but I will admit to being a little concerned about this rather central Canada version of the RCMP being the substantive part of your resume.

You probably don’t need to be reminded that there is a big gap between O and E, not just a couple of vowel spaces. The fact that you survived and thrived in this non-contract world can be either seen as a plus or a minus. You may be commended or condemned for being able to breath deeply in this rarefied air, as it is a milieu where most of us in the contracts would often feel out of place.

O Division has often been accused of riding and hiding behind the curtain of Federal statutes, where a lack of enforcement and investigational strength is a theme common to those that have worked in both areas. Enforcing such Federal statutes as the Migratory bird Act; or watching the Indigenous hustling cigarettes back and forth from the U.S; or helping illegal immigrants with their luggage; has never been considered the leading edge of police investigation know-how.

This lack of operational acuity has been the standard slam against this Province for years, whether management admits to this operational schizophrenia or not. Another example showed up in the last few days, in the Mark Norman case, serious questions are now being raised about this two year investigation in Ontario which resulted in a single charge. It has been stayed as the defence counsel seems to have been a little more thorough in their inquiries than the police officers that conducted the investigation and there are implications of political interference in the process. Further Mountie embarrassment is on the horizon.

The Force in general has not had such a smooth ride for the last couple of decades and there has been a number of serious setbacks during the time that you were part of the RCMP management power group. A growing legacy of mismanagement whether looking at the carbine issue, internal sexual harassment, and a large number of failed investigations.

Mountie salaries in relation to other agencies have tanked. Recruitment is down. Staffing levels have dwindled to lows never seen before. The Mounties are being questioned over their actions at every turn, whether it be the shooting on Parliament Hill, or the latest, the Mark Norman investigation.

I am not sure of what role you may or may not have played during this last number of years but there is no doubt you have been either a witness or a participant in some of the inane programs and policies which have left this agency in a state of major disrepair. It would be interesting to hear your take and historical role in this troubled time. Actually, it would be nice to finally hear from someone, anyone, of this management era who would admit to the errors, the wrongdoing, and try to set the record straight. Not crocodile tear apologies for things like harassment, but clear, concise explanations as to things like $100 million settlements. Maybe I am asking for too much.

The RCMP in its official bio of you points to your “passion for supporting others”. In 2014 you were given the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement award for the “Mentor of the Year Award”, and then in front of the International Association of Women Police you were also given a “Mentor of the Year Award”. Clearly a 21st century new policing virtue but who knew there was such a thing. Hard to argue with someone who wants to support you though.

You have been away from the dirt and grime of contract policing, living and breathing the filtered world of a Mountie in Ontario. Previously, you were in the corridors of subject matter experts, puffed up self-important people wandering in that dazed mind numbing bureaucracy all spouting pithy truisms at any opportunity.

You have now been freed and at a time in your career where you are un-flammable.

You are back to the heart of the RCMP Criminal operations block, where your Masters degree in “conflict analysis and management” will no doubt come in handy. You are being thrown into a logjam of a multitude of unaddressed and unattended issues, compounded by lacklustre stints of some of your predecessors.

You are about to be thrown into the wolfs lair. E Division with its constant stream of issues can eat and will eat managers up so you need to be careful.

I am hoping that this will be seen by you as a chance to speak out.

My primary recommendation is to be honest and straightforward and speak to the issues. Let’s hear what the RCMP stance will be if the Surrey RCMP get ousted; let’s hear what you are going to do about the vast understaffing that is in all corners of the Force; lets hear about gender and diversity promotions and your view of this dictated policy; lets hear about the politicization of the police force mandated role, which clearly is in full swing in Ottawa; and lets hear about upcoming unionization of the RCMP.

Even if one is able to be exposed to a truly honest appraisal of the issues and opens up the debate to real dialogue, you will have accomplished something not seen in many years in this Province.

The issues surrounding the RCMP will seem endless and at times look very bleak. The constant pablum being fed to the officers of just “you’re doing a great job” is both insulting and demeaning to their intelligence. Talking openly and honestly would be a breath of fresh air.

I am not optimistic, but I stand to be corrected, and will gladly sing the laurels of someone who walks the walk, speaks to the issues and puts on display possible solutions. It seems counter-intuitive that one needs to seek an open and honest management group from a police institution, but sadly this is now the case. It has been missing and it has caused irreparable harm.

Once that is all done, then you can go and enjoy your retirement….

I do wish you the best….

Signed:

A once faithful servant

Photo courtesy of CTV News via Google Images- Some Rights Reserved

Historical Unsolved Homicides…the value of the past…….

