Just walk away

Morley Lymburner
March 15, 2014
By Morley Lymburner
A new suggested policy in Toronto (and nowhere else) will require police officers who wish to talk to citizens to first warn them that they are free to refuse and walk away. It's clear that the people behind this measure live in a world artificially propped up by special interest groups, vocal pseudo-politicians, self proclaimed policing experts and a hungry media. It's not surprising to find a population that tolerates a crack smoking mayor also puts up with an over abundance of narrow interest people who command the ear of the media. It would appear that only Toronto needs five levels of "watch dogs" barking at every move police make to ensure they do it right – and that doesn't include police supervisors because the police services board chair has no faith in their ability to do much of anything.

A new suggested policy in Toronto (and nowhere else) will require police officers who wish to talk to citizens to first warn them that they are free to refuse and walk away.

It's clear that the people behind this measure live in a world artificially propped up by special interest groups, vocal pseudo-politicians, self proclaimed policing experts and a hungry media. It's not surprising to find a population that tolerates a crack smoking mayor also puts up with an over abundance of narrow interest people who command the ear of the media.

It would appear that only Toronto needs five levels of "watch dogs" barking at every move police make to ensure they do it right – and that doesn't include police supervisors because the police services board chair has no faith in their ability to do much of anything.

Today's officer is analyzed, investigated, interviewed, tested, poked, prodded and run ragged before being allowed to take on a job that is forever misunderstood and little thought of unless something bad happens. The lauded heroism of today is forgotten tomorrow by a mean spirited minority supported by snarling special interest groups, backed up by an unprincipled media with the attention span of a cabbage.

Gee! Want to hear more? Read on or walk away.

Canada is full of people who have long sought and dreamed of a policing career. Only one in 500 applicants see that dream become a reality. Toronto has close to three million people but selects only 6,000 to be cops. If you believe the politicians, concentrated media and pseudo police experts – these guys and gals cannot to be trusted to do something as simple as talk to a citizen without warning them they are free to walk away.

The most recent "innovation" is to have Toronto officers use a "persons investigated card." In my day it was called a 172 card and was the most benign thing I could do all day other than shine my shoes or eat lunch. Officers filed a 172 to record an interaction with a citizen who may be of interest to other officers in the near future. Did you read that right? Written by one officer for the benefit of another.

The cards were kept for a limited time after being alphabetized and cross indexed by a group of civilian personnel with amazing library skills. Hey! This was by hand, not computers. In my time they would sort several hundred per day. If, for example, a shop was broken into investigators would go to the stack of 172s to see if a cop happened to stop or see someone in the area at or about the time of the incident.

In short the real purpose of the 172 card was to bring big city policing down to a small town understanding of who is on the streets. I think most larger agencies have a form of this routine recording system. In some ways it is simply an excerpt of an officer's daily memo book which he/she wishes to share with others.

So... in Toronto the latest concentrated effort by those who see evil everywhere, particularly in every cop, is to do away with any form of encounter with a citizen that is not an actual arrest. Rather counter intuitive to the community policing concepts held in the highest esteem everywhere else in the country.

The biggest scarecrow tactic is, once again, the fear of police racism.

Wait a minute. Did they not select officers properly? Did they choose racists? Wow! Racist cops would have a tough 30 year career ahead of them. They are racist and yet decide to work in one of the most ethnically diverse police services and cities in the world? I doubt if they could sustain that level of hatred long – and even if they did, they would be found out long before it was time to retire. There would be no need to ferret them out because they would soon weed themselves out.

We are not talking about actual evidence of rampant racism but the mere suggestion that it might exist. It is all smoke and mirrors with no facts and spoon fed to the public by a headline seeking media. This is complicated by a police services board chair without the courage to look at the hard facts.

The Toronto police officers I know are hard working, honest and willing to help anyone, anytime. Without a doubt the officer of today is the best screened, trained and equipped in history and often goes far above and beyond the call of duty. Too many gave their lives. Thankfully those who remain remember that sacrifice more than the rhetoric of a few. They walk toward, not away, committed and dedicated, serving and protecting... everyone.

It is time for the citizens of Toronto and their police commissioner to simply walk away from a city of racist cops... or to try harder to better understand them.

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