Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Police photos needed in Ottawa, Canada
Chief of Police
(by email, sent November 24, 2010)
Re: Request for police officer pictures
Dear Police Chief Vern White,
I write to ask you to increase public safety and improve the accountability of the Ottawa police force by posting the names and pictures of all Ottawa Police officers on the Ottawa Police web site.
Police officers are public servants with power disproportionate to that of a regular citizen. They are also integral members of the community and must be accountable to the public which they serve.
Posting the pictures of police officers on the Ottawa Police web site would increase public safety and would help to protect the public from now rampant police violence against citizens and police abuse of power and irregular behaviour in Ottawa.
It is often difficult, as you know, for victims of illegitimate police aggression to obtain or record and retain the names or badge numbers of offending officers while being subjected to improper treatments and aggressive arrests. I have direct experience with this and can only imagine what it must be like in even more violent situations than the ones I have witnessed on the campus at the University of Ottawa in recent years.
In addition it is important for citizens to be able to protect themselves by avoiding police officers who have been shown or reprimanded by the court or disciplined by their employer for improper behaviour. The web pictures would aid in this regard. As you know, the first defence of a person is to avoid dangerous or volatile situations.
For example, it is presently difficult to find pictures of your officers Const. Shyldon Safruk, Special Const. Glenmore Clarke, Sgt. Steve Desjourdy [photo], Special Constable (Melanie) Morris, and Const. John Flores despite the brutal attacks in which they participated and which have been reported in the media.
Unfortunately, the “few bad apples” theory does not hold water here because these officers would not have undertaken such breaches of the public trust if there was not a broad culture of thuggish disrespect for citizens’ rights within the force. I have repeatedly witnessed this culture and confrontational mentality on the University of Ottawa campus with student arrests, community member arrests, and my own false arrest while I was a tenured professor.
Changing this culture will be a massive undertaking that will take many years in which we will all need to participate. I will do my part. The pictures are an essential easy first step that you can implement immediately.
We need proud officers who uphold the law not delinquent thugs who serve special interests and hide their faces.
As a question of public safety and in the interest of accountability in a democratic society, therefore, will you post the names and pictures of your officers on the Ottawa Police web site? If not, why not?
Please indicate when you will be able to respond.
Former physics professor, University of Ottawa
Cc: Civil society, City Hall, the media
2-SAME DAY ANSWER FROM CHIEF:
Chief Vern White called me at home.
He said no. He said some other police forces in Canada don't follow the law by not even having name tags. He said pictures would put officers at risk from criminals. He said he had 2000 officers "the vast majority of who have a right to their privacy", that 700 of them were civilians, not sworn officers, and that 250 work special units and are in and out of under cover positions and that he wouldn't even recognize them all.
Chief White said the sworn officer photos "are available if necessary but we wouldn't put them up". He did not know that all regular university professors had their pictures posted. He said that he teaches at both universities (in Ottawa) but that he would not allow them to post his picture if they wanted and he stated that he had no fears from any of his students showing up at his home.
I stated my opinion that more citizens are harmed by police than police harmed by citizens. He asked me my motivation in making the request in my letter and asked me what my goal was. I re-expressed my letter and he disagreed.
His main point was "not everybody wants every criminal to know who you are and what you look like." A main point in my letter is that we need to know what the criminals look like.
He committed to providing me a written answer.
RELATED MEDIA LINKS: LINK-1, LINK-2, LINK-3, LINK-4, LINK-5.