A policeman’s lot is not a happy one. Gilbert and Sullivan got that right. On the one hand, we expect the thin blue security blanket will keep our streets and homes safe, and maybe that expectation is unrealistic, considering all the sharks and other predators on the prowl these days.
On the other, we depend on police to model saint-like behaviour as they try to control crime, and whenever they go over the line or even come close to it, we all shriek in unison: “police brutality.”
As often as not, they go to all that trouble to arrest and charge the bad guys, who just laugh because they know some soft judge will put them back on the street to prey and prey again.
But whatever happens, we should be able to count on the boys and girls in blue to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Here in Vancouver, that’s not a sure thing.
Exhibit A: A recent photograph of newspaper photographer Jason Payne, held in an armlock by a Vancouver Police officer who was trying, successfully it turned out, to seize his camera, because he thought it captured pictures of officers shooting a man in the act of ramming a police car with a stolen truck.
To be clear: the officer manhandled a citizen and journalist and confiscated his property, even though the photographer had broken no laws and the officer had no warrant and had not made an arrest. The officer simply took the law into his own hands.
Coming after a number of high-profile incidents of police in Vancouver, er, upholding the law with extreme prejudice, including an all too similar incident when police seized the cellphone of a man who captured a fatal police shooting on a downtown street, you have to wonder what it is about?a camera?that brings out the worst in our city’s finest.
Then, of course, there’s the infamous Dziekanski incident, in which RCMP officers Tasered a confused Polish traveller for the crime of brandishing a stapler, then tried to confiscate the video evidence after the event. But it was too late. That video now stands as tragic witness to police allegedly abusing their power.
Apparently, police are having trouble deciding which threat to pursue, law breakers or picture takers.
Surely they know now that everyone over the age of four has a camera phone, it’s useless to try to stamp out video evidence. As in the Jason Payne case, there’s always a backup citizen journalist in the crowd.
So the police might as well just do their best in the full light of day. Then they never have to worry about ?who’s?photographing whom.