CHIEF CONCERNS – What Kind of City Do You Want to Live In?

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What kind of City do you want to live in?

That’s a question I’d like to ask Children and Youth Opportunities Minister Kevin Chief.

Chief was the victim of a violent attack recently after being jumped by a group of thugs on the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge.  The incident occurred around 8 pm Sunday evening while he was out for a Manitoba Marathon training run.  “I don’t think they targeted me.  I really think it was a really random, stupid thing,” Chief said.

The assault lasted around thirty-seconds.  Chief was set upon by three male and one female assailant, he was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked.  His face was bloodied and bruised, his nose broken and two of his teeth were chipped.  This was a nasty assault, a crime for which the perpetrators would be appropriately charged with Assault Causing Bodily Harm.  A criminal offence that comes with a sentencing range up to a maximum of ten (10) years incarceration.  Unfortunately, apprehension of the offenders appears to be the last thing Mr Chief is concerned about.

“For every incident like this that happens, there are literally thousands of good stories and stories of success.  I don’t want what happened to me to reflect on the community,” he said.

It seems Mr Chiefs first inclination was to venture into the world of denial reminiscent of Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz who once said; “I have no problem going downtown, I have no problem going to the North End, regardless of the day of the week, regardless of what time it is.”

I often wonder if anyone else is tiring of hearing politicos incessantly downplaying the harsh realities of our crime ridden City.

Mr Chiefs motivation for minimizing the serious nature of the assault is clearly born out of his desire to counter negative perceptions the incident might create for his north end community.  I’m sorry, that kind of denial is misguided and reckless.

The North end has a serious crime problem, if you don’t believe me, just read the news papers or have a gander at a crime stat map.  That doesn’t mean the community is a wasteland deserving of a shock and awe campaign.  The North end is a diverse community, rich in culture and populated by scads of industrious wonderful people.

Assaults, like the one experienced by Mr Chief can happen anywhere.  It can happen to an off duty police officer walking with his spouse and young son in parts of the City not generally known for its violence. All it takes is a case of beer, two thugs and a large dose of stupidity.

When these things happen you have to decide what kind of City you want to live in.

The choice for me was easy, the thugs who attacked me would learn a valuable lesson after being forced to account for their criminal behaviour.

It’s unfortunate that Mr Chief chose to feel shame and embarrassment.  It’s unfortunate he chose to wait until Tuesday to report the incident to Police.  A prompt call to 911 may have resulted in a quick apprehension and had the potential to put a stop to what could have been a series of similar attacks.  These kind of attacks are often serial or repetitive in nature and can escalate much like the 2009 North end mugging spree that cumulated with the murder of twenty-four year old Joseph Hall.

A prompt 911 call can often be the difference between a public safety triumph or a senseless tragedy.

Even more disturbing than the delay in reporting to the Police is the offender driven concern expressed by Mr Chief.  “I have no anger toward the people that did this to me.  I completely forgive them.  My hope is they reach out to get the help they need and that this doesn’t happen to someone else.”

Alas, no mention of the dreaded word “consequence.”  No concern for anyone being held criminally responsible for launching a brutally violent, unprovoked attack on an innocent citizen.  No arrest, no trial, no prison time, no fine.  Not even any mention of restorative Justice.

Mr Chiefs hope is that this type of thing “doesn’t happen to someone else,” yet he chose to do nothing to influence that prospect.  No 911 call to stop a group of thugs, a delayed report to Police, an ice-cold suspect trail, no apparent interest in a prosecution and a forgiving “hug a thug” mentality.

I commend Mr Chief for having the courage to continue to run across that bridge, but at the end of the day, he has a responsibility to do his part to help make our community safe.

We all share in that responsibility.

Aggressively confronting crime and criminal behaviour forms part of that obligation.

I know what kind of City I want to live in!

GOOD COP BAD COP – Cops in Conflict With the Law

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There can be no doubt, the public has an almost insatiable appetite for stories related to cops going bad.  That appetite is fed by Crime reporters who pursue these cases with extraordinary vigour and enthusiasm.

My recent blog post  “Selley & Overwater – Bad Cops or Bad Policy” literally “blew up” my blog stats.

History tells us that Police Officers can be counted on to continue to feed the hunger.

Law Enforcement Officers, like everyone else, are just people.  People who make mistakes, people who make bad choices, people who occasionally find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  It’s the prosecution of these officers that has spurned the greatest interest.  The interest seems to center on the notion that Canadian juries may be disinclined to convict Police Officers who are charged with criminal offenses that arise from the performance of their duties?

