Wednesday, October 03, 2007


This is such a weird fucking story. And before someone jumps on me about this, I’m not saying she wasn’t sexually assaulted and then the same guy tracked her down months later and beat her up. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt Ms. England’s story. I’m just saying it’s fucking weird.

Any journalist worth half a grain of salt in St. John’s right now must be looking at this story and wondering what the hell is going on. Maybe it is as straight forward as it seems. That somebody came to Ms. England’s house, forced their way in and raped her. Then, months later after moving to a new area and bravely coming out and telling her story, the same guy tracks her down and assaults here again. It could really be just that straight forward; that we’re looking at one seriously disturbed individual who has a real piece of hatred towards Ms. England.

But man, it feels like there’s more going on here. I don’t know what, but this is some seriously weird shit. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of something like that happening before.

Not helping things are the RNC, as usual. I know it’s easy to shit on the police. It’s easy to shit on the police in any city in Canada. And I have no idea why so many police forces find the idea of decent public relations so very hard to grasp, but they do. But even in a country filled with police forces with inept PR, the RNC normally manages to come out on top.

I remember one from about 13 years ago when I was an intern with the Telegram. I called the RNC’s flack and asked about an assault that took place on George Street at 3:30. He told me there had been no assault. When the CBC reported it the next morning (and after I got chewed out by my editor) I called him back. He told me there was no assault at 3:30 on George Street. There had been one at 3:15, though. I felt like killing him.

The RNC chief before Browne picked fights with reporters. He boycotted The Express after we ran an editorial rightly pointing out that at that time it took longer to get a degree in hair styling at the school the force were using in PEI to train officers than it took to become a qualified police officer. For six months afterwards we literally had officers telling us “I can’t talk to you. That’s come down from upon high and I will get in a lot of trouble.”

This is your professional police force. And every media outlet in St. John’s has these kinds of stories.

So when the RNC finally comes out and says “hey, no need to panic or live in fear” (I’m paraphrasing), well, that’s a bit too late and not quite enough. People are getting freaked out. A little more a lot earlier would have been useful.

I do have some empathy for the RNC, believe it or not. When they act quickly, they get burned with convictions tossed out of court and have judicial inquiries launched investigating their supposed incompetence. When they act slowly (remember, they have a murder investigation that’s been going on for about 10 months now with no arrests), they’re criticized for not acting fast enough. When they talk about a case, as they did with underage sex ring above the pizza place downtown or the drug charges surrounding Dr. Sean Buckingham, then they get burned later when charges start getting dropped left, right and centre or the case wasn’t as big a deal as was originally made out. (I’m not saying taking underage sex photos is good, but originally the story made national headlines for being an international child porn operating in St. John’s. Which isn’t what it was.) People then yell at them for exaggerating things. And when they don’t talk about a case, well, you get what’s happening right now.

(Also, as I discovered when editing this, you get people making up stories, wasting valuable time and resources.)

And hell, reporters are a pain in the ass. I know this. We’re bastards. But it’s what they paid me for back in the day.

So yeah, it’s a hard line to walk – give enough information to make people feel secure, but not so much that it ruins the case (there will never be enough information to make reporters happy). But hey, people competent and trained in their jobs can accomplish this. It happens all the time with other groups that deal with the media and the public. I have no idea why it’s so damn hard for the RNC. But it’s something they clearly need to fix.

If the RNC doesn’t want people to live in “constant fear” then they might want to try being a little better at their job. A competent police force can make people feel secure. The RNC apparently still has a way to go.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Hey Craig:

I have been following this one and agree with you completely. Very very odd - assaulted twice by the same person in different parts of town. One was outside and the other was a home invasion. This does not add up to my mind. That is probably already saying too much.

Sadly the RNC despite efforts in the past decade are still running to stay in place. I know years ago they went through a strategic planning process which involved consulting various community groups in St John's including NGALE. I was pretty impressed with them at the time. They also set up a liason with the gay community which was a good move. All of this after the debacle of the Brian Nolan Affair seemed to bode well.

However I think alot things got screwed up when the previous police chief came in. You know more about the controversies there with sexual harrassment cases etc. I applied for the records managers position actually and was interviewed but never got the job. I told them I wouldn't mind be harrassed by the Chief of Police and would even go with him on a dirty weekend to Corner Brook. Oddly enough I didn't get that job...

Having said all of that I have heard good things about Joe Brown. I have met him a couple of times. Speaks his mind but is fair minded and has some sense.

Too bad the force still doesn't seem to be able to handle their community relations. "Move along folks - Nothing happening here. Nope! Home invasions aren't a problem and we don't have a serial rapist on the loose in the city. Just move along!"