Sunday, April 03, 2011

What do the police stand for?

I was one of those people who thought the police were the good guys. I used to think people who distrusted the police were guilty of something or habitually on the wrong side of the law. I used to give the police the benefit of the doubt when one of them was accused of wrongdoing. I used to get choked up when I read about an officer gunned down in the line of duty. I used to contribute to funds for the families of fallen officers.

Not anymore. Not ever again.

A close friend in Canada has been accused by a former friend of something very bad. While it likely does not involve a prison term, it has already cost my friend a hard-earned reputation and every atom of this person's peace of mind.

Everything the accuser has alleged is false. The accusations are based on the worst, most pathetic and egregious lies I've ever heard. Every single one of these lies is easily disproved, if the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officer who conducted the investigation would have taken the time to actually investigate the accuser's claims. But the Mountie didn't pursue them. He concluded the investigation and charges were laid without the officer even bothering to take a statement from the accused. This was followed by a press release that was filled with inaccuracies, which I strongly suspect were deliberate.

Why lie to the press? What was the motivation for this? Nobody knows.

Once my friend was in possession of the police report, several contradictions were immediately apparent, not only in the accuser's statements but between the accuser's statements and those of another person who was questioned by the RCMP. That would have alarm bells sounding for any reasonable person interested in the truth, but these inconsistencies weren't investigated. Why? Doesn't the truth matter?

The answer is no. The truth doesn't matter.

My friend has sought the advice of an advocacy group for the wrongfully accused and was told that the police are not interested in the truth. Based on what I've seen, I believe it. The advocacy group claims police are primarily motivated to find a guilty person and gather evidence to support a guilty verdict. I believe it.

So it goes to trial. My friend has hired one of the top defense attorneys in western Canada. Given the weakness of the case, I have little doubt that it will ultimately be dismissed by a judge, but not before it has cost my friend a great deal.

No little cost is that loss of faith in your fellow person and in an institution ostensibly guided by "integrity," "honesty," and "accountability."

Even without this agonizing personal experience, it's hard to dismiss evidence of police malfeasance in this age of ubiquitous video.

A few years ago, video was released showing Mounties tasering a man to death at the Vancouver International Airport within seconds of being called to the scene.

In January of this year a Mountie in Kelowna was caught on video kicking the face of a man who was already complying with officers and on his hands and knees.

God only knows the day-to-day violations of trust that occur all over British Columbia with the RCMP -- a recent article in the Times Colonist states that complaints against the RCMP in B.C. have been steadily rising for some time, and punctuates this claim with the story of a woman in Nanaimo who alleges that a Mountie punched her, shattering her face, because she complained about his conduct.

This is the reason people distrust the police. This is the reason there is so little good will towards law enforcement.

The police are not your friends. They are not on the side of truth. They are not on the side of justice. They are not there to protect you.

I realize there are individual officers within the system who have integrity and are interested in truth and justice. But as Seth Godin writes, the worst voice of the brand is the brand.

Seems obvious, no? I wonder, then, why loyal and earnest members of the tribe hesitate to discipline, ostracize or expel the negative outliers.

"You're hurting us, this is wrong, we are expelling you."

What do you stand for?

What do you stand for, indeed.


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