EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

THE “GATING” DEBATE RAGES ON – Crime Reporter Relentless

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Winnipeg Free Press crime reporter James Turner continued his attack on members of the Winnipeg Police Service for allegedly abusing their authority by participating in an inappropriate Police tactic criminal defense attorneys have dubbed “gating.”

Although I’d never heard of the term, “gating,” it turns out, is the practise of Police delaying the execution of arrest warrants for incarcerated offenders until their sentences expire.  Once the offender is released from prison, Police Officers wait at the “gate” and effect their arrest before they get a taste of freedom.  According to Turner, the tactic is intended to maximize the time criminal offenders stay behind bars.

In all, Turner has written three (3) articles on the subject. 

The first centered on an offender who served two (2) years in prison while a warrant for his arrest gathered dust for approximately ten (10) months.  Once the offender was released from prison the police apparently, “sprung out of the shadows,” and took him into custody.

Criminal defense attorney Chris Sigurdson decried, “They’re deliberately doing it, it’s cruel.”  ”It’s not uncommon.  It happens a lot,” he added. 

Provincial Court Judge Tim Killeen indicated he was, “profoundly unimpressed,” with how Police handled the situation and hoped his view was made clear to them.  ”I’ve seen this over and over and over again,” he said. “I don’t know what makes it so difficult for them to get to the institution and arrest the person,” said Killeen.

As a Police insider, I knew there was much more to the story and was perplexed by the unbalanced work and sympathetic angle Turner took for the offender in question.  I also balked at the suggestion “gating” has become a pervasive Police tactic as the story suggests.

I felt compelled to fill in the blanks and did so by writing an article called “Profoundly Unimpressed Judge Needs Reality Check.”  The story provided insight into the volume of outstanding warrants in the system, investigative priorities, procedures, resources and risk assessment.

Turner’s second article featured a story about an offender who did almost four (4) years in prison only to get arrested once he secured his freedom on statutory release.

The final act in the trilogy summarized the two cases, offered condescending definitions of legal terminology and rebuked the Police Service for turning, “a blind eye to the law’s instruction.”

Turner’s attack on the Police sparked outrage from a crime weary, unsympathetic public who posted angry comments online, via email or by letters to the Free Press.

My defense of the Police also sparked a degree of rage from members of the defense bar who went on the offensive on JT’s Facebook page.  The attacks were angry, personal and offensive.

James Turner once again demonstrated his innate ability to find hot button topics that undoubtedly please the people who sign his pay checks.  Turner is known for his detail oriented crime reporting.  His journalistic talents were recently displayed during his high calibre reporting of the Chad Davis murder trial.

Where was that thoroughness in his reporting of the “gating,” issue?

Turner’s story left the impression that “gating,” is a widespread tactic used by member’s of the WPS.  That message paints a dirty picture of Police Officer’s and tarnishes the reputation of the men and women of Law Enforcement.

That message found fertile ground as one of Turner’s readers wrote, “If our legal system, and therefore our police force, is based around the principle of justice, why is an entirely unjust act commonplace?”

So is “gating,” commonplace in the Winnipeg Police Service?

Respectfully, two incidents do not a trend make.

There are many reasons why arrest warrants for incarcerated offenders go unexecuted.  Some of those reasons include the fact there are over 30,000 arrest warrants in the system, thousands of incarcerated offenders, ten (10) or more prisons spread throughout the Province and no designated unit to deal with the issue.  The fact remains incarcerated offenders present zero public safety risk and rank as a low priority for a resource challenged Police Service.

Simply put, the Police Service doesn’t monitor the warrant status or movements of incarcerated offenders.

As a Police outsider, James Turner is blind to one of the primary reasons the perception of “gating,” may exist.  The smoking gun is contained within his own written words.

Turner writes, “Winnipeg police knew he was in custody but let an arrest warrant sit idle for 10 months until an hour after he got out and checked in with his parole officer.”

Parole Officer’s are responsible for the supervision of offenders once they’re released from prison.  Part of those duties require that the Officer must be alert to the existence of arrest warrants.  If a Parole Officer discovers the existence of an arrest warrant for a newly released parolee he’s duty bound to notify the authorities so the warrant can be executed.

Parole Officer’s frequently facilitate these kinds of arrests.

Regardless, I agree that Police Officer’s should not take part in the kind of tactics described by Mr Turner.  If the authorities are aware of the existence of a warrant for an incarcerated offender then arrangements should be made to have it executed.

The most disturbing part of the story remains the complete lack of offender accountability in our soft justice environment.

Do incarcerated offenders not bear a degree of responsibility in any of this?

Not so much, according to Judge Killeen, Chris Sigurdson and James Turner.

Why promote offender accountability when you can take the path of least resistance and blame the easy targets!

A Correctional Officer who read The Police Insider story paints the picture;

“If they want their crimes dealt with in a timely fashion maybe they can start taking some responsibility for themselves and own up to the things they’ve done.  Inmates are often far too busy to handle their issues, which are many, while they’re incarcerated. Playing cards, board games, doing arts and crafts, reading, sleeping in and taking naps, watching cable TV, working out in the gym, playing games on computers, sitting out in the yard getting fresh air, eating three meals a day, getting coffee and snacks served to them twice a day or maybe they happen to have an institutional job… one which serves the rest of those busy inmates in getting them clean clothes every day, clean sheets and bedding twice a week and cleaning up after them. Life is so rough for those inmates.”

Now that’s a reality check!

RELATED LINKS:

The Police Insider – “Profoundly Unimpressed Judge Needs Reality Check”

Winnipeg Free Press – James Turner “This Should Cease Forthwith”

5 Comments

  1. New age defense counsel say that was a tactic used by the “old school” lawyers…..

    Just had this conversation on FB the other day..

  2. Like my daughter would say, “Is this even a thing?”

    No, it’s not a thing.

  3. Ya…cause defense lawyers never manipulate the system in their client’s favor….like adjourning cases so they serve dead time to be applied to their sentence…..

  4. http://www.winnipegpoliceassociation.ca/news.asp?news_ID=2367

    So WPA President Mike Sutherland has a discussion with Turner about this.

    Again, it’s laughable that Turner takes such an issue with it, and it’s explained to him by someone “in the know” as it were. Yet, he still stands by his rhetoric.

    Incredible unbiased reporting.

  5. The whole issue is completely laughable. Turner drones on and on about how it’s some sort of diabolical plot to “punish” those already incarcerated for a different offence.

    Turner has taken some comments by only a select few of defence lawyers and one “judge” and turned a “non-story” into something else.

    I don’t recall him finding further examples, nor even mentioning any knowledge of the process. But then, as a professional reporter, why would you let something like facts get in the way of a good story?

    Just another professional reporter at work, folks. Move along, nothing to see.

    Eventually, if ignored, they go away.

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