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When the police aren’t the good guys anymore [editorial]

Author: 
Windspeaker Staff
Volume: 
30
Issue: 
12
Year: 
2013

It’s been a few years of increasingly disturbing news and, from all that we’ve learned during this time, we can safely conclude that many of the police services in this country have lost their moral bearings; they have lost their humanity; and lost perspective on what is right and good, which is, at its core, the most important thing of all.

When a mother calls the police station to report that her 18-year-old daughter has been battered, is the correct response from law enforcement to pick the wounded child up and throw her in cells? And when that girl reveals that she has been raped, is the response to keep her in cells for five days? That’s what happened in Edmonton in mid-February. The young woman was ‘bloodied and bruised’ and missing a front tooth when the Edmonton Police Service retrieved her from a downtown motel where ‘friends’ beat and sexually assaulted her.

Not even the rape kit necessary to collect evidence against her assailants was done until days later. She slept in a wildly overcrowded remand centre on the floor, no counselor to help her through the trauma of the experience, no one to patch her up; to treat her bleeding.

Where is the compassion that should have been afforded this girl?

She had an old warrant from her days as a minor, you see. She hadn’t done her community service. Hadn’t written a letter of apology. How does that trump investigating a violent crime against her? It doesn’t, or, at least, it shouldn’t. All her suffering was exacerbated by the EPS’s blindness to their responsibility to her; a victim in that moment, not an offender.

EPS said the girl never told police she had been raped until days after she had been arrested, yet, their response was to keep her locked up. EPS says that proper police process was followed. They are investigating… they, the EPS themselves. Sorry, but unless a truly independent investigation of this incident is done, we will remain suspicious.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network talked with the woman’s lawyer. He will be filing a complaint on her behalf regarding the treatment she received, he said.

We are saying, however, a complaint is just not enough. The inhumanity of the treatment of this young woman by police is altogether appalling, and, we are beginning to understand, it’s indicative of law enforcement’s treatment of Native women in many parts of the country.

Human Rights Watch, a New York based organization, levels against the RCMP in northern British Columbia the charges of brutality, rape and intimidation of Native women.

Two researchers spent time in communities along the Highway of Tears—Prince George to Prince Rupert, so-called because of the many girls to have gone missing along this route—to hear claims of mistreatment at the hands Canada’s police force. They heard stories about police pepper-spraying and tasering young girls, of women being strip-searched by male officers, aggressive behavior and insensitivity to victims.

The newspaper The National Post has said some of the claims in the Rights Watch report, entitled Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, ‘strain credulity.’ We say, not looked at through this lens of Edmonton. Not in light of the tasering of an 11-year-old child in a care home in Prince George.

Mary-Ellen Turpel-LaFond, BC’s Representative for Children and Youth, reported on the Prince George youth tasering incident in February as well. “This case is among the most difficult we’ve reported on,” reads her press statement on the release of Who Protected Him? How B.C.’s Child Welfare System Failed One of its Most Vulnerable Children.

The taser seems to be a very favorite weapon in the RCMPs arsenal still, even since the 2007 Vancouver Airport taser killing of Robert Dziekanski. And if a police force is willing to deploy a taser on a child with special needs, as they did in Prince George, we can fully believe that tasering young Native girls would not be out of the realm of possibility.

It’s easy to criticize, we know, from a soft, cushy armchair far away from the drama and tensions of the street, but evidence continues to mount that something is severely off the rails with the protection we expect from law enforcement agencies in this country. They are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the bullies and the bad guys.

It’s time to get a real look behind this wall of blue. Have the courage Canada to get to the bottom of this seemingly endless abusive behavior.
Windspeaker

 

Editor's Note:
In this editorial we commented on the arrest of a young woman in Edmonton who had been sexually assaulted and taken into custody for not completing her community service. At the time, claims were made by the woman’s lawyer, her social worker, and in at least two interviews with the woman that she had been mistreated by the Edmonton police service. Her lawyer and social worker have since apologized to the service because the allegations that she reported the sexual assault to the police at the time of the arrest have not been substantiated.

“I acknowledge that as a result Edmonton Police Service was caused embarrassment,” wrote the social worker in his blog. We needed our readers to know this, because we made quite a stink about this issue ourselves and we think the EPS deserves to have this misinformation cleared up in our community of readers.

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