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Monday, September 29, 2008

Editorial: VPD should investigate neck wounds

September 29, 2008
The Province

The official police report on any given incident requiring police attention is an incredibly important document. It carries tremendous weight in determining the course of action for the Crown and/or other agencies, such as social services.

The expectation is that the veracity of the police report must be beyond question. In other words, that report must be an honest, accurate and thorough account of the incident as seen and interpreted by the police officer.

Anything short of that is an affront to a just society.

Given the physical evidence, it would be wise of the Vancouver Police Department to pay immediate attention to the report that followed the Tasering of a 16-year-old teenage mother last Monday.

VPD Const. Jana McGuinness told a news conference Friday that officers touched the slight teenager twice with Tasers -- once on the arm and once on the back. The teenager who received the thousands of volts of electric shock claimed she was zapped twice on the neck. Pictures taken by Province photographer Ric Ernst appear to support that claim.

Knowing the optics of Tasering a distraught young mother holding her child would not be that good, it would be an appalling betrayal of duty if a police officer falsely reported the incident as a way of minimizing public outcry.

Earlier this year, as a number of perjury charges were tried against Canadian police officers, James Morton, a Toronto lawyer and adjunct professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, offered the following to a Canadian Press reporter in January: "I have not seen this many examples of perjury charges brought against police officers. I don't think this means that police are lying more than they used to. It used to be that people just didn't believe policemen would lie. That sort of restriction has disappeared now." The Canadian Press story went on to report: Though it's historically rare to see perjury charges against police, it has long been a cultural problem, said Frank Addario, president of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers' Association.

"I think it's a constant problem. The police get corrupted because they think the cause they're working for is noble and righteous, and therefore it's OK to shade the truth because the defendant is a slime bucket." In order for the Canadian justice system to work, the police have to tell the truth -- on the stand and in their official reports.

If the police report of last Monday's Tasering incident says the teenage mother was struck once on the back and once on the arm, then, given the evidence to the contrary, someone ought to investigate the veracity of that claim. If it turns out the neck wounds are not Taser burns, that would be welcome information for the record.

If the report says nothing about where the teenager was zapped, then Const. McGuinness should not be relaying hearsay at news conferences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is North American society in decline? It's a proposition that would seem to be difficult to argue against. If so, then are tasers (and Taser) actually contributing to that decline? It sure seems like it.