The question I’ve been hearing is, “Are jury pool members selected from a population residing in a crime ridden City, like Winnipeg, more inclined to give Police Officers a break?”   The answer may never be known.

Unlike American justice, Canadian jurors don’t write books or make movie deals.  Such disclosure is forbidden under Canadian Law.  The fact that Selley & Overwater were acquitted of all charges adds fuel to the speculation.  It also leads to legitimate questions regarding the process of investigating and laying charges against Police Officers.

The success of any prosecution is often based on the quality of the Police investigation.  The WPS has often been criticized for investigating the alleged criminal conduct of their own members.  Perceptions of bias and questions regarding the integrity of the investigations have always permeated these cases.

The reality is, the quality of an investigation is only as good as the quality of the investigative team.  In the case of an internal investigation the decision-making process is integral.  The decision to lay charges must be based on a keen understanding of criminal law and practical knowledge acquired from experience in criminal prosecutions.

As the Sergeant in charge of the District 6 Crime Office, Organized Crime and Homicide Units, I made daily decisions regarding the laying of criminal charges, each decision built on the foundation of knowledge gained from involvement in hundreds of criminal cases and prosecutions.  These decisions require experience, confidence and a certain degree of courage.  The decision to clear a case with no charges can be extremely difficult and controversial.  The decision maker may be criticized, scrutinized and compelled to defend the decision.

Therein lies part of the problem.

People who lack courage often take the path of least resistance and default to a “charge mentality” as a way of avoiding the intense scrutiny that can come with these decisions.

The Professional Standards Unit has not been immune to this phenomena.  I recall many cases where charges were laid against Police Officers contrary to basic common sense principles.  All that was required was for someone in the decision-making process to have the courage to make the tough call.  Unfortunately, these decisions can also often be influenced by lack of experience, concerns regarding public perception, fear of negative publicity and politics.  It’s been my experience that the idea of “the public interest” and “a reasonable likelihood of conviction” can often become skewed when a Police Officer is the subject of a criminal allegation.

Lest we forget, unlike most people who are charged with criminal offenses, Police Officers are frequent targets of false or vindictive allegations made by offenders attempting to mitigate their own criminal culpability.

Habitual offenders like Michael Paul Mikolajczyk who made false assault allegations against me and two other officers in 1990.  The charges were subsequently stayed after Judge Howard Collerman provided a ruling that suggested Mikolajczyk’s claims of police brutality were fabricated.  Habitual offenders like Henry Lavallee who recently accused Constable Ryan Law of assault.  Court room spectators were shocked by Lavallees aggressive gangster style demeanour on the witness stand.  His exaggerated allegations of Police brutality and assault poked full of holes by skilled cross-examination.  Habitual offenders like drug dealer, car thief Kristofer Fournier who was arrested on an outstanding warrant immediately after providing testimony against Constables Selley & Overwater.

When it comes down to assessing credibility, can you blame a jury for rejecting the evidence of “shit rats” like these.

I personally believe Police Officers should be held to a higher standard of conduct than every day citizens.  I also believe, as keepers of the law, Police Officers should receive greater punishment when they’re convicted of a crime.  I don’t believe relaxed standards should be applied when deciding to lay criminal charges against them.

Rest easy, Police Officers in Winnipeg haven’t exactly been getting away with murder.  (Jerry Stolar and Barry Neilson)  In fact, over the years,  a few “bad apples” have been convicted of criminal offences.  There can be no doubt Police Officers in Winnipeg will continue to make sensational headlines with stories related to allegations of criminal conduct.  Some charges may be justified, some may be complete fabrications.  Some charges may result in convictions, some may be stayed or result in acquittals.  The truth is, in a workforce of over 1,300 members, only a minute percentage of officers will ever find themselves on the wrong end of a criminal prosecution.

The rest, they’re just a bunch of “good apples” doing exactly what we expect them to do, “taking down names and kicking a little criminal ass!”

RELATED LINK:

Under the Dome Blog – Bruce Owen & Larry Kusch

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/under-the-dome/

THE MATRIX REVOLUTION – City Hall Drops the Ball

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As if the 3.87 % property tax increase and the additional $40,000 added to City Councillors office budgets wasn’t hard enough to swallow, our Political leaders continue to play fast and loose with tax payers cash by spending $174,000 on consulting fees for the highly anticipated Police Operational Review.

