EDITORIALS, NATIONAL NEWS

THE DEMONIZATION OF POLICE OFFICERS – A Fool’s Game

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I just read a mind numbing report written by National Post reporter Christie Blatchford.

The story centered on a TPA (Toronto Police Association) complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada regarding a defence lawyer who appears to have used Twitter to express his delight at the cold-blooded murder of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier.

It didn’t stop there, when a woman called him out for the outrageous tweet he allegedly retorted, “I really am praying u get violently raped.”

Blatchford reports the tweets appeared to have been written by David Da Silva, a criminal defense attorney working for the Da Silva Law Firm in Toronto, Ontario.  Not so surprising, Da Silva denied the allegations in an email stating, “I do not use Twitter.”  He then quickly went on the offense by threatening a lawsuit.

According to the report, the problem for Da Silva is several sources in the Toronto Legal Community “outed” him as the owner of the twitter account in question.  Other tweets that came from the account were equally disturbing;

  • “Governments have historically been behind almost all such attacks”
  • “Default assumption has to be them behind it.’
  • “Nothing heroic about police and EMS doing what they are PAID to do.”
  •  “That is not a hero.”
  • “I applaud as I always do the gratifying words of ‘Officer Down’ To whomever did that, I thank u for your service.”
  • “My favourite two words are: OFFICER DOWN”

Blatchford indicates the Twitter comments seem to refer to the cold-blooded murder of MIT Campus Police Officer Sean Collier (26) who was gunned down in his cruiser car by the Boston City Marathon bombers.

When confronted by a disgusted Twitter user, the author of the comments responded with;

  • “Sweet, I hope u get cervical cancer.”
  • “Whore.”
  • “I really am praying that u get violently raped. May cancer be upon u!!!”

TPA President Mike McCormack told the National Post the Association is “absolutely outraged” by the remarks and intends to make a formal complaint to the Law Society.

Blatchford reports the @DaSilvaLaw Twitter account was shut down after two Toronto defence lawyers, Andreas Papadopoulos and Simon King tweeted their outrage at the remarks.  A quick search of their Twitter feeds and their outrage was confirmed.

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Papadopoulos set the record straight in Blatchford’s report; “It’s unbelievable, at a minimum it should be investigated.  I think he just really believes there’s a raging battle between the individual and the tentacles of the state.”  “But that doesn’t mean you wish death upon police officers.”

In the high stakes game of Criminal Justice, the role of the Police Officer and the Defense Attorney are adversarial ones.  Police Officers take the witness stand in defense of the Crowns case while Defense Attorneys do everything within their power to destroy it.  Cross examination can be extremely vigorous, confrontational and often gets personal.

Experienced Police Officers recognize and respect the role of the Criminal Defense Attorney and resist temptations to take attacks on the witness stand personally.  Intelligent Officers recognize the tactics for what they are and learn how to “play the game.”

Herein lies one of the great pitfalls in the administration of law and criminal justice, the temptation to demonize our adversaries.

Rather than being outraged by the Da Silva case, I would suggest we use it as a great reminder to resist falling into that trap.  It’s a case that demonstrates how skewed a persons thought process can be when they let themselves become over invested in their work.  I’ve seen it happen to people on both sides of the fence.

Lest we forget, being a Police Officer or a Defense Attorney is just a job.  It doesn’t need to define who we are as human beings.  Neither side should be vilified for exercising an individual right to choose how we put food on the table.

Police Officers and Defense Lawyers play critical interconnected roles in the administration of Criminal Justice.  We rely upon each other to make the system work.  That’s not to say we have to like each other, but it does mean we owe it to each other to demonstrate a certain degree of professional courtesy and respect.

After twenty-six years in Law Enforcement I’ve grown to admire and respect many Criminal Defense Attorney’s.

After reading Blatchford’s story, I just added two more names to that list.

RELATED LINK:

National Post Christie Blatchford – Officer Down Tweet After Boston Shooting Enrages Toronto Police 

The Toronto Star – Boston bombing: Toronto lawyer denies writing nasty tweets that sparked outrage

4 Comments

  1. Darrell;

    Thank you very much for adding your voice to the issue.

    Your honest, balanced approach is appreciated as always.

  2. I agree whole heartedly.

    I tremendously appreciate the fact you had the courage and integrity to confront the divisive Twitter attack on Law Enforcement.

    Much respect.

    James Jewell

  3. Dear James:

    I’d just like to add a Facebook post I made on April 19 in the midst of all the Boston madness. Perhaps even more germane to us here in Canada today following our recent terrorist arrests.

    “When I hear people condemning cops, as if they were all one evil species, I remember flying endless hours with them in the north, searching for the lost. I remember my dear friend Jim, risking his life diving deep in Lake Superior to recover a dead body, and bring closure to a family. I remember a young cop, a guy as young as me attending a fatal car vs. pedestrian I had witnessed and how he bent down to try and find a pulse on a woman so obviously dead, and then how he turned to comfort me. I remember who we called when my daughter disappeared in a crowded mall and how they found her. And I think today of the only ones who stand without question, day in and day out between us and the terrorists, and how sometimes they die to keep us safe. Please think about these things the next time you feel the urge to hate police. They have a hell of a job to do.”

    I think the members of Copwatch would greatly benefit from a ride-a-long on a hot summer night in the north end. It would give them a little context. I’ve had my share of difficult encounters with police, there’s no denying it, but Us vs. Them doesn’t fix a lot of problems, that much I know for sure.

    Darrell Horn
    President, Broadway Neighbourhood Centre

  4. We each have our roles. I have always tried to the best of my ability not to take these thing personally. Wishing death and rape on a person is so mind-numbingly bizarre to begin with and then to think that these comments could have been made by a lawyer just takes it to another level. This is a sorry episode.

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