(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 21, 2001)


Police acted with caution

By Leo Knight

THESE days it's not too difficult to find material for the weekly diatribe.


I could do an "I told you so" about the violent attempts to disrupt the G20 meetings in Ottawa.


Conversely, I could discuss the efforts, diligence and innovation used by the Ottawa-Carleton Police and the RCMP in heading off much of the violence by infiltrating the crowds, identifying and culling out the members of the so-called "Black Bloc."


But, I think we should take a look at the media response, not only to the situation in Ottawa, but also the local media dealing with a story last week of the North Van RCMP reacting to a call from a citizen involving a teen with a gun which turned out to be a Nintendo game piece.


The CTV National News on Friday, reacting to the first of the violence in Ottawa, set speed records in saying, ". . . and questions are being asked about the amount of force used by police . . ."


The only people asking those questions were people physically involved in the instigation of the violence or those members of the political left who just cannot conceive that the police may be right and the protesters wrong.


Police seizures included sharpened stakes, petrol bombs, knives, machetes and the like. And what exactly is it the police are supposed to be apologizing for?


The question itself is ridiculous.


One of the urban terrorists, identified in the National Post as, "Paul Smith, a career protester" tried to get past the police cordon into the heavily guarded conference. Within 10 metres Smith and three of his cohorts were stopped by police dogs and subdued using Tasers. Smith whined later to the media, "We were brutally taken down by police. I was tasered in the leg for refusing to comply."


Well, dummy, what did you expect?


Then there's the situation being blown out of all proportion by former West Vancouver school superintendent Ed Carlin and a compliant media. On Nov. 10 North Vancouver RCMP received a call from a neighbour who evidently had seen a young man passed out through a basement window and there was what appeared to be a gun on the table beside him.


The neighbour also reported there was drug paraphernalia.


When the Mounties attended they looked through the window and pretty much confirmed the complainant's info except for the gun, which they could not see. They then talked to other neighbours. Given the information from the initial complainant, a decision was made to use the tactical team for the entry.


This is routine in gun calls where there is time to assemble the people who are specially trained for the task.


While Mr. Carlin may be upset, one fails to see how he can lecture the public via the media on police procedures. Whatever he may have learned on the subject through his vast experience as a school administrator could probably be inscribed on the head of a pin.


Monday's story in The Province was more of the same. The front-page story regurgitated more "outraged dad" comments and added the criticism about entries into the police computer database about the boys having an adverse affect on their futures. Well, now, let's see, how to say this . . . Yo! Earth to Mr. Carlin! This ain't the first time. (Ahem.)


Having said that, the entry will read "Subject of Complaint" not "Suspect in" and there's a world of difference. It also uses the word, "Unfounded."


The database Carlin refers to is called PIRS, which is an index system used to record every single solitary time any one of us comes to police attention, whether for being a victim, witness, suspect or otherwise involved in any reported matter. It is nothing more or less than that.


When I first became a police officer, the same task was done manually on little 3 X 5 index cards. Now it's automated.


Of course the intimation here is that the police are gun-happy. Which, in my experience, is quite untrue.


Look at an incident in Deep Cove on Halloween night. The RCMP attended an assault call. When the officer approached a pair of males who had been pointed out, one of the subjects reached into his waistband and pulled out a replica handgun.


The Mountie had every opportunity and legal recourse to shoot the young man, but didn't. For some reason, that police officer seemed to realize the gun wasn't real. Once the weapon was discarded, a search yielded not one, but two pipe bombs. But for the ability of that constable, a young man would now be dead.


The media would do well to understand the loud, critical voice is not always correct. The police will use violence when it is called for, but it is done in a measured, professional manner and, wherever possible, with an abundance of caution.


And what's wrong with that?






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