Some might suggest that $174,000 is a mere pittance when you consider the overall Police budget is over 200 million dollars.  As a strong believer in the old adage “a penny spared is twice got” I challenge the notion that this expenditure is reasonable or necessary.

Is it reasonable to expect that an American based consulting group would have the kind of insight and practical knowledge of Canadian Policing required to conduct an “informed” operational review.

(Especially when one considers that this will be the first and only review that Matrix has completed in relation to a Canadian Police Agency.)

Is it reasonable to expect representatives from an American based consulting group to remotely comprehend the challenges that come with Policing a unique urban environment that leads the Nation in Murder, Robbery and almost every Violent Crime category.

Is it reasonable to hire an American based consulting group when the City of Winnipeg recently formed a Police Oversight Board to scrutinize and provide guidance to the Police Service.

Above all else, it seems odd that the City would initiate an Operational Review after going thru the pain staking process of hiring a new Police Chief.  With a new Chief comes a new vision.

Should we not give Chief Clunis an opportunity to take a hard look at police operations and conduct his own operational review.  Isn’t that what we’re paying him for, to run a cost-effective, progressive Police Service.  Clunis has many resources at his disposal to conduct such an audit, some of which include a significant number of bright, high functioning, well-educated, high earning civil servants.

The people who form this exclusive group are called the Executive Management Team (EMT) and consist of;

  • Two (2) Deputy Chiefs who earn salaries around the $150,000 mark
  • Four (4) Superintendents who earn salaries upwards of $135,000
  • Twenty-One (21) Inspectors who earn salaries between 100,000 – 130,000

When you do the math, the salaries of these administrators alone adds up to north of $3.3 million dollars.

Ironically, a recent Matrix study targeted similar executive and middle management jobs in what Matrix suggested was a “top-heavy” Police Organization in Hanford, CA.

(The controversial findings also targeted “general employee positions” a factor that has caused significant concern for the Winnipeg Police Association.)

Nonetheless, the people funding those salaries have a right to expect that Chief Clunis and his EMT should have the knowledge and ability required to conduct their own operational review.  Contrary to popular opinion at 510 Main Street, members of the WPS have the ability and objectivity to conduct such a review.

In 2010, I participated in one of the most intensive reviews that has ever been conducted on WPS Homicide Unit operations.  Objective analysis resulted in substantial improvements in efficiencies & operations.  I have little doubt that an internal review of WPS Operations could result in significant cost savings.

So how do we get there?

We can get there by thinking outside of the box, by cutting red tape and by demanding change.

Winnipeg Police Association President Mike Sutherland recently offered several credible cost saving suggestions that included;

  • Justice reform – stopping the revolving doors of justice
  • Court reform – elimination of redundant preliminary hearings to dramatically reduce Police Overtime and Court costs
  • Collaborative approaches with social services
  • Enhancements of the Cadet Program

Some of these suggestions are “big ticket items” and represent a significant change in the culture that currently exists in Manitoba Justice.  These changes will require a team approach with identified stake holders who have to be committed to a cost saving mandate.  Justice reform simply cannot be ignored and has to be part of the solution.

Crime reporter Tom Brodbeck recently weighed in with his own interesting take on Justice reform that included the not so radical concept of cost recovery.  According to Brodbeck, Police should start billing the Justice System for costs incurred when re-arresting repeat offenders whether they are released on bail or allowed back in the community on some type of parole or conditional release.

“So maybe it’s time for police agencies like the Winnipeg Police Service to start billing the provincial and federal governments for all costs associated with the re-arrest of people released on bail, recognizance, or early release — including parole, statutory release or any other conditional release — who violate court orders or who re-offend,” Brodbeck suggests in his report.

Cost recovery is an idea that makes perfect sense and could be compared to “user fees”.  I’m not talking about charging our citizenry a fee for calling 911 whenever they need the Police.  I’m talking about recovering the costs incurred by the Police to arrest and process everyday offenders who are convicted of criminal code offence.

For example, these offences could include, but are not limited to, any of the following;

  • Impaired Driving
  • Willful Damage to Property ie; graffiti
  • Break & Enter
  • Theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery
  • Fraud
  • Drug Trafficking

Upon the conclusion of such a case the WPS would ask the Prosecutor  to request an order for restitution for costs incurred.  Cost recovery is a concept already put into practice by the Province of Manitoba regarding the seizure of criminally obtained assets under The Criminal Property Forfeiture Act.

The problem with the Legislation is that it restricts how the money can be dispersed and used by the Police Service.

