“Safety” as a strategy to defeat our legal protections

It seems to me that more and more of our rights and freedoms are being compromised because of ‘safety’.

“Officer safety” played a large part in the ghastly G20 exhibition almost two years ago, with the police abandoning the streets to protesters who vandalised businesses and destroyed police cruisers. The police then came out in force the next day to arrest and hold hundreds of innocent citizens, the majority of whom were released without being charged.  The results of Mr. Justice Morden’s inquiry should be out later this month.

In Chicago last year, the police were ordered to pay substantial damages for shooting a family pet during a home raid after the occupant had offered to lock the dog up prior to the police entering the residence. The officers claimed to have been “protecting themselves”. See “Pet killed in the name of officer safety” below.

And now we have a particularly unpleasant case in which an innocent man was briefly locked up, and his pregnant wife and children hauled off down to the police station and interrogated – all because his pre-school daughter doodled a drawing of her daddy holding a gun to shoot “bad guys and monsters”.  All for the child’s “safety”, of course.

A man died in Toronto recently when an ambulance crew refused to attend to a patient having a heart attack because – guess what! – they were afraid for their safety. We should get the answers to that pretty soon, and I don’t doubt that there will be a major shake-up.

The police receive substantial extra pay in recognition of the dangers we expect them to face, and I suggested to the G20 Inquiry that we should consider ending that extra pay because the police clearly have no qualms about walking away from situations requiring their prompt attention.

I fear we could be “safetied” to death if we allow this arrogant and self-serving mind-set to continue.

Jeff Goodall.

‘Gun’ fiasco inexcusable

Toronto Sun
Editorial: March 3rd, 2011

Contrary to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s attempts to smooth things over, the arrest and strip search of a young Kitchener father because his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun at school is not a “teaching moment.”

It’s an example of bureaucratic stupidity and of self-described “professionals” displaying a profound lack of good judgment and common sense.

Asked about this now-notorious incident, McGuinty sounded as if he wanted everyone to have a group hug and sing “Kumbaya.”

Rather than stating the obvious, that it should never have happened, McGuinty waxed philosophic, saying: “While it may be difficult for this individual (the father, Jesse Sansone), and I can understand that, it’s an opportunity maybe to engage ourselves in a very important conversation about where do we draw the lines in those kinds of things.”

Actually, it isn’t because the line here was crossed.

A child draws a picture of a gun, telling her teacher her daddy uses it “to shoot bad guys and monsters” and police arrest him outside the school, handcuff him, strip search him and tell him he’s under arrest for possession of a firearm?

His pregnant wife and three other children are hauled down to the station, where the kids are interrogated?

The whole mess is only resolved when the father allows the police to search his home, without a warrant, and all they find is a toy plastic gun, not surprising since he doesn’t own any firearms and has never been convicted of a firearms offence.

And the child’s drawing that started it all? Erased. Odd, since it was considered serious enough to kick off this bizarre chain of events.

What happened here was clearly a case of broken telephone where, between what the child told the teacher, the school told child welfare and child welfare told the police, things got completely out of hand.

Throw in a school board official saying it’s the job of educators to “co-parent” kids and you can see the underlying attitudes that led to this incident going south in a hurry.

Granted, schools are in a difficult position given their legal obligation to report any suspicion of a child being in danger.

But even assuming the teacher felt obligated to report, child welfare authorities and police are professionals, who are supposed to be able to apply good judgment and common sense to what they hear, which was clearly lacking in this incident.

Whether anyone formally apologizes to the family — which would be nice — isn’t the real issue.

All the authorities involved in this mess need to thoroughly review the “procedures” they keep defending, in order to understand how they made such a botch of things and how to avoid doing it again.

And since the province was instrumental in setting up the whole reporting process, McGuinty should do the same.

See original here.

See “Pet killed in the name of officer safety” (August 21st, 2011) here.

See my “Police Killings, Violence, Intimidation, Abuse” category archive here.