Copping Out is a Matter of Trust

By Jason Menard

How do you fix a system that won’t admit its broken? And when those systems are designed for our protection and benefit, how can we as a public trust them to act in that manner when we’re seeing so much evidence to the contrary.

The stories of Carly Finn and Stacy Bonds are just the latest in what appears to be continuing proof of the old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Again, we must be cautious about judging actions for which we were not present – however, both of these just don’t pass the sniff test.

Finn is the shy 15-year-old girl who was subjected to public humiliation at the Sudbury airport as part of our country’s increased vigilance over flight security. Bonds is a young Ottawa-area woman who was subdued by multiple officers, repeatedly struck, and had her shirt and bra cut off at the station. Her crime? Seemingly questioning the absolutely authority of police who stopped her on the street.

Reports indicate that Bonds was walking down Rideau St. in downtown Ottawa. She was not drunk, nor was she behaving in a way that would prompt any undue attention. Officers stopped her on the street, asked her name, ran it through the computer, and found nothing. Bonds’ apparent crime? Asking why she was stopped in the first place. From there she was arrested for public intoxication, handcuffed, and brought into the station. You can see the rest here.

Many have laughed about Officer Bubbles and his, “If the bubble touches me, you’re going to be arrested for assault” stance during the G20 Summit protests in Toronto. Unfortunately, despite the fact that these actions may be a joke, it’s getting harder and harder to find the humour in them. Worst of all, it’s getting harder and harder to trust.

Acts such as those perpetrated by Office Bubbles, the CTSA, and the Ottawa police run counter to the nature of these positions. These people are stepping all over the thin blue line and ruining the various institutions’ reputations.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a few cops and having some positive interactions with them. For the most part, they’re honest, hard-working people who work a thankless job and don’t get the recognition they deserve. Every call, every interaction can put them in danger, yet they continue to represent their uniforms with honour and pride. Then you have the ones who choose to tarnish their shield with bullying behaviour.

The Ottawa chief of police has deferred commentary until both an internal review by the organization’s professional standards section and an external review by the provincial special investigations unit have been completed. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion doesn’t wait and, in the interim, good police officers and responsible transit authority staff have been painted by the same brush wielded by these irresponsible few – and the picture isn’t pretty.

But what can be done? What hope can the public cling to, when it already believes that these organizations will circle the wagons and protect their own? When trust is violated and it’s compounded by organizational bureaucracy, how can we ever hope for a real resolution? Ask the Catholic Church how its policy of shuffling off suspected child abusers to distant parishes has worked out for its reputation?

Do we expect anything more than a slap on the wrist? A public reprimand? A few hours of sensitivity training? Maybe there will be some empty talk about reinforcing hiring policies and procedures. But how do you weed out those who are subject to corruption by this type of power?

We teach our kids that they should respect, trust, and confide in police when they’ve been victimized. We teach them to go to the police if they’re scared or if something doesn’t feel right. It’s an early lesson that we impart to our children – but perhaps we’re giving them the wrong answers.

Trust is a precious commodity. Unfortunately, the acts of an irresponsible few may leave us less willing to invest it in those who supposedly deserve it the most.

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One thought on “Copping Out is a Matter of Trust

  1. karim kanji

    these are great questions that simply can’t be answered in a blog post, Jay. However, if people are really serious about these issues and the behaviour of our public employees I think participation is the answer. Participation in PTA meetings, the Boy Scouts, community meetings, elections at all levels, call in shows on the radio, write letters to local newspapers and the big dailies, meetings that local elected officials put on, talking to the cop at the street corner who’s catching speeders coming down the hill. All these and more. Violence towards those in uniform and yelling online in comments sections won’t solve anything. Participaction.

    Reply

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