Tag Archives: police state

VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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From Police to Police State

You would think with the eye on the RCMP over the Dziekanski inquiry, that both RCMP and city police would be on better behavior in Greater Vancouver. Note that some municipalities use a local police force while others use the RCMP.

Now, granted there have been a helluva lot of gang shootings to date, with at least 18 dead so far, so probably the police are a little jumpy. And we already know based on testimony by the four very fit RCMP officers who taser Robert Dziekanski to death that they’ll take raised hands or a desk stapler as a threat of deadly force and use it in kind. Oh and that they didn’t panic. These guys might have looked better if they said they had panicked but that they were cool and calculating about taking down an unarmed man and tasering him four more times while he writhed in pain is even more scary.

So, just maybe everyone wants to use caution more. Police once upon a time used to be trained in ways to take a person down using just their hands. And if the criminal was carrying a dangerous weapon, well disarm them. Shoot to kill was the last resort. However, that’s now changed and shoot to kill, ask questions later is the order of the day.

In March a homeless man was approached by police for stealing from a car. Later it turns out he wasn’t the thief but he supposedly advanced on them wielding an X-acto knife. Now it could be the police havexacto1 misnamed it but many X-acto knives are tiny, with a wedge-shaped blade of about an inch. They are very sharp and potentially lethal at close range. You’d have to get very close and personal to inflict damage. This image of a range of X-acto blades was taken from www.dickblick.com with the most common being the triangular shape.

So the police shot the guy in the stomach and killed him. Sure it was two women police officers and maybe they were scared. But they could have backed up, I think. And why couldn’t they shoot the guy in the arm or the leg, thereby giving him a lot of pain and disabling him from advancing? There was no need to shoot him in the stomach. Were they bad aims. Or was the X-acto blade much larger and being hurled at them?

On April 5th the police shot a guy in a Ford F350 truck who was allegedly stealing it. It seems that when they tried to block the truck the guy gunned it at the police car. The police shot at him, one shot, and wounded him. The car thief is expected to recover. In this case most people agree the police had a right to shoot. I doubt they had time to react with more than that with the truck coming at them. And it’s pretty hard to shoot to disable when someone is sitting in a vehicle with tinted glass. They could have tried to shoot out the tires but at that point it was probably not obvious what the guy had planned. I should note here that in Vancouver, up until recently it’s extremely rare that a police officer would shoot anyone. Once a year is more often than normal.

So we’ve had two shootings in four months. Not to mention the three off-duty cops that beat up and robbed a delivery driver. Sure, they’re the exception and yahoos from three different cities. But what this all points to is that there is a perceived image that the police forces (municipal and RCMP) are out of control. Police departments need to take a proactive stance and see if their training is adequate. As well, training needs to start with immobilizing a threat in the safest way possible to everyone. That means trying to take down a person with minimal physical violence, moving from  hands to taser to guns only when lives are threatened. That means not a perceived threat as the RCMP somehow saw in an office stapler. A deadly threat means being shot at or run down.

These departments also need to look at who they’re hiring. Bigoted, snobby and racist police will be more likely to prejudice a situation with their perspectives. What suitability tests are run on these candidates to ensure they stay calm, level-headed, use reasoning to assess a situation and don’t let prejudices get in their way. (I won’t do more than mention the many women of the downtown East side who disappeared over the years withouth the police doing anything because the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.) They need to have some basic psychology and counselling courses and learn how to verbally diffuse a situation as well.

I’m not saying all police are bad and they have a tough job. Some are probably nervous with all the shootings. But I do think a reassessment of training procedures is in order. We’d like to know that the next time we lift up a piece of paper or even give a cop the finger that we won’t be shot for it. Otherwise, we’ll probably all tow the line as we move into a police state of mind.

An addendum to yesterday’s post: With all three incidences mentioned above, the police have confiscated video or film taken at the scene. At the shooting of the homeless man, the police went through the guy’s phone and he said they erased the footage of the shooting. We all know what happened with the footage from the Dziekanski tasering. With this last one, they manhandled and threatened to arrest a newspaper photographer if he didn’t relinguish his camera. There is a disturbing trend towards the erosion of our civil liberties and the police taking, tampering or trying to hide evidence of questionable investigations. Even if they haven’t tampered they are giving the impression by confiscating materials in such a way. And if we don’t have freedom of the press, we don’t have checks and balances. Again, retraining seems to be needed here.

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