Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Archive for July 2006

The public deserves the truth about crime

with one comment

In a story in the Vancouver Sun (Crime stories frighten public – Monday, July 31st, 2006) the RCMP Communications section has authored a memo suggesting the police should be releasing less info to the media because too many crime stories on the front pages frighten the public.

Given that the Lower Mainland leads the continent in property crimes and organized crime marches on virtually unimpeded, perhaps the public should be a little afraid.

The other amusing part is the suggestion that the RCMP is being too free with information. As a former member of the Force, where even member to member information sharing is frowned upon, the concept that the RCMP gives out too much information toppled my gyros.

But I digress.

For years the police have always distrusted the media and for the most part, vice versa. That is not to say those considered positions of mistrust were misplaced. One only has to look at the actions of CTV during the Graham McMynn kidnapping to understand why the police mistrust the media.

But, having said that, it seems to me that those types of situations could be avoided if the police worked harder to foster better relations with the media. The suggestion by this report obtained by The Vancouver Sun flies in the face of that aim.

At the end of the day, the police represent the public and do what they do in our name. How is it therefore responsible to keep us in the dark because the truth might frighten some readers?

I can almost see Jack Nicholson in Red Serge screaming, “The truth! You can’t handle the truth.”

I would suggest the vast majority of the public, though they may not like the stories telling them what is happening to their neighbourhoods, can certainly handle the truth. Indeed, with property crime running rampant, is it not malfeasant to not advise them? How can people take steps to protect themselves if they cannot appreciate the nature of the threat?

Anyone who does not have their head planted firmly in the sand – and those from StatsCan – instinctively knows crime is rising and the justice system seems powerless to protect the citizenry from becoming a victim.

(As a side note, readers should check out Scott Newark’s examination of the question of crime rates and the fudging of the numbers to delude the population. It is featured on the Contributing Writers section of Prime Time Crime.)

Equally, it seems to me that since the police are trying to do so much more with less, doesn’t it make sense to keep the public very much in the loop with what is happening on our streets? After all, the only way to get the attention of the politicians who allocate tax dollars is to have them think the public really cares about something. Educating the public to the reality of rising crime in our cities and towns is just the sort of thing that might get people angry enough to phone their MP or MLA demanding action.

Crime is a major problem in this country. Trying to shield the public from the fact is not the right way to go. It’s not the crime stories that frighten the public, it is crime itself.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

July 31, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Things the Police would like you to know

with 4 comments

A few years back I wrote a column entitled A few simple rules to live by. It contained some common sense rules devised by a California Assistant District Attorney called “How not to get shot by Police.”

A retired VPD member, Mike Windle, sent me another common sense list put together by an American street cop. It was too good not to share.


Your 5 year old kid getting pushed down by another 5 year old kid is NOT a police matter; talk to the other kid’s parents, not the police.

If your kid won’t do his homework or do his chores, 911 is not the answer.

If a cop causes a car accident we usually get a ticket, and sometimes we get suspended. When is the last time you got 3 days off (without pay) for rear-ending a guy at Wal-Mart?

We know you’ve had more than two beers. When I’ve had two beers, I didn’t hit six parked cars, drive my car through the front doors of a Toys-R-Us, pee my pants or pass out at a traffic light.

When you see an emergency vehicle behind you with its lights and sirens on, pull to the RIGHT, and stop. We are usually required to pass cars on the left.

When you’re driving in the fast lane and you see a cop behind you, don’t go 5 MPH under the speed limit. We are not impressed by how safe of a driver you can be, we’re trying to go help someone (or catch that guy in the SUV that just cut you off). Safely move over and let us pass please.

If you get a warning instead of a ticket from a motorcycle cop, go buy a lottery ticket, because you’ve already beaten the odds.

When you see an officer conducting a traffic stop, or with a suspect in handcuffs, it is generally not a good idea to approach him and ask for directions. If you do, don’t expect the officer to be nice when he tells you to get lost, and don’t expect the officer to take the time to explain.

Here’s how to get out of a ticket. Don’t break the law.

If you drive a piece of crap, that is why you’re getting pulled over.

In one week I pulled over 10 cars for minor traffic violations. 5 out of 10 had no vehicle insurance. 3 out of 10 had suspended driver’s licenses. 2 out of 10 had warrants. 1 out of 10 had felony warrants. 1 was a known sex offender with his 12 year old niece in the car without her mothers knowledge.

If you’ve just been pulled over doing 70 in a 35, do not greet the officer with, “What seems to be the problem, officer?”

We get coffee breaks too.

When you’re the victim of a burglary, take the time you spend waiting for the officer to find the model number and the serial number of the stuff that was taken.

Some cops are just jerks, but take heart in the fact that other cops don’t like them either.

If it’s nighttime and you’re driving a vehicle with tinted windows and I pull you over, it’s not because of your skin color. I usually can’t tell if the vehicle even has a driver until the windows rolled down.

Every time you hear on the news about people running away from a crazed gunman, someone’s son or daughter in a police uniform is running TOWARD that crazed gunman.

Yes, it’s true, cops usually don’t give other cops tickets. Think of it as an employee discount, perk or benefit. Other cops are family and you wouldn’t give your brother a ticket if you were a cop either.

If your local police agency has a helicopter, everyone knows it’s loud and annoying, but did you know it can cover the same area as 20 patrol officers and safely chase criminals that are driving 90 MPH through city streets. Many times the guy has no idea it’s there and slows down.

Police work is…. writing reports.

If you rob a gas station you’re only going to get about $100, but I get to see a K9 dog use your arm as a chew toy. For all I care you can keep the $100.

In one year of patrol work in a large city, only about ten minutes would be cool enough to be on the television show Cops.

Every traffic stop could end in gunfire, but we have to be polite and professional until that time.

I’ve taken about the same amount of men and women to jail for domestic violence, so NO, it’s not always the man.

People love fire fighters.

If the light was yellow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Cops know you pay taxes and that your taxes pay cops’ salaries. Cops also pay taxes, which also pay cops’ salaries so, hey, this traffic stop is on me. Now sign here; press hard. There are four copies.

Police Officers…our job is to protect your butt, not kiss it.


Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

July 25, 2006 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment