February 29, 2016 - 2:23 PM
I have to thank Kamloops RCMP Inspector Sunny Parmar for revealing a bit of mystery for me, though it’s probably not the one he intended.
News outlets that cover Kamloops RCMP have been bleating about a blackout of information from this department largely since Supt. Brad Mueller took charge from his former post in rural Manitoba two-and-a-half years ago. In his rush to defend the decisions made out of his detachment, Parmar exposed what’s wrong with this detachment.
Kamloops This Week finally stepped from the sidelines when it took editorial notice that the RCMP detachment in Kamloops — quite specific from any other detachment we’re aware of — thinks its citizens aren’t capable of handling basic information about crime in their city.
Their story was legitimate. A man goes to RCMP to report that he was mugged and robbed. Instead he got locked up for the night because he smelled of alcohol and it appears no one investigated the robbery at all. Before you roll your eyes, let me remind you that not all complainants to police are white middle-class people in pretty houses and Chamber of Commerce appointments. Even people with addictions and mental health issues deserve police protection. That man deserved the basic respect of being heard.
That’s definitely a story in the public interest.
The newspaper went to the horse’s mouth for their story and instead, as is usual now, they got the communications department at the other end: A big, stinky ‘no comment.’
The newspaper went with what it had and Parmar took umbrage. He didn’t like the way the RCMP was represented in that story in particular, nor by media in general. Parmar climbed his horse and took to an RCMP media website to ‘set the record straight.’ We ran it on this site last week.
Parmar says the newspaper didn’t report what he told them. I’ll leave that dispute between them, but he also took the opportunity to address more general complaints including one of the more egregious RCMP no-shows in the Tournament Capital: That two people were murdered in Kamloops already this year and in both cases RCMP saw no reason to inform the community who they were. One remains outstanding from 40 days ago.
Two people in Kamloops gone. And this department, which we trust to conduct an investigation in the public interest, believes you have no right to know who they were. They can be carried off behind the curtain of bureaucracy, all connections but family severed in an instant without any explanation from the people in charge.
“According to the Federal Privacy Act, during a police investigation where homicide or foul play is suspected, a person’s name cannot be released unless there is an operational need to further the investigation by seeking information from the public,” Parmar says. “If there is no need to seek additional information from the public the RCMP does not have the legal right or ability to release information, and could face charges if they do.”
Sounds rock solid, doesn’t it? Just nod your head and agree. Except it’s not accurate at all. I challenged Insp. Parmar on the Privacy Act and why other detachments don't see the same impediment.
“(W)hen an exemption may apply it is discretionary and the RCMP will balance the interests in disclosing the information against the privacy interests involved,” he replied.
Of course police have discretion, as they always had, and good thing, too, or Insp. Parmar would be arresting police officers across the country for violating the high priority Privacy Act. When most detachments weigh that balance, they conclude rightly the public has a clear interest in knowing about the death of one of its citizens. We fund a coroners service for the sole purpose of ensuring deaths are put on record and not overlooked. These are your neighbours. They had lives, people who loved them and cared about them.
How much more plain must it be made that this is in the public interest? More specifically, why does this detachment feel Kamloops residents deserve so much less?
This has been part of an unfortunate pattern since Supt. Mueller took this post. Perhaps Parmar has made plain the biases of a detachment that views the ‘media’ as the enemy.
“The media may not like our limited response to certain cases, but as police officers, it is important to us that victims of crimes receive justice,” he wrote. “We cannot, and will not, jeopardize that by providing unnecessary information to the media.”
Unnecessary. See how he uses the same absolutes? How he made 'media' into the bad guys? It's us or them. It's either-or and nothing in between.
It's pure fantasy. ‘Media’ are simply citizens with questions for those in authority.
But at Kamloops RCMP, clearly, no one is even willing to listen and damned if they'll answer the question.
— Marshall Jones is the managing editor of infonews.ca
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016