By Mike Archer. The headlines say it all. The Abbotsford Police Department appears not only to be out of control it seems to have been that way a long time.
Abbotsford residents have faced a growing barrage of disturbing headlines about the way the city’s power struccture has been behaving over the last several years.
And now this:
- Judge calls Abbotsford police ‘a place time forgot’, CBC News, December 5, 2013
- Abbotsford police take steps to reclaim respect, Vancouver Sun, Dec 6, 2013
Abbotsford Today first called for Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich’s resignation last summer when emails, revealed on Today, demonstrated what we said were unacceptable levels of contempt for the homeless on the part of Rich and his senior subordinates.
We called the revelations damning evidence of a culture and tone set by Rich which was inappropriate for a Canadian city in the 21st century. It now appears a justice of the Supreme Court of BC has similar things to say about the police force Bob Rich has given his friends and neighbours in Abbotsford
The months since that call for Rich’s resignation have not been kind to the Chief or the battered reputation of his department. Here’s what what has been revealed in the last few months:
- Denying a paraplegic his wheelchair, his medication or the ability to go to the bathroom
- Using pepper spray on the tents of homeless people
- Destroying property belonging to homeless people
- Using a ‘displace and disperse’ policy to deal with the homeless and the addicted
- Charges being thrown out of court due to improperly collected evidence
- Accusations of professional misconduct
- Demeaning and derogatory emails discussing the homeless and the June 4, 2013 Abbotsford Chicken Manure incident
The APD requires more than a review or a day’s worth of sensitivity training. The chatty, friendly banter at the catered social events which pass for Police Board meetings in Abbotsford have to be held in a proper public forum so that citizens can ensure it begins to deal with the very serious troubles the department faces.
The crowded boardroom on the second floor of the police department, where board members get to snack on hor d’oeuvres while the public waits in the hall outside never was an acceptable way of having the public keep an eye on its police department. To continue to treat it like a cocktail party would simply demonstrate contempt for the citizens of Abbotsford.
And Bob Rich’s police department is certainly in need of having someone from outside of the system start keeping an eye on it. Just as we have learned about the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee (ASDAC), the Police Board seems little more than a way for Abbotsford’s political power structure to stroke itself for doing a marvelous job in front of an appreciative and supportive media.
Here are a few of the words from Justice Kathleen Ker of the BC Supreme Court about Bob Rich’s APD:
- “The Abbotsford Police Department is a place time forgot”
- The APD showed “blatant disregard human dignity”
- The APD’s arrest and detention of Ryan Moonie was “abhorrent and humiliating”
The APD’s response to Justice Ker – “… the police department is planning to launch a full-day training session for all its officers next year.”
If these events occurred in 2007 why has it taken six years to get to the planning stages for one day of training to be held sometime next year?
“We are absolutely sorry for the way this played out but all you can do when you make a mistake is acknowledge it and learn from it,” said APD PR officer Ian MacDonald.
Thanks Rob Ford.
“We would like to go beyond what happened that day, it’s essentially letting officers know they have the ability to use discretion and be flexible so at the end of the day it’s respectful to people,” he added.
If it’s discretion and flexibility the officers of the APD require, does that mean they were following the rules when they treated a paraplegic man in an abhorrent and humiliating manner?
Let’s be clear Ian. Moving on and providing discretion and flexibility to APD officers sounds like the last thing we should be doing under the circumstances.
If ever there was evidence needed to explain why the members of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors are huddled against the cold for safety in numbers, the public record is beginning to weigh pretty heavily in favour of those who are afraid of Bob Rich’s cops.
“This should never have happened in a developed democracy like Canada,” Justice Ker said of the Ryan Moonie case. Wait until a judge hears the testimony in the court cases against the City and its police force after Christmas.
The headlines which come out of those court cases (12 at last count?) should be hard to counter with an economic development brochure. A bit more than a full-day training session is required to fix the enormity of the mess Bob Rich and successive councils which have overseen the APD have made of our police department.
Is this the kind of police force this city wants?
Under Bob Rich’s leadership, and with the quiet acceptance and acquiescence of police board members, councillors and mayors over the years, the APD has become an embarrassment to this community which already has a reputation for using chicken feces to control its homeless population to deal with. Nothing less than the resignation of the man at the top and his deputy will suffice if the Abbotsford Police Department force is truly intent on reclaiming respect and earning back the trust of the citizens of Abbotsford.
The entire police board should resign as well for sitting idly by and allowing this to happen.