Guest Post By Cabot Martin
A Plea to Premier Davis: call a Public Inquiry into the Dunphy shooting - NOW
On Friday past, the RNC officer (so far unnamed) who shot Donny Dunphy sent out a letter that sped through the provincial consciousness like a bitter March wind.
As a result, in the midst of tragedy, we are confronted with the unwelcome need to push on down a road of inquiry that seems to open into a place we have not been before.
It is a place far from those days, not very long ago, when it was our happy boast that our very own RNC was the only unarmed police force in North America.
We evidently have not paid enough attention to policing matters and to what the RNC has been up to with this PSU business.
For instance, how did this letter, this extraordinary intervention by Officer “X” , an officer subject to an ongoing police investigation, get written in the first place?
And evidently sent to all RNC officers through some sort of internal RNC communications system.
When was the last time you read such an extraordinary missive?
Has the man no lawyer who would surely have advised against sending such a letter in the middle of an investigation ?
Surely the first thing the Premier/RNC would have done is to ensure that the officer had access to an experienced personal legal counsel.
And exactly what is the essence of this document ?
Is it simply a spontaneous ill-advised cry from the heart ?
Or is it a calculated statement by a person awaiting the results of the RCMP investigation into a death by shooting and possibly, hopefully, a Judicial Inquiry which would predictably cast a broader net ?
All the while attacking those who would debate the issue ?
It is absolutely unacceptable that we have been placed in a position where we even have to think about and discuss things like that.
But the letter exists and cannot be ignored; and by transmission to over 500 officers and staff in the RNC, Officer X cannot plead that he had any reasonable expectation of privacy – the leak to the CBC was entirely predictable.
Officer X starts off with a statement of apparent exasperation regarding a “vocal minority” using the “social media” which speaks for itself:
“The vocal minority engaged in social media and open line talk shows appear to want an immediate cyber-trial in a veritable town square, instead of a professional and detailed investigation involving interviews and scientific forensic analysis.”
This statement is nothing more than a mass ad hominem attack on an extremely diverse group of persons collectively called the “vocal minority”; and it seems far off the mark.
As far as I can tell, most people, and by no means a mere “vocal minority”, seem to have serious questions and concerns about the Dunphy affair and merely want an independent Judicial Inquiry along the lines as has been used in the last three police shootings resulting in death in the Province.
And the police officer involved (and presumably the Premier and RNC Chief) should welcome such an inquiry.
Indeed, the very act of sending the letter contradicts its own request for proper investigational procedure, inserting itself, as it does, into a RCMP investigation into his conduct and omitting a better advised call for a Judicial Inquiry – not that any personal letter was advisable and proper at this stage.
Nevertheless, as difficult as it is, we have to move past the predicament of the officer concerned and dig deep into the apparatus for which he/she worked --- the Protective Services Unit (PSU).
The letter’s contents, ill-advised and personal as it is, cannot be allowed to chill the debate about the Dunphy affair and about the laws and procedures we need to properly govern the activities of the police.
Of course, as others have said, a clear and early commitment to a full and independent Judicial Inquiry by Premier Davis would have saved everyone a great deal of debate and anguish.
So, when you think about it, it is Premier Davis who is really responsible for all this investigational mess, including, indirectly, the bizarre and improper injection of retired Judge Riche into the RCMP investigation.
The police officer/letter writer is a member of Premier Davis’ personal presumably elite Protective Services Unit (PSU) – a sort of bodyguard with a very broad and proactive investigative program. Its size and methods of operation are a secret.
So the first questions to be answered are:
What exactly has the PSU been mandated to do?
How does it operate?
How big is it?
What internal checks have been instituted to protect the rights of citizens?
Second , did something go wrong with this particular PSU “operation” before Officer X even knocked on Donny Dunphy’s door ?
– a screw-up that has some very powerful people worried?
And do the views about the role of the PSU expressed by the Officer X in his letter accurately reflect the views generally held within the senior ranks of the RNC and in the Premier’s Office?
If so, a debate in the House of Assembly on the PSU seems long overdue.
The most chilling part of the officer’s letter deals with the activities of the Protective Services Unit (PSU) – a unit that we are told is designed to be “pro-active” and on the lookout for “disconcerting behavior”.
Add to that, RCMP interviews since the Donny Dunphy shooting referring to the “vast’ amount of information available to the police which they apparently shared with the PSU.
As in electronic surveillance of personal phone calls and email accounts ? On a “pro-active “ basis?
Bring on the Public Inquiry and oversight please.
Indeed, at the very least, the following quotation from Officer X’s letter confirms that either the Premier Office’s and/or RNC HQ in Fort Townsend have been quite busy of late building an elaborate Protective Services Unit with a nebulous mandate apparently without proper oversight with regard to the rights of the average citizen.
The mission of the PSU is said to be:
“Protective Policing — is predicated on intelligence led investigations. Most will inherently view police work as something that is reactive. ie. Somebody is threatened and we respond accordingly. Intelligence based policing is proactive, and in the case of protective services, attempts to identify potential concerns and disconcerting behavior, and through a risk analysis endeavors to assign threat levels and implement corrective measures before an act of targeted violence occurs.”
This particular paragraph shows all the signs of being copied out of some sort of RNC operations manual.
The words used seem carefully chosen to justify and protect the work of the PSU.
For now, we must assume they accurately describe how the PSU works – it’s pro-active, uses “intelligence gathering” and extends Province wide.
And , one is entitled to ask in light of the Dunphy shooting, has a tendency to see threats where the average person would not ?
So all citizens need to read the Officer X’s letter carefully.
See the following link to the original CBC leaked version of the letter:
Citizens should also find out as much as they can about this PSU “Unit”.
But good luck, as the pickings on the net seem scarce; if you check the RNC website, the PSU is nowhere to be found in a long list of some 33 different units/services.
But any RNC Unit that may be using “disconcerting behavior ” as a test warranting police scrutiny is, in itself, frightening enough to deserve everyone’s strict attention.
Or was the use of “disconcerting” just a poor choice of words by an officer under great stress?
Please Premier Davis, we’ve seen and heard enough.
Bring some clarity to the Dunphy affair by immediately putting in motion the process of calling a Judicial Inquiry under the provincial Public Inquiries Act
– one that includes a full review of the PSU, its mandate and its method of operations.
How else can you possibly expect your Administration to retain even a shred of credibility?
Cabot Martin lives in St. John's.