San Remo Restaurant Burglary

Written by Harold McNeill on February 12th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


The San Remo Restaurant on Quadra at Hillside, has been a fixture in
Victoria for nearly 30 years. With an array of authentic Greek dishes as well Italian and American favourites, the warm and welcoming atmosphere provided by Dino, his daughter Zoi and the friendly staff makes a visit well worthwhile and repeat visists a must (see photos at end of story).

Quiet Times

It was 2:00 am Monday as I sat in my patrol car at the corner of Foul Bay Road and Fort Street working on a vexing problem. The problem? Trying to stay awake. As usual at the end of a week-end, not a thing was happening throughout the city and the radio barely crackled. You could fire a rifle down Douglas Street or along Oak Bay Ave and never fear of hitting anyone. It was nice to have an interlude, but the challenge at 2:00 am was keeping the mind occupied and off the thought of sleep.

As I whiled away the time, another car would occasionally book off with a vehicle, but nothing of consequence. I reflected back upon those times when my friends Blake Green, a Victoria Police member, and his wife Joanne, lived just a few door’s from where I was parked. The coffee pot was always on and the door open, but not a 2:00 am.  The Green’s had moved in a few years back and the street, Goldsmith, was now long gone as the houses were torn down to make way for a Seniors Housing Complex and the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

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Police Pursuit

Written by Harold McNeill on February 7th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


The Question of Police Pursuit

Post Updated, March 12, 2017
(Note: If you go to one of the links, please do an arrow return to the main story, as the post links feature is not creating a new tab)

While there are many factors that contribute to the decision of an officer to either continue or call off a pursuit, the accident in the above photo, which occurred on January 18, 2014, (Times Colonist News Report) might have been avoided had a police pursuit earlier in the day not been called off. The danger, of course, had the earlier pursuit continued, an equally tragic accident may have occurred.  The police were caught in that “damned if you do, damned if you damned if you don’t” dilemma.

For a police officer in pursuit, the adrenaline rush is significant. If the pursuit ends in the arrest of a suspect, that person is well advised to mind their “p’s and q’s”. If they don’t, they could easily end up on the short end of a nightstick. It’s easy, in retrospect to criticize the police. however, the situation is more complicated. This aspect of police pursuit is discussed more fully in the reference paper noted at the end of this story.

This post was originally made a few years back and is being updated here.

Police Pursuit: Public Debate and
Department Policy

Introduction

The following short stories outline various cases of police pursuit, some humorous, but most having the potential to end in tragedy either during the chase or following the chase having been called off.

In cases that end in tragedy, with the driver or passenger of the pursued vehicle, a policeman or in the worst case, an innocent third party, being injured or killed, the media devolve into a feeding frenzy.  From the police perspective, it is a tough call as there is seldom less than a few seconds to make a decision – to pursue or not to pursue. If the decision is to pursue, at what point should it be called off as being to dangerous?

Time of day, the amount of traffic, speeds involved, prior knowledge of the vehicle pursued as stolen or involved in a violent crime, and dozens of other factors all come immediately into play.  Over the course of my career I was involved in several dozen high-speed pursuits the majority of which resulted in the arrest of the driver, but on occasion, when it became too dangerous to continue, the pursuit was terminated. On a few occasions, accidents resulted when either the suspect vehicle or my police car became involved in an accident.

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Oak Bay High School Confidential

Written by Harold McNeill on January 25th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


The Case of the $20,000 Teddy Bear

LV-Steiff-Teddy-Bear

This Teddy Sold for £130,190 on 14th October 2000, even though it was slightly smaller than the $20,000 Teddy that was part of an Oak Bay Heist.

Prologue

As affluence tends to define Oak Bay, at least in the eyes of outsiders, there is no better place to continue this series, than with a case about money, a lot of money, well, a lot of money for several dozen Oak Bay High School students.

Who would expect, that over a few days, early one spring, we would learn of parties at which $100 bills were being used to light cigars, stores where students were paying $500 for sport cards, and, of parents being given $100 bills by their kids, all with few questions being asked. Sound a bit far-fetched? Perhaps, but remember, this was Oak Bay and in Oak Bay, anything could happen.

The case developed, first by the keen observation of a fellow officer, and then, by information which pointed to three groups of students, who, in this story, we call the Uplands, Panhandle, and Rockland Boys. The Robin Hoodesque generosity of the three groups played a key roll in the distribution of tens of thousands of dollars throughout the school. What was going on? Had they opened up a counterfeiting ring in the school shop or had they found a bank vault left open along Oak Bay Ave? Not even close. The truth is even more interesting than fiction.  

