Prime Time Crime


Letter to Prime Time Crime  March 14, 2005

It Has To Be Said

By Cst. Steve S. - RCMP

It Just has to be said Things I feel that I must say in the light of the recent assassination of four of my brothers.  First I must state that these are my personal views and are not necessarily the views of the RCMP or any governments I serve.

Before I start I would like to qualify myself, my back ground and training.  I have been a very proud member of the RCMPolice for the past 15 years serving in rural Alberta.  Prior to my full time engagement in the force I served as an Auxiliary member of the RCMPolice for 7 years in 2 detachments in B.C.  I am an experienced and senior member of this force.  My duties over and above general investigations and law enforcement include providing ongoing firearms and use of force options training to the members of this force.  We all deal with grief and loss differently and as such I suppose is the reason I feel I must write this. 

Throughout my career I have often wanted to write letters to the editor frustrated with our justice system or inaccurate details published by the media.  On many occasions we as a police force have been unfairly criticized based on partial truths and limited facts presented by the media or persons of less desirable qualities.  We as police officers quietly and professionally accept this as we are restricted (by civil and criminal liabilities, privacy laws, policies, and the potential of hampering good investigations) to reveal all the facts to the Canadian Public.  If the citizens of this great country were provided with all the situational factors when officers were criticized I'm confident they would support decisions and actions taken. 

The loss of the 4 members last week is gut wrenching sad and a gigantic loss that has produced unbearable grief.  This loss meant many things to many people but it definitely was not a surprise.

The citizens of this great country have no idea what police deal with every day and night, no idea at all.  On an average day we receive at least two e-mails warning of people who are dangerous to police for various reasons.  Many are know to carry knives or guns and are eager to use them if confronted by police.  Unfortunately with what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has turned into limits police in proactively addressing the risk.  In most of these cases we are unable to act until something bad happens leaving the public and police officers vulnerable.  Police officers deal with violence more often than most people realize and are in fact put in very dangerous situations several times a day.  Considering this, injury and death of our members is an expected occurrence. Unlike a soldier we often don't know who the enemy is.

In the near future we will see the media questioning and criticizing police action and policy over this situation.  It is very easy when one looks back on a situation to provide a course of action to alter an outcome.  Before the bashing starts I would like to state these facts in expectation of the areas of criticism that I foresee.  First of all unlike large municipal police forces we have very limited manpower to police vast areas.  In most cases we work alone and are forced into situations with little or no back up.  The limited resources we have are based on our Provincial contract.  Despite our efforts to increase our numbers the Province has not provided more members and money requiring us to work with numbers allocated in the late 1980's.  Despite population growth and crime rates I think we continue to provide an excellent service and have done a damn fine job.

It would have been nice to have placed 10 or more members on that farm to watch over things however those resources and costs are not available to us.  The fact that they had two members there shows due diligence to the situation as many times I have guarded crime scenes by myself.  I suspect that the fact of the members service level, experience and training will come under attack.  I would like to say right now that if someone has the intention and planning to kill a police officer they will most certainly succeed.  These 4 members were assassinated and provided with no warning or opportunity to react.  Why would we place a junior member at a crime scene?  How else does someone learning any trade or occupation gain experience and develop skills with out exposure.

As far as training goes I am proud to advise that the Mounted Police has one of finest training facilities and curriculum in the world.  Our training produces police officers of the highest calibre.  If this was not the case we would not be in such high demand by the United Nations.  We are continually called upon for peace keeping efforts and to rebuild and train police forces around the world.  As for national pride it should be known the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the only police force in the world that polices at the municipal, provincial, national and international levels.  That has to say something about our training and capabilities.  Police officer safety is paramount in our training and recertification.

I further suspect that our justice system and Charter of Rights and freedoms will come under attack (or at least debate) as it most certainly should.  I would like to state that I am (as are my colleagues) a strong supporter of our Charter as it guarantees our freedom within this wonderful nation.  I further believe that the intent of this charter was based on solid Canadian beliefs and wholesome values.

Having said that I further believe that legal defence sector has created a billion dollar business around cutting it up and making loop holes.  I do not feel the present days accepted legal interpretations were intended when it was drafted.  It is ironic that the very law that was created to protect freedoms as citizens has chained and handcuffed the police.  It has forced us without recourse to be victims of criminals and non productive members of our society.  I would suggest that common sense, fairness, reasonable and probable are traits God has granted to most Canadians however withheld from some of our political leaders and our law interpreters.

Allowing the Supreme Court of Canada the power to veto proposed laws based on charter /constitution interpretation, limits our elected officials power for change.  This in turn makes our democratic elections very superficial which is a frightening consideration.

I heard the father of one of the deceased Mounties say "something good will come of this loss" I have been able to see two good things.

 I have seen the Canadian people rally around their police forces with heart felt condolences, warm acknowledgements and appreciation for the work we do.  For this we thank you, your thoughts, prayers and kind gestures touched the hearts of everyone in our extended family.

The second is that Canadians are looking at our justice system and I believe wanting change.  If positive change is made and lives are saved because of it then these deaths have not been completely without cause. 

In closing I wish to say, despite what the media or any appointed committees disclose about this occurrence please remember what I have written.  There was no fault with the members, policy or the RCMP.

The only thing that may have changed this outcome would have been empowerment of police officers to effectively and proactively address this type of risk.  The badly needed increased money and manpower may have influenced this but likely not as the killer was focused and determined on his actions. 

If you feel change is needed (real change) to our Justice System I urge you do something about it.  Flex your democratic muscle and force democratic change.  As police officers we know who the drug dealers, rapists and psychopaths are but we need the tools to deal with them.  The same law that defines their actions as illegal also prevents their actions from being stopped or them being punished.  We must put proper deterrents in our court system ensuring the message of poor behaviour is not acceptable.

This is our country and I feel we must provide our police with the power to protect people again.  We as citizens must also have the confidence that our police officers will not abuse this power.  If you feel change is not necessary don't feel obligated to do anything.  Your police officers will continue to proudly serve Canadians in the professional way we always have but please understand the limitations restricting us.  Most of all, please when the next police officer dies don't say it was a surprise.

For those of you who read this whole letter thank you for letting me vent and grieve in this way. Please feel free to pass this on if you feel it has any merit, if not hit delete.

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