Section 19 of the Act limits disbursement of funds to the Police Service for the expressed purpose of enhancing training or crime prevention and excludes operations.  With the costs of Police Operations soaring, these restrictions have to be lifted.

Since 2009, the Criminal Property Forfeiture Unit has seized and  secured millions of dollars worth of criminal assets.  It is expected that these numbers will only increase.

The time has come to make innovative, ground breaking changes to the way we fund Police Operations in the City of Winnipeg.

I truly doubt that The Matrix Consulting Group will lead this revolution.

RELATED LINKS:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/police-review-sparks-job-fears-188799651.html

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Union-fears-review-will-lead-to-police-cutbacks-188734571.html

MARK STOBBE – “It’s All About Me.”

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When I saw the headline I immediately had a sick feeling in my stomach.

“Stobbe pens jailhouse account.”

Mike Mcintyres’ latest story features snippets from a book penned by Mark Stobbe, the former government adviser accused of killing his wife Bev Rowbotham.

I have to admit I initially questioned why Mike McIntyre would be shining a light on Stobbes attempt at literary notoriety, it just seems like the wrong thing to do.

While I respect the fact that Stobbe was acquitted of all charges against him, its important to note that the juries conclusion doesn’t mean he is an innocent man.  In fact, many people have little doubt that he got away with murder.

After reading the story in its entirety, I realized that Mr McIntyre’s article was a good thing as it fully exposed the true essence of Mark Stobbe.

The over inflated ego and unadulterated arrogance that runs deep in the core of the self-described “Fifty year old fat white guy.”

The egocentric Stobbe revels in the fact that bikers, gang bangers and career criminals treated him as a “figure of respect” and looked to him for guidance.  He boasts that he stood out from “almost all other inmates” separated by his education, affluence and lack of drug or alcohol addiction issues.  

Having finally found a place where he could feel superior to all those around him, I’m perplexed why Stobbe would have ever applied for bail.

I suspect that his decision might have been hastened after an incident where a biker mistook him for a sex offender and threatened to teach him a lesson in the shower.

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With thoughts of “Deliverance” permeating his frontal lobe, Stobbe quickly applied for and received bail.

When he was released, Stobbe writes that he received a “standing ovation” from his fellow inmates.

The pathetic gesture apparently fed into his grandiose sense of self.

Stobbes’ arrogance is further exposed as he takes a swipe at Law Enforcement and the media.  “There’s an old joke in classical detective fiction that the butler did it.  In todays law enforcement and media circles, the modern version is that the husband did it,” Stobbe writes.

Well Mark, there’s a good reason for that.

He then goes on to criticize the Federal Government for abolishing the two-for-one credit awarded to criminal miscreants for time spent in pretrial custody.

Mark Stobbe, the former Remand Center superstar now becomes a Canadian Justice critic and advocate for all habitual criminals who can’t get bail by virtue of their countless fail to appear convictions, continuous criminal conduct or the danger they present to the victims of their crimes!

Stobbes book does have one unintended redeeming quality, it shows us just how flawed our criminal justice system really is regarding the evolution of the Canadian Corrections System.

“The display of naked breasts would always draw a crowd,” Stobbe writes as he explains that his favourite pastime of inmates is necessary to deal with the extreme boredom of incarceration.

He also indicates that, “card games, bad food and crowding around old television sets to watch the news,” were other coping strategies.

I don’t know what most people think but I don’t call card games, television and hanging out to watch girls flash their breasts “rehabilitation.”

Stobbes tedium could be addressed with an old-fashioned concept called “work.”  It’s a thing some people do to earn a living, to put food on their table, to contribute to their community.  I’m not sure why it’s not an available option for inmates doing jail time.

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Work is good.

The coup de grace came with Stobbes description of the “friendly” correctional officers who warned him to be wary of potential snitches in the jail system.

In his twisted mind, Stobbe sees the blurry lines that now exist between inmates & keepers as a good thing.

I don’t intend to re-try the entire Stobbe case but his guilt or innocence is a relevant issue.

The question we should ponder is, “Did the jury get it right?”

The Rowbotham case was an unusual one on many fronts.

The inordinate amount of time it took to bring charges, the questions regarding the quality of the Police investigation, the strategy of the Crown Prosecutor, the lengthy jury trial and the intense and dramatic cross-examination, are all topics of debate.

Despite the assertions from the Crown Prosecutor that there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence implicating Stobbe, a jury of his peers failed to connect the dots.

