When a cop approaches you in Saskatoon

I managed to tear my left quadricep while hiking in Drumheller (more on that later) last weekend.  It hurts worse than it sounds and I can barely walk.  Steps are almost impossible and even a slight incline is horrible to navigate.   I was walking downtown to my car and I was limping and wobbly when I was approached by two Saskatoon Police officers who thought I was intoxicated.  As they approached, I knew they thought I was drunk and two thoughts came to my mind.  

The first was the worst thing that will happen is they will make me take a breathalyzer.  I don’t drink so that isn’t a problem.  Then I realized the worst thing anyone could do would was to poke my leg but I wasn’t really at risk of that happening.  Still my second thought was, “DON’T TOUCH MY LEG”.

The officers got close, realized that I wasn’t drunk and I explained that I had torn my quad which got an immediate response and discussion about that.  Some jokes were made about the smell of A535 and then one asked how hard it was to walk.  I mentioned that it really screws up your balance but I was fine.  A final joke was made about being “wobbly is not a crime” and I hobbled to my car. 

I kept thinking about that non-incident compared to the craziness going on in Ferguson.  Even if the Saskatoon Police Officers were going to be jerks (and they weren’t) my biggest concern was a 2 minute delay.  Instead it was almost a five minute chat about stupid injuries, Louis CK, and getting old.  Wendy and I have been stopped by SPS offers while out taking some photographs.  While people are being ordered and arrested for taking photos in Ferguson, the officers we dealt with had some camera questions and just made small talk about photography.  

Not all Saskatoon Police officers have been like that (over the years) and I have talked to some friends who have never been on the wrong side of the law who are terrified of Saskatoon Police (I am not sure why) but when I am out and I see a beat cop approach, I have never been concerned to worried about anything.  I am old enough to remember when you WANTED a cop to approach you because they used to be your sole source of Saskatoon Blades hockey cards (that was a great idea in the day)

Sadly there are places in the United States who have legitimate reason to worry even if they have never committed a crime and that is an incredibly depressing thing to think about.

Less force, more service

How much of this is applicable in Saskatoon.  The vision for the future of Toronto Police.

“What I see is the traditional model, which has outlived its utility and relevance,” Mukherjee said of a system that has historically relied on uniformed police officers heavily equipped with hardware, where the bulk of training is in use of force.

“The need out there has changed,” he said, adding that 80 per cent of the work police are now called on to do isn’t crime fighting per se. Officers are instead dealing with the safety of young people, domestic violence issues, and people suffering mental health issues.

Mukherjee envisions organizational shifts that could involve hiring youth workers, domestic violence workers and social workers. And that could even include taking guns away from some (or many) police officers.

“My vision of the police organization is it is actually a network of many different services,” Mukherjee said. The human rights facilitator is keenly interested in the approach to policing in the United Kingdom, thought to be at the forefront of innovation.

These are not simple changes.

During Thursday’s interview, Mukherjee noted that two years ago he pushed for zero deaths in police interactions with the mentally ill and was told by top brass it was “impractical.” (In a report released last week, retired judge Frank Iacobucci also called for a goal of “zero deaths,” one of several recommendations Blair said would “gather momentum” and not dust.)

This would be a fascinating discussion to have because I see the Saskatoon Police force working in both ways.  While I am not sure how much value the SWAT assault vehicle they have is, they do have a lot more hardware now than they did before.  How much does a police force need?  How much social work should they be doing?  Interesting questions.

The Truth About Drones

UnmannedPredatorDrone

From The New Yorker

Indeed, if there is one overriding factor in America’s secret wars—especially in its drone campaign—it’s that the U.S. is operating in an information black hole. Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate. When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from a unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at. Most drone strikes in Pakistan, as an American official explained to me during my visit there in 2011, are what are known as “signature strikes.” That is, the C.I.A. is shooting at a target that matches a pattern of behavior that they’ve deemed suspicious. Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When Brennan claimed, as he did in 2011—clearly referring to the drone campaign—that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death,” he was most certainly wrong.

NBC has the 16 page memo that makes the argument that it is okay to kill Americans which seems to go against their entire legal system.

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

Drone killing is growing at such a boom that colleges are offering degrees in it.  What is interesting about the article is that the FAA does not licence police forces to fly drones over high crime areas yet the Saskatoon City Police has a drone (really an amazing remote controlled helicopter) although from what I have read, it is more about taking photos of crime scenes than anything else.

The operator of the X6 guides the helicopter by using a remote control and wearing video-goggles that show what the chopper sees through the camera. While Draganfly staff will pilot the helicopter at first, police officers will decide what to photograph. Engele said he expects trained police officers will pilot the choppers themselves after they take a course this spring and receive proper clearances.

It won’t fly higher than a light post and will only be used in fair weather conditions, he said.

The American military has grown to rely on similar unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to do aerial surveys and provide video to commanders on the ground.

The key in expanding the service’s use of the technology is going to be proving the images hold up in court, Engele said. The X6 was used previously by the Ontario Provincial Police to photograph a homicide scene in rural Ontario and could be used in tactical or surveillance operations, he said.

