It’s What Isn’t There

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Blanked out RCMP documents speak volumes

Lorne Gunterby Lorne Gunter
Edmonton Sun

It often helps to go over your research more than once. It helps, too, to have an extra set of eyes.

That’s the case with documents regarding last summer’s gun seizures in High River, Alberta, obtained from the RCMP through access to information.

To be fair, reams of documents have been released. Many are mundane. Plenty have large portions blanked out.

It’s easy to miss the significance of what isn’t there. Which is exactly what I and an independent firearms researcher did – we missed the importance of a blank column on a Mountie spreadsheet listing the firearms taken following last June’s flood.

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Thankfully a private citizen looking at the same data clued into what we had overlooked.

In an item-by-item detailing of the hundreds of guns seized, Mounties have blanked out the column “Location Where Recovered.” That means the location within each home where they found the gun or guns they confiscated.

Why is that important? Because Mounties have insisted all along that they took only those firearms they found in “plain view.”

And that is significant because even if they were in homes legally under emergency powers to search for flood victims, they are still prevented from taking evidence of a crime (such as unsafe storage of a firearm) unless they can see the evidence plainly from their rescue position.

If they open a sock drawer and find a handgun or peek behind boxes and find a rifle in a space too small for a victim to be hiding, that would not satisfy the “plain view” doctrine in court.

A source with intimate knowledge of RCMP evidence collection procedures told me Mounties would never blank out such info from their reports if they were taking a criminal to court. A judge would immediately invalidate the evidence since there is no way of knowing if it was legally obtained.

Perhaps Mounties think they are merely preserving the private info of High River gun owners. But blanking out the details of where they found guns in flooded (and unflooded) homes calls into question their “plain view” explanation.

Handwritten officers’ notes from High River also call into question their need to kick in hundreds of doors.

Even long after the raging waters of the Highwood River had subsided and the immediate emergency had passed, the RCMP kept forcing their way into residents’ homes.

They were doing some good during these violent entries. One Mountie’s notes show “cat removed by Animal Services. 1 rabbit fed, watered. 1 lizard, fed.”

“1 cat, 2 chinchillas, all fed and watered.”

“Evidence of a cat, not located, Food water left out.”

He and his fellow officers fed salamanders, bearded dragons, snakes and birds. They found fish in tanks and sprinkled food into their aquariums before leaving.

Nice.

But in nine of the 19 homes they searched in under an hour, they kicked in doors and damaged frames, often to the tune of several thousands of dollars. And this happened from June 25 until July 10, long after the rising water posed a threat to life and limb.

Did they really need to smash in doors to feed pets? Couldn’t they have waited for locksmiths? Or was their real purpose to search for guns while putting out the kibble?

This was Mounties’ second time at most of these homes. RCMP now claim they went back to make sure there were no gas leaks. But random houses weren’t blowing up all over town, so was such forceful intrusion into private property truly justified?

Maybe this wasn’t a gun grab (although it sure looks like it). But it certainly was an excess use of police power on a grand scale.


Original web source: Sun News Network

 

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