12.12.2008

getting away with murder

It appears that the men who killed Robert Dziekanski will not face criminal charges. The British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney-General has decided that there is "insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution".

Insufficient evidence. Even though we've seen the whole thing on video. Rodney King says hi.

21 comments:

M@ said...

Well, to be fair, his injuries were undisclosed. So they could have been caused by anything. We just don't know.

Of course, they know, but they aren't telling. So what's to be done?

The RCMP acts as though its powers are unlimited; a state where the police state has unlimited powers is the very definition of a police state. I'm not saying that Canada is a police state, here, but that the RCMP acts as though Canada is. And I'm tired of being expected as a citizen to put up with it.

I'm waiting for a government to actually come in and force this organization to abide by the laws it purports to uphold.

L-girl said...

I'm not saying that Canada is a police state, here, but that the RCMP acts as though Canada is. And I'm tired of being expected as a citizen to put up with it.

Well said. A police force that operates outside the law, without oversight or accountability, is not protecting us. They are putting us in danger - and protecting themselves.

John F said...

Like every Canadian boy (and girl, for all I know), I wanted to be a Mountie. In my case, it went a little further than the "I want to be a fireman/soldier/Evel Kneivel" stage, but not much.

I still believe that the majority of RCMP officers are good people doing a tough job. But today I'm also ashamed of them. Put that unspeakable video next to today's whitewash, and...damn. So much for my childhood admiration.

L-girl said...

Like every Canadian boy (and girl, for all I know), I wanted to be a Mountie.

I promise you plenty of Canadian boys never wanted to be Mounties! I bet millions of boys never gave it a thought.

I still believe that the majority of RCMP officers are good people doing a tough job.

There are good people everywhere, but institutional culture is very powerful, often more powerful than any individual conscience. That's why all organizations need outside accountability - especially organizations whose members can use lethal force.

John F said...

I promise you plenty of Canadian boys never wanted to be Mounties! I bet millions of boys never gave it a thought.

You caught me fair and square in a vague generalization. What I meant to say was that all Canadian boys want to be in the NHL. :-)

There are good people everywhere, but institutional culture is very powerful, often more powerful than any individual conscience. That's why all organizations need outside accountability - especially organizations whose members can use lethal force.

I can't add much to that other than my wholehearted agreement. Civilian oversight is crucial, and no power should ever be unchecked.

Institutional culture is a powerful thing. We need to reshape the very idea of what it is to be a law enforcement officer. I once heard it suggested that any prospective police officer should have a liberal arts degree. I doubt that would be sufficient, but it's an interesting thought.

We also need to figure out, as a society, who we are going to lock up and why. And what's the purpose of locking someone up? Punishment, rehabilitation, protecting the public, or all of the above?

And hey, don't get me started on the weird and arbitrary nature of what constitutes a controlled substance.

Kim_in_TO said...

I have to say I'm not at all surprised. How many times do law enforcement officers get convicted of murder? I've written about this on my blog as well. In Toronto, when the police are investigated for shooting deaths, I could write the future headlines myself. It's always the same - the police are absolved of all guilt, even when there is video (or other overwhelming) evidence.

I know some people who are police officers, and it would be as wrong to stereotype the police as it is with, for example, racial minorities. But there is something very wrong with police culture when no one will allow for the possibility of guilt.

Every time the police are cleared of wrongdoing in cases like this, public trust is eroded a little bit more. They don't realize that they are only making things worse in their struggles with the public (particularly certain minorities). Until they address this issue, they will continue to lose people's respect.

Jen said...

"There are good people everywhere, but institutional culture is very powerful, often more powerful than any individual conscience"

The RCMP (and Royal Nfld Constabulary pre-1950) are/were modelled on the Royal Irish Constabulary. My impression is that "break 'em down and build 'em up" paramilitary style training and over all structure, gives the institutional culture far more power than it warrants. Certainly more than any one individual can generally stand up against.

