Cop shop stop

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Absolutely unacceptable.

An investigation into an allegation of police brutality in Toronto has run into a roadblock: the unit charged with looking into police misbehavior is being told it can’t have a copy of the original complaint (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1310403--dimanno-toronto-police-chief-bill-blair-needs-to-take-the-lead) .

There’s not much more to the story, really. Sure, the cops are giving excuses about who owns the report, and who can surrender it to investigators. But let’s not kid ourselves: this is classic bureaucratic obfuscation, and a grotesquely transparent attempt by a police force to protect itself.

The mayor should tell the chief of police to produce the report within 24-hours or look for a new job.

Now a minor thing, some might argue nitpicky.

I dropped by the Amherst police station, housed in the Four Fathers Memorial Library, over the holidays. I was there on newspaper business, driving the company car and with a camera bag slung over my shoulder. The main doors were closed and locked. The station keeps the same public hours as the library – one of the inconveniences of the temporary location. I get that.

So I went to the back door and knocked and waited. No response. I needed a photo, so I proceeded to take a few pictures of the lined up police cars. Still no response. Just me and the cars in the cold parking lot. So I went back around to the front door and knocked again. Then I noticed a security camera, one of those little plastic bubbles affording a wide view. I waved and waited. And waited.

I got into the company car and drove it over by the front entrance. Now the name of the newspaper was clearly visible. I got out of the car, went to the security camera and waved again. No response.

I left without making contact with the police.

“Well, the hours are limited,” some might argue.

“It’s not their fault – they’ve been stuck on the second floor of a public library,” others may say.

But there’s the thing. It’s one thing to have a station that isn’t open for regular business. It’s another to have a station that is completely unresponsive.

Would an officer appear in off-hours if someone staggered to the door shot seven times? What if a victim of crime fled to that spot seeking help – would any help appear?

And what about security? The APD wants a state-of-the-art facility built; doubts have been expressed that the old town hall can be affordably transformed into a police station. But presumably one of the big expenses of a modern police station is making it ‘hardened’ – secure against everything from spit balls to pipe bombs.

Question: Doesn’t it damage the APD’s case for a hardened, specially constructed police station – an expensive facility that’s ‘necessary’ for modern policing – when the most basic precautions to protect a vulnerable temporary station are apparently not being taken? If bullet-proof this and bomb-proof that are necessary in Amherst, then isn’t keeping an eye on a security camera important?

There may not be a problem here at all. Perhaps I was being watched the entire time and they simply didn’t consider talking to a newspaper reporter a priority. If I’d been a newspaper reporter with a gushing head wound, maybe they would have been right on it. Still, it does make you wonder…

UPDATE: Just got back from a lunch-time walk, during which I pondered this post. I think fairness requires me to acknowledge there could be circumstances I have not mentioned which would explain a non-response. Perhaps a camera monitor was briefly engaged in handling an emergency. Maybe the police haven't got permission to monitor the outside of the library. There would be others. Their fault or not, though, they should know what's taking place right outside their doors. (To all the conspiracy theorists, no, the cops didn't contact me about this post and ask me to add to it.)

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