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. 

As with Inspector Bates, the Chief usually went home for lunch but instead of requesting a ride he always walked to and from his home in North Oak Bay, about two kilometers from the office. Each day on his trek he would make note of various infractions under Motor Vehicle Act (left wheels to curb, park on the boulevard, etc) or Municipal Bylaws (grass clippings on the sidewalk was a favorite). The Chief’s property, of course, was flawless in every respect.

Two or three times a week, on return to the office, the Chief would call in the Sergeant and give him a list of infractions. The Sergeant would then, in turn, assign the list to a patrol officer.  As the most junior man on shift, the list most often ended up on my clipboard and the pettiness of the complaints irritated me to no end. One could find dozens of similar infractions all over the Municipality, but unless there was a citizen complaint or some particularly good reason to carry out enforcement, these infractions were usually overlooked.

After several months of having been instructed to act on the Chief’s complaints, I decided to take the bull by the horns the next time I was handed a list. There was no use talking to the Chief, for he would have just torn a strip off me for being insubordinate, a disciplinary “catch-all”. Instead, one dayshift, I signed out extra parking and bylaw ticket books as well as the ‘Noxious Weed Notice’ book and commenced a street by the street search for infractions (all in North Oak Bay in a one-kilometer circle around the Chief’s home near Uplands Park.

Cartoon:  As Officer McNeill works the streets of Central Oak Bay, he tries to anticipate the Chief’s next complaint.

By the time the Chief had left that day, I had covered every possible route he might take and issued tickets for every infraction I could find.  Just for good measure, I expanded my search perimeter and managed to empty two full ticket books (25 tickets in each) and wrote several bylaw notices and still others under the Noxious Weed Act.

About three in the afternoon, as folks started to arrive home, there was a trickle of people phoning the office inquiring as to ‘what the hell was going on’.  By ten o’clock the next morning the trickle was a flood with all complaints being routed to Inspector Charlie Bates.  A few of the more affluent homeowners as well as the ‘well-connected’ types, were not satisfied to speak with a mere Inspector, so were passed along to the big man himself.

Having made myself inconspicuous the next morning, at just before noon I heard the Chief had called the Inspector into his office for a closed-door session and it was not long after the Chief left for lunch that I received a call asking me to report to the office to see the Inspector.  There was little doubt what would be discussed and I was worried that perhaps I had stepped a little too far over that thin blue line. I freely admit, my heart rate had inched up several notches.

Inspector Bates, a fine man with a balanced and understanding approach, inquired as to what the hell I thought I was doing in writing all those ‘god-damned’ tickets.  He knew full well what the Chief had been doing all those years but no one had ever taken the man to task. I explained that I was just trying to clean things up a bit before the Chief took his noon walk and that I was perfectly happy to expand the practice to the rest of the Municipality in order to make sure everyone was being treated in a fair and equitable manner.

In his best ‘Inspectorial’ manner, Charlie suggested I might wish to use a little more ‘discretion’ in the future, but he never came right out and told me to cease and desist. That was the last I heard on the subject and the Chief never called me to his office nor, to my knowledge, did he ever speak further to the matter.  Knowing the Inspector fairly well, I think he quietly applauded the action I had taken.

The outcome – from that day forward the Chief stopped his petty practice of singling out certain folks for selective enforcement. In appreciation of his change in attitude, I put my ticket book back in my briefcase and reserved it for more needy cases.  I suppose I dodged a bullet by my actions, but then, perhaps, the Chief was just biding his time. Regimental Sergeant Majors, as I understood them, were not known to be accepting of having their authority questioned in any way, shape or form.

Harold

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Comments

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.

  • DOROTHY MARSHALL

    November 15, 2021 |

    These stories brought back some sweet memories for me. a wonderful trip down memory lane . the photos were great. It has made me miss those days.

  • DOROTHY MARSHALL

    November 15, 2021 |

    Enjoyed your story Harold Dorothy Hartman