In light of various recent events, it seems that the vagaries of lying in this 21st century seem worthy of a little exploration.
Often one thinks of lying as being a black and white issue. However, lying as everyone and everybody who has practised the art can tell you, it is inevitably shaded and nuanced. Even whether one finds un-truths offensive seems to be tempered by who is doing the lying; or what they are lying about.
We, at times, seem to be more accepting of certain types of lies. Institutional or professional lying seems too often to go unchallenged, acceptance of it becoming more the norm.
Personal lies seem less acceptable, although even the distinction between the two can get murky. Are we more content with institutional lying? We often shrug our shoulders succumbing to it being the way it is, something for which we have no power over. Whereas the more personal lie has a greater chance of offending.
At the bottom of the lying scale, (if we admit to there being a scale) are what our mothers and fathers used to call the “white” lies. A dictionary would call white lying often “trivial” or “mundane”. When one says that dinner was “lovely, when it in fact was un-edible, this is acceptable. This lie was designed to spare a persons feelings, it’s even what a decent person would do under these circumstances.
Hope Hicks, the former advisor to President Trump on media matters, admitted she told “white lies” during her course of duties. Well, of course that is not true, that was a bit of a lie. A lie about a lie if you will.
What Ms. Hicks was doing was actually in the next upper layer of lying– the lies that are being practised and utilized by our very governments.
Donald Trump lies on a daily basis, over and over again, seemingly with little negative repercussions–well at least for fifty percent of the American public. On the other hand, Richard Nixon was impeached for the single lie of denying recording conversations in the White House and using the FBI to go against his political enemies. Bill Clinton found out that lying about sex on public television, along with getting wife Hillary to swear to the lie, was less acceptable and he too was forced down that same impeachment road.
It will be interesting this week to see if the Judicial Committee in the U.S. feels that Mr. Trump leveraging of government resources for a political purpose and lying about it becomes an “impeachable offence”. Or have the times changed and are the offences of yesteryear not the same as those of today.
Our own Minister of Justice at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke about “her truth” when talking about her problems with Trudeau and his underlings. One could only translate this to mean that “my truth” may be different than “her truth”. If one believes that there is a single unassailable truth, then this kind of phrasing is difficult to even grasp and at the very least, it muddy’s the waters both in its intent and message. The specific terminology used forces the listener or reader to be attentive to the semantics.
Governmental lies from the police, whether it be the RCMP, or the Vancouver City Police or any other police department, is a little more difficult to discern. Much harder for the general public to know they are being lied to, or at the very least being misled, as the actual facts are often hidden behind the “Confidential” or “Secret” labelled files.
The “spinners” and the “strategic” media sections of the RCMP and other police departments are mandated to be the practitioners of the art of the semantic dodge. Almost inevitably, it is done from a defensive posture, designed and structured to avoid criticism, or quell further scrutiny. It quite often works. Although their repeated and practised lines often become worthless over time, made useless with their constant repetition.
How many times have you heard after the latest killing or shooting in a residential neighbourhood that the public “has no need to fear”. This was a “targeted” offence (by the way –aren’t all offences targeted?) In truth, you actually should be concerned about a shooting in your neighbourhood. There are many cases of mistaken identity shootings and there are plenty of gangland drive-by shootings which spray the neighbourhood. Gangsters indiscriminately shooting in their twisted fist fashion and doing their best Scarface imitations are in fact a real danger to the neighbourhood.
The police if pressed would justify these kinds of pronouncements as being designed to ease the neighbourhood anxiety; to make you feel that you are safe. So they would argue if honest that they are doing it for your own good.
We have been told many times over that marihuana is a benign enterprise, not one of the drugs which promote or lead to violence. Or that the legalization of marihuana will eliminate organized crime. Now that the government is in the marihuana business this lie has become the government seemingly acceptable truth. In reality hundreds have been killed over the years in the marihuana industry and even government is now admitting that they may never eliminate the criminal element.
When the police say that it is “still an active investigation”, chances are they are lying to you. It may not have a C.H. (Concluded Here) notation on the file, but in all probability, nobody is actively working on those files. They tell that to victims families on a regular basis and they get away with it– as only they know level of investigation on those protected files.
Where the institutional lying can become serious is when it turns personal for the police officers involved. It could even lead to criminal charges. Usually that happens when the accusation(s) creep into the courtrooms or some other public body of inquiry where truths surface that otherwise would have remained hidden from view.
Criminal defence counsel is always accusing the police of lying: “I put it to you officer…”. But let’s forget about that nonsensical game playing practised by those that defend the indefensible.
Instead, what we are talking about is lying when the singular motive seems or is designed to cover up; to promote or defend one’s integrity.
Lying as a police officer used to be fatal to a career. Different levels of accountability now seem to be at play, sometimes directly tied to how far one goes up the managerial ladder.
The accusation of “you’re lying” is big ugly phrase that reverberates off of those courtroom walls. So the most vulnerable to the accusation are logically, those that spend a great deal of their time in those courtrooms. Once again, the uniform officers, or the officer actively involved in criminal investigations are the most likely targets; accepted as fair game for lawyers, judges, and the media.