Hundreds of bankers boxes– dusty, worn and frayed at the edges, worn down by the weight of other boxes stacked on top, often damp in the corners, all lodged in inconspicuous backroom places. Out of sight and mostly out of mind, they are spread throughout this Province and the other Provinces; the responsibility of the RCMP, the OPP, the QPP and various scattered Municipal agencies. Historical mysteries sitting, undisturbed, and now in danger of being lost forever. 

Each box has scrawled on it in black marker, a number the start of which indicates the year of the file box being created; 73-1234 or 98-5678 indicating 1973 and 1998. Most will have a surname, also written on the outside of the box, underneath the number, the first indication of the box containing information on a life lived and in all likelihood a life taken abruptly away. A snapshot of a moment in time, life stories, lives abruptly ended. 

If one lifts the uniformly folded cardboard lids and peek inside one finds manila folders, each folder containing assorted government styled papers, each folder numbered, implying some form of organization. The order of importance often seems haphazard. There will be original documents, photocopies, carbon copies, compact discs, floppy discs, even blueprints and loosely bound photographs.  Each document part of a whole, each pointing to a dramatic and often gruesome ending to a life. 

Shoved into these boxes will be exhibits, exhibit reports, and boxes of 3 x 5  index cards, clues as to the relevance of the folders. Sometimes there are many of these boxes, with this same name, or number; the more numerous the boxes the more likely that this was a long case, or a more complicated case, or a case involving more than one person. The breadth and depth of the case in direct correlation to the weight and the number of  volumes. 

In police parlance these are “dormant” cases. Technically “open” or “still under investigation” as the police like to intone when asked; but they are in a deep state of slumber, never to be awoken unless something out of the ordinary occurs. Maybe a dictated annual review, which is usually sporadicly enforced, will sometimes force a reluctant officer to pull the case from the storage room, check the final pages for any “new” information and generally meander through the boxes.

Then, under most circumstances the boxes get put back, back into the darkened rooms, a single page added indicating that there has been no change in the contained information.  Some boxes may be difficult to even find.  

The paper or original information in these boxes is now being lost, inexorably beaten up by time itself and inadequate physical storage.  They all contain the most intimate of stories, real stories of people, their backgrounds, their lifestyles and their fates.  Some of the people in these boxes have prematurely met the ultimate fate, their deaths by a variety of methods only limited by the depravity and the darkness of the human spirit. Long gone to the eyes of the original investigators, but probably not forgotten. Every old investigator cognizant of the one that got away. 

They have not been solved, the killer remains free in the world, unless time and circumstances has also caught up with them as well. 

If one believes that history, or that records of the past are important,  or that every effort should be made to solve any murder, then you may be interested in this story. For this is a story of a largely ignored problem by the RCMP and other Municipal forces and the single attempt at a proposed solution, one which proved ultimately futile. 

This is a story of a need to archive and preserve police files.  It admittedly has never been fashionable to be interested in the library sciences, or the  similar but more current world of digital archiving.  It conjures up images of dusty books, microfiche and bespectacled introspective librarians, lonely figures confined to being the keepers of untold secrets. 

This is not to say that there is not public interest in unsolved homicides; one can tune into the many Netflix docs, the CBC, read Wikipedia, or the Vancouver Sun and find stories of historical murders, served up in some form of sensationalist fashion. The RCMP post pictures of historical victims and the Coroners office publicly maps out found remains cases. Unfortunately, this is mainly public fodder and a needle in the haystack in terms of trying to solve some of these cases, designed more to entice the reader or the watcher, designed for instagram investigators, not a serious study of this dark world nor a studied attempt to make a dent in the growing pile of the unsolved.   

There is an actual need for a concentrated effort to preserve, to digitize these paper files, to capture forever the information that could be lost to deterioration and neglect. 

In this Province and for most other parts of Canada, there is a relatively short historical period of time which is of primary concern. This is mainly the period from 1960 to 2003,  the dominant ages of the paper files in this relatively new country.

In general, around 2003 many police agencies slowly began to go to electronic formats, although it varies by jurisdiction. The paper format was gradually replaced, electronic data finally being made acceptable as a possible original document pushed by the quickly developing technical advancements.

It is somewhat ironic to understand that the paper age has an actual shelf life longer than the digital age, with experts estimating that paper, if properly preserved, has a life of about 50-100 years. (In our now digital storage era, the shelf life of electronic documents is only 10-20 years. Some think that since the newer material has been electronically filed it will last in perpetuity– a largely false belief.) 

However, now the paper files are of the most immediate concern. They are   reaching the end of their shelf lives, the ink is beginning to fade, the photos are beginning to deteriorate and the memories of the investigators are becoming faulty. 

