One week ago, the Metro Toronto Police Force held a rally to back their demands for a negotiated settlement. They are well within their rights to do so, and in an open and free society, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, it is an encouraging sign of a free country. Unfortunately, even in a free country, there are rules to follow, and of all of its citizens, the police and politicians are expected the most to set an example. After all, respect for authority is what the police request from us, right?
Being a cop in Toronto must be an extremely difficult and hazardous career choice. I, for one, am thankful for our boys, and while I don’t live within the city limits any longer, I usually stop at a spot check out in Durham once a year around the holidays and drop off hot chocolates to our freezing protectors. It warms them up, and myself also. I only bring this up to bring the point across that I am not anti-police. Sure, there are a few bad apples, but for the most part, they are no different than you and me and they keep us safe.
Having said that, I must truly question the position that a few police officers have placed themselves in, as well as their peers. Police regulations plainly state that a police uniform cannot be worn to a protest. If I were to show up on a picket line in my uniform at my place of employment, I would have my picture taken and would, in most likelihood, not have a job to go back to when work resumed. I have been told this, and it has been made clear. If I still wish to disregard the directions of my employer, I should be willing to accept and live with the consequences.
Toronto Police stated that they wanted the public to know who was rallying, and that is why some officers showed up in uniform. That is just dumb. A placard would suffice, and with all of the publicity surrounding their event, it was unlikely that any mistake of who they were could be made. The act of wearing the uniforms was a blatant attempt to antagonize the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) and the Chief of Police. It has also put Chief Bill Blair in a precarious position. If he proceeds with discipline, his officers have assured him of a fight. If he backs down, he defeats himself.
The fight over the discipline issue is about more than discipline. Officers found guilty of disobeying the order to not wear their uniform face discipline of a verbal reprimand, a letter on their personal file, or a few days off. Those don’t sound too harsh. What then, is the problem? It seems that some on the police force feel that they are above being reproved, and above their own chief. That kind of situation is not tolerable, not in our country.
The police have maintained that even though they have received a new contract, there is still one more hurdle to cross. Their members who are facing disciplinary action must be excused from facing the consequences of their actions. That is an unfortunate stance and sends the wrong message.
It amazes me that the police union and its leadership cannot see the damage that they are doing not only to our police force as a whole, but to the credibility of their members. The police complain that they don’t get any respect. Respect doesn’t come because you choose to wear a badge, and it isn’t something that you can beat out of someone. Respect is earned.
Police officers have a tough job that gets tougher by the year. The reason for that is simple. When respect for authority is removed, so is respect for them. When they stand up and declare that they are going to hold the city for ransom after they have a new contract to ratify, by refusing to issue citations which help pay their wages, they are showing contempt for those in authority over them. They do the same thing that they complain others do; they show no respect for authority. Like it or not, their union doesn’t pay their wages, we the people do. Their union president doesn’t set the standards of their conduct, the TPSB does. Their union president doesn’t give them orders, their chief does.
The officers who wore their uniforms to that rally should be disciplined. They screwed up, and now they should take their punishment. Other officers who refuse to do their duties and obligations as described by their job descriptions should be disciplined as well.
Or are the inmates running the asylum?