In the RCMP as in other police agencies, if you get past the rank of Corporal, you are much less likely to end up in that maelstrom known as the Canadian justice system, and therefore less susceptible to any threats to your credibility.
If you get to the lofty heights of Executive officers (Inspector and above in the RCMP) you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than appearing in a Provincial criminal court.
There are some current police officers, or former officers who may feel that this blogger is overstating the cases of officers lying, but consider the following:
In a Toronto Star article in 2012 titled: “Police who Lie: How Officers thwart justice with False Testimony” authors David Bruser and Jesse McLean reported on over 100 cases across Canada where perjury had surfaced as an allegation in a courtroom.
The authors of this study, found that the usual reason given for raising possible falsehoods was to change what may happen if the truth were discovered. They also discovered that the greater the stakes, the greater the chance of someone perjuring themselves. These conclusions seem obvious.
What prompted this somewhat meandering blog about lying was a recent case in Lloydminster, Alberta which is an RCMP detachment of about 34 uniform officers.
This case started with a female civilian officer of the local Detachment, who was in a managerial position, having an affair (which she initially denied) with the local RCMP dog handler. At one point there was an ugly confrontation between the dog handler’s wife and the mistress at the house of the dog handler. (You know already that this story is not destined to end well.)
The head of the Detachment at the time was Inspector Suki Manj. Manj was married to Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth, who was also working at the Lloyminster detachment. (This too is not a good thing in a relatively small detachment where conflict of interest implications are bound to surface)
Both Hollingsworth and Manj apparently were good “friends” of the now aggrieved dog handlers wife. Both also considered themselves friends with the female civilian manager.
Inspector Manj questioned the civilian member, who quickly turned on Manj and accused him of “ruining her reputation” by “asking questions”. She complained to Manj’s bosses, who promptly told Manj “to back off”, that if they were having an affair it was none of his business. Manj clearly felt that it was his business, felt that the affair was “inappropriate” and “unbecoming” and therefore justified his questioning of the involved female.
Manj was charged for the misconduct, a total of 16 allegations were brought against him for the period of 2014 to 2016. These 16 were eventually dropped to four. One of the allegations being that Manj “didn’t provide a complete and accurate account of what happened”.
His spouse Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth was also charged with multiple offenses which seemed to amount to her getting a little too involved in the matter, trying to find out details, and that she failed to be diligent in protecting her “friend” from domestic assault.
The civilian female went off on stress leave. She also participated in the sexual harassment suit that was playing out in Ottawa. When she was initially questioned by Manj she denied having an affair; something which in the end she admitted to.
Both Manj and Hollingsworth were suspended “with pay”in 2017 and eventually both were transferred back to British Columbia.
Hollingsworth ended up being cleared by in a hearing held by Kevin L. Harrison in September 2018.
Inspector Manj went before a five day tribunal in Richmond, British Columbia which was presided over by Gerry Annetts (also a former police officer). Testifying at this tribunal for upper management were Manj’s former bosses Chief Supt. Shahin Mehdizadeh and Chief Supt. Wendell Reimer.
Annetts went on to call the evidence of Mehdizadeh and Reimer as “unreliable”. In other words, he did not believe either one of them.
He then went further in talking about another RCMP witness; Staff Sgt. Sarah Nelson. He described her evidence as, “some of the most biased, leading, unreliable statements I have ever seen”. He didn’t believe her either.
Needless to say, all charges were dropped against Manj.
Cpl Hollingsworth has now launched a civil suit alleging “malicious prosecution” and has stated that she suffered “emotional and psychological harm” by her bosses. It is unsure as to whether Inspector Manj will follow suit.
The RCMP have wisely decided that now would not be the time to comment further.
Let’s summarize. An affair, led to a lie about that affair, which led to two separate public hearings, where a S/Sgt, a Superintendent and a Chief Superintendent all were accused of being “unreliable” (the nicer spin on lying).
Two officers who were both also in a bit of a conflict of interest position, have been sitting at home since 2017 gathering pay cheques, and one of those officers is now launching a civil suit for further compensation for the harm that has been caused.
The person who started all this and originally lied about the affair is also sitting at home on a managerial salary, also on stress leave.
It would probably be fair to say that the taxpayers of Lloydminster probably deserved better.
A note of caution. Maybe these officers don’t deserve these comments by the acting arbitrators, but that would in turn mean that Cpl Hollingsworth and Inspector Manj could have been lying.
It looked like all problems were about to be solved concerning this nasty lying problem when this blogger discovered that the RCMP in Ottawa have a Truth Verification Section.
Only the Federal government could come up with this title, but when we explored further, it was realized that this is for most part only the polygraph section that they are referring to– so as it turns out, even the title of this section seems to be stretching our credibility a bit.
Where does this leave us all during this time of lies, counter-lies, sanctioned lies, and our parents white lies? It is hard to be sure.
George Orwell warned us when he said, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.
We may be in need of a revolution.
Photo courtesy of Ninian Reid via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved