Prime Time Crime

 

(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Jan. 24, 2011)

   

Slim pickings for recruiters

   

  By John Martin

 

I was recently reminded of the most cowardly spectacle I'd ever witnessed. It was back in the seventh grade when two boys had agreed to an after school fight. Randy and Dave were going to have it out. Randy was a bit bigger and a lot meaner. Most of us thought Dave was in over his head. We couldn't have been more correct.

It was a slaughter. Randy got into a lot of fights and clearly enjoyed them. He laid a beating on Dave that was far beyond the typical grade school fisticuffs. Dave was a mess and never touched Randy. Somehow, Dave's father was alerted about the fight and showed up just as Randy was using Dave's face as a speed bag. His father pulled Randy off and grabbed him so his arms were being held behind his back.

This was Dave's one and only chance to get a shot in. He wound up with a haymaker and cracked his fist against the side of Randy's head while he was defenceless. Regardless of who each of us were cheering for, we were quite unanimous that it was a gutless and cowardly thing to do.

I retrieved this memory a couple weeks ago when I first saw the sickening footage of a Kelowna police officer apparently kicking a suspect in the face as he was seemingly co-operatively kneeling on the ground. The suspect, Buddy Tavares, was completely defenceless and had no opportunity to protect himself. He was totally vulnerable and took a kick that resembled something you'd normally see in the Super Bowl.

The video has since gone viral and has sent shock waves across the country and once again called into question the level of professionalism and integrity of contemporary law enforcement.

The officer has been suspended and, following an investigation by the Abbotsford Police, is now facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm. Regardless, it was the cheapest shot I've seen since Dave's display of cowardice. The only difference is that Dave was 13-years old at the time.

It seems that everybody has a cellphone with video capacity these days and allegations of police brutality are being uploaded for the entire world to see. And despite the need to recognize that a 15 second video clip may not be a complete record of what transpired, it's difficult not to feel outrage at how some police are conducting themselves.

One would think that ever since the famed Rodney King footage, police would be smart enough to assume their every move is being recorded. But it appears far too many loose cannons and cowboys (and cowgirls) are slipping through the screening process.

I'm convinced therein lies the problem. As I've written before, police agencies are not being inundated with the number of superbly qualified candidates they once were. In many cases they're having to select applicants that never would have made it through the process a decade or three ago.

When I started teaching criminal justice I had one particular student who looked like she was going places. She was involved with a ride along program with the old Matsqui Police, looking toward a career in law enforcement. A local reporter interviewed her for a story about the program. She was asked what most attracted her to a policing career. I'll never forget her answer, "It's the ultimate power trip. You get to decide who lives and who dies."

The reporter quoted her verbatim in the paper and her career aspirations were over. After that display of idiocy, no law enforcement agency would ever let her on the grounds, let alone consider hiring her. She was finished--and thank God for that.

I wonder if in today's climate, such a comment would be the career killer it was in 1989.

I'm not convinced it would.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca

 

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