The numbers of unsolved homicide files that are on “paper” in this Province are somewhat daunting. In 2016, when this blogger began to look at this issue, there were 900-1300 unsolved homicides held by the RCMP in the Province of British Columbia alone. There was another 200-300 which would be the responsibility of the Municipal Forces and there is no evidence to suggest that those Municipal agencies have been any better than the RCMP in their preservation. If one draws this issue outward, on a national basis, the situation would be magnified by 10 times. 

In British Columbia and in the Lower Mainland, since the birth of the Integrated Homicide and Investigation Team, they alone have generated at least another additional  300 “unsolved homicides”.  To be sure, those files are being captured in an electronic format, but not a format that is in a consistent with other agencies, nor are they in a position to be integrated and compared to other similar data bases. So the problem of being able to archive and preserve all information, on a fundamental basis, is growing every year. Solvency rates are also declining– further exasperating the issue. 

The police agencies are rarely asked about this archiving problem, but on that rare occasion that they are, the blame is usually placed on the constantly shifting policing priorities and jurisdictions. It simply has not been operational priority. 

Even if reviewed, there is no digitization of the file, so the only electronic reference to this file may be a name or a file number. The contents are not available to investigators without fully and physically reviewing the paper file. If an investigator feels an ongoing investigation may have some relevance to a historical file, whether it be a suspect or some other circumstance, they would need to go back and physically review the entire file, maybe on just a chance of finding some opaque reference. 

There is no cross-pollination of the information contained in those files, none of the more recent files can see or compare information on their files to older investigations.

The police agencies have a public relations mantra which is that no file is ever “closed” without it being solved. Technically they are right in their assertions, they don’t put a big “CH” (Concluded Here) on the file, but they are being totally misleading. They are trying to generate the impression that they are active and constructively reviewing and comparing these files on a regular basis. That is not true.

They are not digitizing these older files, and they are not actively investigating these files.  The only salvation for police management is that the public simply doesn’t know; the public assume wrongly, that all police files are instantly and readily available to all homicide investigators. 

There is one exception in this Province in terms of units re-investigating historical files in the RCMP. That is the Unsolved Homicide Unit of about 10-20 officers who review old files and selectively work historic files. Sounds good, but one needs to consider that each team in the group, may only take a new file every 8 months or so.

The other bit of sleight of hand is that the Unsolved Unit actually re-investigates only the “solved files”; files where a suspect has actually been already identified, but where for some reason the file was not being worked. It is hard to explain, but the fact is there are many files that have already identified suspects, but for one reason or another have been neglected. These files alone keep this unit busy and it only makes sense in terms of productivity to go for the low hanging fruit. 

Now if you optimistically assume that this group does 3-5 files per year, you can easily do the math and see the finger in the dyke problem here.  There is no way to catch up or even make a dent in the pile. It is not for lack of effort by this relatively small unit, it is just a matter of numbers. 

 

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2018001/article/54980-eng.htm

The preservation of historic information is finally being recognized in various forms throughout the rest of society as various organizations are striving to cope with this growing issue.

Interestingly, some locations are actually using police inspired methods to try and solve their respective archiving problems.

At Harvard University they are in the process of trying to develop an operating system for capturing their paper and digital archives using workflow modelled after “police forensic standards”. The idea is to “create, authenticate, unimpeachable source data….” at a standard that would make the archive “suitable as evidence in a criminal trial”. Now, if capturing hundreds of homicide investigations seems to be a difficult task, Harvard is attempting to go back 375 years of history.

The problems they are encountering are similar to the police issues; files with floppy discs, zip drives, tapes, and cassettes. So they are not only capturing the information, they are also preserving the techniques that are needed to retrieve that data.

In California, in a former San Francisco Church, Brewster Kahle continues with the goal he started with in the 1990’s, which was to curate and create an “Internet Archive”. His lofty goal? To save all the world’s information.

Even to the pessimist he has been quite successful: 435 billion web pages have been preserved, 7 million books, 2.1 million audio recordings, and 1.8 million videos have been preserved and digitized, and now accessible to the Public. This archive draws 2-3 million visitors daily.

This is to say that although the archiving and digitizing of police homicide files seems both time consuming and manpower intensive, it is doable. It pales in comparison to these more ambitious projects and one would think that the goal of preserving these investigations and their contents dealing with the most heinous of crimes should be a laudable goal. But so far neither the police, or their respective government administrations, feel that is part of their duty or responsibility.

Which leads me to the more personal and subjective 2nd half of this story.

For two years, the writer of this blog, along with a couple of associates joined with the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies (ICURS) and the School of Applied Science in a proposal on a non-profit basis to digitally archive these old historic homicide files.

