Opinion

Two of the local hospitals recently amalgamated here in my hometown. It is an interesting pairing between your basic government-type psychiatric hospital and a long-term care/geriatric hospital, operated by a Catholic organization. Some years ago, the government decided to get rid of its psychiatric hospitals, so the psych hospital was handed over to the Catholic organization. Ergo these two organizations came under the same governance structure but were maintained as two different physical facilities. Although there was a degree of shared higher management, generally the two institutions retained some level of separation. But only until April 2017.
A few years back, in the dead of winter, I decided I might be coming down with the plague and decided to visit my local after-hours clinic.
I was reviewing the details of a training program about interactions with people with mental illnesses recently, and I noted that the prescribed course devoted a whole lot of time to addressing people’s attitudes toward mental illness.
Ever feel like screwing up on the job just because your boss treats you like you are an accident waiting to happen? You’re not the only one. Consider this study:
Care for some cod with lemon? I can give you a fish knife if you’d like. I just finished reading Consider the fork: A history of how we cook and eat, by British historian Bee Wilson, and now know why we have fish knives. I also know why Brits cook things till way past dead and people from China stir fry rather than roast.
I’m writing this on a miserable Saturday morning, one of those dark, dreary, wet days when staying in bed seems the only reasonable option. Some days, the idea of doing NOTHING really appeals, but given the length of my to-do list, it’s not going to happen.
A safety search of an assault arrestee’s bag was justified even though there was no information he possessed a weapon and was handcuffed at the time the search took place. In R. v. Aviles, 2017 ONCA 629, the police responded to a report of an assault occurring at a Mac’s Milk convenience store. The victim told police he knew one of the attackers by name. The other two attackers were a dark skin man wearing baggy hip-hop style clothing and a woman. The victim said he had lost a shoe during the assault and police found it in a nearby alley. Then, while talking with the police, the victim pointed through the convenience store window to three people approaching, a woman and two men, and identified them as his attackers. One of the men was the individual the victim had identified by name. The other man was Walter Aviles. He was wearing a black pea coat, black jogging pants, brown boots and a black baseball cap.
Every detail of an informer’s tip does not need to be verified by independent investigation before it rises to the level of reasonable grounds for arrest. In R. v. Dunkley, 2017 ONCA 600, the police were surveilling a suspected cocaine dealer’s residence when they saw Orlando Dunkley, a slim black male about six feet tall with a dark jacket, park a silver Honda Accord on the street near the house at about 9:05 p.m.
Although a co-resident cannot waive the constitutional rights of another, living with someone else can impact the expectations of privacy and may allow for valid consent to enter by one of the occupants.
In R. v. Pearson, 2017 ONCA 389, a man was killed after being shot in the back with a shotgun. The following day a police officer stopped Damian Pearson driving his car, concerned about impaired driving, given the manner in which the car was being operated. When he approached the driver’s side of the car, the officer noticed unusual redness in Pearson’s eyes. His pupils were dilated and the officer smelled burnt marijuana. Pearson was slow in retrieving his papers and failed field sobriety tests. The officer arrested Pearson for impaired driving and he searched the vehicle, seizing two shotgun shells in a knapsack in the trunk.
A three-member panel of Ontario’s Divisional Court has found police conduct amounted to racial profiling and it nearly tripled the damages that had been awarded at trial.
Ontario’s top court has thrown out a marijuana grow-op that police found in a man’s home after they entered it to check on his parenting.
Change is a natural part of the human experience and the extent to which organizations embrace fluidity in their operating environment is an excellent indicator of their strategic health. Police services are not immune to disruptive change. Technological, demographic and sociological shifts are creating megatrends that will reshape the communities that police agencies serve. This disruption is having a significant impact upon the nature of policing. New operating models are being leveraged to deliver essential police services more effectively and digital tools are delivering significant new capabilities to officers on the front line.
The concept of relationships coupled with technology for “success and safety” has somewhat taken hold in the law enforcement community this year.
“Big Data” has multiple personal definitions for people across many spectrums. As investigators, whether frontline uniform officers or secondary investigative units, the proper collection, analysis, interpretation and sharing of this information is becoming more critical in all investigations.
The use of hand-held recorders, desk-top microphones, ceiling mounted microphones, video cameras and even multiple microphone setups is common in today’s interview settings. The type of recording equipment can vary depending on budget and of course the room itself.
In much of Canada, snow and freezing temperatures are the norm from November through March, give or take a few weeks and the occasional random storm.
It’s never been easier to work outside the traditional office environment. Powerful and compact mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can access corporate systems at any time and from any place through almost universally available high-speed cellular data networks.
Although I believe we have improved significantly when we look at how we address time off at work, I feel we still have a long way to go in how we ascribe value to it and manage it as individuals. Time off is integral in the world of policing but there is an unspoken word amongst us officers that we must be justifiably ill in order to take a sick day.