“You could use it for anything your brain can think of,” Engele said. “You can fly it inside an office and take a picture of the whole room to capture blood splatter.”

City residents can expect to see the mini-helicopter hovering above collision scenes around late-spring or summer, Engele said.

Mayfair

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Dave Winer was using Cyclemeter, a iPhone app that measures and maps out your ride times.  While I don’t cycle too much to work (with all of the construction, storage is at a premium), I have been walking a lot and using Walkmeter to track, map, and guilt me into walking more.  So far I hate it but I am walking around 6.14 kms a day.  While I was walking home the other day, I ran into a neighbor who was asking us if we were moving because we have been working in the yard this summer.  The truth is that with Wendy’s depression hitting on schedule this spring, we just got behind and were catching up.  Instead of walking into Safeway, saying hi to Wendy, and then heading down Avenue D, we went down Avenue B.  It was like I was in a different city.  Girls working the block, abandoned homes, boarded up windows, overgrown yards; it was a mess.  As we walked down the street he said to me, “this part of Mayfair has gone to shit” and I couldn’t agree more.  The housing stock has always been poor on these two blocks but it has gotten worse in the last couple of years.  The sidewalks were a mess and the roads were, well like a lot of roads in the city, a mess.

It’s just not Avenue B.  On Sunday afternoon Wendy had run to Co-op to get some Peat Moss for the yard and I was out watering some of it and enjoying a rather bland diabetic friendly iced tea on the front stop.  A women walked by, lifted her shirt, showed her chest and cooled herself off.  She then offered to give me a blow job for some of that beer (iced tea) that I was drinking.  Bring propositioned was one thing but flashing my 12 year old son wasn’t that cool (although he may disagree with me).  I have heard that prostitution is down on 33rd Street but it has moved along the side streets.  Wendy sees them many times while walking to Safeway for a 2:00 p.m. shift while Mark has been solicited (again, he is twelve) many times walking to and from the store, a distance of two blocks.   Prostitution is like a game of “whack a mole”, you remove from one area, it springs up in different areas.  The crackdown on 20th Street moved it to 33rd, the crackdown on 33rd moves it to my block.  Apparently that is progress.  I have confidence in the police.  They will crack down on Avenue’s C, D, and E, and the problem will move somewhere else.  I don’t blame the police for this but as a homeowner you wish the “mole” hadn’t appeared on your street and that the prostitution had gone somewhere else. 

Tonight was probably the last night that I will think of Mayfair as home.  Tonight Wendy and I were chatting about an upcoming trip and we heard a gunshot.  As I looked up the non 9-1-1 number, another gunshot went off behind what sounded to be Carpenter’s Church.  Gunshot number three sounded like it was in our backyard (although I assumed it was in the vacant lot or alley behind us) and we saw the muzzle flash of gunshot number four (although Wendy says we saw muzzle flash number 3 and just heard number 4).

Wendy had called the police and we were asked, “how do you know it’s a gunshot” and it’s a fair question which is hard to answer without being flippant.  We have fireworks and fire crackers going off here all summer along.  The dogs don’t even respond to it.  We don’t respond to it.  There is a distinctive noise that a gun makes and one that a fire cracker makes.  This was a gun (at the cabin we hear gun fire all of the time but in rural Saskatchewan its not that threatening).  I was told that Saskatoon Police responded and didn’t find a weapon so they can’t open an investigation.  That’s not their fault yet part of me goes what happens next time when one of those shots goes into Oliver’s bedroom? 

Mayfair has had two long time drug house running drug houses on the 1200 block of Avenue D (one closed, one still active), one on Avenue E (closed), two massage parlours on 33rd Street (open), another illegal brothel on Avenue D (run by someone on federal parole and now closed), a massage parlour run by Hell’s Angels, the bar that hosts the Terror Squad, illegal boarding house after illegal boarding house all over the neighbourhood, one really high profile location that flaunts their non-compliance with zoning, a regular dial-a-dope drop on my street corner (by the time it clicks in what just happened, they are gone).  The vaunted Local Area Plan (of which I am a believer) has been delayed longer than the city’s recycling plan.  Of course when it was planned, I was told that Mayfair was next because it was a neighborhood in crisis.  Nothing helps a crisis like a year long delay.   There is no functioning community association, Wendy gets solicited walking home from Safeway on a regular basis and my neighbours are scared.  I used to ignore them and their fears but now I agree with what they are saying.

Tomorrow when I complain to the police (for not even letting us know via the phone that they had driven by) I will hear that crime is down in the area, patrols are up, and there are beat cops on 33rd and all of it is true.  Then I will spend some time thinking how much longer I want to live in what is becoming increasingly violent and scary area of Saskatoon.

One of my core beliefs that it never gets so bad that you can’t make it better.  I have always criticized those that fled to other neighborhoods when it got tough because this is what happens but where the hell do you go from here?  I just don’t know.