NEWS RELEASE · 16th March 2013
Text of Opening Speech
Good afternoon and thank you to all who are participating with us here today to mark “International Day Against Police Brutality” which was first organized in 1997 in response to two youths being severely beaten by Swiss Police.
My name is Heather Prisk and I am the wife of Robert Wright. My husband was seriously and permanently injured while in Police custody here in Terrace last year. I decided to organize this event as a response to what has happened to him. I have to be a part of the solution. Police brutality in our community has to stop. Police accountability has to start. I hope today will send a message that we the people will not accept Police Brutality as the status quo.
Everyday in the media we find another example of police abuse of authority. These are real stories, about real crimes, committed by real cops. 46.3% of all complaints against the RCMP are for abusive behaviour and language. The covering up of these abuses of power and breaches of trust by members of the RCMP constitute a form of corruption within their organization.
There has been a breakdown in the relationship between the RCMP and the Public. There can be no trust when Officers do “creative report writing” and “testi-lying” in court in an attempt to cover up their brutal behaviours and corrupt acts. These acts are being committed by individual officers and small groups and occur within a subculture that supports, tolerates and even attempts to hide them behind what is known as the “Blue Code of Silence” and they are held together by “Blue Glue”.Corrupt, abusive even murderous behaviours are being covered up on a regular basis.
The “Blue Code of Silence”is about lies and deception. It lies to the community and deceives them about what cops are really doing. This code is well-known by all within the RCMP, from top management on down. It allows some cops to operate unethically, even criminally, and it prevents “good” cops from stopping them. Too many good cops have learned through this Code of Silence to tolerate bad cops and too many bad“Apples” have escaped consequences as a result. This Code of Silence within the RCMP is an aspect of new members being socialized into the force and it imposes negative consequences for those who break it. It is based on group loyalty and acceptance and it makes it difficult for officers to report the misconduct of their co-workers.
The “Blue Glue”dimension is the covering up for or the protection of colleagues that operate outside of the law and beyond the professional code of conduct that they swore to uphold. There has been a change in Policing policy from that of “Serve & Protect” to “Convict & Incarcerate”
Police services do not operate in a vacume, isolated from the soci-political realities of the communities they serve. In other words, police behaviour is a reflection of the common values and practices in our society and in our community.
In Terrace, the Mayor and local business community have made it known to the RCMP that their Policing priority is that of cleaning up the downtown business core, a white-washing of sorts. To drive out of sight what mainstream society deems as undesirable: the most vulnerable and marginalized of society: the homeless, the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the alcoholic. It just so happens that most of these people are First Nations who are still struggling with the legacy of Residential Schools. Lack of understanding from the broader community only makes their plight worse.
Our Government uses taxpayer money to pay for their citizens to be abused, raped, ripped off, assaulted and even murdered. RCMP officers need to stop lying and covering up for those that operate outside the law and beyond their professional code of conduct. Just like mainstream society is encouraged to report on each other through the use of Tiplines and Crimestoppers, RCMP officers need to be urged to do the same within their organization.
When an officer knows that their co-worker is corrupt and abusive there needs to be a mechanism for reporting without fear of consequences, retaliation, retribution and even personal danger. Basically, they need to be encouraged and supported to “RAT”each other out just as they expect everyday citizens to do against one another.
Many were invited to speak here today. I asked local community service providers to participate in speaking out against Police Brutality as the people they serve are generally the ones who most often come into contact with the RCMP. I also invited our local politicians to speak for the people. I call on Nathan Cullen and Robin Austin to take seriously the horrendous allegations of RCMP abuse that is occurring within their constituency. It is time to stand up for those who are unable or too afraid to come forward. Something has to change. The most vulnerable people in our community are being abused and are suffering.
David Eby, 2011, “SMALL TOWN JUSTICE: A report on the RCMP in northern and rural British Columbia”. British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
Don Loree, Ph.D., “Corruption in Policing: Causes and Consequences:
A Review of the Literature”. Research and Evaluation Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services Directorate Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ottawa
Michael W. Quinn, 2011,“Walking with the devil: The Police Code of
Josh Paterson from BCCLA and Grand Chief Stewart Phillips stand on each side of Robert Wright
Alcohol education the answer
Comment by david dickinson on 18th March 2013
How many incidents of police brutality involve alcohol? So what do the victim and police do? Blame each other! It's time we as a society recognized the real source of probably 90% of all violent incidents - alcohol, not the victim/perpetrator or the police. My point is, remove the variable of alcohol from almost all of these cases and there would have been no incident.
