Chris Selley: Policing won’t get better until politicians get their hands dirty

Increasingly, the police seem free to enforce – or not to enforce – what they want, when they want, for whatever reason they want.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed last week on a despicable campaign of racist and misogynistic harassment currently being endured by several Canadian women in the public eye, including journalists – a campaign that the police have not really been interested in responding to, according to the women’s reports. (One said he was advised to “lower his expectations,” which some Canadian police forces might as well adopt as a motto.)

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Trudeau said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino later in the day would “submit an expectation” to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police “that police forces across the country take seriously — very seriously.” serious, not just as individual problems, but as a systemic problem. question – this pattern of intimidation and attacks on people who serve their country, such as journalists.

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It’s a fair request, and perhaps also politically wise. RCMP investigation The recent altercation between Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and a rampaging oik on a large prairie in Alberta. the hospital, a disturbing meeting, certainly, but which did not smell of criminality. The same could be said about some of the bullshit that lands in these women’s inboxes: racist and misogynistic slurs aren’t illegal per se.

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But some of the abuse they experience goes far beyond that, in some cases reaching the level of an overt threat: “First I’m going to rape you until you bleed, then I’m going to slit your throat and f–k your head,” is a very notable example.

There’s also stalking, which was added to the Criminal Code in 1993 “as a specific response to violence against women”, the Justice Department said. Explain in a handbook for police and Crown prosecutors. I don’t know if serial emails would hit that bar – the charge is made most often in domestic violence and stalking cases – and it’s no surprise the police aren’t very interested. They are often accused of not taking harassment seriously enough when the person is known to the victim after all. The cowards who send these vile missives obviously don’t use their own names, and the worst of the worst seem to mostly use Protonmail, which encrypts user data before it even arrives on its servers in Switzerland. You can just imagine the glassy eyes of a desk sergeant.

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At the very least, it’s reasonable for people facing this kind of abuse to get a rational explanation for why it’s not doing the trick — not just a yawn and a shrug. It’s often good advice to expect less from the police, unfortunately, but all the more so because you have to demand better.

  1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media after a visit to Saint Boniface University in Winnipeg, Thursday, September 1, 2022.

    Police must take online threats and harassment seriously: Trudeau

  2. Anguished parents clash with law enforcement officers on May 24, 2022 outside the closed Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  Police waited outside the school for over an hour before entering to confront a serial killer.

    Chris Selley: Numerous police failures argue for radical reform

After days and days of testimony at the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia, the spirit is still shaken by the performance of the RCMP – particularly their decision not to tell people (except on Twitter!) that they There was a lunatic on the loose, most likely in a mock police cruiser. Here in Toronto, police are insisting on giving cyclists tickets in High Park for speeding and stop sign violations, which might be arguable – the law is the law, after all – if they paid attention. particular to motorists, who kill infinitely more people (at least 58 in 2021, according to CBC count) than cyclists. The Toronto Star reported this summer that the police did not respond to car thefts even when the owner had installed a tracker and knew precisely where he was!

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Increasingly, the principle of independent policing – the idea that senior officers should set enforcement priorities for their forces without political input – seems to have degraded to the principle that the police can enforce, or not, what she wants, when she wants and for anything. whatever reason they want. Nowhere is this more true than in Ontario, where the provincial police force has a hard-won reputation for not enforcing anything involving Indigenous protesters, even after court injunctions demand it – most recently during the rail blockade CN near Kingston in 2020, and for years in Caledonia before that. Ottawa police were utterly useless in the face of the convoy of truckers earlier this year.

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It’s not good enough. And the idea that politicians shouldn’t weigh in is rubbish, as Trudeau demonstrated last week. When it is politically advantageous to wash your hands of a police-related situation, he appeals to the independence of the police: Canada is “not the kind of country where politicians can tell the police what to do operationally. he said during the 2020 rail blockade. “Decisions will be made by the police who will do their job in the right way…”, he said during the convoy’s occupation of downtown Ottawa (as if invoking the Emergencies Act didn’t send a rather pointed message).

When it is politically advantageous to tell the police what to do, however – or to tell his Minister of Public Safety to tell them – he will. This is the case with many politicians, especially when campaigning for re-election, and they shouldn’t get away with it. We certainly don’t want mayors, prime ministers and prime ministers telling the police what to do on a day-to-day basis – which person to arrest, which business to target. But the population of Canadians dissatisfied with the status quo seems to be growing and diversifying with each passing year, and it won’t improve without serious political intervention, if not a complete overhaul of Canadian policing.

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