One of the more interesting parts of reporting on what’s happening in the protester world has been observing how the police have reacted to the protesters. It’s always a bit of a delicate balance- some cops have been highly professional, some not, and a couple escalated situations to the point here there was severe violence. With all of my observations, I’m beginning to realize a distinct (and disturbing) pattern…
The easiest way to explain this pattern would be to examine the circumstances of the four police officer’s I’ve written about by name on this site. The first was Vancouver PD’s Sargent Wally Argent– I praised him for his assistance to Occupy Vancouver, and how he always acted professionally and in a positive manner. The second was a friendly Vancouver PD who’s name I didn’t have, so I nicknamed him Officer Vogue. Wally Argent thought the article was quite entertaining.
Now, let’s jump to the other side of the country. First to a story of two cops who’s names I didn’t know when I covered their actions- they both unnecessarily escalated a situation to violence. It was so spectacular that it was covered by every news station in the city. I arrived there very shortly after the violence ended- to people from Occupy Toronto in ambulances.
The Next cop I wrote about was Detective Anthony Williams of Toronto’s 14 Division. He’s the officer assigned to pursue the anarchists who assaulted me in June. Despite the fact one of them has been on newspapers across the country, and the other has appeared on a Zach Ruiter video in front of the courthouse, I’ve still not heard of any progress in the case. By this point, I don’t know what to make of that- some sort of a sick joke maybe.
There’s one other cop I’ve written about- Officer R. Oulett. I first ran across him in March when I noticed he was at a rather charged protest without his badge number and nametag on. I politely asked him to please put them on- an essential part of building trust between the police and the people is that the police are visibly identifiable. A few minutes later, he made a comment to a passing motorist that they should run over the demonstrators.
Notice how Oulett changed his story here. First he tells me that his badge had fallen off into his jacket- this was laughable (and equally impossible), his jacked was zipped-up. Then he changed his story that he put his jacked on over it. The way he flip-flopped when he was caught didn’t make his story very believable. It appeared to me back then that Oulett doesn’t behave in a manner that Canadians would expect of our police officers- this is not Los Angeles.
Oulett continued his pattern of bad policing today at the anti Jewish National Fund protest in front of the Toronto Convention Centre. The old-left hates the JNF- I covered this a few months ago in my story about my theory that Sakura Saunder’s ProtestBarrick organization may target Barrick Gold because their CEO, Peter Munk, is a leader of the JNF. If you dig down deep into the old-left’s activities, most of them have an Israel/Palestine angle.
Anyhow, back to Officer Oulett. There was a scuffle between a pro-Israeli and a pro-Palestinian protester today. It began with some yelling and escalated to where they shoved each other. The police quickly intervened and separated the two men from each other and pulled the pro-Israeli guy to the side, away from the pro-Palestinian crowd.
After speaking with the police, the pro-Israeli guy began to walk away. As he did so, he quickly turned around, shouted ‘f**k you all’ to the Palestinian side and then began to walk away again. It was clear that he was finished, but Oullet felt he needed to take the last word- so, he yelled at the pro-Israeli guy and told him not to continue (even though he stopped).
As we learned from the incident at Osgoode Hall- some of the members of the Toronto Police Service have proven themselves to have poor de-escalation skills. Oullet is one of them- had he not yelled at the pro-Israeli guy, he would have walked away and it would have all been over. Instead, he provoked him into becoming more agitated. Highly unprofessional- at best.
At this point Oullet walks up to the guy, starts yelling and poking him in the chest- then, to top it all off, he grabs the guy’s jacket and shakes his body. I was simply astounded watching him in action. The guy was posing no physical threat to anyone- this was a situation that required discussion, not manhandling. And, as I previously mentioned- this is Toronto, not Los Angles. Cops aren’t supposed to roll that way in this country.
But, wait, it get’s worse! Oulett noticed that I was filming the incident, and I’m guessing he realized I had caught his bad behaviour on camera. So, he comes up to me and starts trying to intimidate me into stopping filming. I was standing about 15 feet away from the pro-Israeli guy,
I explained to him, and to the two other cops watching, that I was a neutral reporter, I was silent, and I was not standing in anyone’s way. The two other cops accepted what I said, turned around and got back to what they were doing before Oulett’s interruption. Oulett, however, decided to take his hand and push it against the lens of my camera while he threatened to arrest me for interfering. His reaction was so radically different from the other two cops.
I was totally silent the whole time, and at no moment was I close enough to hinder the cop’s work. There was no valid reason for Oulett to be threatening me- I was totally within my rights to be filming as I was. To put it simply, the only thing that would be different if I wasn’t there would be the fact that I caught Oulett using unnecessary force when he should have been de-escalating. I should also mention that I didn’t realize I’d met this officer before until the moment he got physical with my camera and I first saw his nametag. (he was wearing it this time!)
So, what can we learn from the pattern of me experiences observing the Toronto and the Vancouver police? Well, that there’s a marked difference between how both forces work. And, the Toronto police come across as much more aggressive and more likely to escalate rather than de-escalate.
I think that most Canadians (with the exception of radical anarchists of course) believe that the first duty of a Canadian police officer is to de-escalate rather than to escalate a situation. It’s what makes us Canadians “better” than our southern neighbour. Unfortunately, after observing the Toronto Police for the past year, it seems that too many of their officers are failing at this litmus test quite badly.
It’s time for a change here. If this sort of incident is as common as it seems, then it appears that it’s time for some cross-force training on de-escalation techniques. If the problem is that we have a few bad apples- the count of bad apples seems to be way too high. If the top-brass are unable to identify the cops who have problems, perhaps it’s time to bring in some new management? Because, we can’t accept this happening as often as it is- it’s simply not Canadian…
Here’s the video:
On a sub-note, I’d like to make a plea to people that they don’t deconstruct this story from a partisan Israeli/Palestinian angle. Which of the protesters was responsible for the incident is not relevant in the context of this story- it’s about the need to improve Toronto’s policing. (thanks)