Tuesday, 29 June 2010

In Defense of Our Police... Kind of.

Following up to my last post, I do want to address what I see as the wrong-headed blame being placed on the police during the G20 summit.

Not that their actions are blameless, or rather, were perfect, but they were normal and expected.

Can you think of any other profession where you are expected to intuitively understand and know how to deal peacefully with any person in any emotional or mental state? I can't. Reading the comments out there, it appears we want our police officers to have the psychological skills of a BF Skinner, the tactical genius of General Patton, the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes and the patience and compassion of Mother Teresa.

It ain't gonna happen. We don't pay them enough to have anywhere near the necessary skill-set, not to mention that no human in history has this combination of skills.  The closest we could get to the ideal security at G20 like events, is to have a fully trained 100% dedicated corps for crowd control. And that's all they do.  Crowd control is what we train them for and use them for.  Well that isn't going to happen either.

Our police officers are generalists, good at many things, expert in none (speaking of general skills, they are often expert shooters). They have to be detectives, traffic control, lost dog finders, crowd control officers and a myriad of other things.  Add in that Toronto's security needs were such that they pulled in officers from all over the country, many that are not familiar with Toronto, never mind its people and you have a large host of unqualified crowd control officers.  Unqualified as far as the population's expectations are.

Which is why they resorted to simplistic tactics. They do not have the other skills necessary.

I am not saying that police officers are inadequately trained or incompetent. They are a tool of society, but like any tool, they have to be used properly for what they have been designed (or trained) for. You cannot use a hammer to put in a screw.

The people expressing outrage at the police are suffering from unrealistic expectations, but I cannot blame them for that. For that I blame the political masters that put them in this no-win situation in the first place. The only win-win scenario was a 100% protection of property and person with a 100% respect of rights and personal dignity.

As we saw, neither was achieved, and you know what?  Neither will ever be achieved because we use the wrong tools for the wrong jobs.

Don't blame the police, blame the REMF's that put them there.

I heard a wonderful solution on the radio the other day. The perfect location for this G20/G8 summit would have been Canadian Forces Base Borden. A secure location reasonably far from population centers with a trained security force with a clear delineation of where civilians are allowed.   And if there is any group of people that know how to patrol and secure a perimeter, it better be the armed forces.


ADHR said...

Well, here's my problems with the police actions during the G20.

(1) Arbitrary detention and arrest of people without any probable cause, and failure to detain and arrest with probable cause. People sitting on the streets and singing "O Canada" is not probable cause. People swarming and destroying police cruisers is. It's really hard to see why the first involved a mass charge and the second involved running for the hills.

(2) Detention in conditions that are blatantly unconstitutional if not criminal. This includes such issues as lack of timely access to lawyers, lack of adequate nutrition and medical care (e.g., diabetics not receiving medication, which could have been fatal), failure to notify parents of minors being held, threats of violence and sexual violence to the detained, etc. It also includes the outright lying on the part of Chief Bill Blair, who has now freely admitted that he made up and enforced rules to make his own life easier.

These aren't cases of the public having unreasonable expectations of the police. These are cases of the police deliberately doing all they can to secure a few elites (withdrawing to the fence on Saturday), and bringing the hammer down on regular folks (the mass arrests on Sunday). Whether this was by free choice or by order from someone above is, again, beside the point. If your boss gives you an illegal, unconstitutional order, you don't get to obey it and walk away. You're guilty of something and should be punished, too.

I'm not sure who made the suggestion, but I read somewhere recently about putting our Dear Leaders up in a military camp somewhere, staying in tents and eating rations in a mess hall, rather than giving them swanky private digs. A bit extreme, but if these meetings are really necessary, I don't see why they need to be as luxurious and private as they are.

Catelli said...

I'm not enough of a lawyer to know how many actions by the police were illegal (immoral, fine, but illegal?)

Most actions are subject to time constraints, i.e. held without charges must be released by X hours.

That's for the complaint/legal process to work out. I am not saying that if you believe rights were violated, you should not process a claim, by all means, use all legal channels available to achieve restitution.

My point is that what happened (violence and/or excessive use of force by police) was guaranteed based on how the whole thing was setup. The systems we have in place are not ideal for what they were used for.

Our police forces are not equipped to meet both the political and social expectations of the G20 summit. They never will be either. Hence the complaints against them. They were setup to fail. It was a lose-lose proposition for them.

ADHR said...

I agree with that. I just don't see it as exculpatory. Failure is failure, whether or not success was really possible.