Retired Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Unit Sergeant Tom Anderson thinks so;
“Judge Rob Finlayson equates the Crown, asking for removal of gangsters wearing colours (their uniforms), from court, with defence lawyers, asking that uniform cops be removed from court. Perhaps the honourable moral compass needs calibrating. The cops, dedicated to upholding the law, were concerned about the sentencing of a savage who hospitalized a brother officer. The gangsters, dedicated to breaking the law, sought to swamp the system with their evil presence. One of these things is not like the other and the judge doesn’t get it,” bemoaned Anderson in a social media post.
The case before the court involved the serious assault of an off duty Winnipeg police officer violently attacked during a domestic assault on October 27, 2013.
Police reported the officer attended a convenience store where he observed a man assaulting a woman. The officer attempted to intervene when the assailant turned his aggression towards him.
The officer, a fifty-two (52) year old, thirty-three (33) year veteran of the Police Service, suffered serious injuries including an orbital fracture, lacerations to the cheek and eyelid, concussion and nerve damage. Police subsequently charged Kyle Jeremy Peters (26) with aggravated assault for his attack on the officer.
Peters subsequently entered a guilty plea.
The sentencing hearing was covered by Winnipeg Free Press crime reporter Mike McIntyre who quoted criminal defense attorney Greg Brodsky’s primary objections;
“I think it’s inappropriate for the gallery to be comprised of police officers in uniform with guns in an intimidating fashion.”
“It’s as if their presence will somehow effect the determination of the court,” Brodsky suggested.
“Justice has to be seen to be done. It’s inappropriate. I’m not saying they shouldn’t come. But they shouldn’t come in uniform with guns. I don’t know why we need this show of force,” he stressed.
McIntyre indicates Judge Finlayson agreed citing cases where the Crown had concerns when, “Large numbers of gang members have shown up with their colours.”
Senior Crown Attorney Daniel Chaput poured water on Brodsky’s objections and brought the Judge back to reality;
“I trust this honourable court will not only ensure that justice is seen to be done, but that justice is done. The composition of the gallery will have no effect whatsoever,” he said.
Chaput properly suggested the police attendance was about support, not intimidation.
The McIntyre report includes speculation regarding the attendance of “on duty” police officers;
“It’s not clear how many officers were on duty at the time or whether they donned their uniform to show up in court on their personal time,” McIntyre writes.
I expect front line police officers will find the proceedings as troubling as McIntyre’s reporting.
Mr Brodsky’s reference to a “Show of Force”
Mr Brodsky is clearly perturbed that WPS officers came to court “in uniform armed with guns.”
The policy regarding police firearms in the courtroom has evolved over the years.
There is nothing in the current policy prohibiting police officers from wearing their firearms in the courtroom.
It’s time for justice system participants to recognize a service firearm is an essential piece of equipment worn by professional police officers.
Although court-house shootings are rare in this Country, armed police officers may have a deterrent effect on anyone intent on bringing a weapon into a court of law.
A police firearm is a defensive weapon used only in cases where deadly force is required. The presence of a firearm in a court of law should be viewed as a potentially life saving measure and not an offensive or intimidating weapon.
Some may still suggest firearms have no place in a court of law.
Some suggest the complacent mindset has no place in the modern age of epidemic mental health decline, home-grown terror, radicalization and extremism.
Consider what the scale and scope of the tragedy might have been had House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers not been armed at the Parliament building on October 22nd.
It’s naive to think such an event could not occur at our Law Courts.
Cops vs Gangsters
Judge Finlayson’s comparison to uniformed police officers and gangsters wearing colours is undoubtedly offensive to all serving Law Enforcement Officers. The sentiments expressed by Tom Anderson capture the substantive objection.
The Speculation Regarding “On Duty” Officers
Mike McIntyre speculates it’s not clear how many of the officers present were on duty or if they were off duty and “donned their uniforms” to show up in court.
Neither scenario may be true.
At any given time dozens of front line uniform police officers can be seen in attendance at the Law Courts. These officers may be on or off duty.
On duty officers under subpoena are obligated to remain at the court-house until they give their evidence or are excused by the Crown.
Off duty officers may include members who are on a full set of days off or who just worked night shift or evening shift.
Police officers assigned to uniform operations generally wear their uniforms when they attend court. Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, uniform officers normally testify in uniform dress while plain clothes officers (detectives) give testimony in business suits.
Police officers can spend the entire day at court or be excused very early in the morning. Either way, a day in court often provides police officers with plenty of down time.
There is absolutely nothing wrong or improper with police officers attending a court proceeding to support a co-worker who suffered serious injuries in an off duty incident. In fact, the support is not only commendable, I’m confident it was greatly appreciated by the victim officer.
After all, the off duty officer’s attempt to intervene was not only courageous, it demonstrated a keen sense of duty and dedication to public service.
Isn’t that something we should all respect and support?
If “on duty” officers, who were not on official police business at the Law Courts, attended the proceedings they did so in contravention of police policy and at their own peril.
The WPS would not provide official comment but did indicate they are NOT investigating the incident.
The hearing is set to continue in early November.
Every one commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.
The maximum penalty for aggravated assault is fourteen (14) years incarceration.