Ordinarily, I wouldn’t criticize another columnist’s opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs. But I must take exception to National Post columnist Brian Hutchinson’s effort appearing in the Post and in the Vancouver Sun. (Questions raised over police shootings; One man ‘lucky he didn’t get shot’)
His premise, resulting from three recent police shootings in BC, seems to be that the the immediate reaction of the police in violent circumstances is to draw their weapons and shoot someone. He then drew out the circumstances from a violent event in Chilliwack in an incident where the police were attacked by a suspect and they didn’t shoot and somehow reaches the conclusion that this was a rare, “unfamiliar” event.
He conveniently ignores the fact that only some of the tens of thousands of contacts police have with the public turn violent and the police deal with that violence by using force to subdue the person who initiated the violence. And they do so on a daily basis without shooting someone.
Simply put, yes there were three police involved shootings in BC in the past two weeks. All are under investigation by the Independent Investigations Office, the civilian investigative agency formed by the BC government to investigate incidents where police use force which results in serious injury or death. But we know nothing more than what was released in terse press releases. We do not know the circumstances in which police used lethal force and neither does Hutchinson. Unlike him, I won’t rush to judgement.
He also ignores the simple truth that in the vast majority of police involved incidents where lethal violence resulted, the police are found not to have used excessive force.
To make matters worse, Hutchinson uses a case where the police didn’t use lethal force as an example of, well, I’m not exactly sure of what. But he suggests they used “proper judgement in a dangerous situation.” I’m not entirely sure where he obtained the use-of-force training that allows him to reach that conclusion. Perhaps from watching those many episodes of Law & Order over the years?
What I do know about that case is that those officers involved screwed up right out of the gate.
The suspect was involved in a car accident where they first encountered him. The attending officer believed the suspect was intoxicated by something and, instead of arresting him for further investigation, instructed a female officer to drive him home. And that’s where the trouble started.
His common law wife claimed he stole a car, presumably the one he was driving at the accident scene. A domestic dispute ensued during which prompted the female member to suggest he grab a few things and leave until cooler heads prevailed.
The suspect then grabbed a secreted black handgun – which turned out later to be a pellet pistol – and pointed it at the female member and said, instead, that she should leave. She called for assistance and an ensuing fracas resulted in which he threw a 35 lb. dumbbell at the head the cover officer, kicked him into a wall causing a hole and a broken hand for the officer, was shot with a Taser by the female member – which had no effect I might add – then got the Taser off the female and tried to deploy it against the police. Oh, and he tried to wrestle the male officer’s handgun from his belt.
They never should have put themselves in that position of risk in the first instance in my view. The suspect had a significant criminal history including the abduction of a female. Surely this was known to the RCMP members before dispatching a solitary female member to drive him home? Equally, there was more they could have done to investigate the possible impairment rather than driving him home.
As for the suspect, as told by Judge Richard Browning in his bail hearing to his lawyer, “The reality is he is lucky he didn’t get shot.” Trust me, the police had every legal right to shoot him and there are those who would argue they should have. That they survived that subsequent altercation is down to blind, good luck not good police procedures.
I did a number of appearances on various media outlets this past week talking about the cluster of police shootings. Is it unusual? Yes. Is it nefarious or an indication of police becoming more prone to using their guns? No, it’s nothing of the sort. In fact, the police use force in only 0.06 per cent of their interactions with the public. And bear in mind that the police see humanity at it’s worst.
Hutchinson also makes this statement in his column: “It can’t be presumed police will investigate themselves fairly in such cases.” I cringe whenever I hear something like that.
All police agencies have a Professional Standards Section and a Major Crimes Section. Unlike those at the IIO, they are professional investigators who know their job is to find the truth, wherever that may lead. Any suggestion to the contrary is insulting.
And finally, the police are held by society to a higher standard. That is as it should be. They know it and if someone tarnishes the badge they all feel it. That person is shunned, not protected, by all those who do their best to serve the citizens the best they can every day.
Hutchinson’s column is disingenuous, at best. Not what I would normally expect from someone with his experience and skills as a writer. It seems like mere sensationalism.
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