In our Digital Age it''s very easy to screw up. Never more so than when [allegedly] racist Thunder Bay Police Services (TBPS) Detective John Read writes an offensive "joke" press release about the murder of Adam Yellowhead with the headline “Fresh Breath Killer Captured!!!” and then sends it out to hundreds of media outlets by "mistake".
To quote the headline from a Globe and Mail Editorial, "Thunder Bay Police don't understand why joking about an aboriginal murder victim is grotesque"
A 65-year-old native man, Adam Yellowhead, was found dead – murdered – in an area frequented by people who drink mouthwash to become drunk. The lead investigator for the Thunder Bay Police Service wrote a fake press release about arresting a suspected killer, intended only for the eyes of his fellow police officers. “Fresh breath killer captured!!!” But then the investigator mistakenly sent out the fake release. Oops.
Oops is an understatement!
That's not a mistake, that's downright offensive. I don't care what race you are.
What's even more offensive is the response of both Thunder Bay Police Services Chief J.P. Levesque, Police executive officer Chris Adams and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, who is also a member of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
Mayor Hobbs had the audacity to say response to the offensive email was completely “blown out of proportion.” He went on to tell CBC Radio,
That was... uh... a joke made between detectives and it should stay in-house. It's got nothing to do with race, and I think for the media to make it into a racial issue is totally irresponsible.
Chris Adams said the Human Rights Complaint was "insulting" to the Thunder Bay Police Services. Now that's rich.
“We’re discouraged by the announcement of the complaint,” Adams said.
No doubt. Nobody likes being called racist on the world stage. There is a very simple remedy for that, of course... don't act like racists!
Other words bandied about by TBPS Chief Levesque, Chris Adams and Mayor Hobbs were "insulted" and "disappointed".
No, "insulted" is how the family of murder victim Adam Yellowhead feel. Get it right.
"Ashamed" would be a much better word for all three men to use... As in:
"We are collectively ashamed of the actions of one of our detectives and categorically apologize to the family of Adam Yellowhead for the insulting and apparently racist press release that was issued by the Thunder Bay Police Services. The detective responsible for this egregious error has been placed on unpaid administrative leave effective immediately pending the results of an independent inquiry into his actions."
See, were they to issue a press release like that I might actually believe they were serious about this incident.
They are not.
All three men have denied any racism, systemic or otherwise, and have gone as far as saying they're shocked that Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) would dare file a Human Rights Complaint against them.
All this does is prove these two men are thoroughly out of touch with reality and are, at worst, possibly covering up the very systemic racism they so vehemently deny exists.
“Whether the police say this is racial or not, its callous, cold and unprofessional and treats the victim and his family with disrespect. This is not how a police organization should be run,” said Chief Yellowhead.
The truth of the matter is a simple thing, really. Chief Yellowhead nailed it in a single sentence.
"This is not how a police organization should be run."
By refusing to face this simple and glaring truth, Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, Thunder Bay Police Services Chief J.P. Levesque and Thunder Bay Police executive officer Chris Adams only guarantee the divide between police and native community widens.
Chris Adams made the following statement, which serves only to cast more gasoline on the fire.
“We were working with NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) to try to find a suitable solution, understanding fully well that a media release that was sent out was inappropriate and probably caused a great deal of hurt to the Yellowhead family.”
"Probably"??? No, you were NOT working with "NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) to try to find a suitable solution"... you were working to find a way where you could do nothing and have this entire issue swept under the carpet. Only an unthinking moron could possibly use the word "probably" in this context.
Chris Adams is a disgrace, to be blunt.
Now as anyone who follows my writing knows all too well, I am no fan of Human Rights Commissions. This is one case, however, where their near-100% conviction rate would actually serve a purpose.
Were Thunder Bay Police Services Chief J.P. Levesque, Police executive officer Chris Adams and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs to actually admit they are wrong, it would go a long way toward repairing the relationship between the Thunder Bay Police Services and the community they allegedly serve.
If these men truly want to repair relations with NAN, they would be well advised to start by admitting their handling of this entire disgraceful affair has been.. well... a disgrace.
Will that happen?
Absolutely not. And that's a shame for all of Canada.