“No Visible Trauma”: Calgary Police Force: Are there a few bad apples or is the barrel rotten?

Just to start off I thought I’d reflect on how decent I thought police were for so many years. Then my son was mugged years ago luckily unhurt but shaken. I phoned Toronto police who arrived and the constable was surly, rude and accusatorial. You know that 1960’s expression that referred to the police a “pigs” well this cop was a pig.

Add on to this unpleasant memory the recent police killings of African Americans. Usually attacked by white police. And our poor Sammy Yatim a disturbed young man shot by James Forcillo a Toronto police officer relishing in his untoward and unnecessary shooting. 8 bullets from his gun and he escapes with an attempted murder conviction.

So people I lost my smugness about how decent a police force was years ago. Canada wipe that smirk off your face.

I wonder if the culture of brutality and violence is so ingrained in the Calgary Police Force one can fairly say they are rotten to the core? Well watch “No Visible Trauma” and come to your own conclusion. In my view defund the police is an American imported term and one might better focus on accountability and transparency.

The title of the documentary rather spills the beans on the Calgary Police Service (CPS) as it focuses on several flagrant abuses of power by the CPS. In the case of Godfred Addai—Nyamekye, a black man, he was acting as designated driver returning friend to their homes after a party and his vehicle became stuck in the snow in a cold minus 28 Calgary at 3 a.m. He was taken on a “starlight tour” by the CPS meaning he was dumped off in a remote part of the city. Clad only in a track suit he phoned 911 and was cut off repeatedly. Then come a bevy of police vans and although pinned down by handcuffed police helicopter footage shows him being pummelled by a CPS constable. He suffered severe injuries and then to the day he suffers from PTSD. Believe it or not, despite photos to the contrary, the police intake form as for Godfred states there was no visible trauma! And he was charged with assault that charge being dismissed in court. The assaulting officer was never charged then went on to beat another citizen. 7 years later his complaint against CPS has still not been resolved.

Then there was the fatal shooting of Anthony Heffernan in a hotel room. The hotel phoned police about his erratic behaviour and 5 officers stormed into his room. He was shot in the head and chest and died all this done for a simple wellness check. The constable involved was then again involved in another shooting incident.

Irene and Patrick Heffernan took the matter up with ASIRT (Alberta Serious Injury Response Team) which is supposedly a regulatory body comprised of police investigating police. Then in an unprecedented move the Deputy Minister of Justice intervenes and says there was no unjustified use of force! It would seem killing a man with a syringe in his hand is justified force.

There are other incidents of questionable force.

Why did this happen. Well the CPS Union Head, Les Kaminski, carries out his job of defending police officers rather than helping find out the truth. Kaminski is eventually charged with assault and perjury.

Former CPS Chief (2015-18) Roger Chaffin resigned 3 years into his 5-year contract. His goal of establishing transparency in the CPS was not well received. Chaffin noted the tremendous power police have to upend somebody’s life all steeped in a culture of always being right.

In 2018 CPS shot and killed more people than the Toronto, New York and Chicago police departments did. In 2016 9 officers were facing charges including bribery and assault.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Menshi starts off the documentary at a press conference by saying the Calgary has one of the best police forces in the world. Watch thus documentary if you can stomach it and wonder what planet he may be from.

We also hear from Meaghan Grant a court and crime reporter for CBC in Calgary. She said once she started reporting a various CPS “incidents” the floodgates opened.

We then hear from Jennifer Magnus a retired CPS police officer who reported on her first day on the job where her superior asked whether he was a bitch, slut or lesbian. Being a junior police officer, she was afraid to challenge the hierarchy. She resigned in an emotional scene at a press conference. It was obvious she was wracked with anguish. Claiming bullying and sexual harassment within a toxic workplace.

I could go on but I think you get the picture and I dare say what is going on in the CPS is going on throughout Canada and the United States.

A through but rather sickening and sad tragedy in the CPS and for the citizens of Calgary. Great material for all of us concerned about the state of policing in Canada and the United States. My doubts about the friendly people in blue have only ballooned after watching this documentary. Truth can be ugly and the damage caused by some “bad apples” may lead you to a sobering conclusion you may draw from the film it is the entire barrel that is rotten. Rather like the Canadian Armed Forces of late.

As co director Robinder Uppal states, “with growing numbers of people across the nation realizing that systematic racism and excessive force are not distinctly American issues, but are also widespread in Canada – like the courageous participants featured in the film, the public is demanding that the police be accountable for their actions.”

The documentary is co-directed by Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal. The film runs from March 4th to April 1st through the Hot Docs at Home BIPOC-focused screening series “For Viola”. There is no charge https://www.hotdocs.ca/p/for-viola

You can see the trailer here  https://vimeo.com/461107791  

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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