It was a case the Crown called a “near perfect murder.”

But was it?

The victim suffered a total of sixteen (16) blows to the head with a hatchet.  The manner of killing demonstrative of the kind of “overkill” normally associated with a crime of passion involving people who are intimately known to each other.

The fact that evidence suggested the killing occurred in Stobbe’s back yard supports the crime of passion theory.

The fact that the body was moved from the marital property is an overwhelming fact that implicates Stobbe.

Simply put, a random killer motivated by robbery would have absolutely no reason to move the victim’s body from the scene of the crime.  (Nor would he have any motivation to attempt to conceal or wash away evidence at the crime scene.)

Removing the body substantially increased the killers likelihood of being caught, and caught “redhanded” no less.

No perpetrator of such a crime would ever risk being caught with the body of a murder victim.

The only reason a killer would move a body would be to create distance from a crime scene that might otherwise provide evidence against him.

The evidence is not consistent with a random killing motivated by robbery.  The evidence is much more consistent with a panicked crime of passion committed by someone with an intimate relationship with the victim.  In the killers mind the body had to be moved.  If you were Mark Stobbe and you killed your wife in a crime of passion, how would you begin to explain the discovery of her bludgeoned body in your very own back yard?

How would you explain that you failed to hear any sound related to the horrific killing?

Any intelligent killer operating in the heat of the moment would conclude that they had to move the body and destroy evidence related to the crime scene, two things that we know occurred in this case.

This was not a “perfect murder” by any stretch of imagination and from what I know, the Crown correctly classified this case as one in which overwhelming circumstantial evidence existed that implicated Mark Stobbe.

Unfortunately, a jury of “imperfect piers” didn’t see it that way.

Experience tells us that juries often have difficulty convicting defendants on cases that primarily rely on circumstantial evidence.  Modern jurors, many of whom are influenced by the CSI effect, simply want more substantial or direct evidence if they are going to be moved to convict someone of the ultimate crime.

As much as the crime was imperfect, so was the investigation & prosecution.

Unfortunately, law enforcement & Crown Prosecutors don’t get “do overs” with the benefit of hindsight.

As a Homicide Unit supervisor, I conducted many “imperfect” homicide investigations.

Did Mark Stobbe get away with murder?

I believe the answer is fairly obvious.

Was it “a perfect murder?”

Not even close.

Would I recommend his book to anyone?

Not a chance!

In my opinion, even if Mark Stobbe was innocent, the sale of this book is a direct insult to the victim, Beverley Rowbotham, and every member of her family.

It occurs to me that Mark Stobbe has the same mentality of 99% of killers I’ve interviewed over the course of my career as a Homicide Investigator.  They simply don’t care about the results of their destructive uncontrolled violence, for them “It’s all about me.”

Do us all a favour and take some of your own advice Mark, count your blessings, fade into obscurity and practise your jail house mantra, “silence is golden.”

ARMED EDUCATION – 1.5 Million Things to Think About

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It was with great interest that I recently read an article by Sun Crime reporter James Turner regarding City Counsellor Paula Havixbeck’s call from more School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in our Winnipeg Schools.

According to Havixbeck, “It’s imperative that we have this as a permanent item.”  “Every student and every teacher has a right to be safe.”

The Winnipeg Police Service currently has eleven (11) SRO’s, nine (9) of which work in the schools.

That’s not enough says Havixbeck who stresses, “They can’t be everywhere and know everyone.”

Havixbeck wants to see the program go City wide and increase the number of SRO’s to a total fifteen (15) at an estimated cost of $100,000 per officer.

If you do the math, that’s a significant price tag of 1.5 million dollars per year.

Havixbeck reports the benefits of the program include;

  • Decreased drop out rates
  • Violence & bullying intervention
  • Increased respect for the law

In a video clip attached to the article, Havixbeck also talks at length about the impressive capability of Calgary SRO’s to locate students that are “AWOL” or reported missing.

The article doesn’t mention the potential downside the increase in SRO’s might create.

I have no doubt that Counsellor Havixbeck has the best interests of her community at heart and I appreciate and respect the fact that she is a woman of action.

The idea of adding SRO’s would likely be popular with the public and might even find support with a new Police Chief who comes from a community relations background.

On the other hand, if you ask any street cop what they think they would likely tell you that the bleeding has to stop somewhere.

The slow and steady migration of Police Officers away from the front lines is a trend that continues to degrade the ability of the Police Service to address serious public safety issues.

