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Lazy policing or retribution?

August 30th,2023 | Opinion

When Police Chief Martial Mallette was hired last year, he told the Low Down that he chose the MRC des Collines region because of its “very excellent reputation for community policing” – a mantra was he said was “directly related to my values.”

It would be interesting to know where the aggressive and heavy-handed arrest of a dad in front of his kids lands within these “values.”

Tommy Townsend was arrested at gunpoint on Aug. 18 after police followed up on a misleading call that reported a suspicious man with a knife roaming around Wakefield. Townsend was in Wakefield with fellow Low firefighters at the time, looking for a missing man, when police drew their guns, forced him out of his truck and to the ground, while his two daughters were left screaming in the car. He was later let go without any charges or fines after explaining to police that he is an arborist by trade and that is why he had several sheathed knives on him. They seemed satisfied with his excuse at the time.

But exactly one week later, police called him into the station to retrieve one of the knives that they had misplaced — only to serve him with a $509 fine for having in his possession “without reasonable excuse, a knife on a traffic lane.”

The infraction is a municipal bylaw, which states that no person can “carry, use or discharge” firearms, knives, machetes or weapon-like objects “without reasonable excuse.”

If being an arborist by trade isn’t a “reasonable excuse” for carrying sheathed knives on your person, then what is?

The fact that MRC Police fined Townsend a week after he appeared on the front page of this newspaper calling out their behaviour seems like a petty move on the part of police. Is this retribution? Sour grapes? Lazy policing?

This is not the first time a local has been charged after appearing in our newspaper doing something they aren’t supposed to do. Some years ago, the Low Down published a photo of a local jumping off the Wakefield covered bridge after cops had banned the former “rite of passage.” Cops fined the individual $500 following the publication of the photo.

If Chief Mallette was serious about keeping up this “excellent reputation” in community policing, why didn’t he order these cops to apologize to Townsend and his daughters? Why was this cop able to kick a resident when he’s down by giving a single dad a bogus $509 ticket?

To be fair, Mallette has done some great work since taking over as chief – bringing in important programs to tackle domestic abuse, drinking and driving and mental health issues – but this latest move is completely tone-deaf and goes against the values of his police force.

Police ignored our calls for comment — another about-face from Mallette’s initial interview with this newspaper, where he said that: “the newspaper’s job is to be sure that the police organizations are doing the right things. It’s accountability.”

Where’s the accountability, Chief Mallette?

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At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

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