Brantford, population 93,650[i] with a police force of 210 full time, 10 part time and 37 auxiliary officers available and a budget nearing $25 million[ii]. In theory this could be wonderful, a big police force with a big budget, monitoring a town under 100,000 people, it could really make a person feel safe. The question we need to be asking is; are we? Brantford isn’t as big or as popular as a place like Toronto, yet this city constantly makes the papers with top crime rates in certain categories. Of course we cannot simply blame police for this, maybe they are doing everything they can and those breaking the law are just getting smarter. However, we have to at least examine the possibility that the job is just not being done properly. With such an increasing police force and hefty budget, we should be seeing decreases in crime, citizens feeling safe and comfortable; not only in their city but also with the officers themselves. I propose though that Brantford has become quite the opposite, that our police force is not living up to their values statement and that they are not keeping open dialog with the citizens they are supposed to protect.
I was recently contacted by a couple who felt that police were not only aggressive with them but also went overboard with the amount of officers and attempts to trample on their rights as citizens of this city. We read many stories of police going overboard, where the situation could have easily been resolved but instead it is accelerated and everyone involved suffers needlessly. This is just another one to add to the increasing pile and even though there are worse out there; it clearly shows our police force violating nearly every one of the values in their mission statement.[iii]
**all names have been changed to protect the identities of those making the complaint against Brantford Police**
It all started on a lazy Sunday where Howard found himself running into an ex-girlfriend who was none too happy about her situation and decided to get even by making a phony call to police; a suicide attempt by Howard. He had been home for an hour and was napping while his girlfriend Betty was preparing dinner and tending to their children. A knock on the front door revealed police who asked to speak with Howard, Betty obliged; waking him and sending him to the door. While officers were questioning Howard about the incident Betty had her first feeling that something wasn’t right. Her son has Autism; it affects 1 in 88 children over 12[iv] and presents many difficulties. So of course people talking right outside the door would draw his curiousity. “As part of his autism he’s overly obsessive, so he kept pulling at the door while I was giving my other child something to occupy her, so I could figure out what was happening. When I came back to draw my son away I could her Howard telling the officer to “calm down, he has autism”. The officer had become agitated that their son was pulling at the door, for whatever reason we’ll never know but this small agitation at a 5yr old child sets the stage for what is to come.
Now remember, the police are responding to a call about an attempted suicide and have instead found the “accused” safe in his home with no intentions of trying to end his own life. So when Betty heard the officer ask “do you want them in front or around back” she thought she had heard wrong. “I opened the door to find them placing cuffs on him. He was asking them what he was being arrested for and they were ignoring him. They weren’t reading him his rights or telling him what was happening so I started asking”. She had to ask several times before an officer would even look at her, let alone address her. “The one officer tells me he is being detained, not arrested”. Why am I being detained, why is he being detained. They kept asking and were ignored until one officer told Betty that he would need to enter her apartment. “He doesn’t even look at me when he says it. It was just a passing of words to him, it wasn’t even a question. I asked if he had a warrant and told him he would need one to enter. He looks me square in the eye and tells me that he doesn’t need a warrant to enter. I told him that he was not entering my apartment”. A knock at the side door draws her attention away and she needs to answer it. Feeling intimidated already and that officers would try to enter, she tries to secure her entrance at the front door, but it seems that the officer in charge is preventing her from doing that. “I literally had to shove him back into the hallway with the door because when I went to close it, his body was in the way. It was then that I was starting to realize just how much they were attempting to trample over our rights.
At the side door she finds another officer peering around the corner of her place. “He wasn’t at the door but was looking in my window; it was really creepy” She answered the door and directed this officer to where the rest of the officers were; she couldn’t be in two places at once and was already occupied with the officers out front. “The officer says to me, I’ll go through there and meet them. It wasn’t a question; he was trying to TELL me that he was going to walk through my residence”. This didn’t deter the young officer who made numerous excuses to enter her apartment, like that it was a secure entrance and he couldn’t get in that way to “they are bringing him through here anyway” “I’d counted 6 officers at this point and all over a call that they could clearly see was false. I didn’t have anything to hide, I knew my rights, I was done feeling intimidated by these officers; we had done nothing wrong and were being treated like criminals. I told him that no they were not bringing him through here and you can go around and meet them. I then promptly shut my door and locked it”
When she returned to and opened the front door, she found a situation clearly getting out of hand. The officer in charge was an inch away from Howards face. “He was talking to him with such aggression that his face was bright red and you could see the veins bulging from his head”. Now you would think that officers responding to an attempted suicide would be a little more professional about the situation and certainly the last thing you would expect is an officer being aggressive like this with an alleged suicide case. When the officer saw that Betty was standing there he backed away from Howard and ceased talking to him in that manner. “I don’t understand why so many officers were called because of this. Then once they found me and saw that I was fine, you’d think they would have realized what was going on. Instead I was immediately faced with hostility, threats and intimidation”
“Then they took him away. They didn’t tell me what he was being detained for, they didn’t tell me where they were taking him, so all I could do was sit at home and wait to hear something”. Police took Howard to the hospital and put him in a room. “The hospital staff put a bracelet on me. I didn’t have my health card on me or I.D. or anything. I didn’t even have shoes on” While in the hospital Howard was denied fluids and the bathroom until his testing came back. “They took my blood and made me give a urine sample. I was never told what the samples were for and none of the hospital staff would address me, except to do a psych evaluation. Everything was said by police or told to police”. While detained in the hospital police made several attempts to shut the door of the room they occupied. “By this point I feared for my safety. After what happened at the house and then during the police ride over they were completely unprofessional; using intimidation, questioning my sexuality and even eluding to the fact that they could physically hurt me. I did not feel safe being shut up in a room with two officers, no witnesses and no means of defence” Back and forth it went with police attempting to close the door and Howard protesting that it be left open, until officers finally stopped. While waiting for the results to come back Howard tells how the officers seemed bored. “If it wasn’t for the handcuffs around my wrists and uniforms they were wearing, I could’ve been in the room with anybody. They were bored, talked about personal things, interests; one officer was texting on his cellphone most of the time.” The head nurse had been aggravated that “her time was being wasted on this” and told officers to send Howard on his way. Seems his test results came back and he was not making a suicide attempt.
Police released Howard right there in that room and sent him on his way. There was no apology, no explanation and no way home but to walk across town, without shoes and nearing midnight. “They gave me back the change I had in my pocket, in an evidence bag. It was like a bad dream; I went from being asleep in my home to being handcuffed, harassed and dragged to the hospital just because someone was upset with me and made a false allegation. They did wrong and on top of it all made me walk home without shoes” If only it was just a dream, however the bruises he sustained on his wrists and his back tell otherwise.
This couple doesn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer and battle the false allegation, nor the actions made by police. They feel that they cannot file a complaint with police because of fear of reprisal; but they didn’t want this to go unheard because if this happened to them, how many others may have or will go through something similar as well. “It just makes me feel unsafe. I want to carry a recording device around with me and like a camera in case this happens again. “
When we look at the mission and values statement by police and compare with this story, we can see how in this case those “values” were not being met. Police made several attempts to trample on their rights and did not provide mutual respect or partnership with either of the individuals in this case. Police were not fair or unbiased in their treating of Howard nor did they treat him with any respect or dignity. Both individuals did not feel safe or protected by police on any level during their involvement that Sunday. Police did not perform their duties in a professional manner, easily shown by the officer using his cellphone for personal matters while having someone detained to their custody. Open communication was almost non-existent in this case and the police took zero accountability for their actions.
High quality professionalism amongst our police force or bullies who are bored and looking for an easy target?