The protection of life and property becomes a very difficult task when you don’t have enough police officers to fill your cruiser cars.

Contrary to Counsellor Havixbeck’s assertions, I seriously doubt that SRO’s are having much of an impact on drop out rates or increasing students respect for the law.  (I will concede that SRO’S may reduce incidents of violence and bullying in the schools.)

Is there any credible data out there to support the suggestion that SRO presence in Schools has contributed to a meaningful decrease in drop out rates or elevated students respect for the law?

Even if there was, are these really strong considerations in support of the SRO program?

Is keeping kids in school and teaching respect for the law a job for law enforcement officers or one more appropriately assigned to parents?

Can we expect tax payers to foot the bill for Police Officers to assume these roles?

I also struggle to find the relevance regarding an SRO’s ability to find a missing student and the need to increase SRO numbers based on “safety” concerns.

If we’re going to have a discussion that favours an increase in SRO’s based on safety issues for students and teachers, it’s imperative that the conversation is “reality based” and not infused with unquantifiable claims of success and irrelevant arguments that have nothing to do with the central issue.

In the context of the Newtown shooting massacre, the larger question is, would an increase in SRO’s improve our ability to enhance the security and safety of our students and teachers.

The answer to that question is a resounding “No.”

The probability that an armed SRO could somehow intervene in an active school shooter scenario is extremely unlikely.  (As was proven at Columbine High-school in 1999)  The officer would have to be in the right school, at the precise location in the school, at the precise time the shooting started.

The odds against all of these events aligning are astronomical.

Tightly controlled access points, metal detectors and armed deterrents are the only thing that can provide the kind of safety measures that will truly increase student and teacher safety in our schools.

These controls are factors that have to be seriously considered by our American counterparts but are not necessarily measures that need to be contemplated north of the border.

I’m not trying to suggest that SRO’s are ineffective and don’t have the potential to increase certain aspects of safety in our schools.

There is no doubt that the presence of an SRO in a school can be a general deterrent to incidents of violence and bullying.

A highly motivated SRO skilled in the fine art of communication and informant development could network with students to gain intelligence regarding individuals who may fit the mould of a potential active shooter.

An SRO is more likely to have the tools and inclination to take action to initiate an intervention when it comes to students who appear to fit into this mould.

At a cost of $100,000 per officer, could the function of the SRO be performed by a civilianized version of the SRO (CSRO – Civilian School Resource Officer) or some other entity such as trained Educational Assistants with backgrounds in law enforcement or the military.

These individuals would work for a fraction of the cost which would have the added benefit of providing the ability to substantially increase the compliment of CSRO’s in the school system.

If the City of Winnipeg wants to shake the violent crime and murder capital of Canada monikers we should consider school safety options that don’t include taking more Police Officers off of the front lines of our crime ridden streets.

If Counsellor Havixbeck wants to make an argument to increase SRO’s, I would hope that the argument would be relevant, reality based and that the global impacts on the Police Service and tax paying public would be primary considerations.

I can think of about 1.5 million reasons why that idea makes sense.

ANATOMY OF AN OFFENDER – Time for a Reality Check!

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Are our Courts in tune with society’s reality?

That is a question crime reporter James T recently asked on his blog “The Crime Scene.”

James asks the question in light of a recent sentencing decision by Court of Queens Bench Justice Colleen Suche regarding the killing of James Cruickshank at the hands of Daniel Peterson.

If you do the proper analysis the answer is more than apparent.

Peterson was convicted of Manslaughter after proceeding to trial by Judge & Jury.

He received a sentence “on paper” of nine (9) years in prison.

Peterson spent forty-two and a half (42 1/2) months in pretrial custody and after discounts, credits and coupons, received credit for fifty-two (52) months of “dead time.”

After the dust settled, and the ten (10) month get out of jail free card was applied, Peterson was sentenced to serve an additional term of fifty-six (56) months.

(What isn’t accounted for is the discount on the back end of the sentence that will be generously applied by the Parole Board.)

The details of the crime were horrific, nine powerful destructive blows from a hammer crushing Cruickshank’s’ skull, brain and facial structure.  The Pathologist reported that any one of the blows would likely have been fatal.  Evidence suggested that some of the significant blows were administered while Cruickshank was already incapacitated or unconscious.

In the Police world, we call this frightening level of violence “overkill.”

Are the Courts in tune with society’s reality?

Thats a great question, and because I love reality so much I would like to further explore it.

Central to the issue is how the Courts interpret their role in the administration of Justice.

