Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2006
Source: Kootenay Western Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Kootenay Western Star
Author: Charles Jeanes


The following is from a one-hour interview with the Chief Constable 
of the Nelson City Police, Dan Maluta, in his Stanley St. Station 
office last Tuesday, September 26. The Chief, relaxed and out of 
uniform, was ready to talk about a wide range of topics, and did so 
with humour and thoughtfulness.

Policing Priorities, and Politics

In Nelson, politicians and police do not co-author the General 
Investigative Services planning document; it is the police who 
determine what their plans for enforcement will be, while listening 
to community sources such as the Police Board.

That fact is important to know, and in the interview, Chief Constable 
Dan Maluta makes the point quietly but without doubt. He wants the 
point made because some Nelsonites seem to think drug-law enforcement 
priorities might be decided by political agendas and not by policing logic.

When the arrests for pot trafficking of two owners of The Holy Smoke 
Culture Shop made headlines in Nelson this summer, the arrested 
individuals and interested members of the public began freely 
speculating about the "political" nature of decisions how to allocate 
resources to certain types of crime and not others. Allan Middlemiss, 
one of the two alleged dealers - his business partner Paul DeFelice 
is the other - thought perhaps the Mayor of Nelson, John Dooley, had 
influenced the strategy to enforce drug laws due to his own anti-pot 
bent. Letters to the Editor of the local papers also seemed to 
question who makes the decisions about enforcement priorities.

Mayor Dooley says he has not discussed detailed questions in his role 
on the Police Board. Dooley only became Mayor late last year; Chief 
Maluta demonstrates that his force stated its aims before Dooley was 
on the Board. Published as long ago as April 2005, its Strategic Plan 
declares, "The GIS will re-focus priorities on drug-law enforcement 
[to respond to] emerging demographic trends in the community."

"The priority is not marijuana," the chief emphasizes, it is all 
drugs whose possession and dealing is 'against the law of the land as 
it is today.'

Speculation that a Conservative Prime Minister like Stephen Harper, 
and his less-liberal attitude to pot offences, might set a police 
agenda for Nelson is just wrong, the Chief said. "We are not 
motivated in our planning by the federal government except when they 
change legislation and law," he says. The possibility that the 
Liberal government of PM Paul Martin would decriminalize possession 
of cannabis last year did not enter into last year's GIS discussions, 
Maluta says, because the police "enforce the law as it is" and don't 
try to anticipate changes before they happen. "No. What Mr. Martin 
might have been thinking did not enter into our calculations [when 
the GIS plans were being written]."

The reason for making drug law enforcement a priority has to do with 
how drugs of all kinds are incidental to crimes of a wide variety, 
such as break-and-enter, home invasion, violent assaults, auto 
break-ins, petty thefts, and even kidnapping - though the Lower 
Mainland has most of the more dangerous offences.

Maluta says Nelson has much less of the "high-end serious offences" 
such as violence and home invasion, but in the mid-level of theft and 
grow-op break and enters the crime rate is significant.

"For example, three years ago we broke up a cocaine trafficking ring 
and the rate of thefts from autos fell off sharply. Young people were 
breaking into cars and bringing stolen articles to the dealers to buy cocaine.

Once the dealers were gone - the principal got three years in jail, 
ten or twelve others got less time - the thefts fell off," Maluta 
recalls. Grow-ops are targets for people "breaking and entering to 
rip off the crops," he notes.

Nelson and the Marijuana Debate

As for the many questions about marijuana, the local economy, and how 
Nelson's community feels about this drug, Maluta will not be drawn too far.

"I don't want to get into the great marijuana debate, about the pros 
and cons of the drug or the laws. If I were to recommend one study, 
it would be one by Darryl Plecas at the University College of the 
Fraser Valley, titled 'Marijuana Growing Operations in BC Revisited' 
and the follow-up papers," Maluta says.

"It is based on 10,000 case studies of individuals between 1997 and 
2003. The most comprehensive statistics and profiles are there."

The Chief is aware that 'marijuana advocates' talk about 'mom-and-pop 
operations' as being mostly harmless, or will say 'maybe some 
handicapped person might earn a little cash by growing-' He notes 
that when mom and pop grow ops are busted, it is usual to find the 
owners have an average of nine Criminal Code offences in their past records.

"When there's good money to be made from illicit means you are going 
to attract criminals. Maybe mom and pop don't want to sell to a 
motorcycle gang -- but if that's the only buyer, they will sell."

As for decriminalization, Maluta says he will not offer an opinion. 
"We are duty-bound to follow the law of the land," is his comment. 
But he will offer more thoughts about what drug use, including 
alcohol, seems to do to society.

He notes that there is a problem with alcohol being legal and other 
drugs not, and admits pot advocates have a point.

"They're right about the hypocrisy of alcohol being a legal drug- The 
overall social impact of mind altering drugs, whether alcohol or 
other drugs, is not making for a good quality of life," he opines. 
"But right now we are making good inroads on the abatement of tobacco 
use among youth, so why would you want to promote smoking of cannabis 
as a tolerable thing when it hurts health the same way?"

Maluta has a copy of "West Coast Smoke" on his shelves (where there 
are many books, including an anthology of writings by V. I. Lenin) 
and he knows the story it tells quite well. Author Drew Edwards, a 
former Nelson news editor, wrote a handwritten dedication inside the 
Chief's copy, praising Maluta's care for his community even though 
Edwards and Maluta "might have different opinions" on some pot issues.

Maluta reads a sentence from the book: "Maluta would like to see an 
American-style war on drugs," then smiles and shakes his head. "I 
don't think my name was supposed to be in here.

There is a cop called Frank Scalia in there - that's me. I think 
using my own name was a mistake someone made."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elaine