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Calgary Police, the Law, and…"DUI"?

April 7, 2016

Any regular reader knows I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Calgary Police Service. As in, I'd love to love them, but all too often find myself hating the actions they decide to take, the headlines they decide to make, and the underlying philosophy that seems to guide many of their statements and community interactions.

But I also try to give them credit where credit is due, and their recent handling of a less-than-flattering photo deserves a bit of credit.

The picture, posted online by the person who took it, shows an on-duty Calgary Police officer tapping away on her cell phone while driving a Calgary Police vehicle on a public road—an act that is illegal for most drivers.

It might be what we could call the new Calgary DUI—Driving Under the Internet.

Calgary Police and other emergency workers are actually exempt from certain provisions of the Traffic Safety Act, including the prohibition against using your cell phone as a handheld device while you're actively operating a vehicle on public roads, if their cell phone use is a necessary part of their official employment. So when this photo started gaining traction, the official response from the Calgary Police Service very well could have been as haughty and dismissive as it frequently is when members of the public voice sincere concerns.

Instead, while a member of the Calgary Police did point out the exemption, and confirmed that the officer in the photo was engaged in an urgent police matter on her cell phone, he also said that the officer has been spoken to about pulling over to handle the situation in a safer manner in the future.

“Internally, what we tell our people is that ‘we understand that a lot of information is coming to you all the time… some of that is information you need that could have public and officer safety,’” said Calgary Police Service spokesperson Kevin Brockwell. “But we’re saying ‘if you need use those devices and it’s not exigent circumstances—pull over like everybody else.’”

In other words, the Calgary Police acknowledged that a mistake was made, and at least tacitly acknowledged that public safety was actually the most important part of their official police duties—that busting crime shouldn't (and doesn't have to) come with a police force that runs roughshod over the rest of the Calgary community.

So while this one officer might have been caught "DUI" (again, that's "Driving Under the Internet"—I don't need a libel lawsuit on my hands), the Calgary Police Service says they are actively trying not to make a habit of it and have actually directly discussed the issue with the officer in question. Meaning there's some actual accountability in our city's law enforcement...something that isn't always as apparent as this defence lawyer would like.

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2016

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