Reading this article and especially the comments made me think about where I really stand on the issues of (alleged) excessive force (assault) by police, police, removing or obscuring their badge numbers, arresting peaceful protestors (allegedly) unnecessarily, etc.
Commenters seem to take polar opposite views, either totally supporting or totally opposing police. I do not share either of those extreme views, but perhaps my view will be considered even more extreme:
I think police officers and their unions should encourage their misbehaving colleagues to come clean and turn themselves in, and support them in doing so.
(Is that sarcastic laughter I hear? Hear me out.)
Sometimes we hear that police get frustrated because people with knowledge of crimes will not speak up. Well, this is the same thing: Police won't speak up about crimes of their fellow officers. Every time an officer keeps quiet, an injustice is done by those we depend on for justice, and another piece of the public trust is lost. How would police do their jobs if the public didn't help and support them by reporting crimes and criminals? Police jobs would become increasingly difficult and dangerous and crime rates would increase.
But why would the public help if police repeatedly arrest innocent people, use excessive force on arrestees - ie beat them up - and then lie about it, and cover up for each other, all lying to the public and the justice system? How is that any different, any more excusable than anybody who assaults any person and then he and his whole community lie about it? In my opinion, it is no different, except that the crimes of the officers are much more egregious because they are paid by the public to 'serve and protect' the public. That's called biting the hand that feeds you, never wise, and in fact these are crimes against democracy committed by protectors of democracy.
In the olden days, before cell phones with video cameras were everywhere, and videos and blog reports were not posted and available worldwide within seconds, back in the innocent (or fearful?) times when the police could easily cover up misbehaviour, the public could also turn a blind eye. Back then, 'nice Canadians' did not protest in the streets, just "union thugs" and "communists" did that. Well, that all changed starting in the 1960's when ordinary, even revered people took to the streets to improve democracy by fighting segregation and racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., protesting wars of aggression, cuts to social services, unfair labour practices, and a variety of human rights and other issues. I walked beside church ministers, social workers, nurses, reporters, teachers, steelworkers, office workers, farmers, university students and professors. The police have learned some lessons about policing democratic protests, but the traditional 'old boys' police culture has not changed fast enough to keep up, and now technology and savvy citizens are exposing the ugly underbelly of policing, where officers are criminals and cover up for criminal officers.
The exposure will ultimately be a good thing, cleansing the forces of officers who commit and cover up crimes, and depend on those methods to 'get their man'. Before that cleansing can occur, however, Police Commissions, the Brass and every officer will have to commit themselves to changing the secrecy culture that hides criminals among their ranks.
No matter what your job is, few people want to squeal on coworkers. However, some people might, for the protection of others, privately confront a colleague with the information, expect them to change, and support them through a change in behaviour. That's what I expect police and their unions to do, to police themselves, to uphold high standards for policing, and to be accountable to the public for both their actions and their truthfulness.
As police tell criminals and witnesses, it is in their best interests to be cooperative, tell the whole story, and the police and courts may be more lenient. The same applies to police: If those guilty of bad behaviour and those who know about it come clean, learn lessons and reform, the public will be more forgiving and policing will be more effective, with better public trust in officers.
When police attempt to incite riots to shut down peaceful protests, as the Surete Quebec did at the 2002 Summit of the Americas, when police bludgeon grandmotherly unionists/public employees as the OPP did at Queens Park in 1997, when police randomly attack people without cause as Toronto Police did to OCAP protesters at Queens Park in 2000, or when they detain (in the rain), violently attack or arrest over 1000 peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders, as during the G20 in Toronto 2010 ... then we have a violent police state. When people are afraid to associate, assemble, or speak freely in public for fear of police/state violence against them, then democracy and democratic freedom no longer exist in Canada.
We need a full judicial national inquiry into police actions at the G20 to fully expose those actions, including AND ESPECIALLY a thorough investigation of the entire chain of command: Toronto Police Services (the chosen fall guys?), OPP, RCMP, CSIS, and the PMO.
Would 90 (or more?) police officers independently and spontaneously hide their identities without sanction of superior officers?
I doubt it.
Would superior officers give such instructions without sanction from other authorities?
I doubt that too.
In fact, this whole thing stinks of rot at the top, not hard to imagine with a 'government' already known to be a one man show by a man who thus undermines our democracy and openly despises human rights . The violations of Charter rights at the Toronto 2010 G20 protests need to be investigated individually, and also as an orchestrated event.
If police officers on the street want to regain the trust of the public that they need to do their jobs, and protect democracy as is their job, they and their unions will support each other in telling the WHOLE truth.