***This is an in-depth piece, that was a collaborative effort between myself, Ted Cronie, and others. It is meant to bring awareness to the youth in the community (any community), to be on the look- out for sneaky cops, and to know their rights.***
Through the grapevine circuit in the small, west coast town of Powell River, it was brought to my attention that the local RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were out trying to recruit youth informants, to crack down on the “graffiti problem” sweeping through like the plague, apparently.
In a small town like Powell River (population approximately 25,000), word travels fast, and it wasn’t long before I found myself speaking with Ted Cronie, who, turns out, is an old friend of mine, going back to his young teenage years of being invited to practice art all over the outbuildings on the property I live on, so as to keep himself and his buddies out of trouble with the local law enforcement.
Ted is one of many youth here in town, who are talented artists or musicians, growing and contributing to our community with their art and music. His medium of choice is paint, of all kinds. His younger brother, Apollo (16), has been a guest on my radio show, performing live freestyle rhymes, has an indy record label, and is producing a music video for his latest track.
Turns out, Ted’s first interaction with the RCMP was just after his 18th birthday. He was held for over 24 hours, and the charges were thrown out by the Crown. Here is Ted’s account of what happened during that encounter:
“You are under arrest,” The two officers got out of their squad car just as fast as they pulled up beside us. I remember it being a really clear night out, it was summer and I had just turned 18, meaning the stickers I had been putting up with silly words on them, was now an adult-charge criminal offense.
“You are under arrest for mischief.” Initially I thought of the word as this playful, prank pulling sort of definition and I was wondering just which ‘mischief’ got me into this trouble. There I was being escorted by two suited men into a flashy, shiny, automobile, leaving a group of friends behind on the hill.
On the shirt I was wearing, there was an open design of the caricature I had been using to conduct this mischief they had been so keen of, and in my current state, it seemed it was the only thing tying me to this invented persona, and it had to be ripped off. My hands being behind my back, and the tag being nearly on the front, this was a bit difficult, and squirming seemed to make bellows within the silent, occasionally beeping squad car. A window of opportunity came upon arrival at the station at which time both cops got out of the car at the same time. I reached and reached and squirmed and shifted, until I realized I could put my legs through my arms, and did so quite easily. Ripped off the sticker and shoved it between the back and bottom seat cushions. One officer opened the door fast and grabbed me out by the arm.
“How did you get your arms around?” Quick, stern, jaw movements.
“I put them under my legs, I was itchy.” Isn’t it obvious, go from uncomfortable, to comfortable, always.
Inside their building it was cold. They asked me to take off my shoes and uncuffed me. They checked my pockets for anything, where there was nothing, and asked me if I knew why I was there.
“Uhm not exactly officer, all you said was mischief and I think that’s a very vague term.”
To him, that confirmed my awareness of ‘the charge’ and without any more words, he put me into a room made of cement. For a long time I just looked around, thought about how or why these people wanted to put me in here for small bits of expression, and why or how it got them so angry.
After that I tried to sleep, of which at that time couldn’t achieve. I remembered it being about 11pm when they picked me up, so time was often on my mind. Here’s what I thought: “empty room, nothing but a toilet and a bunch of different surfaces of cement, and potentially a lot of time… what to do… stretch, yeah! Haven’t done a good stretch in awhile.”
Once they noticed me stirring near them, the officer who arrested me opened the door and came in, sipping’ his coffee. “Good morning, would you like to come sit and talk with me in the other room? We’ll work this out.” Of which I replied with a “yep, sure.” Figuring the other room was warmer, and it’d speed things along.
At this time he read me my rights in full, revealed it had been an ongoing investigation, but didn’t say who was charging me, what damage I had caused. The evidence against me was a sticker, peeled off some godforsaken wall with sheer precision with a fingerprint dusted and prominent on the backside of it, and a bus ad I had taken, painted the blank side of and put back up on the bus I had taken it from. It said: “Get off at the Wrong Stop.” And depicted a bus leaving a person who had gotten off the bus at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.
“I’m not saying your stuff isn’t good, it’s just my job to enforce the laws behind private property and if people are complaining, we have to comply.” Leaning back, paperwork on the table, occasionally fiddling with his pen between his fingers as he continued on an on with different attempts to make me say I had done it. Fair enough really, but I knew in actual fact, he had no legitimate reason to make this charge, or at least I didn’t see any. I tried to stay quiet for as long as possible, just looking at him and using body movement to communicate, as the sound recorder recorded his soliloquy… but eventually I had to play along, he somehow snagged me and it was silly.
“Basically you have two options.” Of course, only two; dichotomize the situation and create the path for the criminal. I saw this coming, but how he played it was the exciting part of my audience to his massive show.
“First option, admit to the crime, since we both know you did it, and I can get you community service and a maybe take the charge away completely. Or two, we could sit here and sit here for as long as it takes, and I can still put the charge through, but then there’s no chance for drop, and the punishment will go through in full.”
For a moment I pondered this. Even asked officer blue about how both options sort of seemed the same and I’d like to call a lawyer. He tried to appoint me one, but I told him I had someone to call.
With his pen and his paper he asked me to write the number. It was an uncle who was a criminal justice lawyer and I was going to ask him about what I can do, but of course, this number gave no response when he tried to call it. Eventually I was too tired to go on, my body was seeking sleep and I wasn’t even close to seeing a proper outcome for this scenario, so I basically told him I would think about it.
He put me back in that cement room with my socks. Except this time there was a big, awkward cushion in one corner. I took a moment to think horizontally and fell asleep for what seemed like a long time.
When I woke, it was to banging on the door, and when it opened, I saw rays of light hitting the ground from outside, sort of twilight, it seemed.
