Sunday, September 18, 2011
The Police's Duty to Warn
A reader asked me what I meant by the police's legal obligation regarding their duty to warn so I thought I'd explain. It's rooted within the Jane Doe VS Metropolitan Toronto Commissioners of Police decision. In that case the police failed to warn the public after they realized a serial rapist was on the loose.
Jane Doe was one of the Balcony Rapists victims after four other women were targeted in similar circumstances. She sued the police for their negligence in warning the public about a serial rapist as well as their statutory duty to protect the public from criminal activity. She won and was awarded $220,000.00 in damages.
My use of the term duty to warn with regards to gang activity was simply a quote when Kim Bolan used the term regarding the recent shooting victim in Surrey. She said: "The 24-year-old has a history of police that stretches back to his late teens. When a gunman opened fire about 9:30 p.m. Friday, he was with others who have been the subject of police “duties to warn” because there are others out there that want them dead. The victim remains in critical condition. He is currently out on bail on trafficking charges."
On that subject, the only people I remember the police issuing a public warning about was the Bacon brothers and that came from the Port Moody Police so I am keenly interested in who the others the victim was with that were subjects of a duty to warn and are still loose in the community. Jonathon Bacon is dead. Jammie Bacon is in prison and I have no idea where Jarrod Bacon is. Who these other friends that were with the victim that have been the previous subject of a police duty to warn is clearly a matter of public safety. The police should not be withholding that information from the public.
What if someone living next door to them is not aware of the warning? What if one of their family members is shot dead in the cross fire when the gangs come looking for their neighbour? That family shouldn't have to sue the police for a wrongful death and for being negligent in their duty to warn. The police should do it because it's the right thing to do.
In the police's defense I will concede they are likely worried about their legal liabilities from both sides. More so from the criminal suing them then the law biding citizen suing them which happens much more often. The person who was shot in Surrey is well known to police and has was released on bail for drug trafficking. Releasing that name to the public is not a breach of his privacy rights. If he has been charged with a crime, it is not unlawful to state so. Gordon Campbell was charged with DUI in Hawaii. It is not slander to say that.
The fact that this drug trafficker was shot at in Surrey and the people he was with were the subject of a police duty to warn because people out there wanted them dead and they are now at large, that increases the legal liability ten fold. The citizens of Surrey should not have to file a class action lawsuit against the police for failing to maintain their duty to warn. The police should do it because it's the right thing to do. How can the police build bridges of trust with the community when they are still knowingly alienating them? That is why I say we have come one step forward and two steps back. If find it profoundly disappointing.