Watching the watchers - Metro US

Watching the watchers

It’s Ontario Crime Prevention Week. This year’s slogan is “Prevention Pays,” and an ounce of prevention might be worth a ton of cure.

Once a crime has been committed in Ottawa, after all, it seems it’s often too late. There was some embarrassment this spring over Statistics Canada figures that ranked our police force the worst in urban Ontario for solving crimes. Our “clearance rate” of crimes resolved either with criminal charges or otherwise was 31 per cent, which put us in 17th place out of 17 cities in Ontario with populations more than 100,000.

I’m not quite sure where such a metric fits with Ottawa’s image as a mecca for the “creative class,” the highly educated knowledge workers that urban theorist Richard Florida sees as key to economic productivity now and in the future.

In his most recent book, Florida singles out diverse, livable Ottawa as well-placed in the global competition for such brainpower, so perhaps our criminal class itself is more creative — think dashing gay cat burglars, downsized Nortel geeks turned elite hackers — and our poor cops don’t stand a chance?

It’s perhaps too easy to be a smartass about this. Policing is hard, dangerous work, and isolated mistakes are often given more attention than a job that’s well done most days.

Just this week in the Ottawa courts, for example, a judge chided officers for Tasering a woman they busted for drunk driving, and a man arrested for the murder of his wife on what appears to be flimsy evidence got the go-ahead to sue Ottawa Police Services.

At least when there are serious questions concerning the conduct of an Ottawa cop or OPP officer, the civilian Special Investigations Unit can step in and investigate.

Not so with the RCMP, which also makes its home here, and has proven woefully inadequate at policing itself in cases like that of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver airport after being Tasered, or Ian Bush, shot dead in RCMP custody. NDP MP Nathan Cullen has called for a civilian body to investigate such incidents.

Meanwhile, the auditor general warns that federal co-ordination of police and other emergency services is poor to non-existent, and National Defence headquarters says it wants to move its operations out of the downtown core for “security reasons.” One could be forgiven for assuming it was located in the middle of the capital in the first place for security reasons — ours.

Perhaps when it finds its new secure, undisclosed location, National Defence will let us visit. We’d like to be safe, too.

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