Last week, the Victoria Police Department announced that it had misplaced a few things — namely a Remington shotgun, tear gas canisters, pepper balls, rubber bullets and three tactical vests.
Now, maybe you’re surprised that our local police force cares so little for its dangerous goods that enough riot gear to furnish any decent thief with the tools to clean out every liquor store in the city can simply disappear from police HQ. Or maybe you’re surprised at the “aw, shucks” reaction of police officials in the aftermath of said disappearance.
Maybe you’re surprised, but you shouldn’t be.
A review of recent VicPD history should have prepared us — and, more importantly, the police board, chief and other regulatory bodies — for this sort of thing. From the top down, the department has received admonition from an astonishing variety of community and official sources in recent years.
In 2010, the B.C. Civil Liberties association singled out VicPD for its “continuing illegal search policy … around major public events like Canada Day.” Last year, relations with Esquimalt broke down over ever-increasing budget demands despite Victoria climbing the ladder to rank in Maclean’s magazine as Canada’s second most dangerous city for the past two years. More recently, the report Out of Sight: Policing Poverty in Victoria revealed the troubled relationship between the department and the street community.
Beyond that, the police complaints commissioner has confirmed numerous allegations of neglect, abuse of force or authority, and discreditable conduct in recent years, and let’s not forget everyone’s favourite YouTube video of Victoria Police officer Christopher Bowser beating handcuffed citizens after a barfight back in March of 2010.
To top it all off, since taking the job amidst controversy over his history with the Vancouver PD, Chief Jamie Graham has received the third count of discreditable conduct of his career.
So forgive my lack of surprise when yet another cog in the great machine of the Victoria Police comes grinding to a halt. It’s clear to me — and after reading this far-from-exhaustive list of strikes against the department it should be clear to you, too — that there is something deeply wrong down at Victoria Police HQ.
And, as usual, when things go wrong it’s probably time to look at who’s giving the orders. M