Flashy Officer Blue wanted to talk again, and without words I rose and approached his warm room filled with his words. He said he sent the charge to the crown, or whatever they do and I was to be finger printed and after another conversation, released to the world. I was a bit confused as to why there wasn’t a follow-up question regarding my choice on the “two options” but I was in a daze and I wanted to get out of there whatever way possible.
He talked my ear off this time, going into detail about the charge, what the community service may be, and that I have a court summon beforehand. First I would have to go to the law building and bring them some piece of paper. After a lot of long silent pauses with the sound recorder spinning, me almost falling asleep in the chair, he gave me back my shoes, ran me through the system and opened the gates that divided me from the outside world. Sun was down, and it was clear again.
I walked home, looking up at the stars and I remember looking at a lot of little reminders of why I had been picked up along the walk. I also remember laughing, a lot. It was an interesting matter.
Turned out they had held me over 24 hours for a crime which was unproven, even with the carefully dusted fingerprint on the back of the sticker.The Crown discovered I had been held for this long, and immediately threw out the case, which I discovered when I went to deliver the piece of paper I was given by my favorite officer.They told me there were no standing charged on my record any longer, and the only amount of community service was for me to make a small children’s book for the Family Place within the law office.
Sort of strange, considering they had already thrown out the charges. Certainly felt like some sort of mind game, but I complied as I had just finished self-publishing a storybook about a colorful dude putting color everywhere he went.
That was it. That was my experience getting caught for “mischief” and then using the same type of mischief to curve around it.”
About a month before Ted’s 22nd birthday, while on his way to visit a friend, Ted is stopped by the RCMP. Just so happens to be the same RCMP officer who arrested him 4 years earlier (not too uncommon, since it is a small place, and there is not a large amount of officers here). During the interaction, the officer asks him a few questions and then figures “hey, why not ask him to snitch for us?”
In Ted’s words:
“… And then something very interesting happened after almost 4 years of mischief of many sizes, shapes, and matters.
Another clear night, about a month before I turn 22, I’m balancing on the yellow line in the middle of the road as I sauntered to see a friend, when a police car snuck up behind me, flashed its lights.
“Move off the road onto the sidewalk, sir.” Stern, yet proper. Made sense, I didn’t even notice him drive up, my fault. Something familiar in his voice sort of itched my brain.
“Yep no problem, sorry.” I moved to the sidewalk, and with the flashy lights flashing, they pulled up beside me. I gave a hello, but he just asked me to wait there for a moment. I did, and it gave me the moment to hear him calling a friend. Not for backup, but just to “come around and see something.”
I thought about my pockets, and besides a marker with a word that just happened to be on an electrical box on the other side of the road, they were empty and lint ridden. Figured it was pretty safe, and kept my cool. The officer, who had asked me to use the safer option of pedestrian walkways, was the same officer that arrested me for mischief 4 years before. I guess he never forgets a face because when he got out of his squad car he called me by name, loudly and firmly as if I had forgotten him and he won a battle of wits or something. I said hello and dropped his name in there, to show I was on his level too.
“So how’s it been going, notice a lot of paint on your clothes there, been making art a lot?”
“Yep,” I glanced at the electrical box and thought about the mural I had finished today at a complex of abandoned buildings. Oh what fun it was, “professional stuff nowadays mostly.” He chuckled and seemed to be aware of my glance.
“Still smoking a lot of marijuana lately?” This seemed like the weirdest question to ask after he just decides to stop by to chat. Figured I had nothing to lie about so I told him “Yes, quite a bit.” And this immediately seemed to lighten the mood. Another flashing vehicle approached us and a new officer appeared on the “scene.”
My friend the first officer introduced me by full name to this new face, who appeared to have some sort of accent. I asked for his, and took note of it, in case he one day wants to ask me if I smoke a lot of weed. “So we’ve been having some troubles with graffiti in the area, and it’s some ugly stuff.” At first I thought maybe he was hinting at me giving some glint of admittance, so long after his failed attempt to punish me for my growing occupation. “Swear words, penises, it’s just not the kinda stuff we wanna see, not like your stuff. It’s just not professional, and we want it to stop as soon as possible.” This caused a surge of relief in my chest, and there were distinct laughing sounds playing in my head.
“Um okay, I’m not so sure I know anything about it, but that sucks.”
I was late, late, late, for a very important date, so getting to the point would be nice.
“Okay well lemme give you an option.” Flashbacks came to me, and more giggles were heard in my head, his voice was lighter and friendlier, “if you happen to know anyone who owns or carries around spray-paint, or even if you wanted to come down to the station sometime and take a look at some photos, try and distinguish a style or any sort of feeling it might be someone you know or have heard of…” I sort of just took a deep breath and smiled, made a point to meet eyes with this new officer… did he happen to see what his alpha cop is trying to do? Maybe, maybe not. Casual practice I suppose.
“Or even if you come look at the pictures, and don’t say anything, perhaps as long as you know about it, you don’t even have to tell me.” I imagined this particular sentence went on in his head like: “but I will read into your facial expression and if I see a glimmer of recognition I will ask you questions until you give me the information.” Something like that. Playing along, I told him, “yeah, when is a good day for you, I’m free forever.” We agreed on Wednesday, and he handed me his card which I immediately threw in my pocket.
“Have a nice night officers, it’s good to see ya again, Officer Blue.” I heard them talk back and forth for a bit as I walked away, pretty excited for the cigarette I was lighting, and still laughing in my head about the whole thing.
Three days later it was Wednesday and I painted a mural of a girl with a birds head, forgetting completely about my play-date with the flashy, poor little police officer.”
DON’T TALK TO COPS.