Posts Tagged ‘police’

Tickets Please – Or Else

April 18, 2008

Vancouver and British Columbia are gaining a reputation for having taser-happy cops.  Recent statistics show that you’re much more likely to be tasered in Western Canada than in the rest of the country.  BC has the highest number of taser incidents in the country, with over 500, followed by Alberta, with over 400.  The drop off to the next province is a steep one.  Ontario and Quebec, with larger populations, have had only a small fraction of those numbers.

By now, the Robert Dziekanski incident at Vancouver International Airport is world famous.  “Welcome to Canada.”  ZAP.  Maybe it’s something about transportation facilities that puts cops and security officers on edge, because now we’re finding out that Transit Police on the Skytrain are using them on people, too.  No, not on suspected terrorists.  Believe it or not, at least five fare dodgers have been tasered.  Fare dodgers!  Call me soft on crime, if you must, but that strikes me as rather harsh.

Just how they justify tasering fare dodgers is beyond me.  How great a threat do they really  represent?  If that doesn’t demonstrate that tasers are being used as a first response rather than a final measure for potentially dangerous assailants, what does?  This is just lazy policing, at best.  “I can’t be bothered wrestling him to the ground, so I’ll just zap ‘im.”  Maybe it’s worse.  Maybe it’s, “I can get away with zappin’ ‘im cuz he tried to get away”.  Give some people a uniform…

There are supposed to be guidelines for the use of these things.  The RCMP and local police forces like the VPD are supposed to have policies, anyway.  The transit police aren’t real police, though.  Who knows what policies and guidelines they have, if any?  They’ve been accused of using excessive force in the past, even before they started carrying tasers.

I don’t know if there are provincial or national guidelines governing all use of tasers.  If there aren’t, there should be.  News reports about the statistics seem to indicate that there are.  If those rules do exist, they need to be enforced.  Otherwise, we’ll have cops and pseudo-cops tasering anyone they like, for whatever reason – or just because they can.

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Death of the Cool

February 2, 2008

A few nights ago I was walking through the cold, wet streets in the area of downtown that straddles the shiny business district to the west and the grotty downtown eastside.  This is the area around Cambie Street.

A guy started following me and called after me.  I knew I didn’t want to know.  I kept walking.  He kept calling and following.  I kept walking. When he called for the fourth time, I finally turned and said, “What?”  He asked if I wanted to buy any weed.  “No!”, I snapped.

He’d followed me for two blocks.  Two blocks!  What kind of asshole follows someone at night for two blocks trying to sell him drugs he hasn’t expressed any interest in?  Remember when grass used to be ‘cool’?  We’ve come a long way since Kerouac.

This is nothing compared to what you’ll encounter just a few blocks to the east.  After walking past people shooting up in the street, when you reach the corner the twenty or so humanoids standing there ask you in series if you want rock.  You say, “No” to the first then the next one asks, despite being only three feet away.  They couldn’t have not heard you say “no”.  Then the next one, another two or three feet away,  asks.  All this happens in broad daylight, even in plain view of the police station.

Returning to the dealer over on Cambie, even if I had been looking, what should I think about his product if he has to chase me through the streets to push it?  Be cool, crusty, be cool.  I know it’s a lot to ask…

The area attracts a certain type due to the presence of various organizations and businesses promoting the legality and use of marijuana.  One of them is the aptly named Amsterdam Cafe, just around the corner from where Crusty McDusty finally realized I wasn’t shopping; an oasis of indulgence where customers smoke joints and pipes despite a smoking ban in public places.  Cigarette smokers in bars have to step outside, but an aromatic cloud hovers over Amsterdam.

Is there a connection between the intrepid bush pusher and the ‘cool’ people at the cafe?  He didn’t seem smart enough to be in business for himself.  Then again, how smart do you have to be to figure out that if the crack and scag dealers can get away with selling under the cops’ noses, a grass mover is probably safe enough?

Meanwhile, the gangsters fighting over the BC bud industry are shooting each other in restaurants, cars, and homes.  Innocent people have been killed in the crossfire.  Connect the dots.

Eating Out Is Getting Dangerous

February 1, 2008

There is a gangland style killing for every wallet.  It doesn’t matter where you eat or socialize, you may be a witness to – or victim of – the latest episode in the gang wars that have broken out in greater Vancouver.  These killings could have been lifted straight out of the movies or the Sopranos finale.

A few months ago, just four blocks from my home, gunmen walked into a Chinese restaurant on East Broadway, approached a table, and opened up.  Two people were killed and others were wounded, including young girls.  I assume they were the girlfriends.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve passed that restaurant.  I used to be a regular customer at a bakery directly opposite it, before it closed, and have used the bus stop outside the former bakery many times.  The bullet hole in the window of the restaurant is enough to make you think about the possibility of innocent victims of stray bullets.

A few weeks later, gunmen fired shots through the window of a more upmarket restaurant on West 4th.  It has a reputation as one of the more romantic restaurants in town, I believe, but love wasn’t in the air that night.  A known gangster was killed.  It was only by luck that no one was killed by stray bullets, again.

A few weeks ago, a man with a past was gunned down outside a well known downtown steak house that’s so expensive I had to win a contest to eat there the one time I did.  It happened in full view of other diners inside, including the rest of his party who were waiting for him.

It doesn’t seem to matter where you go or how much you can afford to spend, there’s no guarantee you can escape it.  You’re not safe anywhere.

What are restaurants supposed to do – screen customers to keep out the targets?  How?  Should they ask customers, “Are you now, or have you ever been, involved with a criminal gang?”  I don’t think they’ll volunteer that information.

There is talk of the police working with restaurants as they did with nightclubs.  They visited the clubs, identified known criminals, and made it clear they were not wanted there.  I don’t know how they’ll adapt that to restaurants.  There are a lot more restaurants than nightclubs.  Maybe they’ll just distribute names and pictures of criminals so the restaurants can refuse entry.  That would take a pretty brave Maitre d’.

Whatever they do, I hope it works.

The Nuts Are Out

January 10, 2008

As convenient as online banking is, there is still the odd occasion when you have to go to the actual bricks-and-mortar bank and deal with an actual person.  One such occasion occurred the other day.  I set out, cheque in pocket.

Walking along Broadway, I heard a car horn and shouting.  I looked up the street and saw a drunk, stoned, or maybe just crazy guy in the middle of the road, in front of a stationary pickup or SUV that was blocking the intersection.  As I approached, I got a better look at the guy in the road.  He was wearing an old light blue parka style coat.  As I passed them, I got a better look at him than I wanted.  The moon was out early that afternoon…  Beneath the coat, his pants were hanging below his ass.  Apparently, he doesn’t dress in layers for the winter.  A siren blasted and an unmarked police car appeared out of nowhere.  I guess that’s why they’re unmarked, no?

Continuing along Broadway, I heard another siren blast.  I turned to see two women getting out of the unmarked police car and another unmarked car pulling up from the opposite direction, followed by a police cruiser.  A pretty impressive display of force for a guy whose pants were falling down.  I felt safer already.

After doing a good deed at the bank that caused me to wait far longer than necessary and, therefore, to begin to regret my own niceness, I headed back the same way.  One of those square police vans for prisoners – a modern version of the old paddy wagon, I guess – had joined the other three vehicles.  The guy was surrounded by cops.  I thought they were searching or cuffing him but, as I passed, I saw they were trying to keep his pants up.  One of the women grinned good humouredly as she put some kind of belt on him and told him that should hold them up.  She must have thought, “This isn’t what I signed up for”, before the pants were up.  I wonder who drew the short straw.

And not a taser in sight.