When the police come, most kids run
My little brother died quite tragically more than 30 years ago. It was a case of teenage misadventure and it was a big deal.
His name was Peter. One night, he and several of his friends headed out to Ball’s Falls with a case of beer. Being only 17 at the time, my brother and his friends, like a lot of teenagers from Tobermory to Niagara Falls, used the escarpment as a party spot. And still, today, a walk along the escarpment will unearth any number of burnt out campfires, a testament to the enduring legacy of the escarpment party.
Now, I’m not saying what my brother and his friends did was “right”; but it needs to be seen in its context. He was a typical 17-year-old boy in the late 1970s.
He’d never been to Ball’s Falls before. That was before they put up the big chain link fence along the waterfall. They had lit a campfire and cracked a beer or two. I imagine they were having a good time, laughing and joking, harmless fun, really, bothering no one with their noise and teenage silliness.
It was dark when the police came, drawn by the light of the campfire. That’s when tragedy struck. Boys being boys and being caught out somewhere they knew they shouldn’t be, their response was to run, all of them, to hide, to get away, anything to avoid the police.
Four of them ran right off the falls; three of them died. One of them was my brother. The other two boys were Michael Slywka and Emil Jerman. May they all rest in peace.
The press was all over this story, you can imagine; we had reporters coming by for a comment or two. One of them asked my dad his opinion on the presence of the police, whether he held them accountable. He said simply: If the police hadn’t come, they wouldn’t have run.
The honesty in that sentence is hard to hide. My mother cringed, she could see the headlines in the papers: father blames cops. But my father was right. If the police hadn’t come, hadn’t just shown up — doing their job, mind you — then my brother and his friends may be alive today. Conjecture of course, but they probably would have lived to see another morning.
Today, there’s a teenager in the hospital, fighting for his life and there’s a young family with no father all because a police officer thought he was just doing his job. The trouble is, sometimes when police do their job it makes the situation worse, sometimes it precipitates tragedy.
Whatever were they thinking, those police officers who came up on my brother and his friends? Where they not thinking of the dangerous area they were in? Did they not think about who they were dealing with? Did they not realize that young boys would run away rather than be caught? Did they forget what it was like to be young themselves? Did they think their uniforms and shiny badges would automatically command respect? Or give them superhuman powers? Really?
Our police need better training. They need to widen their horizons and expand their minds. They need to see themselves in context to the rest of us, the ones they’re sworn to serve and protect. They need a university degree in sociology, social work, psychology, communications, religion, or any number of the social and human sciences that teach critical thinking skills, gain some real life experience and then undergo specialized police training before they put on a badge.
The job is too important to us, to them, to leave it to on-the-job training.
Margaret Shkimba is a freelance writer who lives in Hamilton. She can be reached at email@example.com.
It is a tragedy that someone died, it is a tragedy that a family has to live without their son/brother, but the blame lies at the bottom of a water fall not with the police.
Let's play it the other way... police don't bother attending the call as its just a bunch of teenagers doing what "typical 17 year olds" did back in the 70's (or still today as she claims) at the falls and ultimately they drank themselves into a stupor and one or two of them fell off the side of the cliff.. of course then it would also be the fault of the police for not putting a stop to the party.
I'm sure the scenario of kids running from police when being caught doing 'minor' things is quite common and unfortunately those same kid(s) are sometimes hurt or even worse when fleeing.. their decision to flee has nothing to do with whether or not the officer responding had a university degree in religious studies.
What's most unfortunate is that 30 years later the family still accepts no responsibility for his actions and brushes it aside by saying it wasn't necessarily "right" while she can write up several more paragraphs about everything wrong the police did then and apparently are still doing wrong now. I know my son growing up will taught to respect authority and to accept responsibility for his actions, those "right" and maybe not so "right" ...
I'm sorry for her loss of a sibling, but it wasnt appropriate then and isn't now to blame the police.. they didnt decide to flee.
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Margaret Shkimba wrote:Today, there’s a teenager in the hospital, fighting for his life and there’s a young family with no father all because a police officer thought he was just doing his job. The trouble is, sometimes when police do their job it makes the situation worse, sometimes it precipitates tragedy.
This line seems really inappropriate and borderline insulting to me. She almost makes it sound as if the fallen YRP officer (I think it's obvious that he's who she's alluding to) was acting negligently, or somehow should be blamed for the tragic outcome. What was he supposed to do? Let the punk(s) in the van continue to drive around at 140 km/h while high on drugs and wait until they mow down a couple of innocent pedestrians or motorists?
That piece just proves how incredibly stupid people are. Tragic, yet the father blamed the cops. Now it kind of makes sense... no sense of accountability.
