from the law-enforcement-brain-trust-baffled-by-backlash dept
With a sweeping new bylaw, the southern Alberta town of Taber has outlawed swearing in public, instituted a nightly curfew on kids and teenagers, and granted local law enforcement the power to break up any assemblies of three or more people.It's petty enough in the summary, but it gets even worse in the fine print.
Here's the "swearing" part of the bylaw:
No person shall yell, scream, or swear in any Public Place.Which won't hold up to Canada's free speech laws, even with the plentiful exceptions the government can enact at any time. And it will apparently be up to patrolling officers to decide when a raised voice constitutes a "yell," and always with one ear cocked towards any errant public swearing occuring at lower volumes.
Then there's this part of the bylaw, which makes possibly disturbing others a crime.
No persons shall, during any period of the day allow, suffer or permit any electronic equipment, musical instruments, vehicles or any other devices to be sounded or used in any area of the Town of Taber, that may, or is likely, to disturb others.There's also a clause apparently inserted by Taber's Behavior Nazis solely to anger the world's Grammar Nazis.
And bad cops will have all sorts of fun with this one:
No person shall be a member of the assembly of three or more persons in any Public Place where a Peace Officer has reasonable grounds to believe the assembly will disturb the peace of the neighborhood, and any such person shall disperse as requested by a Peace Officer."Reasonable grounds." As is common to the rest of the bylaw, criminal intent is scuttled in preference of "whatever the Peace Officer believes."
So, what has prompted this move towards a more controlled populace? The answer appears to be that it's just something the town's law enforcement wanted.
[Police Commission Chairman Ken] Holst said the goal of the bylaw was “to give another layer of tools to our police service.”Ah, the old "thoughtcrime," as practiced by loitering youths. Holst didn't want this community of 8,100 to suffer the existential threat posed by aimless teens, so he and his law enforcement buddies helped write the bylaw.
He said it came largely in response to concerns raised by citizens in a survey commissioned by the Taber Police Service.
“Graffiti was the main concern and the second concern was large gatherings of youth and other people on town property, sometimes causing issues,” he said.
While some of those issues could be addressed through existing provincial and federal laws, Holst said Taber wanted to empower its law enforcement when an offence is “imminent to occur,” which he described as “preventative policing.”
Holst said the bylaw was drafted by town staff and the Taber Police Service and was reviewed by the police commission before being sent on to town council, where it was approved by a 6-1 vote.And, since it was written by law enforcement, there was apparently no need to ensure the bylaw didn't violate anyone's rights or would even hold up in court. Because who knows the law better than law enforcement officers? No one, that's who. Just ask any cop.
Holst said no lawyers were involved in the police commission’s review and they didn’t discuss whether aspects of the bylaw would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms…Because screw the public.
“Exactly how that sits with the Charter, to be 100 per cent honest with you, that discussion did not come up with the commission,” Holst said.
Save that 100%, Holst. You're going to need it. Here's an actual legal expert with 45 years experience, and he's of the opinion there's a 100% chance it's in violation.
“It clearly, clearly infringes the Charter,” [Michael] Dietrich said.And now that the ridiculous bylaw has drawn mockery from around the internet, Holst and other city representatives are shocked and saddened by all the criticism.
“It hurts my heart,” Ken Holst said Tuesday. “I’m hurt today to read some of the extreme comments that have circulated on social media...”Holst further defended his stupid bylaw by pointing to other similarly stupid Canadian towns that have enacted similarly stupid bylaws. Presumably, this belated justification will also not be run by any legal experts -- armchair or actual -- who may point out that two wrongs still don't equal a right, no matter what some informal, police-guided survey might "indicate."
“We really feel this is the best for Taber and makes it a better place, as opposed to ‘the worst place on Earth,’ as the way some people are portraying this,” he said.