We don't have to make alcohol illegal, we just have to educate the public. It worked for tobacco, and there's no reason why it shouldn't work for booze. To begin with, the liquor and beer companies should be forced to list all of the possible side effects of alcohol when they advertise their product on tv or in print. Just as is required by law for the advertising of pharmaceuticals (which are far less harmful than alcohol).
Anyone who consumes alcohol and ends up physically injured, given that the vendor and manufacturer has made no effort at all to forewarn the public, should be suing the alcohol vendors and manufacturers - just like the tobacco class action lawsuits. If this happened on a regular basis, you could bet your bottom dollar all alcohol companies would quickly change their tune and begin giving full disclosure of their product to consumers.
In the news: 3 teenaged boys convicting of raping a teenaged girl in Ohio. Why did they do it? Because the girl and the perpetrators were drunk. Who faces the consequences? The girl and the perpetrators, while the people who gave them the booze face no consequences at all. If a "drug dealer" had sold them cocaine and the rape happened, the public would be enraged and calling for the execution of the drug dealer! Yet, because alcohol is involved, all we hear is how these young people made "bad choices" (yah, bad choices based on the lies and omissions of alcohol vendors and manufacturers.)
Whether police use of force is "brutality" or not, matters little if you are brain damaged or dead. Reducing alcohol consumption in our society will reduce police violence of both varieties.
Focus on the topic!
Comment by Anonymous on 18th March 2013
Hats off to all those who choose to participate in International Day Against Police Brutality which is what this article is about. This article is not about a particular person or situation rather it is about being against Police Brutality. Anyone with a brain in their head would be Anti-Police Brutality regardless of the circumstances that are used to justify brutal behavior. The comments being made in response to this article are overlooking the fact that this demonstration was about standing up for those that have been brutalized, murdered, raped, threatened into silence and abandoned by society in order to maintain a Police State. Why not have a Pro-Police Brutality demonstration of your own if you think that excessive use of force, serious injury and murder are the tools that officers should use in the course of duty! Watch some YouTube videos on police brutality and see for yourself how many victims did nothing to provoke such violence. Open your eyes, open your minds to reality.
Police Brutality In the North
Comment by Pam Bevan on 18th March 2013
I read the the report released by the Human Rights Watch on the brutality that women in Northern BC have suffered at the hands of the RCMP. Now if that is not an eye opener of all that is wrong with the RCMP today, then nothing will be. Mr. Paulson need to quit talking and studying the problem and fix it. And the Federal government's inaction only condones this further. I, for one, would not call the RCMP unless it was a matter of life and death, as someone I love may suffer unnecessarily at their hand...may even be killed.
Whether or not...
Comment by maggiejo johnson on 17th March 2013
Mr Wright most clearly broke the law to drink and drive and most likely has done so on numerous occassions. As such, I concur with the decision to arrest him to take him off our streets before he killed anyone. However, he should not be leaving the Detachment with serious injuries as he sustained within the Custody of the RCMP that night.
THAT being said.
I can appreciate how difficult it is for the RCMP to attempt to subdue an individual who repeatedly fights back or who is uncooperatively intoxicated or who may cause self-injury (ie - the very common banging one's own head on a cell wall). One fellow even punched his own face to advise the arresting Officer he was going to accuse the Officer of doing so! I am quite certain that if I was arrested...I would not be fighting all the way to my cell. I would accept it and deal with it in the morning once I had a more clear head.
All I'm saying is that if my child left the Detachment with any injuries while in custody, I would most certainly have questions. Questions towards my child on how he handled himself within custody...as well as questions towards the Officers who had my child in their care. And I wouldn't stop until I had ALL the answers.
What About The Ones Who Choose To Drive Drunk
Comment by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers on 17th March 2013
Lets not forget that when you choose to drive drunk and put our children and families at risk..you also put yourself into a position where the police must stop you...Let's not forget Robert Wright was attempting to drive impaired in a very populazied area...
As most elder 'white people' have no clue why would the RCMP
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 16th March 2013
And this is the part of the equation this troubling article is addressing. The green RCMP recruit has no idea he or she is entering a realm of 10,000 year old Matriarchial led survivors of a historic proud culture. Damelahamid. The lands of the Gitxsan, Haisla, Nisga'a, Tahltan, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian. All brothers and sisters, all Totemic, all Matriarchial, all coming from one source, Tem - la - ham. all sharing the same origin stories, all Eagles or Ravens or Wolves of Killerwhales or Beavers or Frogs or Crows or Bears or the original clan from Damelahamid, Fireweed.
