“You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.”
That’s an attitude held by some police officers, who may be tired of dealing with annoying citizenry. Instead of engaging and defusing, they’ll haul out the handcuffs and take a pesky person off for a night in the slammer under a spurious charge of “mischief” or “disorderly conduct.”
Sure, people who choose to fight the ticket will find it dropped or they’ll easily beat the charge. But that doesn’t erase the night in jail or the experience of being publicly humiliated. They’ll have taken their lumps and hopefully learned a lesson about the power of police.
Now, it looks like the Brandon Police Service itself is on the receiving end of that type of lesson.
A human rights complaint levied against our local force has been dropped, after police agreed to pay out an undisclosed amount to settle the matter.
Brandon police maintain they did nothing wrong — although all officers have now been trained to ensure it never happens again.
The facts of the matter remain in dispute. In fact, in their official statement, the Brandon Police Service calls it an “alleged incident,” which implies they don’t acknowledge anything happened at all.
But according to the traumatized veteran who filed the complaint, he was enjoying his first night out at a local lounge — thanks, in part, to the presence of a service dog that helped mitigate the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
This vet, who had served in Israel, Bosnia and Afghanistan, had previously been in hospital for “suicide-related incidents.”
That couldn’t have been known to the Brandon police officers who, according to the veteran, approached him in the lounge after a manager complained about his service dog.
The veteran’s account of the incident has not been tested in court (and will not be, now that there has been a settlement), but rings true to anyone who has ever tried to talk their way out of a ticket.
Police are trained to quickly assess and take command of a situation. They don’t often change their minds, and they have the legal authority to demand compliance with their snap decisions — decisions that are backed by the force of the weapons they carry and the spectre of jail. When a cop tells you to do something, it’s a demand that comes with implicit threats.
So it’s all the more disturbing when the veteran told the Manitoba Human Rights Commission that not only was he tossed out unceremoniously, but that the police actually told him he was close to going to jail.
Obviously, the Brandon Police Service denies the allegations. We’re sure they’re quite familiar with protestations of innocence.
But because they chose to pay off the aggrieved veteran instead of fighting the charges, we’ll never know their side of the story.
We’re left with just the one-sided allegations.
It’s possible that the veteran was being otherwise disruptive in the lounge. It’s possible that he was being snooty and arrogant about getting to have a dog in the bar.
It’s possible that, when approached by police, he was condescending or confrontational, or just non-deferential.
He says he showed officers the papers to prove his dog was a service animal — and therefore perfectly legal to have in the lounge. But he says the cops wouldn’t listen and didn’t care.
It’s possible he was being difficult, even deliberately so.
But police are paid to deal with difficult people. And they’re paid to deal with them in a respectful manner, no matter what attitude is given in return.
We don’t know how much taxpayers are on the hook for this incident (or “alleged incident”) because the settlement is deemed confidential. But we do know that a previous offer of $5,500 was deemed too low.
The Brandon Police Service has cut its losses by cutting a cheque — leaving the force free to continue claiming that its virtuous officers did nothing wrong.
Well, they may have beat the rap.
But three years later, they sure didn’t beat the ride.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 15, 2014