Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Apr. 26, 2010)

A Clean House

By Bob Cooper



The arrest on Wednesday of Vancouver Police Constable Peter Hodson for trafficking and breach of trust sent a shudder through the law enforcement community.  Within minutes of Chief Chuís announcement cops all over the Lower Mainland were texting & e-mailing each other while those of us well beyond the Twitter stage were using the telephone.  Thereís no easy way to handle these situations but I felt that, with a couple of exceptions, the Chief did very well.  He got out in front of it right away, pointed out the extensive resources involved and thanked the RCMP for their help.  Most importantly, he reassured the public that this involved only one officer and was an aberration, evidenced by the fact that the accused was turned in by other cops.  Personally, Iíd have avoided some of the vehement characterizations the Chief used and I fear they may come back to haunt him later.

At a time like this all police officers feel a sense of shock and dismay and thatís a good thing because it shows how rare these cases are.  Cops are a very jaded lot and when something shocks them, itís significant.   If Hodson committed the crimes he is charged with I have absolutely no sympathy for him as he has betrayed all police officers, serving and retired.  That said, he presently stands convicted of nothing and weíd all do well to remember that.  A number of policemen Iíve spoken to in the past couple of days feel that firing Hodson was extremely prejudicial and tactically, it paints the Chief into a corner.  The Department no doubt feels it has a very strong case but nothing is a sure thing and weíve all seen Ďstrong casesí fall apart in both the courts and hearing rooms.  Itís a lot easier to quietly rescind a suspension than to have to publicly reinstate someone after an acquittal.  Perhaps it was felt that firing Hodson would appease the cop haters on all the blogs who complain about Ďpaid vacationsí for cops who break the rules and Ďwhere can I get a job like that?í.  There is simply no satisfying these people.  If Hodson were stoned to death at Georgia & Granville they would complain that the rocks werenít sharp enough.  The process of suspension is in place to protect the rights of all police officers and it always concerns me when it is side-stepped albeit with good intentions.

Sad as this event is, from a public perspective it couldnít have gone better.  The Chiefís message that the VPD cleans its own house and will spare no effort or expense to do so resonated well and the press dropped the story after 2 days.  It was also nice to see so many supportive messages in the Comments sections of various media outlets.   Were this a test of the VPDís ability to maintain the public trust the Department passed with flying colors.  Letís all hope itís a very long time before itís tested again.    

This week also marked the retirement of Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm of the BC Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Dohm was highly regarded in police circles particularly by detectives, as being possessed of that rare combination of knowledge, wisdom, and most of all, common sense.  So what does The Province do?  Turns it into a story on judgesí pensions as if Mr. Justice Dohm personally set the figures himself.  Although the packages do seem generous particularly in these times, there are a couple of things to consider.  Firstly, most lawyers make a lot more money in private practice and the pensions offset some of the financial sacrifice incurred by those who go to the bench and serve as an incentive to attract better jurists.

Secondly, while Iíve criticized the judiciary in this space from time to time I donít envy judges their lot.  Iíve sat in court for days on end watching certain lawyers arguing the most miniscule points and droning on about nonsense that has nothing to do with guilt or innocence (and usually everything to do with suppressing the truth).  It was almost as painful as a VPD management meeting or a PRIME presentation and it amazed me how the judges could listen and pay attention to this drivel much less stay awake.  Mr. Justice Dohm did it and did it well for 38 years and that entitles him to every cent as far as Iím concerned.  Best wishes for a long, happy, and healthy retirement MíLord.  Youíll be missed.

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