Eternal Vigilance FAIL

On Tuesday I was on the bus heading to UBC to be a guest on CiTR’s Radio Freethinker, which was a lot of fun, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

While driving down Broadway, near Cambie, the distinctive red and blue of Vancouver’s finest began flashing both behind and in front of the bus. Ghost cars. The bus stopped, and the doors opened. Two plain-clothes cops got on at the front door, and one at the back. They walked towards each other, and stopped at a guy, about 20 years old, with a back pack. They stood him up, took his bag, cuffed him, and lead him off the bus without anyone saying a word. Their efficiency was a little surprising, and actually kinda cool. They had the guy sitting on the sidewalk with his hands cuffed behind his back when the bus continued on its way.

I have a policy – a personal rule – to record the police doing their jobs whenever I am able. Whether that means using my MP3 player to record audio when I get pulled over, or snapping a quick picture with my phone when I see an officer patrolling, I feel it is both my right and responsibility to observe and document their actions. Not to say I automatically distrust any and all law enforcement officers, I think the vast majority are just great. But they are given a lot of special powers that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and they should at all times be accountable to the public they are meant to protect.

At the time of this incident, I had my MP3 player, my cell phone, and my camera on me. I didn’t take any of them out. I’d like to say it happened too quickly, or I was distracted, or even that I was afraid they would take my stuff away from me, but that’s not what happened. Watching this guy, this stranger, get arrested for I-don’t-know-what, I had a strong feeling that this asshole deserved what he was getting. In all likelihood he did; he probably took something from a store, was clearly seen getting on the bus, and had stolen merchandise in his bag. The cops certainly had no trouble at all identifying him. Still, for me to make that assumption without even making a move to record it just in case something happened is somewhat distressing. I’m disappointed in myself, and I don’t want to let the same thing happen again.

A vaguely similar thing happened last week. I was at a liquor store to buy a Christmas present for my dad (“yeah right” no, really! “sure, we believe you”) and as I was walking through the entrance, a shifty looking guy with a big bottle was heading straight towards the exit. The clerk started yelling at him, “sir? Sir! HEY YOU!!” and the dude took off running out the door. Now, I was halfway in the store with people behind me, and I was carrying bags so it would have been difficult for me to chase after the guy – but I didn’t even consider it in the moment. My initial reaction was “…not my problem.” I would have thought my first instinct would be to go after him. Again, disappointing.

I guess my new years resolution is to try to better live up to my own standards of being a responsible citizen.


~ by jbrydle on December 31, 2009.

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