It’s baffling that the RCMP didn’t use common sense and head off a complaint by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association about the way it trains police dogs.
The complaint to the commission that hears public complaints against the force was prompted by a training exercise in Lantzville last month. A couple looked out their window to see a dog and seven or eight men in T-shirts running through their yard. It turned out to be an RCMP police dog training exercise. An officer said he thought the couple had been warned in advance and apologized.
That should have been the end of the matter. But the RCMP also maintained it had no obligation to seek permission or notify homeowners before conducting training exercises on their property, prompting the complaint from the civil liberties association.
A search warrant is required to enter a private dwelling, an RCMP spokesman said. Because this was a training exercise, police could enter the property without permission or notice. “The police officers did not commit a provincial nor federal offence,” she wrote.
The notion that police have the right to enter private property simply to have a place to train dogs cheapens our privacy rights.
And it ignores the risks in these exercises. In 2009, RCMP officers in Chilliwack shot a family’s pet dog after it bit a police dog on a similar exercise. Last year, a young woman was attacked and injured by a police dog on a latenight training exercise in West Vancouver.
Family pets could be running loose in backyards; children could be outside playing. The exercise could be both dangerous and frightening.
Police dogs and their handlers need to train. But there is a simple solution. Ask people if they are willing to have their property used. Most would say yes, because they recognize the importance of the work done by RCMP officers and dogs. Tell them when it will happen, so they can keep pets and children indoors.
In other words, invite the public to be partners, instead of running roughshod over their concerns.