Tickets, Tickets, Tickets 4/4

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


Note: This is Part 4 of this particular post. Go to Different Strokes for Part 1

How might you handle a bully, especially a bully with gold braid surrounding his epaulettes? 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 Regimental Sergeant Major attitude and bearing (minus the swagger stick), left him a bit out of touch with 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 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 the same 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. 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, early one dayshift, I signed out extra parking and bylaw ticket books as well as the ‘Noxious Weed Notice’ book and commenced a street by street search for infractions.

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 at noon, 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 by a quarter of a mile 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 were a trickle of people phoning the office inquiring as to ‘what the hell was going on’.  By ten the next morning the trickle was a flood with all complaints being routed to Inspector Jack Groves.  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 Groves, a fine man with a balanced and understanding approach, inquired as to what 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 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 ‘Inspectatorial’ manner, Jack suggested I might wish 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 officer 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 the 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

  • 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.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold