Read An Excerpt
What’s It All About
Perhaps this anecdote best illustrates the driving motive of my career in policing. As Chief of Police for the City of Edmonton, one of my tasks was to persuade the Edmonton School Board to approve the placement of police school resource officers in selected high schools as a means of promoting crime prevention through social development. Hoping to expand the program, I made an appointment to see Bob Dean, who was not only a retired lineman of the Edmonton Eskimos championship football team and a highly esteemed member of the community, but principal of a large vocational high school specializing in technical instruction and the arts. The programs offered by his school drew youths from across the city and the influence and support of an on-site police school resource officer would further the goal of the police service by reaching out to young people while reducing the incidence of petty crime, trespassing and low level drug dealing common to the high school scene.
When we met in his office, I was seated in an easy chair in front of his desk. I couldn’t help but notice the shabby condition of his office chairs and said so. We went on to reach an agreement and, in the years following, police school resource officers made a significant contribution to the culture of this school and to others.
Years after I had left Edmonton, I attended a conference on policing and once again met Mr. Dean, who was then a member of the Edmonton Police Commission. He recalled our first meeting and said his reaction was, “Who is this guy that comes into my office and complains about my furniture?” “But,” I asked, “Did you replace the chairs?” “Yes,” he said. “Well,” I replied, “that’s my role in life – to make things better.”
On Policing Under the Northern Lights
One evening, I answered a telephone call from The Star Cafe, a popular Chinese restaurant in the town centre. Ordinarily, night time calls from The Star began with screams in the background and an excited plea, “Come quick! Big fight!” This time, it was a call to deal with a common drunk. On arrival, I found a large man passed out with his head in a plate of chop suey. In the next booth, four youths watched with interest. Trying to put on a show, I tugged the drunk to the end of the seat and tipped him onto my shoulders in a fireman’s lift. He was a dead weight and, by the time I got to the door, my knees were buckling as, with a sinking heart, I realized that not only was my vehicle on the opposite side of the street, but I was driving a pickup truck with a high clearance. Somehow I made it to the truck and, out of sight of the cafe, I eased him off my shoulder to recover my strength while pinning him against the side of the truck. I was gasping for air when he said to me, in a clear voice, “Well now, Constable, that wasn’t too bad, was it?” It is always a mistake to take risks for the sake of bravado and I learned never to try to bluff my way through a problem if I could not back it up.
On Horse Sense and the RCMP
The [Musical] Ride horses were far more experienced than we were at stable routine and prepared to educate the unwary if not properly handled. Before this, the only horse this city boy had seen close up was pulling the milk wagon. The stable master instructed us to stand close to the animal while grooming and to comb firmly and briskly. If the horse grew irritated with a hesitant groom, it would lash out with a wicked hoof capable of breaking a leg or ankle or at least inflicting a nasty bruise. I learned from this the wisdom of crowding your problems, a lesson I practised years later as a police manager. Secondly, since a stable must be run efficiently, we were extolled to separate the manure from the clean straw to economize on costs. I realized later that separating the shit from the straw had a lot in common with criminal investigation.
On the Perils of Being a Public Spokesman
I had no idea that the Chief of Police of Edmonton would have such a high public profile. What I didn’t take into account was that for a mid-sized city, the community was well served by three local television stations, two aggressive newspapers and a clutch of radio stations reporting local news. The attention was nothing like I had seen in other cities, and my name seemed to be in the news almost every other day. Back in Winnipeg, my mother was receiving reports of this from friends in Edmonton. She was appalled, for to her generation decent people kept their names out of the newspapers. This notoriety was evidence that I was “always in trouble.” It didn’t help when Mike MacDonald, Edmonton’s Police Commission Chair, was quoted as saying, “Lunney would ticket his own mother.” In my first month in office, I seriously wondered if my ego was large enough to cope with this level of attention. I was to discover in the months and years ahead two things: that the ego has a wondrous capacity for growth; and that without a strong sense of self and a certainty of purpose, it is impossible for a police chief to manage the stress that goes with the position.