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Tickets, Tickets, Tickets 4/4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 22nd, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


(Stock Photo) Many RSM’s marched out of the military and into the police service in the decades following World War II and the Korean War. 

Go to Different Strokes for Part 1

How might you handle a bully, especially a bully with gold braid surrounding his epaulets? Well, you could challenge him directly, but there were inherent dangers with using that approach. Perhaps it would be wise to take a more circuitous route. The challenge I made in this story would only be the first of many times I stepped over the line when feeling chaffed by the actions of a senior officer. Over my thirty years of service, I managed to turn the art of challenge into a science, but there was a cost.

As mentioned in the previous story, our Chief Constable back in the late 1960s, was a notoriously dictatorial fellow. At 6’4 inches, 260 pounds, in excellent shape and with a deep baritone voice, he was a formidable sight, especially to a lowly, Junior Constable.

That he brought to the Police Department his full military bearing as an ex-Regimental Sergeant Major (minus the swagger stick), left him a bit out of touch with the rapidly changing world of policing.  Given his personality, one only challenged the Chief’s authority at their peril. 

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Please Send a Car 3/4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 22nd, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


Oak Bay Police Department

S/Sgt (later Inspector) Charlie Bates (front row, second from right)
(Served with the Oak Bay Police, 1946 – 1976)

Go to Different Strokes for Part 1
Part 4 Link to Tickets, Tickets, Tickets

Once again, better judgment failed to penetrate my clouded brain as I picked up the phone and called a taxi. While it seemed funny at the moment, after hanging up the phone, I wondered whether the Inspector would appreciate the little joke.

Throughout these stories, I will intersperse a number of anecdotes such as this. Each has more to do with explaining the camaraderie that exists within a small department that might not be tollerated in a larger organization. Yet, in every department, whether large or small, men and women must learn to work closely in order the gain the trust needed to accomplish the job in an effective manner. At times this involved black humour that outsiders might find offensive, at other times practical jokes carried the day (or night) and very often, spending time together in social situations where families came to understand the broad support system that existed within and across police forces in the CRD1.

With a few exceptions, senior ranks were not immune to being the brunt of a practical joke and in this case it involved the 2 I/C of our Department, Inspector Charlie Bates.2  Charlie was one of the most knowledgeable, honest and straightforward men of senior rank I had the pleasure to work with over my early career.  He certainly provided much needed balance to the dictatorial, ex-Regimental Sergeant Major who was then our Chief Constable.  Inspector Bates, however, subscribed to the old school motto: “rank hath its privilege”.

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Attitude, Attitude, Attitude 2/4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 22nd, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


c729b_domestic_cleaning_prices_domestic-violence

Domestic Disputes: These disputes can be among the most difficult and dangerous calls to attend.

Note: This is Part 2 of the series.  Go to Different Strokes for Part 1

Introduction

The Saanich PD Constable stood in the living room of a Cadboro Bay residence facing down two angry people. It was evident by his words and actions that this meeting was not likely to have a happy ending. Meanwhile, his Sergeant was sitting, watching and waiting as chaos slowly enveloped the scene.

There was obviously more to the Sergeant’s inaction than I could at first discern. As I had just arrived on the scene as a back-up, it would take a few minutes to understand why the Sergeant was waiting and watching. We struck up a conversation and both watched through the picture window facing the street.

The reason I was here, is that with three borders (Oak Bay, Saanich, and Victoria) we always covered for each other on such calls as we all knew officers could end up at the scene alone. As our radio systems were on the same channel, we always knew what was going on in each others territory.

The Call

When I arrived, two Saanich police cars were parked on the street with the Saanich Sergeant quietly sitting in his unit. The engine was off and he was having a cigarette as I walked to the driver’s door. I didn’t even have to ask if they needed help as that was obvious. Through the picture window of a house across the street, we could see the another Saanich officer, (he had arrived before the Sergeant) who was standing in the living room facing down a man and woman who were in the midst of a heated argument.

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Different Strokes for Different Folks 1/4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 22nd, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


Oak Bay Police 1966

Photo: Oak Bay Police, 1966, from the book An Historical Perspective of the Members of the Oak Bay Police Department 1906 – 2006
by Sergeant Dan McLean

The four parts of this section, based on the patrol experience of the author, discuss the effects attitude can have on a police officer. This first part explores some of the generalities as well as a study conducted by Constable Terry Toone (Victoria PD) and myself in 1973 while attending the University of Victoria. 

