Quill & Quire
The notion that police work in Canada is becoming harder is nothing new; Thin Bruised Line, a thoroughly researched volume by veteran investigative journalist Doug Clark, examines the reasons why this notion is especially true today. That Clark has managed to create such a compelling read is a testament to the breadth of his inquiry and the strength of his central claim that, in the early 21st century, several elements are conspiring, more powerfully than ever before, to make policing particularly arduous.
Clark examines the role of the media in allowing intensive public scrutiny of crime-fighting endeavours; the difficulty women face in becoming respected members of the law-enforcement community; the growing power of biker gangs and the mob; and the increasing challenge of securing criminal convictions in court. Clark fleshes out these subjects using material culled from personal interviews, newspapers, television and radio reports, and court transcripts. The resulting narrative provides convincing evidence that Canadian police work is at a breaking point.
The RCMP comes under special scrutiny, as do the racial dynamics between police and citizens. Clark strikes a balance between a defence of police work as a profession and social service, and the larger, more important question of whether or not Canadians are actually being kept safe by those in charge of our protection.
Opinions about the problems with Canadian policing abound – just open any newspaper or take in any radio or television newscast. Far from the sensationalist tone of many of those reports, Thin Bruised Line provides both the facts informing our current difficulties and a reasoned analysis of the future of public safety in this country.
Lose respect and you lose the streets. That’s the hard lesson American police learned as their cities burned in the 1960s. Today, Canadian police are scrambling to preserve public order from a new “perfect storm” looming over the horizon and under the political radar. Their vaunted thin blue line of front-line officers is greyed, frayed, and stretched to the breaking point. Plagued by failed leadership and too few recruits, our police are frantically digging in behind the scenes against the converging triple threats poised to engulf them: shifting demographics, increasingly complex laws, and unrealistic expectations. The threat to officers and public safety has never been greater.