Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Oct 4, 2010)


By Bob Cooper





I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard on the news that a senior member of the Langley Fire Department had been disciplined for lowering the flag at his firehouse to half mast last September 11th.  So much so that I turned to another station (just to make sure that they were referring to Langley, BC and not say, Langley, Yemen) but heard the same story.

Langley’s chief administrative officer, Francis Cheung, described the fireman’s actions as “inappropriate behavior” and told the press that Heritage Canada does not list September 11th as a day on which the flag is permitted to be lowered to half-mast.  Mr. Cheung went on to justify the denial of the initial request and the subsequent discipline by saying “We were just following the protocol of the federal government”.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he used to touch hot stove elements as a child.

The 9-11 attacks could only be described as an act of war against Western civilization in general and Canada’s closest ally, the United States, in particular.  Of the 2,974 people killed in the attacks, 24 were Canadians so I’d ask Heritage Canada, if not 9-11 then when?  More germane to this case is the fact that 343 firefighters and FD paramedics and 23 police officers also perished.  I recall attending the annual Police Officers Memorial at the Peace Arch border crossing shortly after 9-11 and words like emotional or poignant don’t even come close.  Tears flowed freely and at the reception afterward Vancouver firemen hugged Bellingham policemen and EHS paramedics hugged State Troopers.  The fact that we run into buildings as others run out is the glue that binds us all and the mutual sense of loss was indescribable.

I don’t know Mr. Cheung personally and I don’t know how old he was on September 11, 2001, but I suspect this is one decision he wishes he could take back.  When the calls & e-mails start coming in to City Hall on Monday, Mr. Cheung will likely be ready for a trip to the Burn Unit.  What he should learn from this is that most people out here care as much about Ottawa’s opinion as Ottawa cares about ours and he’d have been better served by a dose of common sense.

A lesson for the Langley FD guys is one I learned from the late Staff Sergeant Paul Campbell who said to me one night, “Son, I’d rather beg for forgiveness than grovel for permission”.

Finally, kudos to the VFD brass for allowing the flag to be lowered.  I slagged them a few months ago for caving in to the poverty pimps over the mural at #2 Hall but they’ve done the right thing this time and I’m sure their people appreciate it.  I know the rest of us do. 


Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver police officer. He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.


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