Police vs Free Speech


Electoral Member
Mar 9, 2005
Website gagged as Calgary police chief wins court order
Last Updated Fri, 15 Apr 2005 21:44:45 EDT
CBC News
CALGARY - Calgary's police chief Jack Beaton has used a rare legal tactic to seize a computer from a private home that was believed to have been used to operate a website critical to Beaton and his senior managers.

Beaton obtained a civil court order this month to enter the home of a civilian police employee and seize the computer.

Russ Brown, a legal expert at the University of Alberta.
A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed.

CBC and other city media are arguing against that order.

Russ Brown, a legal expert at the University of Alberta, says the method Beaton used "is the most extraordinary civil remedy that can be issued pretrial."

Beaton says he isn't able to discuss the case.

However, Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, says Beaton acted properly.

"I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act," Burrows said.

"I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim."

Chief's administration called 'corrupt'

Messages on the site said it spoke for officers who had suffered under Beaton's "corrupt" administration.

It stated: "We are the police, the communications officers, the administration staff and other police service members and employees that either have been the victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc., or we know someone who has."

Last fall, Beaton was quoted in the Calgary Herald as "vowing to take every measure necessary to get those behind the website."

He has also called the site "mean-spirited" and "in poor taste."

Four current or former police officers, who agreed to talk to the CBC about their concerns as long as their names weren't used, said promotions on the force are based on who you know, and that racist and sexist behaviour is tolerated.

Rhonda Shaw's husband is a Calgary police officer out on stress leave.
Some have left force over problems: officers

Beaton's actions with regard to the website also came in for some criticism.

"He's gone on a witch hunt, looking for whomever, whatever is involved and they're dedicating resources to that when we're short cops on the street and they're going around doing all of this secret, covert stuff," one said. "I'm upset by it."

The four officers said they've seen people leave for other police services because of how they were treated in Calgary.

Rhonda Shaw's husband is an officer out on stress leave from the Calgary police force – the victim, she says, of racism and bullying.

Shaw said she collected some of the stories that appeared on the website.

"Why should I be afraid of the truth? I am not afraid of the truth," she told CBC News.