Blue Line

BOOK NEWS (November 2014)

October 1, 2014  By Morley

1478 words – MR


Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes

AUTHOR: Bob Chrismas

This title, authored by 25-year Winnipeg police S/Sgt. Bob Chrismas, will interest anyone involved in Canadian policing. Chrismas has had a diverse career, spending half his time in uniform and half in various specialty units. He also has a Doctorate degree in peace and conflict studies from the University of Manitoba.

Police officers on the job through the last couple of decades have experienced an extraordinary explosion of technological advances and access to information. It has challenged officers to define their role in society and find ways to keep up with continuously evolving and increasing demands.

The average citizen now has easy access to information, through the Internet, that only senior government officials were privy to in the past. Every person armed with a smartphone is now a potential citizen journalist and officers are no longer surprised if actions they take on the street are streaming on YouTube or in the mainstream media before they get back to the office to file their reports. Agencies no longer have sole control of news; they now must manage information that is already out in the public domain.

Today’s police officers must navigate the complexity of ever-changing technology, sciences, privacy and information issues and ever-increasing demands from the courts and public. Yet, the old policing adage, “all things to all people” still applies. Citizens look to the police, perhaps more than ever, to manage some of the nastiest social problems, despite the fact that police are a small, albeit significant, player in the larger system.

Chrismas points out crime is usually a symptom of deeper problems that originate in poverty and lack of education and opportunities. Other government and non-government actors play more significant roles in preventing people from coming into conflict with justice, yet the police are often judged by their effectiveness in preventing crime.

This is analogous to judging a doctor for their ability to prevent lung cancer in a patient who smoked for the past 30 years. Many police agencies recognize this fundamental problem and have returned to more community-based approaches that address the root causes of crime, rather than blindly reacting to crime once it occurs. In Winnipeg they call this crime prevention through social development.

Collaboration and multi-disciplinary approaches are the new mantra for many Canadian police services. This is the new economics of policing, partnering to reduce duplication of services and interagency gaps and increase effectiveness of the larger system.

Chrismas experienced the evolution from manual typewriters in his 1989 recruit class to the globally connected digital realty of today. Search warrants that used to take 20 minutes with a magistrate now require 60 page affidavits and incredible skills and knowledge.

He describes how ever-increasing demands have outstripped capacity, forcing modern police agencies to return to community-based approaches that may address the root causes of crime.

While much has changed in police sciences, challenges and strategies, Chrismas points out that the fundamental values of public safety and maintaining “the blue line” have remained. Perhaps the book’s forward sums it up best.

“This book is a testament to police officers everywhere, in recognition of their dedication to protecting the vulnerable and keeping communities safe in increasingly challenging times. The weapons and battleground have changed over the past two decades, but the values they fight for remain the same.”

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COP – 43 Years In The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

AUTHOR: Bill Sharp

Retired after a long career in the RCMP, Bill Sharp entitled his autobiography simply “Cop”. It is an amazingly detailed book on a career that began as a a raw recruit at Depot where Sharp was puzzled why one of his trainers kept calling him “Notso”. Originally thinking he meant “Nutso” he finally realized it was a play on his last name rather than an epithet… or wait… maybe not. He was too worried about his future career to even ask. He was expected to absorb little snipes into that brand new thick skin he was expected to develop over the next six months.

After being finally liberated from the “puzzle factory,” he found himself well ensconced in British Columbia, where the next 43 years helped both move and mold him into a self styled police officer with a dizzying array of experiences. Everything from a brief stint on highway patrol, to numerous deaths, homicides and even stopping a major car racing ring. He even tried out for the Musical Ride and counts this as one of his more memorable experiences.

COP is designed to remind us all how far we have come. Parts of the book will seem tragic while others are humorous and even innovative. No matter what our personal experience, we can all learn from the experiences of others. When viewed through the lens of today’s modern practices and approaches we must remember that we are all a product of our history. Sharp brings the past into focus. Some readers may feel nostalgia while others may be thankful not to have shared his experiences! No matter which you feel, it makes for an interesting read.

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Applied Physics in Policing

AUTHOR: Dan Carrier

This book is an work of keen interest from an even keener mind. Dan Carrier is a constable with the Peel Regional Police who became immersed in collision reconstruction. This 144 page book is the result of five years of investigating the dead and dying involved in major vehicle collisions in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area.

Carrier leads the reader through the science behind current collision reconstruction techniques. He points out in his introduction that to understand the scientific analysis, it is advantageous to develop an understanding of background information involving collision investigation. As a result, this book is organized so as to cover the following progression:

• Basic investigative goals

• Series of events surrounding collisions

• Vehicle dynamics

• The physical evidence at the scene of a collision

• The recording of physical evidence

• The analysis of physical evidence

• The reporting of the analytical findings

There is a significant mathematical component involved in any discussion of the physical sciences. This is also the case in this work. In an effort to ease the reader into the scientific component, Carrier has included a review of the mathematics involved in the analyses he discusses. He has limited the math concepts to those directly related to the analyses and doesn’t bother with those concepts that are merely “nice to know.”

Since police testify as witnesses for the prosecution and their equivalents on the defence team are often engineers, this book was designed to provide a common language between all parties involved in analyzing collision reconstruction evidence.

“True knowledge is built by understanding the principles behind the analysis,” Carrier says. “Information must be digested in the mind and integrated into practice and analyses. It is my hope that this book will be a valuable reference to those who are actually in the arena as well as those preparing to enter the field of collision reconstruction.”

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The Recent History of Terrorism in Canada – 1963 to 2013

AUTHOR: Mark C. Eddy

The author chose to begin in 1963 because most scholars agree that was the year the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a key part of Canadian terrorism history, was created.

Eddy wrote this book to help fill a gap in what is already available about terrorism in Canada. Most books focus on terrorism elsewhere; there’s no shortage of texts about America in the post-9/11 world or Canada’s role in the war in Afghanistan. Consequently, many Canadians may not know that some of the acts discussed in this book even occurred.

Eddy provides an original analysis about historical events such as the string of lethal violent attacks against Turkish targets in the early-mid-1980s. How many people knew that a Toronto manufacturing plant was bombed in 1982? This book looks at little-known events like these with a fresh, 21st-century perspective.

The federal government introduced what it calls Canada’s first counter-terrorism strategy in 2012: . This is just one example of the new (or amended) strategies/laws the book covers which many other authors have ignored.

It also looks at recent planned attacks that law enforcement agencies have thwarted. The planned bombing of Canada Day celebrations in B.C. in 2013, for example, or the Via Rail attacks (the terrorists were busted in April 2013, only a couple of months before they were to put their plan into action).

At about 100 pages this book is easy-to-read, uses plain language and avoids overly-complicated theories or methodologies. The author feels that terrorism is too important an issue to be left to scholars, politicians, or “the experts.”

“My intention,” suggests Eddy, “is to facilitate engagement with all Canadians.”

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