Opinion

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.
I was talking to some HR people the other day who were musing about the increased focus on employee well-being in recent years. Some reflected with a chuckle about the “good old days” when they thought everything would be peachy once they offered something like R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) training to the masses.
One of the things police and psychologists have in common is we are both often trying to get people to stop doing things that they shouldn’t be doing; we try to get people to change their behaviour.
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. 
A driver who led police on a dangerous high-speed pursuit had his vehicle’s forfeiture upheld on appeal. 
Leaving the scene of an accident to avoid criminal liability for possessing a stolen vehicle still fits the main component for a Criminal Code hit and run charge, as we see in R. v. Seipp, 2018 SCC 01.
Hindsight is not the measuring stick by which courts should judge police decisions in how warrants are executed, so says Ontario’s top court.
Two protestors have been awarded damages after police used plastic ties to restrain them and detained them longer than necessary. In Godin v. City of Montreal, 2017 QCCA 1180, three plaintiffs were amongst a group of 60 to 70 other protestors occupying a small and densely populated tent city in Montreal’s Victoria Square in support of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Municipal authorities ordered the public park, which included Victoria Square, closed on a 24-hour basis. An order to leave was given by the Montreal police and most of the protestors left voluntarily and peacefully. However, about a dozen people, including the three plaintiffs, refused to leave and attached themselves to each other and a tent. They were arrested — two of the plaintiffs had their hands bound behind their backs with plastic tie wraps and were held in a heated bus parked at the site for about 20 to 60 minutes. Following their arrest, the plaintiffs were photographed and the back of one hand was marked with a number in black felt pen and invisible ink, which could be viewed under a special light in the event that the black ink is erased or blurred (for the purposes of identification). In the experience of the police, some people refuse to identify themselves or provide a false name and so the numbers allow the police to match the person arrested with any possessions seized from them. As well, the numbers provide easy identification should the arrestees return to occupy the square upon their release from custody. The ink would ordinarily be gone from the hand in three days. An extensive video recording was also made by the police of the entire operation. One of the plaintiffs, Godin, was released on site (his car was parked nearby) but the two others, Haugh and O’Callaghan, were placed in the back of police cars, still bound by plastic ties, and driven to other parts of the city. This prolonged their detentions for about 20 minutes.All three plaintiffs sued the City of Montreal, seeking damages for bodily, moral or material injury under the Civil Code of Quebec for, among other things, marking their hands with invisible and black ink, taking photos of them during their detention, and for the duration and manner of their detention, including the cuffing of their hands with plastic ties and their transport to other parts of the city.A Court of Quebec judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ actions. He found the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the police did not act reasonably. In the judge’s view, the techniques used and the force applied were not excessive, given the necessity of physically removing the plaintiffs from the square, their persistent refusal and their passive resistance. Marking their hands with invisible and black ink was not offensive in the context of a mass arrest. As for the binding of the hands behind the back with plastic tie wraps, the judge found this to be a lawful common practice. The judge ruled that the detention in a heated bus was, in the circumstances, reasonable. The taking of the plaintiffs’ photos following their arrest was for the purposes of identification. And, even if the police did commit a fault, the plaintiffs suffered no damage and any discomfort experienced by them was minor and temporary.The plaintiffs appealed the trial judge’s decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal. Marking the handsThe Court of Appeal found that marking the hands with ink was momentary and minimal, did not penetrate the skin, and did not interfere with the plaintiffs’ physical, psychological or emotional integrity in more than a fleeting manner. Nor was there any suggestion that the plaintiffs were bothered or suffered psychologically beyond the fact of their arrest by the markings. The police committed no wrong. And, even if they did, there was no material damage proven. Photographing Although there was no statutory authority for the taking of the plaintiffs photos, since they were only arrested for a by-law infraction, the police may nonetheless “take a photo of people they arrest as part of their duty to retain evidence of the offence (i.e. the identity of the alleged perpetrators)... A photo simply records in visual form what a sketch or notes of a detainee’s appearance would preserve in written form,” stated Justice Schrager, adding:A police officer acting reasonably would seek to preserve evidence of the offence, including the arrestees’ identity and appearance for the purposes of collecting evidence to present to a court. There was consequently no fault committed by the police in taking the photographs in question. [para. 39]Furthermore, no damages (bodily, material or moral) had been proven that might have resulted from the taking of the photos after arrest. Plastic