As Justice Suche puts it “The law does not seek revenge:  the notion of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth is not part of our society.  Rather, the law seeks retribution; that is, an objective, measured determination of an appropriate punishment which properly reflects the moral culpability of an offender, having regard to his intentional risk taking, the consequential harm caused by his behavior, and the normative character of the behaviour.”

Philosophical wordy interpretations aside, I remind you that Peterson was convicted of violently smashing in Cruickshank’s skull, brain and facial structure and literally beating his brains out with a hammer!

From my jaded perspective, there is nothing “normal” about that.

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

You may have questions regarding what type of person Daniel Peterson is.  Is he a first time offender deserving of leniency? Has he been a contributing member of society? Is his crime out of character?

These are valid questions that one would think should be considered “in an objective, measured determination of an appropriate punishment.”

In the sentencing decision, Justice Suche acknowledges the following statements of fact:

ANATOMY OF OFFENDER – DANIEL PETERSON:

  • Thirty-three (33) years of age
  • Grade 12 Education
  • Has never maintained any meaningful employment in his life
  • Has used drugs and alcohol since he was a pre-teen
  • Has been a crack cocaine addict since he was eighteen (18) years old
  • Has turned to drug trafficking to help sustain his habit
  • Has few coping skills other than lying & manipulation
  • Has several failed attempts at drug rehabilitation
  • Has a poor attitude and behavioral issues
  • Was sentenced to two (2) years incarceration in November 2003 for Commercial Robbery (3 counts), Thefts & Driving offences
  • Was convicted of Mischief in 2006
  • Has committed three violent acts in the past for which he has been sentenced to prison
  • Has shown a complete lack of remorse
  • Has no insight into his crime or offending behavior
  • He violated conditions of his release in the past and was discharged from the Behavioral Health Foundation due to “many” issues with his conduct
  • While incarcerated between November 2009 – September 2012 Peterson was involved in seventeen (17) incidents that required some form of disciplinary action
  • These incidents ranged from cautions regarding inappropriate comments to female staff to formal disciplinary convictions, including five for theft and fraudulent canteen activity, as well as uttering threats, damaging institutional property, and possession of “homebrew”

After digesting all of this dysfunction, is it any wonder that Justice Suche appropriately acknowledged that Peterson was a “high risk to re-offend.”

It seems logical to me that if you can’t control yourself in prison its not likely that you will be able to control yourself in the outside world.

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

In this case the Crown, represented by experienced and capable Senior Crown Attorney Joanna Kostiuk & her second Amy Wood, asked the Court to sentence Peterson to an justifiable total sentence of fifteen (15) years.

The Defense, represented by Amanda Sansregret, asked for a much more lenient sentence of somewhere between six (6) & eight (8) years.

In her decision Justice Suche states at paragraph 19;

“Not surprisingly, I find myself unable to agree completely with either the Crown or the defence as to the appropriate sentence in this case.”

After making this statement Justice Suche inextricably contradicted herself and ordered a sentence that completely agreed with the position taken by defence counsel.  A sentence that will ensure that Peterson does somewhere between 6 – 8 years in prison for his horrific crime.

Do the math;

Pretrial Custody – 42 months

Sentence – 56 months

Total Sentence: 98 months = 8.16 years

(Reminder: this number does not include discount on the back end of his sentence from the Parole Board)

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

In the conclusion of her sentencing decision Justice Suche indicates “I believe he (Peterson) can be rehabilitated.”

She then goes on to give Peterson an inspirational message encouraging him to take the steps he needs to deal with all of his issues.

I would like to know what criteria Justice Suche relied on to come to the conclusion that Peterson was someone who could be rehabilitated or is this just a default position taken by someone who is out of touch with “reality.”  After all, the facts of this case are that for fifteen (15) continuous years Peterson has been a hard core drug abuser, drug trafficker and habitual criminal who relies on criminal activity to sustain his habit.

This time frame represents Peterson’s entire adult life, we are not dealing with a teenaged offender who still has time to mature and develop a new moral code, we are dealing with a thirty-three (33) year old offender with addiction and behavioural issues who is thoroughly entrenched in a criminal lifestyle.

Against all common sense & logic, Justice Suche somehow believes that Peterson is going to be able to turn it all around while he is in prison.

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

The Courts generosity will ensure that Daniel Peterson will be released from prison long before his fortieth birthday.  A decision that ensures the possibility that Peterson will be able to join the growing list of other Canadian offenders who have managed to kill more than one human being in unrelated incidents during their lifetime.

