Pro-law, anti-cop

By Brian Low

Calgary’s finest have done it again. In a Toronto-esque move, the Calgary Police Association has announced they want to devote their time to investigating any public official who crosses them.
The Association intends to investigate politicians who criticize police actions or budget proposals. If they can find any dirt, they will either press charges or launch a public smear campaign designed to ensure that the respective politician in not re-elected. They would have us believe this benefits the community at large because a lack of performance-based criticism results in greater public confidence in the police force.

Less criticism of budget proposals results in more resources for the police to do their job. See, we all win. Or maybe not…

What this would mean is that the police would investigate individuals not on the basis of the suspected criminality of their actions, but because of their opinions regarding the police service. This amounts to illegitimate discrimination on the basis of political belief. If you’re a politician holding a particular set of opinions, the risk that you’ll be arrested or lose your job just increased. Heck, I’ll probably spend a night in the joint just for writing this article. This kind of thing is what people used to come to Canada to escape from. Not any more, I guess.

Another problem with this plan is that it gives police a power edge over the people they are supposed to serve. As a democracy, we elect officials as representatives, and those officials are supposed to take their orders from us. If our representatives have more to fear from the police than from the people who elected them, just whose interests do you think they are going to start representing? It ain’t gonna be our interests, I can tell you that. The police would have more ultimate power in society than the people. Great. Enter the Gestapo.

The last problem that seems apparent in all this, is that it doesn’t even further the police service’s interest in having a capable force. If there’s no one outside the force to make suggestions for change, how effective a police force do you think they’ll be able to maintain? If past experience with government agencies is any indication, public criticism is just about the only thing that ever results in efficacy. The police, by intimidating politicians from speaking out against them, ultimately hurt their own interest in the maintenance of an effective force.

The police are society’s bullies. We want them to be aggressive in the fulfilment of their duty, and so we train them and pay them to behave in exactly this manner. We have an interest in keeping it this way.

But let’s also recognize that if the only commodity the police are trained to deal in is bullying, they also need to be kept on a fairly short leash. Otherwise, they’re liable to bully any aspect of society they perceive to be within their interests. The police proposal to launch investigations and smear campaigns into the lives of politicians with the "wrong" opinions is an example of just that. Action needs to be taken now to stop it. If nothing is done, you can bet that it won’t be long before the only tax cuts you ever see are on coffee and donuts.

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