Cops vs Gangsters – A Real Life Drama Unfolds in a Winnipeg Courtroom

Portrait of Judge John Hubert Plunkett in robes and wigDid Provincial Court Judge Rob Finlayson cross the line when he drew a comparison between gang members wearing colours and police officers sporting uniforms in a Winnipeg court room?

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 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.”

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.

Greg Brodsky (CBC)

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.”

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.


Aggravated Assault;

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.

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  1. To: Angered tax payer!
    How would you like the author of this article to refer to the person who assaulted the Peace Officer? Had Peters assaulted your neighbour or someone else you knew with the same viciousness and intent I’m sure your opinion would change. I’m also certain your hostile comment referring to Peace Officers wasting your tax dollars as “lazy” might change as well.There are incidents everyday which Officers are assaulted both physically and verbally and yet, are hidden from the public.
    I’m almost certain you haven’t bothered to read the follow up article which contains the Peace Officer’s Victim Impact Statement describing the extent of injuries this Officer has endured and will continue to recover from the rest of his life.
    The idea that Peters may only serve a sentence under two years and is eligible for day parole once he serves 1/6 of his sentence; that Mr. Brodsky had the arrogance to ask the court to consider Peters’ sentence to be served IN the COMMUNITY; and that Judge Finlayson compared the uniformed police officers to “gangsters wearing colours” offends and disgusts me. THIS is where I want answers as to where and how my tax dollars are being spent, not mewling about a court room of Peace Officers supporting a well liked and respected colleague.
    I’ll save you the trouble. Oxford Dictionary defines “savage” as:
    -fierce, violent, and uncontrolled; Cruel and vicious;
    -aggressively hostile: a savage attack on the government; and
    -A brutal or vicious person: the mother of one of the victims has described his assailants as savages

  2. James G Jewell

    Words like “savage” are only inappropriate if used with a derogatory racial intent.

    I would never have published the comment if I even remotely believed that was how the comment was intended.

    My story clearly defines a number of scenarios that may have contributed to the uniformed officers presence in the court room that DOES NOT involve “on duty” officers.

    When it comes to LERA you should know the agency is often used as a platform for hardened criminals to launch false allegations against police officers.

    You may find this story enlightening.


    Thank you for commenting.

  3. Angered tax payer!

    Calling the offender a “savage” is highly inappropriate! And for the officers who showed up in court on duty, aren’t the taxpayers providing their paychecks and this is how they chose to spend our hard earned money. As a taxpayer, I am furious that the WPS is not investigating into how they spend OUR money. Also, it is extremely rare to hear of civilians assaulting police officers but we hear of many cases of police officers assaulting civilians and only get administrative leave for a minimal amount of time. Just heard the other day on the news that the Law Enforcement Review Agency gets hundreds of complaints against unlawful police officers but nothing has been done about it. I would like to see my tax dollars go to work for that then to some lazy police officers who think they can spend my tax dollars playing paid hooky.

  4. James G Jewell

    That is a great story…

    Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Thirty five years ago I was testifying in court in the case of a criminal who, among other things, I had found in possession of a loaded pistol. Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky was standing in front of me, pistol in hand, waving it at me stating “Isn’t it true officer that you pointed this pistoll at my client to get him to confess.” I turned to Justice Madame Bowman and said “Your honour, I can’t testify with this lawyer pointing that pistol at me.” Mr Brodsky suddenly looked like he was holding a hot potato but madame Bowman merely said “He has to point it somewhere officer.” There’s definitely a fraternity there that we don’t belong to but you would think that they could at least pretend to be impartial.

  6. James G Jewell

    Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me…

    Thanks for this…

  7. An interesting item to add is that Mr. Brodsky stated to Judge Finlayson that the off-duty officer was not in uniform at the time of the assault and yet there were a number of police officers in uniform and carrying guns in the courtroom gallery. It left the impression that Mr. Brodsky feels that since the officer was off-duty and not in uniform that any officers attending the courtroom should not be in uniform. As part of Peters’ guilty plea, it was accepted that the off-duty officer had verbally identified himself as a police officer which substantiates the charge of Aggravated Assault of a Peace Officer.

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