We have a very complex set of laws in Canada, like most countries. We have more laws on the books than there are people to arrest for them, some would say. But there are a couple of basic legal premises that have been around for centuries that are sensible and police and criminals alike adhere to.
Police may NOT enter a home of a private individual without a search warrant unless there are “exigent circumstances”, or an immediate and pressing danger to life.
That’s what makes the non-event in Saanich, BC the other day so puzzling, or at least the reporting of it anyway.
Here are the facts as related by Saanich Police and reported in the Victoria Times-Colonist on December 9, 2011.
- A man who is well-known to police (so what?) is inside his home.
- Police believe he may be illegally in possession of firearms.
- Police stake out the home until a search warrant arrives.
- The man inside the home refuses to let police in until they have a search warrant.
- The search warrant finally arrives, and
- The man lets police inside the home once they have the legal right to search his home.
Where is the news here?
Is it that the police did NOT violate the man’s rights, no matter how well-known he was to them?
Is it that the man had the audacity to exert his Constitutional Right against unreasonable search and seizure by demanding the police actually have a search warrant before entering his home?
I don’t know.
Saanich police spokesman Sgt. Dean Jantzen made the following statement, though, that sheds some light on things, at least as he viewed the event:
"We made contact inside and they weren't overly co-operative. Because it was about firearms and uncooperative people, it was treated like an armed and barricaded situation."
Is this why it is deemed “newsworthy”? Because Police chose to escalate the situation when a citizen dared exercise his Constitutional Rights?
Let me be clear here, before people start branding me with that “you hate cops” tag again.
I don’t hate police.
I have the utmost respect for the vast majority of our police men and women. What I despise are corrupt cops, thug cops and cops who abuse our Charter Rights simply because they have a badge and gun and we don’t.
Again, to be clear, this is NOT the majority of our police men and women in Canada.
That being said, this blog is filled with articles on cops that DO fit that description, and I write about them to raise awareness that
a) Canadians have rights and
b) bad cops will sometimes try and violate those rights.
I personally believe police actions are always worthy of scrutiny, no matter what the official police press release says.
The police have every right to investigate when they believe a crime has been committed.
The police have every right to knock on someone’s door and ask them to cooperate with that investigation.
Believe it or not, citizens have no obligation to cooperate with police, no matter how much police think they should. Citizens, even those “known to police” like the young man in this story is said to be, have no obligation to cooperate with police.
Remember what Sgt. Dean Jantzen said?
"Because it was about firearms and uncooperative people, it was treated like an armed and barricaded situation."
The reality of the matter is it was NOT an armed and barricaded situation, was it?
No, it was a man demanding the police respect his Constitutional Right not to be searched or have his home searched without a valid search warrant.
That Saanich Police chose to turn it into a high-risk situation doesn’t actually make it so.
When police come to your door demanding to enter and search your home, YOU should be “uncooperative" as well.
Every citizen should be in that situation.
Once you invite police inside your home your rights are out the window. You invited them in, so anything they find can and will be used against you in a court of law.
It is your Constitutional Right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. If police have a valid reason to search your home, then a judge will issue a search warrant. If they do not, the judge will NOT issue one.
That’s precisely how it should be.
I will state it again for those who don’t get it.
I don’t hate police. I have the utmost respect for good, decent cops.
However, I do demand that ALL police follow the exact same laws that they require ME to follow.
Why is that so hard for some folks to comprehend?
To quote a friend of mine….
Funny how the police (and a citizen with criminal history) who are following the law as it is written is a newsworthy event.
To quote the last line of the Times-Colonist article:
The prospect of finding firearms also meant the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team was called. Some surrounding homes were evacuated as a precaution. The incident unfolded between 5 and 6 p.m., and was resolved by about 8 p.m. Once the search warrant arrived, the man gave himself up.
I guess that’s why it was deemed newsworthy…. the Greater Victoria Tactical Response Team needed a little camera time.