Some of these people do not even know their own culture because our culture forbid it so harshly.
How could the basic newby RCMP even have a clue? Most think about Indians as the Cree and the others Tipi tribes from back east, the tribes who fell 300 years ago and more. They have nothing in common except being indigenous to the land.
Some of these peoples hardly left their source totem/feasting life culture 100 years ago and it was a quick downward spiral to today.
How could we expect the young RCMP, or even the old Staff Sgt. and Inspector to understand unless they were fully educated?
And that is the only way anyone could begin to have compassion for this tragedy, understanding.
And that is the $64,000 question, change to what or how to?
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 16th March 2013
It is not necessarily about choices. And it is not necessarily the nature vs nurture. In the case of the indigenous I believe it is part of both.
When a child is brought up without any nurturing (say residential school) and is sexually abused or returns to a family living in a sexually abusive environment, within an alcohol and drug soaked community and after barely surviving then having his or her own kids raised in this generational pattern, do you believe the child with no sence of normalcy, that which we as WASP's might expect as a minimum, to suddenly make good choices? Not raised but rather surviving through avoiding abusive Uncles and Aunts, Parents and Grandparents, who stumble drunk into their six year old bed? This child who then attempts to help their parent but continues within the community of disfunction, then finally excapes to the streets of Terrace.
That may have been the kids actual first good choice. To get out of the home, onto the street.
Now. Is that nurture or nature? And how do we as the decendents of the WASP's that assisted in creating this mess for the longest surviving culture on the planet. One continuously inhabiting the same region, 10,000 years; and further, maybe the only society with a clear governance structure led and directed by the elder women.
The survivors of our purposeful destruction seem to need assistance. Do we have compassion and recognize we caused this and need to address it with truth and honesty, or do we just attempt to sweep it up, throw it in a cell and pretend we had nothin to do with it?
My choice would be to declare the entire culture of this region a world heritage site. Nurture the hell out of it, help rebuild the matriarchs to their height of authority and watch the dignity and health return.
But, change to what?
Comment by Mr. Peters on 16th March 2013
I am both a Libertarian and a Social Darwinist in my philosophical out look. Therefore, you will have to forgive me if I do not get sentimental over people who make bad choices and then do not what to accept the consequences of those choices.
I attended the event because...
Comment by maggiejo johnson on 16th March 2013
I braved the awful weather and attended the event because I appreciate hearing people express themselves, and I was quite frankly - interested. It was a peaceful; yet challenging demonstration.
I spend alot of time with the homeless. Most of them know me by name and we hug and carry on while visiting together. And yes. They are sah-MELLY!!!! Unlike Mother Teresa....I do have hand sanitizer in my vehicle for afterwards.
Many of the homeless are on the streets by their own doing; while many are there due to what others have done to them. At times it is difficult for me not to judge...which is why I force myself to spend some time with them. I get the oddest looks from passersby when I am visiting with the peeps - especially that one time I tuned up one of their guitars (less one string) and we had a little sing-a-long session in Brolly's Square - ha ha.
All of the homeless I have spent time with speak of wishing to live in peace...and they say they are respectful to the RCMP and vise versa; while admitting they understand why they are arrested for public intoxication. I have still to hear from any of my 'peeps' that the RCMP in Terrace roughed them up. That being said...I believe there are misfits in every organization on this planet...and frankly - even if it's a small percentage...it needs to end.
Yes, Mr Peters, something has to change
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 16th March 2013
I hope however you are not suggesting the beatings, brutality and deaths are an acceptable form for creating this change.
As we have written before, every social and municipal agency has asked for treatment centers and social programs to assist those most in need. Education is by far the most successful social program.
Yet all levels of Government are reducing their levels of funding for all these even though they collect greater volumes of tax revenue from the activities which are identified as the most harmful to society.
It is not right to use brute force to address a situation caused primarily by the government, which is also funding the RCMP. It is a visious self sustaining circle of abuse.
Something has to change. I have an article from 1967, where it describes the drunks in town and in George Little Park. They keep trying the same solution today that they did then. Insane.
So therefore the other thing that needs to change is the attitude that police beatings and arrests are going to make a difference. 45 years of it not working should be enough proof.
Something has to change.
Comment by Mr. Peters on 16th March 2013
You are correct, something has to change. I want to walk down any street in our town and not have to step over someone that smells like the bottom of a sewer. Or have to run a gauntlet of vagrants who are trying to get money from you. I want the RCMP to clean up downtown, and by the way, they have made a good start but have a long way to go.