By Ulli Diemer
Seven News, February 16, 1981
Things turned out rather differently for me, but I think my mix of reasons are – in varying proportions – what draw many men into the police force. Many do become policemen because of good reasons. But for a lot of cops, you have to suspect, that desire to lord it over others is a pretty important motive in their deciding to become policemen. Some cops are pretty decent people – at least when they start out. But many of them are not.
And the way police forces are set up, the authoritarian cops are generally encouraged, while the decent ones aren’t. The ‘tough’ cops set the tone on the force, encouraged by many of their superiors and the often stupid, arbitrary, quasi-military discipline.
Which brings me to last week’s raids on Toronto gay baths. The raids lead me to a number of observations about the Metro police:
* A lot of cops seem to enjoy intimidating people and smashing things. How else to explain the huge amounts of damage done during the raids? Remember, although 280 people were arrested – the biggest mass arrest since the War Measures Act – no one was charged with resisting arrest. So the arrests must have been awfully peaceful. Then why did the cops smash doors, mirrors, stereos, etc.?
* The police supposedly spent several months “investigating” before they made the raids. Investigating what? Is there anyone who doesn't know that gay baths are used for sex? Are the police really that stupid, or are they trying to hide something? Like a deliberate campaign to intimidate the gay community?
* Are we really to believe that the bright minds of Toronto’s finest couldn’t figure out a way to open doors except by smashing them all? Say by picking up a duplicate key during their half-year--long undercover “investigation”? Or knocking on the doors to see if anyone would answer?
* Even though the violent crime rate in Toronto has gone down for three years in a row (and even though the murder rate in Canada has gone down each year after the death penalty was abolished) the police are moaning about how they need to have their budget vastly increased. To do what? To spend untold man-hours “investigating” for and carrying out raids like last week’s? (The whole operation from beginning to end will cost Metro taxpayers an estimated quarter of a million dollars!) Or to pay “operatives” to entrap and have sex with prostitutes like they did last month? To arrest thousands of marijuana users each year? Or to harass blacks, Asians, teenagers, just because they are who they are?
* And meanwhile they tell us they don’t have enough men to patrol the subways or to get the lunatics off the roads.
* When the police budget comes up later this month, people ought really to think about attaching a few strings to how the police use their millions. ($204 million last year.) They don’t like us to take it too seriously, but after all, their slogan is “To Serve and Protect”. They are supposed to serve us and our priorities, not to take the law into their own hands.
* When a policeman is hurt, the outcry is as if the end of the world had come. One never likes to see anyone hurt, but the fact is that many other occupations are far more dangerous than being a policeman. Why is there no outcry whenever a construction worker is hurt or killed? Is it boring because it happens so often? Among the occupations which are more dangerous than police work, according to the Workmen’s Compensation Board, are building wrecking, mining, stevedoring, steel erection, logging and lumbering, tunneling, excavating, farming, trucking, fire-fighting, meat packing, sign painting, grain handling and even baking. In fact, the WCB lists about 109 different occupations, and considers some 64 of them more dangerous than police work.
*Yet how many workers are in the more dangerous occupations even come close to making the $27,000 a first class constable gets? The $27,000 the police wanted to strike to reject last fall? (It must be nice to have that much clout by just occasionally threatening to strike. But then the police are there to make sure that the picket lines are too effective if anyone else goes on strike)
* A lot of people don’t respect the police any more, and it’s easy to see why. Even a lot of cops must feel ashamed about some of the things they are sent to do. But obviously they are not the ones who run the show.
This article was published in Seven News, Volume 11, Number 16, February 16, 1981