Opinion

There’s nothing more annoying than running into a bunch of information that contradicts something you always believed, you always knew, you were sure about.1 Fortunately (or not... ) it appears that most of us are quite capable of avoiding information if we think it is not going to tell us what we want to hear. How can otherwise sensible people believe that cutting taxes creates new jobs or that autism is caused by vaccinations?
It was not so long ago that the whole idea of mental illness was something we kept locked away in a closet (or an institution).
I was having a shower this morning and suddenly the solution to a problem I had been wrestling with for a few days came to me. It was an “ah-ha” moment. 
One of the hot trends in psychology these days is the concept of “mindfulness.”
I am in the midst of another round of assessments for police wannabes. As usual, almost all the candidates are lovely young people, with much cleaner personal histories than mine, who appear virtuous (to the point of being nauseating), and who generally want to save the world.
A friend of mine is developing a course about critical thinking. If I had to guess, I’d say he was doing this because he is trying to figure out why otherwise rational people voted in a rather peculiar manner in the last American presidential election. I think his premise is that if we can just teach people to think critically, evaluate information and weigh consequences, then people will make rational decisions. He has a point — but making rational decisions is actually more complex than it appears on the surface.
A vague safety concern about a child welfare matter did not justify police entry into a dwelling to conduct a spot check, so says the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. In R. v. McMahon, 2018 SKCA 26, the police received information from a Mobile Crisis Unit (MCU) about an anonymous tip it had concerning the well-being of McMahon’s children. The tipster stated that the children were not being properly fed and the home had poor living conditions. The MCU requested the RCMP to “go and just take a look, find out what things were like and report back.” A corporal and a constable attended McMahon’s home. When they pulled into the yard, McMahon exited her house and greeted the officers. The corporal told McMahon about the anonymous tip and the purpose for the police visit. McMahon asked for a few moments to “clean up” her home before police entered. This request was denied, the corporal explaining it would be inconsistent with the purpose of a spot check. When the officers followed McMahon inside, they detected the odour of burnt marijuana. The officers walked up the entrance stairs to an open living room and kitchen area where they encountered two other adults and three young children. Police noticed a mason jar containing marijuana bud on top of a microwave stand. The adults, including McMahon, were immediately arrested for possessing a controlled substance and the children taken into care. In the course of retrieving a pair of socks for one of the children, police noticed a number of marijuana plants in a separate room in the basement. The residence was secured and a search warrant was then obtained and executed on McMahon’s home and out-buildings. Police seized 191 marijuana plants. McMahon was charged with unlawfully producing marijuana, possessing it for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful storage of a firearm.Saskatchewan Provincial CourtThe officer testified the reason for entering McMahon’s house was to check on the welfare of the children and the conditions of the house. It was also revealed that the occurrence report generated by police dispatch had referenced possible “drug use” in relation to McMahon but this “drug use” allegation had not found its way into the search warrant’s information to obtain (ITO).The judge went on to the find that the police breached McMahon’s s. 8 Charter rights. In his view, the police were present at McMahon’s home merely to inquire into the well-being of the children and the anonymous tip to MCU did not constitute reasonable grounds to enter the home. Although the police were entitled to approach the house under the implied licence doctrine and ask McMahon questions, the police exceeded its scope when they entered the home. Since the entry was warrantless, it was presumptively unreasonable, a presumption the Crown failed to rebut.  First, the judge found McMahon had not consented to the entry into her home. Second, the police were not acting under their common law duty to protect life and safety — the police did not believe the lives of the children were in danger or their safety jeopardized. Rather, the corporal was only acting on a vague and anonymous tip. The officer’s observations made in the course of police entry were excised from the ITO and, without them, the warrant should not have been issued. The warrantless, non-consensual, non-urgent search of McMahon’s residence was unreasonable. The judge went on to exclude the evidence under s. 24(2) and dismissed all charges.  Saskatchewan Court of AppealThe Crown appealed the trial judge’s ruling, arguing he erred in his analysis of the police officers’ authority to enter McMahon’s home. In the Crown’s view, there were three legitimate bases for police entry: 1.     Manitoba’s Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) 2.     consent 3.     the common law police duty to preserve peace, prevent crime and protect life and safetyManitoba’s Child and Family Services ActThe Crown submitted that the duty to investigate imposed on police under the CFSA implicitly authorized entry into a private dwelling, without judicial authorization, in order to investigate whether the children in the home were in need of protection. In the Crown’s view, a warrantless entry in a non-emergency situation is an implied and necessary offshoot of the “duty to investigate” imposed by s. 13. Or, in the alternative, the Crown suggested s. 13.1 implicitly authorized police entry when a parent does not expressly refuse entry. Under s. 13 of the CFSA, an officer is obligated to investigate information they receive if, in the opinion of the officer, a reasonable ground exists to believe that a child is in need of protection. Apprehension of a child by police is an interim, highly-intrusive measure that is disruptive to the parent/child relationship and considered a remedy of last resort.  Section 13.1 authorizes entry into a private dwelling with a warrant provided, among other things, an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a child may be in need of protection and a person refuses to give the peace officer access to the child. Section 17 authorizes a warrantless intervention on an exigent basis provided the officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child is both in need of protection and at risk of serious harm. But there is nothing in the CFSA that expressly authorizes an officer to enter a private dwelling for the purpose of conducting an investigation. Even if the Crown’s argument that the s. 13 duty on officers to investigate a child protection concern implicitly authorizes entry, the officer would first need to be of the opinion that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a child was in need of protection. Here, however, the corporal did not subjectively believe McMahon’s children were in need of protection. “At no place in her testimony did [the corporal] identify the basis or foundation for her belief that Ms. McMahon’s children were in need of protection, apart from reference to the anonymous tip (which incidentally alluded to the presence of drugs),” said Justice Schwann, authoring the Court of Appeal’s opinion. “In her mind, the ‘check’ was required to firstly determine if the children were in need of protection. At no point did [she] articulate any discernible fact(s) that she relied on to support a basis to believe the children were in need of protection, apart from the anonymous tip.” Further, even if the corporal possessed a subjective belief, it was not objectively reasonable. “There was simply no evidence of any confirmatory investigation having been done by Mobile Crisis or, for that matter, [the corporal] to substantiate the reliability of the information provided by the anonymous source,” said Schwann. The trial judge did not err in concluding that the officer did not subjectively believe McMahon’s children were in need of protection or that any subjective belief would not have been objectively reasonable. Without reasonable grounds, s. 13 was not engaged and therefore no corresponding statutory duty was imposed on police to investigate. This undermined any “implied power of entry” and no need for the Court of Appeal to determine whether the duty to investigate under s. 13 impliedly authorized entry into a private dwelling without warrant. ConsentThe Crown contended that McMahon’s actions indicated that she waived her right to privacy and consented to police entry. First, the Crown suggested that since McMahon did not actually refuse police entry, the police had an implied right to enter her home in pursuit of its child protection mandate. Second, the Crown opined that the criminal law informational components for consent did not apply in child protection cases. In its view, a less robust consent standard was warranted in child protection investigations. But the Court of Appeal disagreed. “Criminal protections for an accused person must [not] be watered down or eschewed entirely simply because the impugned police action arose in a broad, unsubstantiated child protection context,” Schwann said, describing a valid consent as follows:[F]or consent to be valid, at a minimum, two requirements are necessary: the consent must be voluntary and it must be informed. To be informed, individuals must have the requisite informational foundation to make their choice meaningful. This has been interpreted to mean that an individual must be made aware of his or her right to refuse consent, otherwise the consent is not voluntary. To be voluntary, the person must have a choice. [para. 83]In this case, the trial judge found no evidence of a valid consent and the evidence amply supported this conclusion. The police did not take any steps to inform McMahon of her right to refuse police entry or of their ability to get a warrant under s. 13.1 of the CFSA if she refused. Although McMahon was informed about the anonymous tip and the reason for police presence (to conduct a spot check on her house and children), the police made no effort to explain their authority under the CFSA, or to identify McMahon’s right to refuse police entry without a warrant. Neither was she made aware of the potential consequences of her choice. “The onus was on the Crown to demonstrate that Ms. McMahon’s consent was both voluntary and informed,” Schwann said. “Knowledge of the options open to her and an appreciation of the consequences are essential components for a valid consent.” The Crown had failed to meet this onus. Common law dutyThe Crown maintained that the common law police duty to preserve peace, prevent crime and protect life and safety authorized a forced entry. A warrantless entry can sometimes be authorized under the police common law duty to protect life and property provided the entry amounts to a justifiable use of police powers. This analysis requires a consideration of whether the entry was necessary in the circumstances and there were no less intrusive means available. After reviewing the case law concerning the power to enter a residence where the police are acting under their common law duty to protect a person’s life or safety, the Court of Appeal noted two important points. “First, the police duty to protect life is only engaged when it can be inferred that someone is or may be in some distress,” Schwann said. “Second, the duty to protect life only justifies warrantless entry where the police reasonably believe the life or safety of someone in the home is in danger and the exercise of the power is both reasonable and necessary.” In this case, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge that the forced entry was not justified. There was no evidence the children were in distress, nor did the corporal personally think the children were in danger. Rather, the police were on a fact-finding mission (investigating) for MCU to determine whether there was any validity to the anonymous tip. Since they did not have reasonable grounds to believe the children were in distress, entry into the home was not necessary. Furthermore, there were other less intrusive measures other than entry available to the police, such as reporting back to the MCU or seeking a warrant.The trial judge’s decision to exclude the evidence was upheld and the Crown’s appeal was dismissed.Mike Novakowski is Blue Line’s case law columnist. He can be contacted at
Ontario’s top court has found that an interviewing officer’s comments about the legal implications of not speaking rendered an arrestee’s statement involuntary.
