THE current tendency to bash police causes us to lose sight of the fact that the main reasons for having police forces is to solve crimes and protect law-abiding citizens from violence.
Police-bashing rose to a new level last fall, when the highest politician in the province — that being Premier Doug Ford — wrongfully suggested that the Ontario Provincial Police was in tatters and in desperate need of regime change.
Ford was ticked off because he couldn’t get his way over the assignment of OPP body guards; ultimately, his preference to have a family friend become the next OPP commissioner went nowhere.
And yet, while Ford fumed, literally thousands of front-line OPP officers did their jobs — seized huge amounts of illegal drugs from gang members, took numerous drunk drivers off provincial roads, recovered the bodies of those who had fallen into lakes, searched for missing people and so on, and so on. Many of these things were happening last week as Ford watched the Raptors win, and they happened last night as this newspaper was put to bed. They are happening right now.
Last week, a Toronto city councillor apologized for liking a “F---the police” tweet posted by a long-time critic of that city’s police force. The association representing Toronto police officers said the councillor, a former police board member no less, should have known better: matters involving police are often more complicated than they seem. An obvious point that is often overlooked.
As they head to work each day, Thunder Bay’s police officers are under a cloud of relentless criticism that their organization is inherently racist. While it goes without saying that racism should never be tolerated, it is simply not credible to suggest that every officer in a Thunder Bay Police Service uniform has an axe to grind, or a chip on his or her shoulder, when it comes to minorities, Indigenous people, or any person of colour.
Unfortunately, despite good intentions, this was the impression left in December by back-to-reports about Thunder Bay’s city police force by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission and Sen. Murray Sinclair.
Meanwhile, the crime is never-ending. Last week, city police effectively collared three rough customers from Toronto believed to be involved in the drug trade. A “high-risk” arrest near a doughnut shop in broad daylight determined the suspects were linked to a loaded hand-gun, which had been discarded but was later recovered.
The prevalence of drug and gang activity in the Lakehead and across Northwestern Ontario has become alarming; only police can deal with it, and shame on those in high office who crap on them while they’re trying to do a job that nobody else can or wants to do.
Yes, police officers are reasonably well paid, but let’s not kid ourselves: it is often the most difficult job one can imagine.
Also last week: Thunder Bay Police unveiled their use of DNA technology which produced a remarkable facial image of a possible suspect in the death 25 years ago of an infant that was found in a garbage bag. This is hardly a bumpkin force, as some of have assumed in the wake of the aforementioned reports.
And yet last week, the endless criticism continued, this time by way of a Canadian Press story that suggested the force overlooked other (read better) candidates from outside the city when it appointed veteran Thunder Bay officer Sylvie Hauth as its next chief.
To her credit, Thunder Bay Police Services Board chairwoman Celina Reitberger, who is Indigenous, defended Hauth, the force’s first female chief, as well as a career officer with a proven track record. It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, to have a police chief who knows the history and dynamics of her city well, as Hauth certainly does.
Racists on police forces everywhere should be weeded out; and officers who break the rules must face discipline or outright removal.
But constant police bashing can become a tiresome hobby that ignores and fails to appreciate the tough realities of what officers must contend with each and every day.