(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 3, 1999)


Undercover expose

By Leo Knight

I usually leave the cut and thrust of book reviews to those better equipped to analyze the world of literary endeavors.  


Despite the books on crime and such sent by publishers hoping for a favourable plug, I tend to avoid using this space to pick or pan another's work.  


One deliberate divergence was a column written in these pages almost two years ago about former Vancouver cop, Gary Cameron, whose Shots Fired, in my view, stands alone as a realistic trek into the world of policing the mean streets and a "must read" for anyone who actually wants to know what a cop's life is really about.  


Over the past few weeks I have tried to illuminate the problem of organized crime to help you understand the insidious problem it represents and to underline the difficulties honest, hard-working cops have in trying to fight the war against the crime lords.  


The singular case of corruption in our consular operations in Hong Kong and the efforts of two men, former foreign services officer Brian McAdam and now-suspended RCMP Cpl. Robert Read, stand as a glaring example of how the system works against those who would dare to fight on the side of right and justice in that war.  


Which brings me back to the book review aspect. I have recently finished reading Police Undercover: The True Story of The Biker, The Mafia and The Mountie.  


Police Undercover is the work of Mark Murphy, a retired Mountie corporal, who steered one of the few successful prosecutions of organized crime ever put together in Canada. It is part biography, describing his part in taking down the heads of the Commisso family, one of the major players in what is known as "traditional organized crime" or TOC in the vernacular of law enforcement.  


Now, I feel I must add here that Murphy's publisher did not send me a copy of this book. I stumbled across it while doing some research into organized crime and was taken aback by its brutal honesty and startling accusations against senior management who, by Murphy's analysis, were more concerned with the politics of their positions than going after the bad guys.  


The book, published this summer, begins with a quote that sets the tone for the story being told. The quote underlines what, in my view, hampers the cops who are in the thick of the battle with organized crime.  


It begins, "The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make many mistakes because they attempt many things."  


It ends with, "The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He never tries anything new. He is a brake on the wheel of progress."  


The story Murphy unfolds is how he, as a police officer in Toronto's National Crime Intelligence Section (NCIS), developed an informant, a member of the Satan's Choice outlaw motorcycle gang. The informant, Cecil Kirby, was to lead Murphy on a roller-coaster ride through the world of organized crime -- from Toronto to New York City, from bombings to contract murder.  


In the process, Murphy developed a friendship of sorts. Not the bosom buddy type of relationship, but the one borne of mutual respect for a worthy adversary who was finally coming down on the right side of the coin.  


During the investigation, which took place over several months of spine-tingling intrigue, petty politics and ever-increasing bureaucracy, Murphy chronicles how Kirby merits more trust and respect than the people heading the police sections tasked with investigating organized crime.  


Through the efforts of Murphy and his handling of Kirby as an informant, many criminal convictions were obtained against the Commissos, including: conspiracy to commit murder, counselling to commit murder, arson, counsel to commit extortion, robbery and a host of other offences.  


Seventeen separate members of the Commisso family were convicted and sentenced to a collective 92 years in jail.  


Not a bad job one would think. But, as Murphy illustrates, the senior management of the RCMP were bent out of shape because he conveniently ignored some policy and decisions made by those who hadn't a clue. Decisions that put at risk the life of the very person without whom the RCMP wouldn't have had a chance of convicting the Commissos for jaywalking.  


Most street-level members of the RCMP harbour no illusions about the quality of their leadership.  


Many high-ranking officers in the force have never made an arrest or prosecuted an investigation from start to finish. Instead of working their way up through the ranks, the path to high office is one of higher learning, political correctness and kissing the right asses.  


But in his book Murphy takes the common knowledge one step further. He has identified a singular connection which explains, to a degree, the reasons our national police force has been remarkably ineffective in the fight against organized crime.  


Let me leave you with the words of retired corporal Mark Murphy in the epilogue of his book.  


"I feel that many police officers who rise within the ranks of the RCMP do so because of their Masonic connections, not their performance as a police officer. In my opinion, some lack the ability to fight crime, especially organized crime and drug-related crime.  


"Many commissioned officers that I know never made an arrest, never conducted an investigation and never had an informant. I can only think they went to the top because they were well connected."  


Murphy concludes, "In my opinion the network of masons placed in positions of power throughout the RCMP and other organizations is a breach of public trust."  


Explains quite a lot, doesn't it?






Primetimecrime current headlines               Columns 1999