When we hear the word “court,” as police officers, what comes to mind? Evidence, defence lawyers, notes, the stand, the stress of presenting, responsibility, anxiety, frustration, final accountability… There is a myriad of words that come rushing in. Yet once the case is over and the anxiety and other emotions we experience that cause us stress are through, what happens to us from the human element?
If we put some thought into what we do on a day-to-day basis as first responders, call takers and dispatchers, dealing with the unknown, the challenging and the horrific, it would be unreasonable to think that we can move forward without some form of mental health care. That might come in the form of self-care, such as meditation, exercise or it might come in the form of some type of therapy, like psychotherapy, psychologist appointments and/or group sessions.
I normally encourage people to look for the positive in order to achieve their goals, whether it’s at work or at home. When we look for something, we always find it, the mind makes it so. This is why it is so important to be selective in what we entertain from a mental perspective.
As I sit in the specialist doctor’s office with my mother waiting for her to be seen, I glance around and wonder how many of the clients researched and sought out this professional? Did a friend or family physician refer them, or did they end up here in a panic after a medical emergency?
While standing proudly among my fellow officers paying their respects at the Canadian Police Memorial service, gazing up at the majestic parliament building and flags at half mast, a question came to mind.
Every October issue of Blue Line includes an Education & Training Directory, so naturally I found my ears perking to any news smacking of the hallowed halls of knowledge. With school back in session, I noticed one particular story was receiving a lot of attention: officers in schools.
It never fails to astound me how valuable a face-to-face moment can be in these digital times. This is something I rediscovered (and for the first time from a law enforcement angle) at the 112th Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) conference, held earlier this summer in Montreal, where the theme was about policing in a digital society.
After reading this issue’s cover story, The passion to serve, a profile about the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), I immediately remembered the time I attended a change management workshop delivered by Peter de Jager.
As I watch the ongoing public controversy about street-checks (aka “carding”) run-on like Niagara Falls, I’m often stuck by the statistical data typically quoted by the mainstream media and other critics, who claim that the practice is inherently biased against certain identifiable groups.
Our annual Supply & Services Guide is always a good starting point to shop for uniforms, equipment and supplies.
They were called “police” cars but they weren’t, really Looking over the materials for this month’s cover story, our annual Best Dressed Police Vehicle contest, makes me reflect, reminisce (and cringe) at my memories of the sad state of affairs that police cars once were. When I joined the then Metropolitan Toronto Police Force as a cadet back in 1979, I was assigned to the Summons Bureau, where my daily duties consisted of delivering outstanding parking tickets to often unwilling recipients. I was shocked to discover that my ride for the first few months at least, was a bright yellow marked Ford Pinto two-door that had seen better days, sometime well before my arrival. Nagging in the back of my mind of course was also the propensity for the Pinto’s to explode into a ball of fire when rear-ended. For a time afterwards I was assigned a brand-new metallic brown unmarked AMC Spirit. It’s not surprising that AMC went out of business, considering how poorly designed and built, and uncomfortable that Spirit was. One could easily get sea-sick if relegated to the front passenger seat because the ride was so soft. During my final six months or so my regular ride was upgraded to a brand-new marked Ford Fairmont four-door sedan with a relatively rare six-cylinder engine (most others only had the inline-four). Without roof-lights of any kind, the car was mistaken for a taxi on more than one occasion. After turning 21 and being sworn in as a constable I was sent off to recruit training at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer Ontario. During field training and then after graduation I finally got to move up to a “real” police car, although real would soon get tempered by the reality of what that was, or more accurately, wasn’t. In an apparent attempt to save money, we continued to get still more Ford Fairmonts (mostly with four-cylinder engines that stalled if one attempted a quick 3-point turn). Some of these actually had A/C, but the vinyl benches persisted, presenting a challenge when 2 officers of largely different stature had to share the car for a shift. The taller officer typically drove so they didn’t have to sit with their knees rubbing against the dashboard all night long. The Fairmonts were replaced quite quickly once their complete unsuitability for police work was realised. We then got mostly Plymouth Caravelle/Gran Fury’s equipped with an anemic slant-six mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. They had vinyl bench seats, untinted manual windows, no A/C, and no police equipment other than an antique GE police radio. Roof-lights consisted of six large red incandescent tractor-lights mounted on a primitive roof rack that howled-up a storm at highway speeds. Our traffic colleagues were at least lucky because they had actual real sirens – beautiful long cylindrical chrome units, while we divisional guys got saddled with cheap European-style two-tone “mee-maw” horns that created more confusion with the public then clearing the way for us during emergencies. There was also no prisoner partition and there was nowhere to put portable radios, so officers quickly improvised and pried the dash-vents out, wedging the portable radio into the resulting hole, which was a surprisingly good fit. We eventually got basic wire-mesh partitions, A/C and tinted windows, electronic sirens and in the late 80’s a MDT. Thankfully Dodge ended production of the Caravelle/Gran Fury’s (so we couldn’t buy them anymore) and we finally got full-sized Ford LTD’s and a few Chevy Impalas. With that we got V8s, tinted power windows, commercially built partitions and roof-lights and the Panasonic ToughBook computer. We also got a proper centre console with a mobile radio, proper siren and PA controls, and even coffee cup holders. Before retiring last year, I marvelled at how far police cars had come during my years of service. Now equipped with all the usual creature comforts, plus state of the art mobile computers, GPS, shotguns/patrol rifles, in-car cameras, stylish decal packages and all proper commercially made equipment. Car manufacturers have also stepped-up quite nicely over those years, providing a wide range of police-specific features and equipment in their police-package offerings, instead of just bolting heavy-duty everything onto regular cars and selling them as “police” cars. Another thing that has changed a lot over the years is the implementation of joint management and employee equipment committees that brought enlightened and progressive thinking to the fleet procurement and equipment process. User input has gone a long way towards fielding real “police cars” and professional equipment for all. Enjoy the rides, and this issue.
