Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conduct Unbecoming

Let's start with a story that's almost true.

A male police officer has an affair with a fellow (female) officer. One evening they have a fight, and he expresses his emotions by pulling out his service sidearm and firing nine shots. Thankfully he either doesn't want to hurt anyone or is a really bad shot, so no one gets hurt.

The incident gets reported. Our rogue officer, for attempting to use his firearm to settle a domestic squabble, is suspended from duty for ten days.

Naturally, the outraged protests pour in. Everyone, it seems, understands that a police officer with such poor self-control is not fit to be a police officer anymore. In addition, since anyone else firing a gun haphazardly would be criminally charged, this hopefully soon-to-be-former policeman must face charges as well.

Oh, wait. I've got a personal detail wrong in the opening paragraph, and the entire last paragraph is fantasy stemming entirely from that error. Let's take a look at what really happened:

More than a year after a South Shore Mountie fired her service pistol nine times through a wall after a dispute with her ex-boyfriend, the force punished her by suspending her from work without pay for 10 days, an RCMP spokesman said... An internal probe handed down its decision on Nov. 15, 2007, nine months after a Bridgewater provincial court judge gave Const. Zahara a conditional discharge.

Unless I can get mad at my wife and start shooting our house up with no consequences except a ten day no-pay vacation, then it's completely unacceptable that a cop can get away with doing the same thing. Neither of the differences between us - the fact that she's a cop, or the fact that she has no Y chromosome - should make the slightest difference in a court of law.

Actually, I need to correct that: police officers should be held to a higher standard of behaviour than the average citizen. If we're going to trust them with handcuffs, guns, and (heaven forbid) tasers, they need to earn that trust.

This woman should be removed from the police force, and quite possibly sentenced to jail time.

The article continues with more fun details of the night when she had enough of that wall's guff. Check out the bolded part to blow your mind:
Const. Simm, who was on duty at the time, broke down the door and took the gun away from her. When Const. Zahara calmed down, he gave her back the pistol, and she headed off to start her shift. Const. Simm reported the incident the following day.

I'm pretty certain that if Const. Simm caught me shooting my house up because my wife burned the pot roast (which she would never do - disclaimer inserted to prevent an actual shooting in my house), he wouldn't (a) hand me back the gun, and (b) say, "Hey, here's a thought - why don't you go enforce the law on other people for a few hours? We'll maybe talk about this tomorrow."

I hope Const. Simm was also subject to investigation, which hopefully lead to severe disciplinary proceedings for him, but the article makes no mention of it. My guess is that the Big Blue Wall protected him from the consequences of his flagrantly irresponsible actions.

Now the article gives us some background on these lovely individuals:
Const. Zahara was married to another officer when she began a relationship with Const. Simm. During their two-year relationship, which ended in late December 2005, Const. Zahara and Const. Simm had a son together.

Does the RCMP have no regulations concerning conduct unbecoming an officer? Constables Zahara and Simm should both have been stripped of their badges when they decided to strip off everything else with one another. Then she wouldn't have had the gun to fire, and he wouldn't have been in a position to commit the serious crime of covering up her serious crime. In a slightly better world, they would have just been throwing pots and pans around their double-wide with their Trailer Park Boys brethren.

Back to the article:
Const. Zahara pleaded guilty to a charge of careless use of a firearm for which she received the conditional sentence and was placed on probation for a year. She was also ordered to stay away from weapons for two years, except at work.

"Careless use of a firearm" - gee, ya think so? As for those last three words, the criminal justice system should not make "except for work" exemptions about anything for anyone. If you commit a crime whose normal punishment would render you unable to practise your chosen profession, that goes under the category of "Stuff you should have thought about before deciding to commit the crime."

Last year, two senior officers with the RCMP spoke with The Chronicle Herald under the condition of anonymity stating that they felt Const. Zahara had received preferential treatment both in the criminal case and the internal investigation and that her actions hurt the entire force’s reputation.

It bears repeating: gee, ya think so?

It's too bad these officers had to request anonymity. These other two officers commit serious crimes, it all gets covered up and whitewashed, and the people pointing it out are the ones who need to remain anonymous. This is a terrific example of why people have lost trust in The System.

Of course Const. Zahara received preferential treatment. If she and her boyfriend hadn't been police officers, she'd have correctly spent some time in jail.

However, as my opening implied, she also received preferential treatment because of her gender. If anyone would like to make the case that everything else would have played out the same way if the genders of the officers involved were reversed, please do so. I haven't had anything really good to point and laugh at in a couple of days.

Perhaps the judge feels that firearms aren't as dangerous when carelessly handled by a woman. "Girl bullets" can't hurt anyone, right?

This entire case is an embarrassment to the RCMP and Canada's justice system as a whole. All involved are disgraces to their professions (the RCMP officers, the "internal probe" panel members, the judge if they had any latitude in the ridiculously lenient sentence, and the legislators if they didn't). They should all be ashamed of themselves, getting fitted for paper hats, and preparing for their future careers asking people whether they'd like to supersize that.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a grid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, just hold on there, everyone with the obvious exception of you, knows that girl RCMP officers are issued only pink bullets. Now, apparently the pink bullets only hurt feelings and do not penetrate skin or harm those shot with them. I am quite sure this statement will soon be issued by the top brass and thereby clear up all problems concerning female offices shooting at male officers. Any way, you can not blame a female for shooting - why that would be discrimination.