Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Is the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Breaking the Law?

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act, 1992, states in part:

   15. (1) A police officer shall not engage in political activity, except as the regulations permit.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Regulations state, in part:

  7.1 (1) A police officer shall not:
  (d) wear the emblem, mark or insignia of a political party or in another way manifest political partisanship;

It further states:
(3) A police officer who fails to comply with or otherwise contravenes a provision of these regulations is guilty of an offence.

There you go. Pretty clear cut, and meant to keep the provincial police force's members at arms length from the otherwise dirty waters of Newfoundland's politics. You may find it surprising to know that despite these laws and regulations the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association, the association comprised of the force's current members, has been donating to political parties in the province since at least 1999. According to the annual returns filed by the Chief Electoral Officer of the province on political donations, the RNCA made the following donations:

1999 - $400.00 - PC Party of NL;
1999 - $200.00 - Liberal Party of NL;
2001 - $1250.00 - PC Party of NL;
2002 - $1250.00 - PC Party of NL;
2003 - $2750.00 - PC Party of NL;
2004 - $4000.00 - PC Party of NL;
2005 - $1800.00 - PC Party of NL;
2007 - $500.00 - Liberal Party of NL;
2008 - $2000.00 - PC Party of NL;
2009 - $2000.00 PC Party of NL;and
2010 - $2000.00 PC Party of NL.

That is a grand total of $ 16,450.00 to the PC Party and $700.00 to the Liberals. Not exactly refraining from "... or in another way manifest political partisanship."

Today the Telegram sported a story on the subject of political donations and brought up the curious case of the RNCA donations . The issue has also been covered extensively, and well, by Wallace McLean in his blog Labradore   and  to be more specific.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act, 1992, also defines the members association (RNCA):

(b) "association" means
(i) an association limited to the constabulary and whose objects include the improvement of the working conditions and remuneration of its members.

In other words, the RNCA is an association of members of the RNC solely. It's mandate is to improve the working conditions of its members. The obvious question is why would a police association, that cannot strike, be paying political donations to a political Party that holds government and decides how they will be renumerated? Ignoring of course that it is illegal to do so in the first place. That is a really big question. It creates an impression that the Act and the Regulations were designed to stop. It creates the impression that there is a political bias in the provincial police force. As the donation numbers show, the PC Party of NL has been the biggest benefactor by far of the three parties. In fact, the NDP has yet to receive such a donation as of the last return from the Electoral Officer.

There may also be questions for the politicians here as well. One could be: Are you as a member of the PC Party, and a Cabinet Minister in charge of negotiating the RNC's compensation, placing yourself in a position of conflict of interest? Is your Party guilty of breaching the RNC Act? There are others, but you get the idea.

Is the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association breaking the law? It's membership is the active serving members of the force. Individual officers fund the organization with their mandatory dues. It's Executive, made up of police officers, approves such donations. It would be impossible for the Association to make these political donations without at least some members of the RNC funding it, and approving it. Should the people who police the law also be expected to follow it?