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Saskatoon Police Service

The Truth About Drones

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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.

Column: Invest in people to curb crime

My latest column in The StarPhoenix.  I know this generally gets posted on Monday’s but the internet at Arlington Beach was unusable and by the time I got home, the work week was upon me.

The StarPhoenix Saskatoon is second only to Regina in Canada’s crime severity index, despite our crime rate dropping for the seventh straight year – a reduction of nearly 11,000 crimes annually from the peak of 2003. However, there’s still is a lot of crime on Saskatoon’s streets, with 25,600 events reported.

Whose fault is it? Police Chief Clive Weighill says crime is a reality of prairie life: "Until we can change the social contributors to crime we’re not going to see decreases across the Prairie provinces," he said in an interview with The StarPhoenix.

"We have a large segment of our society that’s marginalized, living in poverty, poor housing, reduced availability for employment. Unfortunately, crime is a linked outcome to this.

It’s going to take some big changes to the social strata across the Prairie provinces."

I agree. What’s troubling is that no one has much of a plan to deal with it. How do you change the culture of a community away from criminal or anti-social behaviour once it has become the norm?

A lot needs to change.

The Americans have been trying to tackle this problem for decades, with limited success. The Head Start program, whose goal is to prepare for kindergarten children growing up in poverty stricken neighbourhoods, has been around since 1965. Some cities have been known to fire all of the staff in a school if test scores are too low.

In Saskatoon, we see our community schools trying to make a difference by providing food and clothing programs. While both Head Start and our community schools have had some success, both are too limited to tackle the wide range of issues that contribute to poverty.

The Harlem Children’s Zone has taken a different approach. It’s an education/ housing/crime prevention approach that provides assistance to children from birth all the way to the job market – a much larger commitment compared to providing preschool education or lunch programs.

The Harlem project is a 22year commitment to ensure that those with the most obstacles to overcome have a reliable support system.

The family traditionally has played this role. However, as we see the disintegration of stable family structures in some parts of our society, someone else needs to step up. Would you rather have the Terror Squad or a Harlem Children’s Zone stepping into that gap

The latter is tackling all the issues that stand in the way of a child’s success – housing, education, public safety, health care, transportation and food safety.

The interconnected problems that Chief Weighill mentions need a comprehensive solution. The idea is to help children as early in their lives as possible, and to create a community of adults around them who understand what it takes to help children succeed.

This is an option that doesn’t rely on new capital projects or resources, but moving people out of silos to become part of an integrated solution. If we are honest with ourselves, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Even if we started today, the payoff will be more than a decade away.

Saskatchewan does not have a poverty reduction strategy. So, while a variety of projects are undertaken, they seem to fall under the category of, "Let’s spend a lot of money and hope it works."

Slightly more than 15 per cent of Saskatchewan residents fall under the poverty line, among them 35,000 children. Poverty reduction conversations often resolve around the need for governments to provide more in direct payments, but there are many exciting economic empowerment ideas across North America that are providing sustainable jobs.

Housing is my area of interest, but I know that without an integrated plan of training, job creation, food security, health and safe, affordable housing, you won’t achieve the results required to make another big dent in the 26,000 crimes we see in Saskatoon.

The greater the investment upstream in poverty prevention and giving people good economic opportunities, the less money you spend downstream on policing and corrections.

Police have made great progress in crime reduction. It’s time for the provincial government to step up and work on the rest of the factors that will make Saskatoon and Regina safer cities to live in.