Little Fish in a Giant pond

Monday, June 16, 2008

We can only tolerate so much

Here in Ottawa I have been paying attention to the local media's coverage of the case of Constable Kevin Hall of the Ottawa Police Service. Hall is currently appealing to the Divisional Court of Ontario to overturn the decision to dismiss him after he admitted that he is addicted to drugs, and that he has stolen them from the evidence lockup. He has plead guilty to an offence under Ontario's Police Services Act and was ordered dismissed. He is currently suspended with pay.
I think that most people that know me can attest that I am a very forgiving person, sometimes quick to anger, but never for very long. I am a strong believer in second chances, but somehow I just can't wrap my head around how allowing Constable Hall to continue to serve as a police officer could be a good decision.
According to what I have read, Hall's lawyer is arguing that the problem could simply be solved by submitting Hall to random drug testing. I respectfully disagree. There is no getting around the fact that the public is aware of this case. People deserve to be able to have confidence in their police officers, and they have to know that the people who are charged to uphold the law are every bit as accountable, if not more than civilians.
I understand that we can't expect police officers to be superhuman, and like anyone else, they too have the right to make mistakes, and while they are responsible for repairing the consequences of those mistakes, the punishment must fit the crime and destroying someone's career is not always the solution. I would not be so quick to demand a dismissal if the circumstances were a little more reasonable. For example, if an officer realized that he or she was addicted to narcotics and sought treatment on their own. This of course opens up a whole other can of worms, because the officer in question would still be terrified about coming forward for treatment out of fear of losing the respect of his or her colleagues. It is also very difficult for a person who is suffering from addiction to realize that they have a problem. So it's not always reasonable to expect someone to come forward, but frankly we have to draw the line somewhere, and for police officers that line must be more demanding than for other people because of the other powers we confide to them and because of the need to maintain trust with the public. Being a police officer is not easy.
For all I know, Constable Hall might have become addicted to drugs while working undercover, and if that is the case I would deffinately say that the man needs treatment, not necessarily discipline (depending on any other circumstances). But it is also entirely possible that he simply got in with a bad crowd and a got caught up in the wrong kind of life style. If that is the case, it was still his decision, and he will have to live with the consequences.
Finally, as is often the case with court cases being reported on by the media, a lot of important details could have been left out from what I've read, so it's entirely possible that the Constable has a perfectly justifiable reason for not being fired, I guess that's why everyone is entitled to his or her day in court.

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6 Comments:

  • You're right Fish. News accounts are terribly unreliable. That said, your arguments are sound. And any cop who has reached the point of pilfering drugs from the evidence locker can't be under any delusion that he doesn't have a problem. If the fellow's addiction was sustained in the line of duty, give him his disability and send him on his way. But he has crossed a line on this and it's a line beyond which we don't give people the right to carry guns.

    By Blogger The Mound of Sound, at 10:32 AM  

  • To Fish and Mound of sound,

    The circumstances outlined in the news headings and articles do not give justice to Kevin Hall. Without divulging my relationship to him, I can gaurantee you that much more took place than revealed to the public. Your arguments are valid,as any in my opinion, but vastly uninformed. That being said I must bring up we are not just licensing Kevin to carry a gun, we are talking about his rights as gauranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Comission. In the Canadian Human Rights act R.S., 1985, c. H-6, it clearly prohibits any and all discrimination by a federally regulated employer on eleven seperate grounds. One of the grounds is, and I quote, "disability (including medical conditions, and alcohol or drug dependency)." Now I'm not a law graduate, or have a degree in any related matter, and yet that seems to be plain enough for me to understand that something is amiss here. Why is it that because one officer said the word "addiction" he no longer has the same rights as every other Canadian citizen. Addiction is a powerfull thing, and until someone has suffered the pains of being related too, a friend of, or they themselves, have experienced it. One cannot possibly judge the decission another makes while deep within that addiction. I do agree that a line must be drawn somewhere, but it is not here my friends. I only wish you knew more about the situation, hopefully in time the whole truth about Kevin Hall can be known.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 PM  

  • Anon, I have no difficulty accepting addiction as a health problem but it's one that impacts directly and powerfully on the position of trust in which we place police officers. He is sworn to uphold the law - but only for others, not for himself? When his disease has progressed to the point that he steals drugs from the evidence locker. he simply is no longer fit to serve as a police officer.

    This isn't to say that this fellow should be shunned by society, denied alternate employment or even incarcerated. That said, he has crossed a line that we cannot accept in those we arm and empower.

    Removing Mr. Hall from the police force is entirely appropriate and the CHR act isn't intended to permit those unfit to discharge their duties to remain in their jobs. How would you feel if you called a cab and you and your kids got in to find the driver inebriated? Yet you think a person like this should be given a sidearm and placed in a position of authority over other citizens?

    I appreciate your concerns are genuine but they're misplaced.

    By Blogger The Mound of Sound, at 7:38 PM  

  • Thank you very much for your comment Anonymous, it's nice to have a dissenting voice to speak on Constable Hall's behalf, even if you were unable to reveal everything you would have liked to.

    I think the last paragraph of my posting demonstrates that I am willing to keep an open mind to any extreme circumstances I might not have been aware of, so as both Mound and I stated, it is best to take whatever is printed in the news with a grain of salt.

    In that spirit I decided to look up the decision, as the Divisional Court has already made it's decision (which you probably already knew). You can read it for yourself at the following link:

    http://www.canlii.org/eliisa/highlight.do?text=hall+and+ottawa&language=en&searchTitle=Search+all+CanLII+Databases&path=/en/on/onscdc/doc/2008/2008canlii65766/2008canlii65766.html

    From reading this decision, I learned two important details that i did not already know. One is that Constable Hall became addicted to cocaine as a result of the depression he was suffering from while undergoing marital problems, and the other was that he sought treatment before he was caught.

    Each of these details serves to compound the fact that this was a sad case, but just the same, i remain quite convinced thatthe correct decision was made.

    In my view, Mound is 100% correct.

    I feel genuinely sorry for Constable Hall, but he has to go. There can be no question that his disability prevents him from performing his duties as a police officer, let alone the damage kee^ping him on the job would cause to the image of law and order.

    As sad as the circumstances surrounding his addiction are, they do not excuse breaking the law. Furthermore, while I commend his efforts to obtain treatment, it appears that his drug abuse and his stealing continued in spite of said treatment.

    I was interested to note that the court indicated it would have been more appropriate to show leniency had his addiction been sustained in the line of duty.

    A large part of the respect I feel for police officers comes from the fact that they are held to a higher standard than the rest of us. That does not mean they do not have the same rights as the rest of us, just that it is reasonable to expect more of them.

    It is a hard job, and sadly Constable Hall was not up to it. May he find happiness elsewhere in life.

    By Blogger Fish, at 12:54 PM  

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