Thursday, November 02, 2006

Opportunity Knocks

Cop who smacked hockey fan was doing his job: Crown
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | 3:13 PM MT
The Canadian Press

A police officer captured in photos smacking a handcuffed woman in the head at a street celebration after an Edmonton Oilers playoff game last spring should not be charged with assault, a prosecutor recommended Wednesday.

Calgary chief Crown prosecutor Gordon Wong said the Edmonton officer had little choice but to administer what is known as a "head stun" on Kristin Wilson during crowd control on Whyte Avenue on June 17.

Now, Paula Simons has already done sterling work commenting on this incident, and I have very little to add to what she's said about the implausibility of the "preventing a riot" explanation, etc. etc. However, she does make one comment that I'd like to elaborate on:

Wong's legal opinion isn't the last word on this sad affair. It's merely advice. Chief Boyd still has it within his power to lay criminal charges or launch internal discipline proceedings.

There it is really. So far, Mike Boyd has done a fairly decent job as Chief of Police here, certainly far better than what his immediate predecessors accomplished. The Kristin Wilson incident, however, represents his first, real chance to show that things are changing in the EPS. He cannot, for the sake of public confidence in his police force, simply hide behind the prosecutor's statement and do nothing about the incident itself. If he does that, it will be a clear sign that in fact nothing has changed, and that the thuggery and lack of accountability for which the force has gained an reputation are still un-dealt-with. If, however, he steps up and apologizes to Kristin Wilson, or does something to get her civil lawsuit satisfactorily and quickly resolved, or at the very least admits that the incident was handled unbelievably poorly, he will have begun to show Edmontonians that the EPS may be returning to the very high standard of policing we enjoyed in the early 1990s. The chief's next move is awaited with interest and trepidation.

P.S. A full description of what went on that night, including one of the now-infamous pictures, can be found here.

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