Thursday, October 21, 2010

Police union says members stretched thin by new laws

"Even if you support the change of regulations, I don’t think any of us support the fact that we’ve now become the judge and the jury. Our job is to enforce the law and another part of our criminal justice system should be dealing with the guilt or innocence thing and imposing what the penalties should be." -- Vancouver Police Union President Tom Stamatakis, outlining some of the concerns of the rank and file over new enforcement priorities for BC's police forces.

While few would argue the point that getting drunk drivers off the road is a laudable goal of the province's judicial system, there are concerns from those that do the first line enforcement of the rules, concerns that the province's new drunk-driving laws may be slowing down the pursuit of those that put all of us at risk on the roads.

Tom Stamatakis, the President of the Vancouver Police Union provided some interesting views to the Vancouver Province on behalf of his membership, suggesting that the new dedication towards enforcement is perhaps targeting the wrong group of offenders when it comes to drunk driving.

In the Province article (see here) Stamatakis relayed the thoughts of the membership that the enforcement of the new .05 threshold may be directing attention to people that have had but a drink of wine at dinner, rather than concentrating on offenders that problem drinkers.

The Vancouver membership also expressed concerns over the wasting of time by officers waiting for tow trucks for the increasing number of impounded cars under the new laws.

As well, the new laws have made for  more tense exchanges between motorists and police, which at times require other officers to arrive in a back up support position taking them away from other patrol duties, a situation that tests even further the already stretched thin nature of daily patrols.

The police union also has questions of Solicitor General Mike de Jong as to where the revenues gleaned from the new rules is being distributed, one question Stamatakis plans to raise with the Solicitor General is whether this new revenue stream is being returned to public safety, or instead is destined for general revenues.

Police membership across the province however is not quite  a unified front when it comes to some of those concerns.

In the Province article, an RCMP spokesman in the traffic services section offered up the view that at the moment the RCMP members haven't experienced any extra problems since the law came into effect.

Still the concerns outlined by the VPD union leader will no doubt find an ear from many British Columbians, some of whom feel that the government has made a mis-step in its stated goals of safer roads.

The talking points from the union could make for an interesting review of what the new laws are designed to achieve and if they will reduce the problem.

Or if they indeed are stretching law enforcement members too thin, enforcing a strategy that in the end may not have much impact at all or in fact, may contribute to the list of serious incidents on our roads.

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