Roger writing the LAWmag

Police: Would That Be Cowardice or Stupidity?

Keystone CopsYet another embarrassing example of, at worse, police cowardice or, at best, police stupidity.

This, less than 9 months after Victoria police officers backed away from a multiple-murder scene for fear of their own safety, before checking to see if there were any survivors.

In the September 4, 2007 drama in Oak Bay, the police took five hours before entering the premises, at which time any human life otherwise salvageable, was gone, including that of Christian Lee, then 6.

But all police were accounted for.

What is particularly troubling, is the spin-doctoring the police began almost instantly, wooing the local media into an alleged justification for this blatant five hour act of cowardice.

I would like to think that if someone broke into my house and I could be seen bloody and unconscious from the front window, that the police would break in first, check for E-Coli and call Terasen Gas later.

Yesterday, May 26, 2008: Act II of The BC Keystone Cops.

This time, the RCMP pull over a naked man (Randall Gerard, 49) driving a stolen five-ton truck.... and they then let him go, resulting in a high-speed hi-risk chase through Vancouver suburbs, ending  just before children began leaving their homes for school.

After the chase was over (thankfully, no one but the suspect was hurt), the RCMP spin-doctors were right at it, armed with spectacular footage of at least one of their officers doing the right thing: ramming the suspect with his police car.

The inherent stupidity and risk seemed completely lost on the RCMP spin doctor - either that or his comments show exceptional temerity in attemting to justify the release of the suspect from the initial detention by the police:

"The officers actually approached the vehicle and again the man showed very irrational behaviour and told officers that he was going to drive the truck to a bridge and blow it up and they would never catch him. So, at that time, not knowing what was going on, for their safety, the officers backed off, not knowing if this man was armed, that he was irrational, that he may have had explosives with him, so they backed off and he drove off in the truck again."

If he referred to explosives, wouldn’t that be a bigger reason to intercept him then and there?

He drops into their hands and they wave him on?

They don’t even use their vehicles to immobilize the truck?

That spin doctoring is effective is not lost on the police. After all, important to police standards, nobody died. Most persons leaving comments on newswire websites actually commended the RCMP for their actions!

Deference to, and respect of the police is a good thing. But if the Emperor takes a stroll with no clothes on, someone should speak up.

With these examples of police officers thinking first of their own personal safety, one can’t help but contrast that with the September 11, 2001 images of the NYPD grimly running up the stairs of the World Trade Centre, towards flames some fifty stories above ground, and to their ultimate deaths, just for the prospect of saving other lives.

Police mottos vary but two come to mind: "Deeds Speak" and "Here to Serve You". In real life, this means:

  • In May of 2004, Cobourg, Ontario police officer Chris Garret responded to a call and gave his life to take down a wannabe mass murderer.
  • In October of 2004, Nova Scotia police officer James Birmingham entered a burning house to rescue a senior.
  • In January of 2006, Vancouver police officer Gerry Proctor risked his life by diving into a frigid Fraser River to rescue a 21-year old woman then drowning.

This isn’t about blaming the police for what happened. For that, there is already one dead Peter Lee and one banged up naked man.

This is about unacceptable police officer response and crisis decision-making, concerned not with standing in harm’s way, but choosing to stand outside of it and to then be commended for this by their chiefs.

We expect our police to be walking heroes; always prepared to risk their lives to save others. That’s one of the reasons they are allowed to openly carry firearms.

In any event, whether they are heroes or not, it’s their job.

But perhaps most importantly, what are these events, of which the police administration themselves condone the cowardice and sheer stupidity, teaching our young police officers?

Posted in Crime and Criminal Law, Current Events
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