OPP should learn from Calgary cops

Police brutality is the wanton use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries, even those that prosecute it. It is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include: false arrest, intimidation, racial profiling, political repression, surveillance abuse, sexual abuse and police corruption.

OPP should learn from Calgary cops

Postby Thomas » Tue May 28, 2013 6:27 am

It appears that finally a police force has decided officers have better things to do than harass people in non-motorized watercraft for not wearing life jackets or for enjoying a beer.

Unfortunately for people in Northern Ontario that force is not the Ontario Provincial Police.

Calgary Police have decided not to launch their patrol boat on the Bow and Elbow rivers this summer. Deputy Chief Trevor Daroux says that will free officers for other duties.

“Our question is: Is there a better way to do things?” he said. “Are there better ways to use our resources to enhance public safety?”

Indeed, whether ranked by severity or frequency, offences such as homicide, robbery, assault, break-ins, theft and fraud probably deserve police attention a lot more than does some sunbaked guy or gal on an air mattress towing a couple of beers in a string bag.

Motorized craft aren’t allowed on waterways within Calgary city limits. But drifting on canoes, rafts or air mattresses is a popular summer pastime. About 10,000 took to the rivers last summer.

Police and bylaw enforcement officers ticketed about 700 of them, mostly for liquor offences.

News accounts suggest those not wearing lifejackets or equipped with proper safety equipment usually were issued warnings.

A fire department patrol boat will be on the rivers to handle emergencies. Bylaw enforcement officers can still ticket offenders and police on the riverbanks can still act on infractions.

But Calgary Sun columnist Dave Breakenridge raised “a river-chilled can of Pil” to “this win for common sense.”

“I can think of a better use of our police than playing babysitter to a bunch of pleasure cruisers,” he wrote. “Leave rafters to enjoy the river, and assume the majority will do so safely.”

Breakenridge and I sing from the same hymn book.

I’ve written several times about the excess zeal of OPP marine patrols in cracking down on relatively innocent behaviour.

My point generally has been that the people they apprehend or charge or ticket pose no threat to anyone but themselves, if that, and OPP should devote their resources to more serious crimes.

But there’s no indication that OPP will follow the lead of their Alberta brethren, so we can expect another summer in which cottage residents are generally more afraid of the marine patrol than they are of any criminal activity on their lake.

Judging from what I’ve seen and heard, OPP marine patrols are less inclined to issue warnings than police in Calgary have been.

On the lake where I live, OPP have charged or ticketed people for relatively minor and mostly harmless rule-breaking.

There was the infamous case of the Paddleboat Guy a couple of summers ago. An OPP marine patrol charged him with impaired operation of a vessel, operating a vessel with over 80 mg of alcohol in his system and not having a personal flotation device on board.

They hauled him in handcuffs across the lake and suspended his motor vehicle driver’s licence on the spot.

Months later, Crown Attorney Bill Johnson formally withdrew the liquor charges after a Ministry of the Attorney General review concluded there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Last year patrollers nabbed a boater who had thrown a 15-horsepower motor on his aluminum boat after his 9.9-hp died. It probably hadn’t occurred to him the upgrade would require carrying a pleasure craft licence (similar to a vehicle ownership slip) on board and displaying licence numbers on each side of the bow.

He got no warning, no grace period to correct the deficiency. Just a ticket. And the fine is in the range of $250.

Later that summer I watched the patrol swoop down on a couple of sunbathing moms who were putt-putting around the lake.

Whatever the law infractions or deficiencies in their safety equipment and PFDs were, the encounter cost them hundreds of dollars.

As they passed my dock on the way home, one shouted this warning: “Don’t go out on the lake today. It’s not safe.

Most of us know OPP do a good job of dealing with crime in our community, sometimes under difficult or dangerous circumstances. I feel for them when I see officers working out there in a blizzard or a downpour.

But when the marine unit puts in at the boat launch, it can cloud a sunny summer afternoon.

Hardly anyone feels their safety threatened by a paddleboater who might be impaired or not have a PFD. A power boat is no less dangerous if it has numbers on the bow and there is a licence in the operator’s pocket.

The greatest danger posed by boaters in bikinis not wearing lifejackets might be distracted driving by other boaters.

Safety on waterways is a laudable objective. But perhaps, as the decision by Calgary Police suggests, rigorous enforcement is not the best way to achieve it.

http://www.saultstar.com/2013/05/10/opp ... cops-mills
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