I read with interest the CBC article by Neil Mcdonald titled – “Ferguson’s predatory police are not the only ones”. It’s worth a read and underlies the premise of this post. Here’s a link to the article on the CBC website.

His article discusses the US Federal Government’s report on the very serious misuse of police powers in Ferguson, Missouri. The report suggests the local police were more interested in creating revenue from ticketing and fines, presumably to validate their jobs, than protecting the public. Neil Macdonald suggests that Ferguson is not the only community to face this type of police behaviour. The article notes that, “A law-abiding, mentally impaired employee of a local convenience store — a black man — was such an easy target that he was arrested 258 times in four years, often dragged out of his bedroom in the back of the establishment.” Note the words – law abiding.

So with the objective of saving money the surrounding municipalities are looking at creating a local police force that would be accountable to the local councils and staff. What would be their accountability? How would they be supervised and monitored? Would the police force be asked to create enough revenue to offset a portion of their costs? Might policing become a net profit centre? Those tourists seem like easy pickings, sort of like Canadians driving through Georgia for their winter vacation in Florida.

Yes, I know this is Canada and we don’t behave like those morally suspect capitalist Americans. We would never allow a similar situation. Or would we? Have local police forces across Canada ever focused their attention on revenue generating issues rather than protecting the public? All members of the public? There are how many missing Aboriginal women in Canada that it seems neither the politicians nor the police want to find or investigate their disappearance.

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. A former Parry Sound resident who grew up in town, and was in high school in the 70’s, told me that he often wondered when the local police officer approached a group of students whether he was looking to bust, or looking to sell. This was a time when Parry Sound had its own police force, and I’m told there were some very serious conflicts of interest. The Town with time eliminated the police force and brought in the OPP. Yes, this was a high school student who perhaps bought into the local gossip about the local police. But perhaps it wasn’t gossip, perhaps it was fact. Regardless, a police force that does not have the trust of the people they are tasked to protect is unable to do their job. If you can’t trust the police are you likely to ever cooperate with them?

Are the OPP perfect? No, there are too many individuals with borderline personality disorders who are attracted to policing because of the discretionary power it provides them. But there is a system, a province wide system, in place to monitor and weed out those who either don’t fulfill their roles, or who abuse the system and the people. It’s much harder to do if you have a police force that is managed by individuals who have no experience doing this, and who may carry political or personal agendas.

So I wish the local communities luck with their plans to implement local policing. It can be done, it can be successful, but great care needs to be taken that rot doesn’t set it.

Ferguson seems to have rotted right to the core, police, staff and probably the politicians. But hey, that’s there not here. We’re different aren’t we?

I’m happy to pay a bit more for policing and have it operated professionally. Not perfectly, professionally.

 Cleaning Up! (Parry Sound, Night Crawling)