It was supported by many people including the former RCMP head of E Division, a former VP and CIO for BC Hydro, the Dean of the school of Applied Science, and the School of Criminology at SFU.

Without going into all the details, the business plan outlined the logistics of locating files and moving them to a secure facility where the paper files would be reviewed, scanned, and converted to a digital format, one that would eventually be shared by all those participating. The reviewing would be done by PHD students in combination with the departments of Applied Science. SFU was motivated by being able to have access to a vast database for research purposes and the hands on review would give students ideas for that research.

There were many hurdles to overcome, as one would guess; security clearances, privacy issues, physical security issues, evidence chains, research controls and results, database construction, expert and standards of review, personnel, exhibit issues, and photo issues.

This is just to name a few of the problems, but over a two year period, these questions were for the most part answered and a proposal was put forward to the RCMP and the Vancouver City Police.

Initially the RCMP expressed interest, each meeting leading to a few more questions on how the operation will be housed and how it will work. Budget issues often came up (we estimated that it would take a financial commitment of 1/2 of 1% of the RCMP E Division Policing budget) The biggest concern of course, was the RCMP turning over, at least temporarily, unsolved homicide investigations to an outside party, even though they would have the appropriate security clearances. At one time they even proposed the possibility of giving up space inside their HQ at Green Timbers to get around this continuity issue.

The possible expandability of this proposal was obvious. Other Municipal agencies, other Provinces, and in a utopia, a database of all unsolved homicide files in the country. One could also bring in the solved files, as they too could have links to other investigations and be of great value.

Of course all the information would be owned by the agencies themselves, and throughout there would be oversight by those same police agencies.

“Digital 229” was the Project name and it was a non-profit enterprise. No one involved was paid during this two year period, all the extra effort was put in on a volunteer basis.

So what happened?

It was a surprise to some, but not a surprise to others who felt all along that the RCMP would have a difficult time ever climbing out of the proverbial operational “box”, the inability to go against the way it was always done.

There is no clear answer as to why the idea died. In the end, we were not given a reason which made any sense. It was un-ceremonious to say the least, as we only heard through the grapevine that negotiations had been terminated; nobody made any direct contact with any of the parties involved.

After many attempted phone connections to re-ignite the business plan, an Inspector (who had not ever been involved in the process) wrote to us and gave up an excuse over needing “sole source funding”, which had also been previously addressed, as the reason of not going forward.

Was this the real reason? We don’t think so. It was clear this officer was directed to kill the project at the direction of some higher ups and to come up with some justification for it.

At one of the original meetings with the heads of the E Division RCMP one officer said he had one question. “What if you guys uncover a number of files that need further investigation?” In other words, if this process we proposed actually assisted in solving some files or pointing to possible suspects, where would they find the resources to re-investigate them?

I’ll admit to being slightly dumbfounded, the question seemed to indicate that the police were concerned about the actual solving of homicides. This was a through the looking-glass moment, a parallel reality where the police were actually more concerned about political administrative repercussions more than the actual solving of cases.

But, so ended an extensive effort to address the unsolved homicides in this Province.

It was and is disappointing of course. What we clearly lacked was a political incentive, one fired up by government.

A few years ago in 2010, the National Inquiry into Missing and Indigenous Women was announced. Their mandate in particular was to dig into the police handling of these Indigenous files. Sources tell me that E Division quickly found a number of officers to travel the Province and review all of these files, clearly in the hope that there would be no problems uncovered.

Of course, they reviewed all these files and then wrote a report, but we have been told they were not converted to digital files.

The RCMP had no problem funding these specific reviews nor in finding the personnel to conduct the inquiries.

So while you routinely watch Netflix, or tune in to CBC True Detective, and assume the mantel of being the next Columbo, one should realize there is a far better way of actually impacting this problem. Less dramatic for sure, but truly effective.

They are currently ignoring the history and one knows what happens when you ignore history.

So the files sit in the boxes, languishing in the file rooms, all in need of a boring librarian. We can see them and touch them, they are contained, but they are hidden from view. The veil of secrecy enshrouds them, protecting them from public scrutiny.

It would seem that at the very least it is owed to the families who have been touched in the most profound way possible. We need to preserve their stories. And maybe, just maybe, give them actual hope. A concentrated and earnest academic effort is needed to make this possible.

As to the suspects, the criminals who killed and remain unaccountable–maybe it’s time for that slogan from history to be resurrected, you know the one, the one where the Mounties “always get their man”.

After all, the past causes the present and so the future.

Photo courtesy of the kirbster via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved