I read an interesting article in the Winnipeg Free Press last week where a retired Winnipeg Police Service member pitched the idea that police officers needed to be protected under Canada’s hate speech laws.
Hate speech is handled in Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada. [emphasis added]
I’m not convinced this is the right move, especially given the justification given.
“We don’t want our moral authority undermined to the point that we have no respect at all,” said Stan Tataryn. “This constant, derogatory hatred towards the police makes them start to doubt they have that authority, and they’ll go quicker to their weapon, or toward force.”
The second of Sir Robert Peel’s 9 Principles of Policing addresses Stan Tataryn’s concerns beautifully:
2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.
All Tataryn’s rationale says to me police officers must be trained to be more patient and respectful of mere citizens during interactions, not that they require a law to protect them from hurtful words.
While I understand and agree we’re living in a hyper-sensitive world where people would much rather be outraged than explore the issue for 30 seconds to make an informed opinion.
It’s also a matter of free speech which, sadly, some police officers abhor.
Paula Ethans, and organizer with Winnipeg Police Cause Harm (WPCH), makes that point very well.
“(If) the only option is to escalate and resort to violence, (it) tells me that the police don’t have the proper training to respond to incidents without violence, or they are not the proper institution to be responding to these incidents.”
The whole “defund the police” movement promoted by WPCH is utterly asinine, in my opinion, because anyone promoting this idea hasn’t thought it all the way through.
Do you really want to live in a lawless city where the most violent criminal is king of your block? I certainly don’t.
I would hope the endless rioting in Portland, Oregon, over the past year would make it obvious that a police-free city is a living nightmare.
As I see it, two things must happen to resolve these tensions.
First, the men and women of our police forces have an extremely difficult job on their best day, let alone their worst. Mere citizens must learn to be far more understanding and far less outraged and judgemental. We need to figure out how to think, if only for a millisecond, what we would do in their difficult circumstances.
Second, police services must do a far better job of training the men and women serving as police officers to have a thick skin. The job has become combative in nature, both through bad decisions by individual officers and a rush to judgement by the public that wants to frame the issue according to their preconceived notions or agendas.
Adding police officers as a protected identifiable group under Canada’s hate speech laws will only make matters worse.
Should this idea become reality, I suspect it will be attacked as a violation of our right to freedom of expression.
It our right to criticise those who are granted power over the rest of us. To strip that right away from us because some police officers don’t want to be criticised is a wrong-headed approach.
“Police are granted the right to kill people, and when they misuse that right that’s granted to them, the public I think has every right to speak out against that,” said Kelly Gorkoff, a University of Winnipeg criminologist.
Instead of hiding their thin skins behind Canada’s hate speech laws, police forces across Canada would be far better off using the tactics that permit mere citizens to view police officers as human beings, not walking, talking thugs with badges and guns.
Things like community outreach and education, giving talks at community groups and, of course, listening and responding to the concerns they hear are good steps for our police forces to revisit.
The Blue Wall must come down.
When the Blue Wall protects criminal cops, they undermine all of the great police officers in our country. While it’s another natural human instinct to ‘protect one of our own’ that instinct must be tempered with common sense.
I say this as someone who writes extensively about the really bad apples that give all police officers a bad name. Think Geoff Mantler and Robinson just for starters.
In both cases, the RCMP jumped in front of these thugs and protected them, and continued shielding them long after video proved their actions were heinous and criminal.
It’s a fact that 43% of all complaints about RCMP members are for abusive behaviour. This stat alone should be enough to ignite a desire within the RCMP to better train all RCMP members on how to treat people with basic respect.
But it hasn’t.
Let me be crystal clear.
This is NOT a one-way street. We, the mere citizens of Canada, must be willing to treat police officers with dignity and respect as well. They serve in a difficult job to protect us and keep us all safe.
In all my interactions with on-duty police officers, I have yet to be treated rudely or disrespectfully. I attribute this to the fact I always treated them with respect, even when I didn’t want to.
It’s a fact of human nature that we typically treat others the way they treat us first.
So let’s try behaving politely for a change and see how that works out.
It can’t be any worse that the nonsense we’re suffering through today.