Further to Kim's point, the RIC didn't have a great track record in the whole public trust and respect dept (ca. 1919-1922 Fenian uprisings and Independance War).

L-girl said...

Just a note here: I wasn't surprised either. I don't imagine many people were.

Every time the police are cleared of wrongdoing in cases like this, public trust is eroded a little bit more.

It's amazing and so ridiculous that policing cultures don't realize this yet. In the US, I can't count how many times I heard African-American families say (in the media), If only the police would just admit that they made a mistake, and apologize, instead of circling the wagons and defending indefensible actions, it would make such a difference. But no. Never.

The RCMP (and Royal Nfld Constabulary pre-1950) are/were modelled on the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Well, that explains a lot. (I know a fair amount about Irish history.)

The "blue wall of silence" is bad enough in civilian police departments, but in this type of culture, it's even more deeply entrenched.

L-girl said...

I just turned on CBC and saw footage of rioting students in Greece, who are enraged at the killing of a teenager by police.

I'd love to see people take to the streets like that here. It looks awful in the short run, and every one tut-tuts over the disorder, but after, society remembers what happens when the police kill civilians, and the police are forced to act more carefully.

L-girl said...

Today a jury in London refused to clear police of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. Story here.

deang said...

I've been saying the same thing about the Greek riots: Why does that not happen here? There's an excellent summary of the decades-long background to the current Greek anti-police-oppression riots on ZNet by Nikos Raptos. He talks about the long history of Greek cops killing people, especially under US-inspired right-wing governments like they have now, and how the population finally reached a breaking point where they just refused to take any more. And now similar riots have spread throughout Europe in solidarity, which gives me chills of hope.

JakeNCC said...

It's getting harder and harder to be proud of this country. This is not the Canada of my youth.

L-girl said...

It's getting harder and harder to be proud of this country. This is not the Canada of my youth.

Are you sure?

Or is it possible you just didn't know what was going on when you were younger?

Perhaps it's not true for Canada, I don't know. But when USians say "What's happened to my country, this is not the country of my youth," they are comparing adult knowledge to a dreamworld of youth.

L-girl said...

Dean, that's cool. :)

I said similar things on this blog when students were protesting, some rioting, in France in 2006. It's inspiring.

L-girl said...

And thanks for the tip on ZNet.

JakeNCC said...

Or is it possible you just didn't know what was going on when you were younger?

As usual you're probably right but still we've never before had a government as right-wing as this one. The old Tories were never like Harper.

By the way let me say thanks for this site and your daily writing and work in advance of a better world and a better Canada. If you were single and I weren't gay I'd ask you to marry me. HA.

L-girl said...

As usual you're probably right but still we've never before had a government as right-wing as this one. The old Tories were never like Harper.

That's true. Although the Mulroney/Reagan era was probably no picnic, and I always hear about Mike Harris from Ontarians.

But I wonder if the RCMP had more oversight and was more restrained under previous Governments. Is this really a Harper issue?

(It might be. I'm actually asking.)

By the way let me say thanks for this site and your daily writing and work in advance of a better world and a better Canada.

Thank you for saying that - and for being part of this community. To think that when you first showed up here I thought you were a troll.

If you were single and I weren't gay I'd ask you to marry me. HA.

And if I weren't polyamorous and bisexual I might say yes. :)

L-girl said...

Many good letters in today's G&M reacting to this. Perhaps I will link to some later.

JakeNCC said...

polyamorous

Not sure what that is but it sounds fun...

Kim_in_TO said...

As usual you're probably right but still we've never before had a government as right-wing as this one. The old Tories were never like Harper.

I don't believe this issue has much to do with the PM or the party in power at all. There are many, many similar cases of Canadian police forces (both local and federal) being cleared of wrongdoing. There's a long history easily pre-dating Harper and taking place under both conservative and liberal governments.

L-girl said...

polyamorous = not monogamous