Prime Time Crime  

(Prime Time Crime exclusive July  2, 2007)

Truth a casualty of confrontation

By Bob Cooper

 

 

The poor RCMP just can't catch a break these days.  From political meddling at the Federal level to the Bush Inquest (where editorializing masquerades as news reporting) I'm sure my long-suffering friend John Ward has aged 10 years.   Now all this fuss over some pepper spray in Sechelt.  Where's Jean Chrétien when you need him to put something in perspective?   The news yesterday featured an appearance by an 'elder' pronouncing all of the band's children as now being frightened of the RCMP when they should be looking up to them as role models.

As more information about this incident surfaces it occurs to me that the band's children have a few other things to fear.

Perhaps starting with Troy Mayers, 42 years of age.  I mention his age because he's old enough to know better.  Better than what, you say.  Mr. Mayers was the soccer coach and, as such, was responsible for the safety and well-being of all the members of the soccer team.  He was also responsible to act as a role model and use his position to in still proper values in his team members.

Let's examine how Mr. Mayers discharged his responsibilities.  He packs team members into the back of his pickup truck, unrestrained, and drives around running stop signs.  One media outlet characterized this homecoming ritual as being a longstanding tradition which has gone on for 40 years.  As if that makes it any less dangerous or idiotic.  Ask any policeman who has attended fatal accidents where unrestrained children are thrown out and killed.

An RCMP member recognized this and signalled the truck to stop.  Rather than stop as he was required to do, Mr. Mayers accelerated with the back of his pickup truck full of unrestrained kids.  When a second constable attempted to block his path he drove around him over a lawn and carried on.  When he finally stopped, he got out and approached the pursuing constable in an aggressive manner and was placed under arrest.  An angry crowd quickly gathered surrounding Mr. Mayers and the arresting constables.  At this point one might think that a respected member of the community like Mr. Mayers would use his position to calm the crowd and tell them to back off and allow the police to do their job.  Had he done so there would likely have been no need for pepper spray.

Similarly his wife might have acted differently and perhaps told her husband to calm down, submit to arrest, and let things sort themselves out later.  At the very least, she should have taken her 7 month old baby away from such a volatile situation.

The idea that a constable would purposely pepper spray children is ludicrous but pepper spray doesn't discriminate and if those children are part of a hostile crowd so threatening that the constables are cut off and fear for their safety then they are going to feel its' effects.  I would also point out that pepper spray, as any Use of Force expert will tell you, is in the lower range of options when it comes to the use of force.  In almost all cases, pepper spray results in nothing more than temporary irritation.  That's why police forces adopted it.  Prior to pepper spray, police officers in this situation would have fought their way out with fists, nightsticks, or blackjacks.

This whole ugly situation was entirely of Mr. Mayers making.   He chose to engage in a dangerous practice which threatened the safety of the children he was supposed to look after.  He then chose to demonstrate contempt for the law and disrespect for the police.  Great role model.

We then turn to the behaviour of other community members.  The RCMP, to their credit, sent a senior NCO to a community meeting the following day for the purpose of telling their side of the story and trying to mend some fences with the community.  For their trouble they were met with shouted choruses of "Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit" from a crowd composed mainly of adults.  Now there's adult behaviour for you.  I was very impressed with the dignity, calm, and courage that S/Sgt. Zalys demonstrated in the face of this juvenile rudeness.

The kids on that soccer team should be very proud of themselves.  Not just for winning the championship but for participating in constructive activities like team sports.  Hopefully they'll have the insight to adopt positive values and reject those demonstrated by some older community members who should know better.

The next time the elders of Sechelt are tempted to blame the police for the conditions they find themselves in they would do well to look inward and reflect on what they teach their children in the first place.

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