On Leadership and Morale
I began to understand that a leader must first acquire a sense of context and agenda. The leader with an accurate sense of context will intuitively seize upon the right issues and the right directions at the right time and his vision will be accepted by followers. Rather than the power of prescience, the good leader has a gift for the obvious. …
[When I began my term in] Edmonton police officers were still wearing the standard Sam Browne belts with cross strap and a flap holster colloquially known as the widow maker, because, in a physical struggle, the restraining bolt was prone to failure allowing the revolver to fall out. The flap also made quick access to the revolver difficult in an emergency. This style was being replaced elsewhere by more modern equipment belts and safety holsters. When I attended a briefing line up for an afternoon shift in the downtown division, the duty officer, in front of his officers, pointed out the safety issues and expressed the hope that I would make a change to the dress code. I approved the removal of the cross strap then and there, and began a process of investigating how other aspects of the dress code could be modernized. This was a minor issue in a larger picture, but that one decision earned me the appreciation and beginnings of respect of the front line uniformed officers.
On the Risky Job of Police Reform in Northern Ireland
In September 2000, Lunney was invited to join the team of Thomas Constantine, Oversight Commissioner
for Police Reform in Northern Ireland, to implement sweeping changes to the country's police service.
[It was an] opportunity immediately [that] caught my attention since the task would [combine] a fascinating professional challenge with an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the quality of life in the land of my father’s heritage. …
Northern Ireland was emerging from a dark period of dissent and conflict and the social fabric had not yet rebounded. The history of bombings, murders and shootings had drained the life from after-hours activity in Belfast. One night after dinner, Charlie [Reynolds] and I walked the darkened streets and the contrast with other cities this size was starkly apparent. There were few people on the streets and vehicle traffic was sparse; many shops were steel-shuttered and the street lighting was barely supplemented by lights from a few shops and cafes. As we waited on the wet pavement for a signal change, an armoured Land Rover with police markings wheeled left, looking both formidable and threatening. Charlie asked, “How would you like to stop those guys and ask for directions?”
. . .
Early on, I witnessed patrol tactics that deployed a second car to shadow behind a police vehicle responding to a call in a disputed neighbourhood. I also experienced routine assaults on police armoured Land Rovers, as we passed through hostile housing estates. It was standard practise for the local children and youths to pelt police vehicles with rocks and bottles. If the driver of an armoured truck did not lower the protective steel screen promptly, he was risking a smashed windshield. If that happened in a Canadian or American city, you would expect the officers to jump out of the vehicle and run down and apprehend the culprits. Not so in embattled Northern Ireland. The hostile environment in some of these housing estates was such that neighbours would converge on the scene and make it next to impossible for the officers to detain the culprits without precipitating a mini riot. The only option was to shrug off the assault and drive on, but to keep returning.
. . .
My days on the road were long and arduous, conducting interviews, examining documents, meeting citizens and local policing authorities and accompanying front line officers as they went about their duties. There were no days off, for Tom’s watchword was, “No work, no pay.” Other than meeting Sunday mornings to draft reports and compare notes, we were constantly on the move. No doubt, we spoiled some weekends for divisional staff by showing up with our prying questions, requests for records and introductions to community members. Our guiding premise was, “Trust, but verify.” It was a test that served us well, for the repute of the Oversight process rested on our diligence and the rigour of our analyses. Transparency was essential because our reports were critically reviewed by a myriad of special interests and affected parties.
Racial Bias In Policing
Vestiges of institutional racism are often found in long-standing practices that have not been challenged for lack of focused review. For instance, officers, acting in the belief that they are conforming to good practise while conducting vehicle checks, may not recognize that their actions are inherently flawed. … My own conclusion is that more good is accomplished by accepting the position that racially biased policing is a threat to police integrity and responding proactively with preventive solutions. The best opportunity to promote social justice and human rights is through focusing attention on the integration of human rights’ principles into all departmental policies and procedures.
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