(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 20, 1999)


Criminals getting help from AG

By Leo Knight

AS attorney general, Ujjal Dosanjh is given more credit than he deserves.  


He's not Colin Gablemann and that's in his favour, but that doesn't necessarily make him competent.  


I would argue that he has made B.C. a haven for criminals and continues to do little to discourage criminal behaviour and that will be his legacy as the province's chief law enforcement officer.  


Always an issue that brings out the emotional, if illogical, reactions of the ill-informed, the legislative changes dealing with police vehicle pursuits being instituted by Dosanjh defy logic and are another example of his inability to understand the crime problem and his unwillingness to do anything positive.  


Whenever the police are involved in a car chase resulting in an innocent civilian being injured or killed, the police are immediately criticized.  


While there's no doubt each incident should be examined to determine what was done wrong and what was done right, the tendency is to immediately blame the police as if they were the ones who initiated the pursuit and not the person fleeing from apprehension.  


Dosanjh in his infinite, if ill-advised, wisdom, has now made it open season for criminals in this province to do what they may and fear little from the very people paid to protect our interests.  


For starters, he has decided to make individual police officers personally liable for any and all ramifications of a vehicle chase the officer is involved in even if the officer follows all the rules.  


Think about this for a moment. Would any police officer risk his family, his house, his savings, everything he or she has worked for in life to apprehend a street rat trying to evade capture if he or she can be held financially liable for any damages resulting from that chase?  


Heretofore it was the employer who bore the liability not the individual officer. No more though, courtesy of the man who would be premier.  


But the lunacy doesn't stop there. No, in the new rules, the cops must activate their emergency equipment (lights and siren) as soon as they spot a suspect and begin action to stop the individual.  


Sure, it sounds fine right up until you actually look at how police work is really done. Take, for example, a typical drunk driver case.  


A cop patrolling down the street spots a car going in the opposite direction driving in an irregular manner. In reality, the cop turns around then quickly catches up to the vehicle and immediately begins to monitor the driving of the suspect to form the opinion required by law to demand a breathalyser test be taken.  


Under the new rules, the cop must activate the emergency equipment immediately rendering it impossible to gather sufficient driving evidence to request a breathalyser test. No grounds for the demand, no test. No test, no criminal charges. No charges, no deterrence. No deterrence, more drunks driving their vehicles risking more and more lives of innocent people.  


But wait.  


Wasn't the original aim of the new legislation to protect the innocents caught up occasionally in police chases? Yes, dear reader, but as usual the government is wrong. Their ill-thought out ideas actually will put at risk far more lives than ever they could hope to save by implementing this stupid law.  


The other reality is just as simple. How many more dangerous pursuits will be attempted by people who see the lights of a police car come on a block or two back?  


When the police activate their gear immediately behind the target vehicle, in most cases the futility of running is, more often than not, realized and the suspect is stopped without incident. Then there is the whole question of investigation techniques such as surveillance. Unlike what we see on TV, in reality, the police do not conduct a vehicle surveillance tucked up on the exhaust pipe of the target vehicle.  


Funnily enough, the crooks tend to notice that.  


The police conduct surveillance with multiple cars in a "set." The police car with the "eye" is several vehicles behind the target. The other cars in the set are in parallel on adjacent streets, in most cases breaking every rule of the road to stay even with the target and in position to take the "eye" as needed.  


It's very dangerous and highly stressful work undertaken only by highly-trained, skilled individuals. But it's needed to put together a criminal case in many complicated criminal investigations.  


Even a relatively simple "dial-a-dope" trafficking investigation requires many hours of surveillance done covertly to ensure the courts are satisfied with a pattern of behaviour.  


This will no longer be allowed under Dosanjh's new rules.  


The same with a bank robber the police know is active. He can go about robbing and stealing, armed with a gun threatening God knows how many innocent people, and the police will be virtually powerless to gather the requisite evidence to take the bandit off the streets.  


I could go on and on with various examples of why the new regulations will render it impossible for the police to do their job. The bottom line is that Ujjal Dosanjh and the genetically disenfranchised people who advise him have not thought this through.  


When the police have pointed out some of this to him, he responded, "I don't take their concerns lightly, but I have to keep in mind the matter of public safety."  


His method of taking care of public safety is to ensure the police cannot effectively do their job and the criminals have carte blanche to wreak whatever havoc they want without fear of reprisal.  


While we may appreciate the concern, Dosanjh should do us a favour and stop trying to have our safety in mind. Inevitably he screws it up and leaves us in a worse position than before.  


It's hard to believe he's considered to be a front-runner for the premier's job. But then, look at the remaining talent pool.






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