Evan Saugstad: Do we really think our law enforcement is bad?


Given the steady barrage of negative and sometimes outright hateful media coverage of our police, who wants to work in law enforcement? Do we really hold this up as a rewarding career that attracts young people to join and make Canada a better place to live? 

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I have been thinking about writing a column on policing and a couple headlines from last winter sealed it. 

On Jan. 7, a CBC headline read, “Man charged after yelling FHRITP at Kelowna reporter”. The story went on to quote the RCMP as saying, “Just unbelievable any male individual would think this is at all funny in any way.”

To make a long story short, a female Kelowna reporter was doing a live interview when a man, unrelated to the story, walked by and shouted a sexual expletive into her microphone. The reporter filed a complaint with the RCMP, they investigated, and have now laid “disturbing the peace” charges.

So, why is this relevant, other than the police just doing their job?

Ever watch footage of our police as they stand in line facing another unlawful protest, and the abuse that our good citizens hurl at them? Do you think any one of us would like to take their place and be subject to that? Are they any different and should they feel as violated as that Kelowna reporter? 

On Jan. 8, The Canadian Press reported, “Observers raise concerns about RCMP tactical unit used in BC pipeline arrests”. 

After reading, I watched the YouTube video of the RCMP enforcing a court injunction by removing the blockade and arresting the protesters on the Coastal GasLink project. Then I re-read the Canadian Press story and interview of a so-called expert, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, saying that the way it was handled was unnecessary and excessive, that SWAT teams should not be used and so forth. 

Give me a break.

Do we really think police should politely ask people who willingly choose to break the law to move and take their blockade away, and then when they don’t, ask again, and when they don’t, ask again, and then what? Or do we think police should show up, understaffed and unprepared, and get their butts kicked and then retreat, hopefully, with all fingers, toes, and lives still intact?

No one wishes to stand toe-to-toe with people they don’t know, don’t know what they can or are willing to do, or what their intentions are, and not have a wee bit of fear and trepidation. No one wants people yelling and swearing at them while politely talking back. It must to be hard not to just say, “Times up, buddy,” jump the fence, and arrest them. In the end, that is sort of what they did, and as far as I have heard, no one was hurt. 

I use this as an example of what we ask our police to do. I am sure it was their preference to drive miles back into the bush and face people they didn’t know, or what they might be willing to do. They also knew that people can legally carry their guns and do so regularly, and although there may not have been any on the protest lines, I am quite confident they knew some of the protestors owned them.

Unfortunately for police, and fortunately for us, this is their job, and from my perspective they did their job very well. For those who don’t like it, go figure out a better way to deliver law enforcement in Canada. And yes, despite the rhetoric, they were enforcing Canada’s law, not the RCMP’s.

Do you remember RCMP Constable Michael Joseph Buday and Michael Eugene Oros (Shesley Mike), from 1985? Const. Buday was shot and died near Teslin while trying to apprehend Shesley Mike. Remember RCMP Constables Anthony Gordon, Lionide “Leo” Johnston, Brock Myrol, and Peter Schiemann at Mayerthorpe in 2005? They were all shot to death by James Rosko when they attempted to execute a search warrant on the Rosko property.

I could list more, but only use these as to make the point that police work can be dangerous, and one miscalculation can have dire consequences. I use the word “miscalculation” as I don’t have the time and space to go into the complete stories as to why they had to die, other than state if they had known what was in store for them, they would have done things differently and would not have died.

Now, we read the crap that some write about our police forces, who worked hard and prepared for every conceivable outcome in enforcing a court order. They prepared very well for a confrontation that had the potential to escalate and be much more serious. Sure, a few bruised egos, but remember the reference to “war” in the news coverage leading up to this? Do you really think that the police just ignored the use of this word?

Ever wonder why we can all remember the name Robert Dziekanski, who died at the hands of the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport in 2007, and not the names of the RCMP who died by the hands of criminals? Not rocket science. It is always a bigger news story when the police screw up, and less a story when one of us do and pay the price. Although it shouldn’t be this way, I guess that comes with the turf.

Although I have not had much to do with the police, at least from the wrong side, I did have the occasion to need them a couple years ago. 

My neighbour, here in Fort St. John, was coming home in the dark from his store after work, and was robbed and stabbed outside his house by two unknown assailants. In the struggle, he lost his cell phone and house keys in the snow, and came across the street and knocked on my door for help. 

I helped him stop the bleeding and called 9-1-1. It was only minutes before the ambulance and police were here to help. Although we tend to think that it always takes time for the police to arrive, when it is serious and important, they will be there.

Thanks, and keep up the good work. Simply put, good law enforcement officials will always outnumber the occasional misfit. Every profession has them, and that is just something we all must address as they are identified.

PS – after a couple of months, our wonderful justice system let most all of those “unlawful” protesters just walk away. 

Bet you some re-appear at the next blockade and deliberately break the law again.

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and lives in Fort St. John. 

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