Monday, July 13, 2009

Marching toward a Police State

Some recent disturbing news seem to indicate that although Canada is nowhere near being the Orwellian society UK has become, privacy is increasingly losing ground.

The first DickCheney-ian news that caught my eye is from BC


In BC, bars have reduced crime by scanning and collecting the ID information of patrons into a database. While privacy commissioner David Loukidelis is looking into this issue, we are told that “more than a third of Victoria’s prime liquor establishments” are participating in the program. The selling point is that reports from Vancouver show random gunfire has been virtually eliminated from the areas where the clubs participate in Barwatch. The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has called it "demonstrably necessary for the safety and security of late night venues" (cbc-barwatch).

The word virtually worries me, as it seems to indicate that at least some gunfire has taken place. If that is the case, a serious study would have to prove that the benefits make this particular trade-off between privacy and security worthwhile. Living in a dictatorship or a police state – as North-America is slowly becoming anyway – would also significantly improve security, but this is a trade-off that, at least insofar, most people are unwilling to make.

On guard for thee, Mohawk people

Border-photo Back in 2006, the newly elected Conservative government led by Stephen Harper decided to arm 4400 border guards starting with 2007 and to spend $101 million to hire 400 additional guards as backup for points where there is only one guard. It is probably that Mr Harper was afraid that Dick Cheney might emerge from his undisclosed bunker (or retirement) and invade Canada. The border guards, through their union leader George Scott had also requested better computer systems so that they know who is coming to Canada, but according to Stockwell Day, the Public Safety Minister, that will have to wait longer than the 10 years needed to implement the plan, as they are working on it (cbc-border-guards).

Officers have long argued that carrying arms is necessary:

Many officers, backed by their union, have said their lives were in danger because, unlike their U.S. counterparts, they did not carry guns. In pressing their case, groups of officers have periodically left their posts after reports of armed suspects heading their way.

As usual, significant delays and cost overruns appeared, as is usually the case when Ottawa takes a gun in Its hand. In a weird twist, the government awarded the psych testing contract to only one firm, Wilson Banwell Human Solutions of Vancouver and when a second firm showed up, bidding took place, but the name of the second firm was kept secret (cbc-armed).

When, in 2007, the first arms-carrying officers took their positions, the government kept their locations secret (cbc-first).

Beretta Px4 But Marie-Claire Coupal, a Customs Excise Union national vice-president based in Windsor, confirmed that the Windsor-Sarnia area, where bridges, tunnels and ferries link Ontario and Michigan, would have 11 armed officers on duty Monday. They were among 39 officers who graduated from weapons courses in Ottawa and Chilliwack, B.C., on Friday, and are now authorized to carry handguns. That number is to grow to 4,800 over 10 years under a training and equipment program budgeted at $101 million in its first two years.

The chosen gun is a Beretta Px4, also a James Bond favourite. This way, if they ever have to kill someone, they can do it Italian style.

The program hit a major roadblock when First Nations people protested against having armed border guards on their territory.

mohawk land "Their biggest fear is that because of the animosity that exists right now, that one of them young people that has guns in there [and] three weeks of training, probably no psychological testing either – that one of them is going to lose it in there and kill one of our people," said Cheryl Jacob, district chief at the Akwesasne Mohawk Council.

Hundreds of protesters near the border crossing gathered around a bonfire and held signs that said "Guns kill," "This is Mohawk land" and "Honk for no guns," said the CBC's Lauren McCallum, reporting from the scene. The Mohawk protesters reportedly cheered when news of the border guards' departure became known. Protesters built a bonfire near the customs border crossing office (Lauren McCallum/CBC)
"They're so nasty and harassing our people that we can almost feel ... their finger being itchy on the trigger," said John Boots, a Mohawk from Akwesasne. "That's how bad those people are. The customs officers." "We're no more of a threat today than we were yesterday," said Anenhaienton, another Akwesasne resident. "So, why all of a sudden do they need guns?" (cbc-adwesasne)

It is very hard to understand why the government did not fire border guards on their first walk out on the job. Giving them Taser guns is not an option, as the Dziekanski incident has shown. Here’s what one commenter (cbc-vanc-woman) had to say:

"Dziekanski wasn't exactly cooperating with the cops."

I guess you must have watched some other video, then... Really... the cops never saw his little tantrum with the table and computer... At no point in his interactions with the police was he either disobedient or aggressive with the police.

I get real tired of repeatedly answering the same points with the "cop hugger" contingent out there...
YES there are bad cops out there.
YES they do use their weapons inappropriately.
YES their departments cover up for them.
YES on occasion they do get away with murder.

NO, blindly sticking up for them is not at all helpful. In fact, it makes the problem worse since many take encouragement from the lack of opposition.

In that particular incident, highly trained police officers repeatedly tasered the newly arrived immigrant within 25 seconds of their arrival, killing him. The police department covered up for the officers involved, reporting a lesser number of shots than the real number and confiscated a filming of the crime, returning it only after the owner hired a lawyer, fearing a cover-up.

"I think everyone tried to lie because they want to save themselves. I have nothing to lose. I lost what I had," [Cisowski, Dziekanski’s mother] said outside the inquiry venue in downtown Vancouver.

Tasering schizofrenics

Most of us would like mentally ill people to get treatment, but being tasered to death is usually not what we mean by that (ts-tasered-man).

In a loud, pleading voice, a mentally ill man cries out that he's done nothing wrong and is sorry as police Taser him repeatedly at their headquarters in Halifax. A two-minute excerpt from a surveillance videotape, shown Friday at an inquiry into Howard Hyde's death in 2007, shows several Halifax officers tackling Hyde in the booking area after he has been arrested on a charge of domestic assault. The video captures Hyde's high-pitched screams amid the crackle of several bursts of the Taser's electrical discharge. "I'm sorry," he cries out in the video. "I didn't do nothing wrong. What are you doing?" Three officers try to subdue the short, stocky man, but he breaks free after being Tasered at least twice and bounds over a counter and into a hallway, where the stun gun's loud crack can be heard again as Hyde apologizes once more.

In essence, as most Taser victims show, they hardly understand why they are killed and all they are trying to do is save their lives. What makes this case noteworthy, is that the police officers knew they were dealing with a mentally ill person, but failed to act appropriately.

The fake job interview

Another privacy-invading scam involves posting fake job ads. People send their resume and the scammer builds a marketing database which he then sells to legitimate marketing companies or ID thieves. In this particular case, the crime is much greater (ts-fake-job), as it appears that the so-called third-party recruiter was running a front for recruitment into the sex trade. In the past Thursday, a woman going for a job interview at Fusion Personnel Solutions at 7777 Keele St. in Vaughan was sexually assaulted. The suspect, Raheel Siddiqui, 34, is facing charges for sexual assault, forcible confinement and procuring.


Unfortunately, this last crime is likely to happen again, as there is very little that can be done to stop it. The best protection, when looking for a job, is self-protection. As for armed police officers, whether it is a Taser or a gun, studies have repeatedly shown:

  • armed police officers are more likely to kill or be killed than their unarmed colleagues
  • armed police officers are less likely to follow procedures and often take unnecessary risks
  • armed police officers often have the paradoxal effect of escalating violence

Sources / More info: cbc-barwatch, ts-fake-job, cbc-border-guards, cbc-armed, cbc-first, cbc-akwesasne, cbc-vanc-woman, cbc-dziekanski-calm, cbc-dziekanski-video, ts-tasered-man, cp-police-knew, cp-inquiry, oc-heart-attack

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