Fragmented Police Forces

As witnessed by every small American town, the ultimate symbol of freedom and independence is having your own police force. As shown by numerous TV shows, novels and films, from Dukes of Hazard through To Kill a Mockingbird to In the Heat of the Night, this is not always the best way to run a fair and unbiased legal system.

But there is always a conservative element in every town, and as recent history shows us, that element is susceptible to the machinations of demagogues, manipulators and power junkies of all sorts. And, interestingly enough, you wave “law and order” under their noses, and they jump to attention like good little Hitlerjugend.

Surrey B. C.

The town next to where I live is just going through a perfect demonstration of how it isn’t supposed to work. Surrey has a gang violence problem. No one doubts that. Surrey has traditionally contracted out its policing to the RCMP, as most small Canadian towns do.

But Surrey has grown to a city of half a million people, and, given the idiosyncrasies of first-past-the-post voting and the average lack of interest in civic politics, it was only a matter of time before a populist mayor would get elected by promising a new civic police force that would solve everything. And so it was.

After four years of planning, 450 people hired, and several million dollars spent, it all came crashing down last week when a pro-RCMP mayor and majority of alderpersons swept into power (by a majority of about a thousand votes and a voter turnout of 32.5%), vowing to trash the whole proposal. Which, I gather, they are going to do. Back to square one, while the gangs chuckle and expand their markets.

And Then There’s Ottawa

 Canadians will be surprised to hear from the January Truckers’ Convoy Hearings that the Ottawa police force had a plan that would have cleared out the truckers, but the government initiated the Emergency Measures Act one day before the Ottawa authorities started. They will be less surprised that the Premier of Ontario has washed his hands of the whole matter and refused to testify.

Basically, the testimony has shown that there was a great communications SNAFU between the Federal Government, the Mounties, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Ottawa Police. Nobody was listening to anybody else, key information was restricted, and as a result everyone was taken completely by surprise.

That’s right. 500 truckers and their rigs converging from across the country, and many experienced police officials figured they’d come for a peaceful weekend protest and go home. I mean, don’t these guys ever watch CNN or Fox News?

I’m sure many of you have had this experience; you’re in a tense situation where time is at a minimum, and you have to make an important decision. But some idiot is standing there yelling, “No, don’t do that, don’t do that!” And even if you think it’s the right decision, a part of your mind is saying, “There’s a small chance he’s right, and if it goes wrong, how will I look?” And the usual result is that you don’t do anything, which is a choice in itself.

Then you have to look to your back and try to direct everybody’s attention elsewhere. Which is easy in retrospect. As far as I can see, the whole Convoy inquiry has been a mass of people testifying how they had it all under control, and is happy to say how it should have been done, but everybody else wouldn’t let them act.


The simpler the system the better it works, but the easier it is to control it. As long as a responsible democratic government is in charge, no problem. But then, Doug McCallum would have created a Surrey Police Service based on the approval of 14% of his city’s registered voters. Hardly democratic.

The Bottom Line

It’s all about bureaucracy. If you want power in a bureaucracy, you have to carve yourself out a niche. Then, of course, you have to use that power to try to get more. And using power means exerting your influence to control the course of the action. And thus the horse committee creates a camel.

When it comes to organizing the hierarchy of federal, provincial, and municipal police forces, fewer organizations mean less bureaucracy, less cost, more feet on the ground and better communications. Then maybe we wouldn’t be spending our time and money dealing with idiot protesters while real criminals run loose.

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