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Crime and Police Are the Responsibility of Every Calgary Citizen

November 9, 2015

I've spent a fair amount of time on this blog discussing the Calgary Police Service, often in critical tones. I've also given praise on occasion, but I've made no secret of the fact that I don't agree with many of their tactics, policies, and principles. I have nothing against most individual police officers or the idea of a police force, either—I recognize that most people are good people, whatever their profession, and I see law enforcement as an important part of the same criminal justice system I've dedicated my career to.

At times, the tone I've taken in critiques of the Calgary Police has been tongue-in-cheek, but though I may at times appear flippant my worries come from a place of very serious concern. We need to be concerned about the little actions and the big policies that are police force may have wrong, because we can ever be sure of the specific harm these wrongs may cause. Recent news of an elleged attack on Calgary Police that resulted with shots being fired on a crowded public street should give us all pause.

Do Guns Make the Decision to Shoot Too Easy?

According to the scant media reports on the incident, an SUV hit a cyclist in downtown Calgary sometime before 4:30 pm, with rush hour well underway. The vehicle managed to flee the scene, but returned after Calgary Police had arrived and rammed a police van, seemingly on purpose. One police officer reportedly dove out of the way; the other officer on the scene opened fire on the SUV, which again sped away before coming to a stop a few blocks away. Two suspects, one with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, were arrested.

On the one hand, I understand a reluctance to second-guess the officer's decision to fire his weapon at the driver of the SUV. This officer likely felt that their life was being threatened, and that the lives of other innocent bystanders were also at risk, and took action that perhaps seemed appropriate.

A missed shot could also have harmed a bystander, however, or could have harmed another occupant of the SUV who was not responsible for the actions of the driver—possibly someone who was even in the vehicle against their will. There might have been other ways to defuse the situation while promoting greater safety for all concerned, but because a gun was handy, a gun was used, and we should all be wondering if that should be available as an immediate option in these situations…

...and if bringing guns in response to a traffic incident should really be common practice in the first place.

Violence begets violence, our sages have taught us, yet Calgary has a police force that often leaps to violence as the first solution to every problem, even in situations where lives the physical danger is not as present as in this incident. I don't want to see anyone killed—not a police officer, not an alleged criminal, and not anyone else who just happens to be in downtown Calgary during rush hour. Let's think about a police force that is less prone to being attacked, more easily embraced, and less liable to use violence to achieve its own goals. The more we take responsibility for the way we react to crime, the more control we'll have over the Calgary's crime.

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2015


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