What does the Fredericton Police Force do when it can’t be bothered to do the job the citizens of Fredericton PAY them to do? The go have coffee and ask for civilian volunteers to do the job for them.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration… I’m sure they aren’t going for coffee, but you get the point, right?
Fredericton Police Chief Barry MacKnight, it would seem, has his brain stuffed somewhere it shouldn’t be and it’s in desperate need of oxygen.
While it is true that the RCMP has its Auxiliary Constable program, where civilians get a little training and help out with routine (but unconstitutional) police tasks like traffic stops, at least they have a real cop standing there beside them to make sure the auxiliary constable doesn’t screw up too badly.
Yes, I realize the Supreme Court of Canada has decreed that police are within their rights to stop vehicles and check to make sure drivers are sober, but that devolved into routine and unconstitutional searches of vehicles a LONG time ago. (Why else is the policeman shining his flashlight everywhere inside your vehicle if he’s not performing a visual search?)
What the Fredericton Chief is proposing is something quite different. He wants to train volunteers to run police radar equipment and record all the information so police can issue speeding tickets, all while the police are nowhere to be found.
Am I the only one who sees something horribly wrong with this whole idea?
"It's an interesting program to leverage community commitment to public safety; cops can't do it all and we've been saying that for years,” Chief MacKnight said.
Well, that’s certainly one way of spinning it, all right.
In order for this program to have any legitimacy whatsoever, there would have to be at least one Fredericton police constable present when these civilians are doing his or her job for them.
Presumably they will be ‘overseeing” from the comforts of a lawn chair, latte in hand.
Michael Boudreau is a Criminology Professor at St. Thomas University and he, like me, has a very big problem with the Chief’s harebrained scheme.
"On the surface, it seems like a good idea, but it has the potential to go horribly wrong if the citizens are not closely monitored by the police. It does highlight that the police are understaffed. It may also highlight that the problem of speeding in and around Fredericton has become such a problem that the police are at their wits' end."
That may well be true. The Fredericton Police may well be at their wit’s end with speeders. Does that mean they should just hand over their jobs to civilians?
I think not.
"The program is being developed. We don't have any names in the slots right now, but I don't think that's going to be a problem at all, because there's lots of interest out there from what we're seeing," MacKnight said Tuesday after briefing the city's public safety and environment committee on the planning.
Michael Boudreau believes anyone volunteering for the anti-speeding patrol would have to pass criminal background checks first, before being allowed anywhere near such a program.
While that’s a great idea, on July 26, 2011 it was this same chief of police, Barry MacKnight, who issued a press release stating that
“the possibility does exist that some people who have received pardons as sex offenders, did not pop up on our system in background checks we carried out from mid-2003 until this past December.
In 2003 a software upgrade was put in place. There was a human error at that time that went undetected until this past December. As a result of the problem, we were not accessing the CPIC database of pardoned sex offenders that we thought we were.”
Has the problem with their background checks system really been fixed? Who knows? I’d be a little leery of any police background check system that let sex offenders pass through unnoticed for almost a decade, wouldn’t you?
What About When Police Are the Dangerous Drivers?
While this didn’t happen inside Fredericton city limits, it did happen in New Brunswick. A friend of mine has made a habit of holding police accountable when they break the very traffic laws they are supposedly sworn to uphold. He’s filed formal complaints that have been all but ignored every single time.
You may have even heard of him. His name is Lawrence Manzer. He gained quite a bit of notoriety for daring to take the precaution of having an unloaded shotgun in his hands as he watched his neighbour apprehend three drunken teenagers who had been stealing and vandalizing the area for months. While the RCMP couldn’t be bothered to show up to deal with the vandalism and thefts, they were sure able to show up and arrest Lawrence Manzer and drag him through the courts for what they deemed “careless use of a firearm.”
Now, it’s not his fellow civilian motorists violating public safety that Lawrence Manzer is so concerned about, it’s cops abusing their authority,driving recklessly and endangering everyone else on the road.
His latest complaint listed a number of marked police cruisers placing his life and that of others in danger by their reckless driving. While the police are required by law to respond to his official complaint within a specific timeframe the RCMP have seen fit to ignore that law and have, the last I heard, not responded to him at all.