Posted by: Dan | October 10, 2006

The Police

I would like not to have this job. It has cost me my dreams.
~ Oleksander Mazur, an officer in the UN's international police force (CIVPOL) who works with trafficked women and children

A short time ago a scandal surfaced within Canada's national police force (the RCMP). A fellow named David Ramsay, a provincial court judge in the province of British Columbia, had been accused of engaging in sexual activities with aboriginal teen female prostitutes (some of whom had appeared in his court) and the police had engaged in a lengthy investigation. After a couple years spent gathering evidence and building an airtight case, Judge Ramsay was charged and he pleaded guilty in 2004 to doing such things as having sex with girls as young as twelve, and, in one case, smashing a child's face into the dashboard of his car and then forcing her to hitchhike naked from a rural area back into the city. Ramsay was sentenced to 7 years (of course, this means he'll probably only actually serve a few years of hard time).

However, in the investigation of this judge, information had surfaced that suggested that nine RCMP officers had also engaged in sexual activities with underage prostitutes.

Of course, for those of who journey alongside of women and youth who are sexually exploited this sort of thing is old news. I have lost count of all the stories I have been told by girls (yes, girls, not yet women) about the times they have been picked up and sexually exploited by police officers. Time and time again these girls are picked up and given the option of being charged with working the stroll as a minor or engaging in sexual activities with the officers and thus avoiding all charges. And I've known girls who have been raped because they refused to bargain with the officers (of course, to balance out the stories I have been told by girls, I have also been told countless stories by boys about being violently beaten by police officers — and I have seen the proof on their bodies).

Therefore, as a follow-up of the Ramsay investigation, I was not surprised to hear that Constable Justin Harris of the RCMP was being charged with engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes under the age of 18. Harris was also being investigated for assaulting one of the girls because she asserted that, when she refused to have perform oral sex without a condom, he hit her in the face. Another girl also described Harris as a “bad date” — a term used for johns that act aggressively or violently. Such stories are nothing short of horrific but I found it encouraging that the ongoing corruption within Canada's national police force was finally getting some attention. Perhaps a conviction in the Harris case (which, given the evidence, seemed like a rather done deal) would open the door to prosecuting other officers (like the 8 other officers implicated in the Ramsay case). Further, a conviction in the Harris case would, perhaps, encourage others who are raped and beaten by police officers (and a pretty regular basis) to gain the courage to come forward and press charges.

But there's a catch. You see, it is the police who police the police. Constable Harris sat before a panel of three senior RCMP officers from other provinces. And his case was thrown out. Not because evidence was lacking. Not because the Constable was innocent. Harris' case was thrown out because of the questionable usage of a technicality. You see, when the RCMP does internal reviews they have one year to build the case and press charges against an officer. If that year expires without charges being pressed, then that officer cannot be charged with the content of that investigation. Consequently, the panel determined that, even though the official investigation of Constable Harris had followed the proper internal protocol, the RCMP did have evidence of Harris' activities much earlier when Judge Ramsay was first being investigated. Thus, the panel determined that Harris could not be charged (nor, by implication, could any other officer implicated in the Ramsay investigation).

Harris walks away a free man, and if you follow the mainstream media, this is a good thing. Over and over reporters have stressed how difficult this process has been for Harris, how depressed it has made him, and how it has put such a strain on his marriage. We are lead to believe that it is the investigation that makes things hard for Harris' wife — not the fact that he assaulted, beat and had sex with children. You see, Harris is the victim, and the girls that he abused, well, they never get mentioned, and their voices are never heard. And so, we all learn an important lesson — don't bring charges against the police. Suffer in silence.

Do I really need to go into why this is all so infuriating?

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Responses

  1. I have met Justin Harris. He always struck me as a decent person with a passion for his job. It has always bothered me that his name has been smeared in the press even though he has been convicted of nothing.


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