qOtd: Are you in favour of the new TALON database for Law Officers in Alberta?
Nation, many of you have by now heard of the new "The Alberta Law Officers' Network", or TALON database.
In this database, police and peace officers will have access not only to your record of convictions, but also charges that were dropped, investigations you were a subject of, 9-1-1 calls associated with you - pretty much a full spread of everything the legal community knows, or suspects, about you.
The unfortunate quote that was attributed to Ayaaz Janmohamed, the executive director of the IT branch in the provincial Solicitor General's office, is "The concept is that we will have a single source of the truth."
Civil rights leaders, not to mention philosophy majors across the province, cringed at the quote. As did Ayaaz, I'm sure, after the fact.
The Edmonton Journal story includes a few points that have since been cleared up. Officers will, in fact, need to give a reason for accessing the information. And the privacy assessment will, as recently announced, be made public.
I understand where the critics are coming from. I do. At some point, though, don't we have to give the benefit of the doubt to these officers that they will, more likely than not, use the information to help them do their jobs - keeping us safe? I mean, we DO give them hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of training and equipment, and firearms.
I'm not saying we give them carte blanche to access any information they want. This isn't NCIS, where McGee can check my cell phone records in real time, without even thinking the word "warrant". But if a cop pulls over a car for speeding in Calgary and a run of the license plate shows it's registered to someone who was identified by cops in Lethbridge 2 hours ago as a possible abductor in a domestic disturbance called into 9-1-1 by the neighbours - isn't that good information for the Calgary cop to have before he scribbles a ticket and sends the guy on his way without, say, checking the trunk?
The issue that most clearly paints the picture for me about the necessity of this kind of a system - this KIND of system, not necessarily THIS system - is the story that came to light on Saturday regarding the alleged abduction of a young girl in Calgary by convicted sex offender John Francis Dionne. Among the MANY appalling aspects of this story is the one where Dionne - with his alleged victim in the front seat - was stopped and issued a speeding ticket by an RCMP member, and then sent on his way. In 2003, Dionne was convicted for sexual assault using a weapon and kidnapping with intent to confine. The RCMP deemed him a "high risk to re-offend". And he was issued a ticket, and drove away with a 10 year-old girl in the front seat.
Would TALON have made a difference in this case? It's hard to say - the devil is, as always, in the details. What information would come up on the screen? What information would the dispatcher pass along to a cop about someone during a routine traffic stop?
I know our system of justice is designed to let 100 guilty men go free rather than imprison one innocent man. And I know that legislation and enforcement measures approved from a place of fear or anger are dangerous.
But really... TALON doesn't seem like a bad idea to me. I trust our cops to get it right. And if they don't, I trust our judges to hold them to account.
Do I want your ex-wife to have access to all your TALON details during a custody hearing, or divorce proceeding? No. Do I want your political opponents to have access to the case notes from an investigation in 1993 where you were included on a list of possible narcotics distributors? No.
Do I want pieces of garbage like John Francis Dionne looked at a little closer during routine traffic stops? As the uncle of an 8 year-old girl, you bet I do.
That's MY take... what's yours?