WHEN TALKING ABOUT POLICING and police officers in B.C., I hear many speak up in defence of their community police force. They claim that 99 per cent of their officers are good people, trying to do a good job, often under difficult circumstances. It is they say, the remaining one per cent that give all officers a bad name.
I have a difficult time buying into that argument and it has a lot to do with words such as: enabling, abetting and obstruction. Let me explain.
In this scenario, you’re in a convenience store when you see one of your neighbours come in, pull a knife and threaten to stab the store clerk unless given all the money in the till. The clerk does as demanded and your neighbour runs out of the store, leaving the store employee physically unharmed but terrified.
You had nothing to do with the robbery but know who did and as the police respond, you know you will be asked to describe what happened. Will you and what will you describe?
You will be enabling your neighbour if you don’t tell the truth and therefore allowing him to continue his criminal activities. And while it’s true you didn’t rob the store, if you choose silence, you could be seen as aiding and abetting and that silent endorsement of his criminal activities may also be seen as obstructing justice.
So, getting back to those 99 per cent of cops who are good; what do they do when one within their ranks knowingly commits an offence while on duty?
The victim reports the offense but without a witness everyone knows it will go nowhere unless a video surfaces or several of the ‘good cops’ who did witness the incident say something.
However, if the ‘good cops’, as they most often do, remain silent about their fellow officer’s offence, then once again the bad cop walks and the public’s mistrust grows.
They say there is a brotherhood amongst police officers, a code that supposedly cannot be broken. It is a code that includes covering up or turning a blind eye towards the bad acts of the one per cent who tarnish the force’s reputation and diminish or destroy the public’s trust.
There is supposed to be equality in justice, yet many of those ninety-nine percenters behave in a way that suggests the principle is abandoned when it comes to their own. After all, how many times have you seen a police officer from the 99 percenters voluntarily testify against a one percenter?
So, how can an officer be considered a good cop if he or she ignores the criminal or unethical acts of a fellow officer?
There is a way to fix the problem but it will take the collective will and action of the 99 per cent of the force who believe in policing and truly want to help the community.
Perhaps that code of the brotherhood is like honour amongst thieves; simply a myth perpetuated by those trying to take advantage of it.
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.