Part 2 looks at the challenges faced by one officer as he attends a family dispute in the Cadboro Bay area of Saanich.

Parts 3 and 4, look at my own shortcomings that, on the one hand, served me well on the street, but on the other, did not please my supervisors. In later stories, you will better understand why my career was better suited to that of a front line investigator rather than a back-office administrator.

Link to Part 2/4 Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

1. Working the Street

More than a few police officers work their entire career and never learn some basic skills that would have made their lives so much easier. I was one of those officers, but my challenges were oriented more toward the political than the practical. For that reason, I was destined to spend my career on the street rather than as a Senior Administrator.

Years of street experience taught me that using different approaches could work wonders in reaching a positive outcome, something that was known and practiced by a great many police officers I met over my career. For others there was an adage which went something like this: “Ah, John didn’t have 20 years experience, he had one year of experience, twenty times.”

The use of language, including body language, humour, anger, surprise, sarcasm, deference, curiosity, excitement, awe, confusion, sympathy, empathy, etc., when introduced at the right moment, could help to defuse a situation or reach a positive outcome with suspects, witnesses, youngsters, seniors and any number of others. Skilled interrogators become acutely aware of the importance of using a number of different approaches. If one particular approach did not work, another might.

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Sealand of the Pacific – Death in the Whale Pool

Written by Harold McNeill on January 6th, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


Miracle performs at Sealand

Miracle’ the Killer Whale Performs at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, B.C.   The internationally popular whale died in an incident that was blamed on Greenpeace activists.

January 6, 2017: Tilikum, the most infamous of the captured killer whales, died at SeaWorld in Orland, Florida.  Skip to Section 2, then 5, for background on Tilikum and the other killer whales who thrilled audiences around the world.

This post was written by Det./Sgt. Harold David McNeill who investigated several incidents at Sealand of the Pacific, and the Oak Bay Marina, including the death of Miracle, the Killer Whale.

Background

In 1991, a young woman from Victoria, an Environmental Studies student at the University of Victoria, Keltie Byrne, tragically died in the whale pool at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, British Columbia.  The three whales in the pool at the time were Tilikum, Nootka II, and Haida II. They were directly involved in the death, not as killers, but as friends, whose game lead to tragic consequences. Keltie’s death was the culmination of three decades of events that lead the owner of the Oak Bay Marine Group and Sealand of the Pacific, Robert (Bob) Wright, to finally close the display in 1992.

The death of Keltie and the exploitation of killer whales was a tipping point in the much larger story about the development of protest movements around the world, particularly that of Greenpeace, whose origins can be traced to Victoria, B.C. in the 1960s.

During their history, the organization was vilified, supporters killed, their ships rammed and one sunk by French Government agents within the confines of the peaceful Auckland Harbour, in New Zealand. Two French secret service agents were arrested while trying to leave the country and charged with murder. They later walked away as free men who were celebrated as heroes in their own country and one man was even promoted to the senior ranks of the French Military.

In an Oak Bay case, Greenpeace supporters were held out as prime suspects in the tragic death of another internationally famous killer whale, Miracle, whose battered body was found tangled in the nets at SealandAs well as the intrigue surrounding the deaths of Keltie and Miracle, the story delves into the history of Protest Movements in British Columbia and around the world.

It was through the efforts of thousands of activists, including those at Greenpeace, that many important changes in government and industrial practices were brought about over the past sixty years. The world would be much worse off had it not been for organizations such as Greenpeace who constantly agitated for change in our environmental practices. It is easy to visualize the environmental challenges faced by China today, is nearly the same as was the case in many cities across North America and Europe decades earlier.

Greenpeace and Sealand Photographs

Update June 25, 2015The MV Farley Mowat, once the flagship of Greenpeace has made a temporary move to the bottom of Shelburne Harbour in Nova Scotia after being scuttled.  The Coast Guard seized the vessel in 2008 during a confrontation with seal hunters in the Northern Atlantic.  More on the history of the ship in the following story.

Link to Media Post 

Video of Sealand, the Early Days

March 9, 2016 (8575)  January 1, 2017 (9464)
January 1, 2018 (10,455) May 27, 2018 (10,744)
May 4, 2019 (11,299)

March 9, 2016 (Times Colonist Report on Tilikum)

January 8, 2017  (Tilikum Dies at Seaworld)

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.