HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html A Bad Week For Policing
Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jan 2004
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.


Revelations of racist comments by two OPP officers during the 1995 
Ipperwash standoff and 40 criminal charges against six former Toronto 
police drug squad officers erode public confidence in our police forces.

Not only should the public rightly expect police officers to be above 
reproach, but the integrity of the majority of officers who do meet that 
standard is unfairly tarnished by those who don't.

The Ipperwash news came this week, when CBC News obtained, through access 
to information, a surveillance tape made by OPP officers posing as media, a 
charade that in itself could have jeopardized the safety of legitimate 
reporters on the scene. Made on Sept. 5, the day before unarmed native 
protester Dudley George was shot to death by police, the tape recorded 
racist comments made by two officers who have since been disciplined; one 
was working on a contract that was not renewed, while the other underwent 
native sensitivity training.

To say the latter response was inadequate would be an understatement. The 
tape reveals one officer suggesting beer could be used as bait to capture 
protesting natives, and another replying, "Works in the south with watermelon."

Such stereotypical views of minorities is a clear indication of prejudice.

The good news is candidates seeking police jobs today are screened for such 
attitudes, says University of Western Ontario sociology professor Paul 

Also unsettling was a report this week that the RCMP ran into a blue wall 
of silence -- even from officers not involved in wrongdoing -- in the 
Toronto drug squad investigation.

Whitehead says the concept of a police culture that has certain values, 
such as "us against them," is not new. Closing of ranks and the idea that 
you "don't rat on other cops" stems from the belief they won't get much 
help from others in performing their duties. Also, the nature of police 
work makes some opportunities for socializing (such as visiting bars) more 
difficult. The result is officers and their families tend to look more to 
their colleagues in forming friendships.

Still, police have to get beyond that culture to ferret out those who would 
misuse their power.

Compared to the Toronto case, where allegations include a death threat at 
gunpoint against a man thought to have supplied information against 
officers under suspicion, London police have been model citizens. The 
biggest controversy here lately was the 2002 conviction for fraud of former 
London police chief Al Gramolini (who resigned) in a case involving the 
expensing of hotel rooms while not on police business.

Still, any charges undermine public confidence in police that is so 
critical to officers in carrying out their duties and for the sense of 
security citizens expect and deserve.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman