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

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    January 5, 2020 |

    […] 28. The past as a guide to the future (Part III): Over the past 60 years, many activities the police once performed as a natural part of their daily duty, eventually became incompatible with achieving their basic goals. What happened? (August 2019) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories Why I stand with science? - McNeill Life Stories

    November 11, 2019 |

    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]