By James Breckenridge. Many people remain unclear what the big deal was when the emails of the APD about the homeless, made public by a Freedom of Information request by Pivot legal society, showed Chief Constable Bob Rich’s attitude, words and language in regards to the homeless were … shall we say less than professional?
People dismissed the emails as ‘police black humour’.
I am not about to argue that the use of black humour is not acceptable. We are human beings and as human beings black humour is a wellness tool for those such as firefighters, paramedics, ambulance attendants, police officers, emergency room doctors and nurses whose jobs are highly stressful; jobs that involve dealing with people under trying circumstances.
But Bob Rich is not simply a police officer – he is the Chief police officer in Abbotsford, a position of leadership. And leaders are held [or should hold themselves] to a higher standard of behaviour because leaders, especially of a police force, set not simply the tone and boundaries of behaviour but the ethos [the fundamental character of spirit that informs the customs and practices of a group].
Unless Bob Rich is held to, or holds himself to a higher standard, you end up with a force that is judgemental and feels free to act on its judgments and prejudices. You end up with a force of bullies; bullies who see nothing wrong in vandalizing the camps and belongings of the homeless.
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. – Norman Schwarzkopf
The problem with bullies, especially ones who feel their job grants them power to make demands of others, is that the bulling gets worse and expands to include more and more victims.
Bullying also leads to Leo Award, weapons grade Stupid behaviour. Ill-advised behaviour that leaves citizens wondering if officers use that bump between their shoulders for anything other than a hat rack or if perhaps the APD needs a visit to a proctologist and/or a colonoscopy to determine how many officers have their heads firmly inserted in their … fundament.
On a recent Thursday night on Gladys Avenue …
For over 5½ years in Boundary Park on Gladys Avenue [across the road from the MCC construction] an eclectic group of individuals has put on what was known as the Thursday Night BBQ, serving a meal to the hungry.
Over that period of time police officers had dropped by from time to time. Sometimes to see what was occurring and other times, knowing that you could find the homeless there, looking for someone; as happened recently when the police were seeking to find and transport to the hospital an individual who had been reported as suicidal.
With reasonableness on both sides, any issues were resolved via discussion and compromise.
But two weeks ago, weapons grade stupidity arrived in two APD vehicles; a car (614 WJP) and a SUV (0680).
Crossing Essendene heading south on Gladys Avenue I found those two APD vehicles sitting with their lights flashing blocking the south bound lane of Gladys. I had to carefully pull out and around the APD vehicles (it is dark by 5 PM these days) to proceed south on Gladys.
Thinking something serious must have happened, once past the APD vehicles I pulled over. As I was getting out of my car an APD officer approached and told me I had to park on the other side of the road and that the APD vehicles and officers were there because of a traffic hazard.
Let me state right now that yes, the west side of the road is signed no parking. It is the east side (the side where the MCC construction is taking place) that is signed for parking.
Let me also state that those who are bringing the supplies necessary to serve the meal are not parked at the edge of the road. Their vehicles are pulled completely off the road into the park.
There are always several vehicles parked (and pulled well over) along the no parking side of the road. Those who park on the ‘wrong’ side are mobility challenged [oxygen, walkers, canes, crutches etc] for whom parking on the ‘right’ side of the street and crossing would be both a hardship and a danger. People who would be a traffic hazard if they were crossing the street.
Five and half years with no one being hit; some drivers and dinners annoyed, but neither drivers nor dinners injured.
And while it is dark at this time of year by 5 PM, if you don’t notice the generator powered work-lights that brightly illuminate the food prep and serving area – you shouldn’t be driving.
These challenged officers were wandering around, leaving their vehicles completely blocking a lane of traffic and forcing drivers to carefully, slowly, safely, manoeuvre around the APD vehicles and officers.
As General Schwarzkopf noted character is the most important ingredient in leadership..
Which is why if Bob Rich is not capable of holding himself to a high standard of professional behaviour, the APD needs to find someone capable of holding themselves to the high standards and behaviours needed to provide leadership to a police department in this day and age.
Otherwise you end up with unprofessional officers who feel free to vandalize the belongings, harass, bully and violate the Charter Rights of those perceived as undesirables, as problems, as somehow less human and without any power to enforce their rights to be treated with dignity.
You end up with a force of officers who run around harassing people about traffic hazards when they, the APD officers and their vehicles, are the dangerous traffic hazard.