Just because an arrestee wants to speak to a lawyer again does not mean they are entitled to do so.
Just because an officer does not follow an approved screening device (ASD) procedures manual does not necessarily mean he cannot rely on the accuracy of its results.
Saskatchewan’s highest court has ruled that s. 10(b) of the Charter does not impose an obligation on a police officer to ask a detainee whether they want to speak to a lawyer.
Asking an accused if he wished to say anything after he expressed a desire to speak to a lawyer breached s. 10(b) of the Charter and his subsequent statement was excluded as evidence. 
Every shift entails organization and planning. New predictive software can be a game changer. By collecting data based on everyday occurrences, departments can start each shift with better preparation and decrease the occurrence of tragic incidents. Not only does this type of software help officers to be more proactive while on patrol, it also allows officers to prepare for certain circumstances ahead of time.
Electric bikes have been around almost as long as traditional bicycles, but advances in motor and battery technologies in recent years have been driving consumer growth in places like Europe and China.
Few officers relish the opportunity to complete paperwork and administrative duties. It’s not the most glamorous function of law enforcement, but proper documentation and recording of information is critical to prove the authenticity of evidence and integrity of investigations. By digitizing records, taking some of the “paper” out of paperwork, information becomes more searchable, auditable and reliable, while reducing the administrative burden on officers.
Let’s start by picturing a busy Saturday market scene in a larger Western city:
Over the last year, we have seen innovations in the surveillance space create more accurate analytics, higher resolution cameras, and better video compression.
What if your officers could use one single computing device to access all their law enforcement applications and data? It’s a vision shared by many CIOs (chief information officers) and IT directors in the policing world.
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
How often does life deal us a real challenge and we think: How will I ever get through this? I am just not sure I can.
A routine call is rarely “routine.” Every call we attend as police officers has us fully engaged. When the call is intense, we can be so immersed at times our physiological responses could cause us to lose vital information that might help us successfully navigate the call.
As police officers, our actions in the name of public safety are scrutinized under a microscope. We use too much force, or not enough. We took our time getting to a call or we rushed and caused an accident. Our investigation was fraught with error or we over-analyzed the situation, causing us to experience confirmation bias.
The word resilience has been a buzzword in the world of policing for several years now and its essential role in our successful mental health and wellbeing also makes it known as a top-notch performer. Resilience is infused in our training programs, such as Road 2 Mental Readiness, and is heavily promoted as our recruits begin their journey as first responders.
“Every interaction we experience as human being is a meeting of sorts.”
Firefighter Barry Dawson, paramedic Andreanne Leblanc, former RCMP officer Krista Carle: three first responders with different lived experiences and their own versions of “PTSD demons,” but who have one thing in common: within the past year, they decided to end their own lives.
By the time this reaches your mailbox, the Senate will have cast its final vote to usher in Bill C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act. And my guess is we all draw in a sharp breath yet again.
I am proud to bring you our annual Blue Line Expo Show Guide in this month’s issue. On May 3, we have a jam-packed day planned for the Canadian law enforcement community, including an exclusive new workshop on building resiliency with Dr. Stephanie Conn of First Responder Psychology. 
