(This column was published in the North Shore News on Apr. 14, 2004)
Police held to higher standard
By Leo Knight
POLICE are often accused of taking care of their own.
In fact, whenever there is an incident such as the allegations made against the six Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers about a beating in Stanley Park, the anti-police crowd jump up and down, set their hair on fire and say the police should not investigate their own.
For the most part I would say that's nonsense. The Stanley Park Six case demonstrates how the system works effectively. I can honestly say that in my years of experience either in, or associated with, policing,
I have never seen a situation where the police covered up anything or went overboard to protect "one of their own."
Having said that, I'm not naive enough to believe that from time to time there are instances when things that should not happen do and are hidden from public view. Typically though, if there is a hint of misconduct, the police will suspend an officer, with pay, until an investigation is complete.
But I've come across a situation that leads me to believe there may be an exception to the rule in a major Canadian municipal police force.
The city is Calgary.
Last month five city police officers filed a lawsuit against another, senior police officer alleging a substantial fraud had been committed in the form of a Ponzi scam or pyramid scheme if you prefer. Whatever you call it, it is illegal.
This is the third such lawsuit filed against Staff Sgt. Kirk McCallum, a senior police officer with the Calgary Police Service. The contents of the three statements of claim are stunning to say the least, alleging fraud in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The activities began, according to the latest lawsuit filed by the five officers, in the spring of 2001 when McCallum began soliciting "investors" for a business identified as Radar Sports. According to the suit, he represented himself as a partner in the company with Daryl Heiligsetzer, the brother of a well respected Calgary police officer.
According to the court documents, Radar Sports was represented to be in business supplying "cheaply purchased hockey sticks manufactured in Canada to hockey organizations throughout North America."
They said they already had signed contracts. They just needed some short-term investment money for 90 days and the money would be returned with a 10 to 20 per cent interest profit.
Allegedly, the "investor" would then have the "opportunity to roll their investment into another 'deal'" rather than reinvesting their funds.
Well, colour me suspicious, but even on the surface, this sounds like a Ponzi scam from the get-go.
Now, it should be noted that McCallum filed a statement of defence March 22, denying all the allegations. And fair enough, he is entitled to be believed innocent until proven guilty, just as anyone else in Canada.
But he is a police officer and is in a position of trust within the community. It is often argued that the police must be held to a higher standard and I agree.
But despite the allegations and, according to several Calgary police officers I spoke to, an ongoing criminal investigation into complaints made by other police officers, McCallum remains on duty.
In fact, even after the criminal investigation was started, McCallum received a chief constable's award for leadership.
It puzzles me how and why the Calgary Police Service, indeed, why the citizens of Calgary could allow this. Why should any city?
The people who enforce the laws of our nation must themselves respect and adhere to them. In rendering his decision on the Stanley Park Six, VPD Chief Jamie Graham said, "Leaders are supposed to motivate and inspire others to action. Leadership is not a job title. We lead by our attitudes, by our responses to authority and challenge, by the words we speak and by the examples we set for those under our command."
And he is exactly right.
And that's where the problem is with Staff Sgt. McCallum remaining on the job while the investigation and the lawsuits proceed. He is tainted by the allegations made by his brother officers. And not just one.
So far there are seven and I'm told there may be as many as 30.
He cannot lead while he remains under this cloud. Police Chief Jack Beaton's failure to act in Calgary diminishes all police officers - everywhere.
It is, after all, only from politicians we have come to expect this sort of thing.