(Prime Time Crime exclusive April 10, 2005)

Travesty of Justice plays out in Calgary

By Leo Knight

There is a travesty being played out in this country this week. It involves an incredible abuse of power and authority and public money.

No, I'm not talking about the Gomery inquiry and the stunning depictions of corruption involving the Liberal Party of Canada. 

I'm talking about Calgary and the incredible actions taken by the Chief Constable of the Calgary Police Service, Jack Beaton, to stifle criticism of him. With Stalin-like precision he got his own secret police to investigate the origins of a website critical of his management.

He obtained a civilian search warrant, called an Anton Piller order, to secure computers and other evidence from the private home of a South Calgary couple. The order contains some bizarre gag orders that prevent Jann Vahey, a transcription clerk for a service contracted to the police department, from telling her story, about why she went to bat for the rank and file officers and that she was not attacking the service as Beaton claimed.

Not only will Vahey not speak about the situation, but she also can't use her remaining computer to access email or even the internet, so sweeping is the court order obtained by Beaton to shut her up.

Uncle Joe would be so proud.

Judging from the comments in the Calgary Herald story (Saturday, April 9th, 2005) Beaton has financed his revenge-driven investigation with taxpayers' money. Alderman Craig Burrows said as much in his comments to the Herald.  Beaton can trumpet about his actions protecting the reputation of the Service all he wants, but make no mistake about it, this is all about Jack. And, it would appear he doesn't care who he destroys in the process of soothing his out-of-joint proboscis.

The Standfirm website, as I read it, was all about Jack and how the "Core Values" trumpeted by the management of the police service was more demonstrative of the "Do as I say, not as I do" style of management.  Beaton was sputtering with anger when he was first contacted by Herald reporter Suzanne Wilton and told her he would get whoever was behind it. Well, it would seem in that at least, Beaton is a man of his word.

But, what of the methods employed?

An Anton Piller order is meant to be an extreme remedy. It is not something used everyday.  My sources tell me the order was granted in late 2004 against a John and Jane Doe.  This, if accurate, seems extreme in itself. How can any court in a country like Canada, issue a broad search and seizure order for a private home and an equally-sweeping gag order against someone of whom it doesn't even know the identity?  An order I might add, was executed a week ago by a Police Inspector, a Staff Sergeant and at least four others.

One wonders if that application and order would stand the test of appeal or other legal scrutiny? Of course though we, and the good burghers of Calgary who have financed this outrageous action, can't actually discern that with the order sealed.  Yup, that's right.  Not only has Vahey been gagged, the order has been sealed by the court so we, the public, cannot see what is being done in our name, let alone to determine if it was fair or not.

I suspect what Beaton is really up to here, is to try to find out who was involved with Vahey.  I'd bet he wants to know who else in the department was so bold as to be involved with a website aimed at criticizing him. Well, considering the Calgary Police Association's own poll last fall said 70 per cent of the membership has no confidence in him as the Chief Constable, it would seem the suspect list is quite large.

Look in the next few days for Beaton to make his next move, which Iím betting, will be to attempt to pressure Vahey to turn over FTP publishing protocols and passwords so Beatonís hounds can look for the IP addresses of anyone who may have posted to the original website or its offspring, Code200.com.

 In true witch hunt form, Beaton will be looking for the identity of any Calgary police officer who may have posted or emailed information to Vahey.   So much for looking after the rank and file, on whoís behalf Beaton claims to be acting.

If I were a serving member of the Calgary Police Service, I would be keeping my head down and my butt covered as the inevitable witch hunt starts to gather steam.  And, if I was a taxpayer in Calgary, I would be outraged at what is being done in my name and with my money.  And if I were Jann Vahey, I would be screaming from the parapets about the outrage being committed against someone who was only trying to do the right thing for her city in what is supposed to be a free country.

leo@primetimecrime.com

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