tie wrapsThe two plaintiffs who had their hands bound with plastic tie wraps argued this was unnecessary because they were co-operative. The police, on the other hand, contended that the binding was necessary to prevent the detainees from rubbing out the black ink numbers marked on their hands and as a security concern. “Police officers, acting reasonably, may handcuff an arrested person for reasons of security or to execute their duties,” said Justice Schrager. “Even though handcuffing may arise upon arrest, the fact of arrest, even if legal, does not automatically give rise to the right to apply handcuffs to a detained person… Handcuffing should not be carried out systematically. Applying handcuffs (or tie wraps) is within the discretion of an arresting officer but there must be a good reason to do it, such as the security of the police or others, including the arrestee.”In this case, the initial binding of the hands was not unreasonable. However, the plaintiffs’ continued restraint in the back seat of police cars with their hands bound when they were taken off the bus was unreasonable. At this point, the police had already decided not to charge the two plaintiffs.Detention durationThe Court of Appeal found the plaintiffs’ detentions in the bus for 20 to 60 minutes was not unreasonable. However, the prolonged detention once they were off the bus constituted a fault by police. Once it was decided the plaintiffs would be released, their continued detention was not necessary and the police were therefore obliged to release them:Though the police do not operate a taxi service, if having resolved to release the [plaintiffs], the police really felt the necessity to remove [the plaintiffs] out of the area of Victoria Square to avoid a re-occupation of the square, they could have uncuffed them and offered to drive them home. Instead, they left them handcuffed and transported them without consent to a distant point. This constitutes a fault in what was otherwise reasonable action on the part of the police. [para. 58]DamagesIn assessing damages, the Court of Appeal awarded Haigh and O’Callaghan, the two plaintiffs who were zip tied and transported to other parts of the city, $2,000 each with interest for moral and material loss related to the inconvenience of the transport and discomfort of the tie wraps. As for Godin’s detention, the third plaintiff, it was not prolonged and he was not handcuffed so no damages were awarded. However, his initial order to pay legal costs was reversed given the public interest questions involved in this case.Mike Novakowski is Blue Line’s case law columnist. He can be contacted at
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.
“Good fences make good neighbours.”
With more volts than ever in electric vehicles (EVs) and solar-panelled rooftops, first responder safety is a growing concern. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL in the U.S.) are addressing this challenge with the development of a probe to accurately detect direct current (DC) energy.
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.”
Our firearms as police officers are significant pieces of our culture and what we do. It is hard at times not to allow it to define us, especially when it is unexpectedly removed after an incident involving a shooting for example. What is the message we receive when, after having discharged our firearm in an incident, we are ushered into a room, secluded and stripped of our firearm? There is good reason for this of course, as the firearm that was used may need to be tested and forensically investigated, but the experience and chronology of its removal can be very challenging.
Progress — that unstoppable, onward movement. It doesn’t come without a few bumps in the road. Progress guarantees change and that can be challenging in the workplace, especially in an industry with a long history like law enforcement.
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.
A few months ago Blue Line co-hosted a private roundtable on protecting smart cities, sponsored by BlackBerry and hosted at Deloitte’s downtown Toronto office. The day saw a number of chiefs, deputy chiefs and IT (information technology) policing personnel assemble to discuss — in an open dialogue — innovation and technology in public safety.
I am not the best shot.
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.
I want to draw attention to a Calgary Police pilot project started in May 2017 to combat the increase we were seeing in stolen property being fenced through online companies such as Kijiji, Facebook and LetGo. Whereas traditional stolen property was usually fenced through pawnshops, technology has now provided the means for quickly dispersing stolen property through legitimate websites with relative anonymity.
How do you watch someone else live your worst nightmare? How do you manage that emotionally?
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
Transforming Community Policing by Hugh C. Russell; 2017, 376 pagesISBN: 978-1-55239-649-0
An Ounce of Prevention: Navigating Your Way Through Damage Control and Crisis Response by Allan Bonner; 2010, 322 pagesISBN: 978-1926755021
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.
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.
Mental toughness can mean the difference between life and death in the realm of law enforcement. Those who reject the notion of “giving up” are more likely to survive a life threatening situation and better handle precarious situations.
Mental training is as critical as physical training for law enforcement officer preparedness and hardihood. Not only does frontline law enforcement come with the obvious physical risks, it has also been referred to as the most dangerous job emotionally and psychologically.
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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