There has been much debate in the news, social media and social service reports on segregation/solitary confinement and interest groups, such as the Ontario Ombudsman’s office, have been calling to abolish or strictly limit the use of segregation in Ontario and Canada’s correctional institutions. This stance fails to take into consideration the reality faced by correctional officers daily.
If you were to ask one out of every 10 Torontonians what a special constable is, I’m sure the answer would sound along the lines of: “I have no idea,” or, “The police?”
Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a safety presentation to a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors. The program was geared towards crime prevention, which is ironic as these gentle souls had been victims of some of the worst crimes against humanity this world has ever seen.
When I began my career with Metropolitan Toronto Police, I elected to be posted to 4-District Traffic Unit in the old borough of Scarborough. I rode the motorcycle, operated radar, and thanks to a kindly old sergeant, managed to patrol in an accident car years before a typical junior officer would be given that privilege.
With a New Year upon us, it’s time to reflect on new changes and new beginnings for police services across Canada.
The Canadian public’s expectation is that police officers will work and live within established legal frameworks and at a higher standard than other members of the communities they serve. Those parameters should not be cast aside as they are now in some – albeit limited numbers of cases, when officers drive while impaired.
An Ounce of Prevention: Navigating Your Way Through Damage Control and Crisis Response by Allan Bonner; 2010, 322 pagesISBN: 978-1926755021
Canadian first responder Natalie Harris has penned a raw and honest memoir of her mental health journey. And unlike the Netflix sensation “13 Reasons Why,” Save-My-Life School is anything but the romanticized fictional series.
Interviewing and Investigation, Third Edition by Kerry Watkins; 2017; 252 pagesISBN: 978-1-77255-064-1
Walk the Talk provides readers with a thorough and well-structured guide on how to build an effective, complete and credible peer support program for first-responder organizations. It uses 17 evidence-based modules that follow guidelines from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, supported and endorsed by the Mood Disorder Society of Canada.
On the cold winter night of November 24, 1990, 17-year-old Neil Stonechild, a young aboriginal man left a residence in Saskatoon, after consuming an amount of alcohol over the preceding few hours. He was not adequately dressed for the intensity of that unusually cold Saskatchewan night. Five days later, his body was found frozen to death in a snowy field on the edge of town.
This book should be on the “must-read” list for all police officers and their partners and other adult family members. For officers it will help them understand why they often feel the way they do, and for partners and family members it will help them understand why the officer in their lives behaves the way he or she does. Police managers and administrators would also be well advised to read this book to better understand and deal with the emotional dangers their personnel face during their careers.
I recall my number ONE Breathalyzer test. This is “the biggy” that every breath tech worries about because you can imagine what the defence lawyer could do when they found out that this is — THE FIRST.
Poor management skills are nothing new and the management style which prevailed when I was a young officer had me mystified. My first days as a station duty operator at a glistening new district headquarters building is an example.
Train harder. Be more active. Focus more. Set clear goals. Work harder. These are amongst the adages we have come to equate with personal, social and work performance. Indeed, no one will argue the wisdom behind such motivational and inspirational words. There are countless books and articles providing advice on how to “do more.” Our society continually comes up with innovative ways for us to be more productive.
Law enforcement officers can be seen as occupational athletes and also “chameleons of a wide range of professions” as they are constantly adapting to operational demand and performing a variety of physically demanding tasks. Sports experts widely recognize specific proficiency training designed for specific proficiency outcomes achieves optimal sport-specific results. This same theory holds true for law enforcement.
Sugar is a beloved natural ingredient, deep-rooted in our diet for thousands of years. It is adored for providing an immediate boost of energy along with instant gratification.

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