Blue Line

There Is Nothing As Satisfying as a Good Firing

April 29, 2013  By Robert Lunney

446 words – MR

There is nothing as satisfying as a good firing

by Robert Lunney

Canadians favour an understanding and sympathetic society, one that is reasonable, considerate and forgiving. A tolerance for honest mistakes, minor transgressions and misunderstandings is built into our DNA. These qualities are reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in our court decisions.


We are fortunate that Canada’s position in the world and relative economic success has enabled us to reach this level of social development. Still, every system has its limits. Once due process is scrupulously observed and a conviction under the law is registered, we have no compunction about applying the penalties prescribed. There are limits to our tolerance.

It is not a new phenomenon, but in the past year the media has carried stories about police officers found guilty of serious offences against the internal code of conduct and in some cases, criminal acts. Despite an order for dismissal the culprits were ordered retained by an external review body (e.g. law enforcement appeal tribunal). There were other cases when the criminal courts seem to have diminished or dismissed evidence that would have resulted in the offender being subject to dismissal. In some cases, representations for clemency were supported by a staff association eager to prove it supports all members all of the time and at any cost.

Policing is a noble profession and a calling in life for those committed to the cause of justice and the maintenance of a well-ordered society. In order to sustain high standards of commitment those persons who wilfully fail to comply with the codified standards of behavior must be separated from the service. When a review board or indulgent judge allows a transgressor to remain through misguided sympathy, they send a message that they do not respect the professional standards of policing. That is pretty demoralizing.

A cynical public only sees that the authorities have once again taken care of their own, contributing to disrespect of police and established institutions. The worst impact, however, is within. When some see that the standards of conduct can be stretched, they are encouraged to ignore or disparage those rules. Expectations are lowered. For the best officers, those who believe in living up to professional standards, every misguided act of forgiveness is deeply disappointing. On the contrary, when an order for dismissal is sustained, it serves as encouragement that rules have meaning and that high standards will be upheld.

On more than one occasion I have noted an interesting phenomenon when a rightful dismissal is carried out. A light-hearted and uplifting wave of optimism passes through the organization. There is nothing as satisfying as a good firing.

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