I'm with Goaliegibson.....
Normally I try to just ignore stupid, but this one really does deserve a write back simply because of how ludicrous it really is...
It's a shame the fellow died, but honestly, he is the architect of his own demise. He chose to drink underage, he chose his drinking venue to be the side of a cliff overlooking a waterfall, he chose to run from the police rather than just take responsibility for his actions, and he's the numpty who somehow forgot he was beside a freakin cliff and ran right off it. The worst that would be likely to have happened was their booze being dumped out and them being driven home to their parents. His own stupid decisions led up to his death and nobody else is to blame but him.
Pitiful piece of trash journalism. I'm glad someone decided to write a counter letter. I hope more police officers write back in response to this garbage.
Blame here lies on the 17 year old and the parents. Talk about no accountability
That story was not even worth the ink on the fish wrap.
Personally I'd like to light off fireworks, smash beer bottles on the playground equipment and yell at the top of my lungs in the parents back yard of the teenagers that seem to hang out in the park behind our residence at 02:00 am.
But then I'm fairly certain they would call the Cops on me for doing so, interesting thought
I recently read your opinion piece, "When police come, kids run." and I'd like to address a few items with you.
First of all, you mention Garrett Styles and how, by him doing his job as a police officer, is at fault for some "kid" being paralyzed. Let's make something totally clear here. That "kid" isn't some innocent child who may have been caught having a beer underage and decided to run away. This "kid" is someone who is known to classmates to, routinely, take his parent's car without their consent, which for the record is a summary conviction offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. This "kid" is one who associates with people, who after hearing he dragged Constable Styles 300 meters and pinning him, are congratulating him on killing a cop. This "kid" is someone who is known to his peers to routinely drink underage and use illicit narcotics. So, this "kid" isn't some innocent babyface who made one poor decision in a lifetime of good decisions.
Let's be clear on another item, the offence. I mentioned to you before that by taking his parent's vehicle, he committed a summary conviction offence. Well, let me explain this for you......as an adult, he MAY receive 6 months in jail/$2000 fine for his actions. Even as an adult, someone would rarely see a sentence such as that, unless they were a habitual offender. As a youth, this "kid" would most likely see diversion (aka community work) and never see the inside of a youth detention facility and the crime would be wiped from his record once he's 18. So for that, he killed a father of 2 and husband, who was doing his job and protecting the citizens of York Region......when he ran.
Let's be clear on this as well, maybe, just maybe, if this "kid's" parents had actually been parents and prevented their son from having access to a 4000lb weapon, he wouldn't be paralyzed and a 33 year old father/husband would not be dead. Yes, that's correct, I'm putting blame on the parents. Let me correct that, I'm putting responsibility on them, as it has come to light that most people were aware that this "kid" routinely stole his parent's vehicle for joy rides.
I'm sorry for the loss of your brother, but the truth of the matter is, if "kids" are so scared of being caught by police doing something, well then maybe they need to rethink what they are doing. Or even better, take responsibility for their actions. Every person, even great people, make poor decisions. Those decisions do not determine how good/bad of a person they are, but rather how they move forward and take responsibility for their actions determines the "stuff" one is made from. To place the blame of the death of a police officer on that officer by criticizing him for doing his job, essentially performing the core duties of his profession, is disgusting and highly disrespectful to the memory of that officer and, more importantly, disrespectful to the memory of a good man.
You state in your article how police believe their shiny badges and uniform give them superpowers or automatically instill respect in the person wearing those items. The fact of the matter is this, police officers perform a job that very few people can do. One that takes them away from their families on holidays, places them in dangerous situations, has them solving the problems of others who can't solve them for themselves and has them protecting people's rights to live life without fearing being a victim of crime the moment they step out their door. Does it make them superhuman? No. It does make them someone we should teach our children to respect.
Further into your article, you ask if police officers don't remember what its like to be a kid. The fact of the matter is, most do, and when they see a kid on the wrong path, many police officers, some who were once that kid, take the time and effort to help that kid. Police are not all about being "the big man, with the big gun and shiny badge"...many, if not most, are there to help the people who need it.
I marched the day of Garrett Styles funeral, and lined the street in my uniform, saying goodbye to a man who was the husband of my friend, remembering the last words of Garrett as his casket passed by me......words where a 33 year old father/husband could be heard, no matter how much pain he was in, calling out to his fellow officers to help this "kid".
Snowman wrote:But then I'm fairly certain they would call the Cops on me for doing so, interesting thought
And according to that complete and utter retard of a journalist, if you got hurt running away from your liquor ticket, it would be the cops' fault for doing their job, which could've been somehow prevented if the cops had a university degree.
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