When people mentioned “meditation” to me in the past, I thought of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love book and the far-away ashram she attended where schedules were strict, the silences long and the mental work intense.
As I sit down to write this (late February), a flood warning for my hometown (St. Marys, Ont.) has just been lifted and the residents of Brantford, Ont., who were evacuated due to the mid-February inundation, have been allowed to return home. My personal social media feeds have been teeming with videos and photos showing the dangerously high Thames River.
I’ve been watching Stranger Things and the German science fiction/horror series Dark on Netflix over the past few months and thoroughly enjoying whenever one of the retro police cars or trucks whizzes (or putts, as with that circa 1953 fir green Volkswagen police beetle in Dark) across the screen.
Federal legislation and the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada recognizing the right of RCMP officers to unionize will have a profound effect on labour relations between RCMP members, the government and the organization. It may also alter how police services are delivered across the country.
Proactive policing should be a big part of what officers do. It shouldn’t simply be responding to radio calls. Conducting high visibility patrols, checking out suspicious people in suspicious circumstances, interacting with vulnerable people and preventing crime and victimization — these are all critical roles for police officers.
A police dog and his or her officer need to function as one. This cannot happen without effective communication.
In 2014, ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) recruiters planted seeds of terror across the world with a digital social media-marketing message. The extremist campaign encouraged newly radicalized members to serve the state in their own home countries, without the need to travel abroad and fight for ISIS. This is what came to be known as the “lone wolf” terrorist ideology.
In my previous life, I was directly involved with Ontario corrections, first as an officer and then as a frontline operational manager. I left the field to further my education and I have just recently completed my master’s degree. My master’s research honed in on administrative and investigative processes in corrections in Canada as well as across the world.
Police are on the frontline of a health crisis. Again.
The North-West Mounted Police: 1873-1885By Jack F. Dunn; 2017, 812 pagesISBN: 9780969859611
Taking Care of Business: Police Detectives, Drug Law Enforcement and Proactive InvestigationBy Matthew Bacon; 2016, 352 pagesISBN: 9780199687381
No Time to Bury ThemBy Mark C. Eddy; 2017, 166 pagesISBN: 978-1771802222
Mental Health Awareness: Practical Skills for First RespondersBy Stephanie Miloknay and Marc Laferriere; 2017, 302 pagesISBN: 978-1-77255-255-3
Mental Health Awareness: Self-Care for First RespondersBy Stephanie Miloknay and Marc Laferriere; 2017, 128 pagesISBN: 978-1-77255-252-2
To Guard My People: The King’s Police and Fire Services Medal in CanadaBy Jack Templeman; 2017, 138 pagesISBN: 978-0-9951888-0-8
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.
We likely have all come across a disgruntled and jaded co-worker, someone overly preoccupied with spreading negativity. We may even have been in those shoes ourselves.
Vegan diets, blood type diets, liquid diets, lunar diets, werewolf diets, grapefruit diets — one cannot avoid being bombarded by the hype for the latest “revolutionary” and transformative diet proposal. The overwhelming number of fad diets emerging with “pseudo” scientific demonstrations can easily be confused with proven nutritional facts.
General Sir Samuel James Brown is credited with inventing the duty belt for tactical advantage after an unfortunate incident left him with one arm. Facing this physical disadvantage as a cavalry officer, he designed a belt with an additional leather strap to which he attached his weapons. This innovative concept — still referred to as the “Sam Browne” today — spread widely and made its way into police forces worldwide.
Projective studies astonishingly anticipate half of human kind will be overweight by the year 2030. Sadly, obesity kills over three million people worldwide annually, which is three times more than famine.
In my last column I explored the importance of adopting the right attitude towards work through the topic of epigenetics. The truth is that a great deal of our time is spent at work and that has repercussions on our health.
Unquestionably, every law enforcement officer and their loved ones can benefit from maximizing the probability of a long and healthy life.
It was mid-afternoon on another usually busy day at my office. My phone rang a few times — it was one of my old co-workers from the Toronto Jail, most widely known as the Don Jail. I knew he was now retired and hasn’t been well for a while, so I was happy to hear from him.
“Employee loyalty begins with employer loyalty. Your employees should know that if they do the job they were hired to do with a reasonable amount of competence and efficiency, you will support them.”- Harvey Mackay
It’s Tuesday morning, about 9:00 a.m. and I just made it in to work at my office downtown Toronto.

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