That shameful list is a true indictment of Canadian Justice.

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

Justice Suche is seemingly out of touch with the reality of her own sentence.

This is yet another case that fuels calls for mandatory minimum sentences and elected Justice Officials.

Dismissing Canadian citizens calls for more meaningful consequences for offenders as “vigilantly” or “eye for eye or tooth for tooth” justice is a convenient way to justify the continued degradation of our perpetually soft Justice System.

This really isn’t about an eye for an eye, it’s about protecting the public from hopeless habitual offenders like Daniel Peterson and stopping them from repeating their heinous crimes.

The only important question left for me is, who is going to be Daniel Peterson’s next victim?

Are the Courts out of tune with society’s reality?

Is it me or is the answer obvious!

Daniel Peterson is an anatomy lesson in soft Canadian Justice.

Time for a reality check!!!

LINKS:

James T Blog: http://winnipegcrime.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/are-our-courts-in-tune-with-societys-reality/

Sentencing Decision:  http://www.canlii.org/en/mb/mbqb/doc/2012/2012mbqb305/2012mbqb305.html

CRIME REPORTERS – Keeping Us all in the Loop

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This is going to be a weird post…..especially for me.

Since I retired in May of 2012 I have been experiencing the harsh reality of living life in the vacuum.

No longer a card carrying member of the law enforcement community with first hand “real time” knowledge of all things related to Law & Order.

It takes some adjusting.

I now find myself searching the internet for my daily dose of crime and punishment.  The Winnipeg Free Press, The Sun, CTV, CJOB and other sites all helping to quench my thirst for knowledge.  It was during one of my searches that I had a revelation.  After twenty-five years of being on the cutting edge, I now realize that I have to rely on Crime Reporters to keep me socially aware.

The Police and the Press have always been much like oil and vinegar…..not a great mix.   I always kept myself at arms length from members of the media as a means of self preservation.  Police Officers that get too close to reporters can put themselves in compromising situations.  As a supervisor in the Homicide Unit I had first hand knowledge of extremely sensitive information that could make or break a murder case.  I was always firmly committed to protecting that information without exception.

I considered the constant enquires coming from reporters to be annoying distractions, especially during the chaos that ensues after we would catch a “hot” case.  Information fed to the press via the PIO (Police Information Officer) only seemed to wet the appetite of the insatiable beasts.  Reporters calling my direct line, trying to circumvent the PIO to get the scoop.

Crime Reporting is a very competitive, high stress, high stakes game.  Give a Crime Reporter an inch and they will inevitably try to take a mile….

Despite my aversion to the press, there were some collaborations…….

  • Mike McIntyre granted unprecedented access to the investigation into the Manitoba Warriors criminal infiltration of the Government run agency Paapiiwak…….a case I ran as a Supervisor in the Organized Crime Unit…
  • Tom Brodbecks constant reporting on the outrageous two for one sentencing discounts given to underserving criminals every day at our Law Courts.  Unwittingly helping me to keep the pressure on three consecutive Chiefs of Police in my efforts to effect change from the inside……every article written on the subject fired up through the chain of command keeping the issue alive and the pressure on…..both of us quietly enjoyed the satisfying feeling of contributing to one of the most significant improvements in Criminal Justice in the last twenty-five years.
  • Caroline Barghout doing a neighbourhood canvass, knocking on my door looking for the scoop on a murder case that occurred in the area only to be rebuffed by my daughter who felt the need to protect the sanctity of our home.

I always respected the members of the press, I knew they had a job to do…….I just didn’t want to let them into my world.

Now…..it is they who are enriching my life.

I find myself truly appreciating just how important the Crime Reporters job really is.  Keeping the citizenry informed on critically important issues such as public safety, the crime rate, crime  trends, law & order, prosecutions and sentencing.

These things are all vitally important to those of us who choose to be socially conscious and aware.

This post is my way of saying thank you to all the Crime Reporters who work the beat everyday chasing the next big story so that all of us can be informed.  It may have taken me a very long time to get there, but I really do appreciate your work……

Thanks for doing what you do….

FOOTNOTE:

Congratulations to Tom Brodbeck who recently received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his outstanding work and the impact he has had on the Canadian experience.

Find the story here… http://www.winnipegsun.com/2012/09/16/queen-honours-suns-brodbeck

Mike McIntyres report on the case against Paapiiwak can be found here…http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/The-case-against-Paa-Pii-Wak-39486767.html