National Family Literacy Day, 2008

Family Literacy Day is the day politicians and marketers join forces to celebrate family literacy, as well as family literacy programs and supports, and encourage everybody to... keep on working at, or something. You know the kind of thing. You parents keep reading. You kids stay in school. You funders keep giving. You business people... um... well, try not to make a nuisance of yourselves this year like you did last year.

So I should have a celebratory and exhortant post about Family Literacy in my town and across Canada.

But I can't. Not here. Maybe on the Curbside blog. That one's mostly about little kids. Here I have to say something more grown-up.

Here, I have to republish words written by Gary Mason and Jonathan Fowlie in the Vancouver Sun this past week. (Here's a link to the Globe&Mail piece where I first saw this story.)

Willow Kinloch, Mason writes, "was drinking with friends in a Victoria-area park one evening in May, 2005. Intoxicated, she was arrested by police and taken to jail. It was there, police say, that she was placed in a windowless, padded cell after she'd become combative and verbally abusive. Inside the cell, she screamed and cried hysterically, police say, while punching and kicking the cell door."

He adds, "She was not handcuffed or restrained in any way." This is important because, as you will see below, there are many who want to try to make this a story about what happened to a drunk teenager. But the story is about what happened to her after she sobered up.

Mason, again. "Four hours later, Ms. Kinloch was deemed sober enough to be taken home. The buzzer in the apartment building where her parents lived wasn't working. It was about 4 a.m. at this point, so police decided to take Ms. Kinloch back to the police station until someone could come to pick her up later.

"The four-hour time-lapse video released this week by Ms. Kinloch's lawyer shows a police matron entering the padded cell in which the young girl is being held. She asks the girl to take off her bra and shoes. Ms. Kinloch takes off her bra. She looks perfectly calm. Then she kicks off a shoe, sending it into the corner of the cell. At this point the matron pushes Ms. Kinloch up against the wall and grabs her neck.

"Two male officers rush in and pin Ms. Kinloch to the floor, handcuffing her hands behind her back. A third male officer enters with nylon leash, which is used to bind Ms. Kinloch's feet together. Now she is effectively hogtied. The leash is slipped through the bottom of the cell door, which is then locked.

"Over the next couple of hours, Ms. Kinloch moves around on the cell floor in an effort to find some comfort. She is kept in this state for four hours before she is released.

"Before she is, her lawyer says, Ms. Kinloch is informed she is being charged with assault stemming from her brief struggle with the police matron who shoved her against the cell wall."

Here's Jonathan Fowlie reporting on the same story: "The video released today begins at this point of the night, as Kinloch is returned to a padded cell.

"As part of that process, Kinloch is asked to remove her jacket, bra and shoes. As she does, the video shows Kinloch kick her shoe in the direction of the matron.

"Today, Neary said this was not meant as an act of aggression.

"[Police spokesperson] Hamilton disagreed.

"'Because of [Kinloch's] previous behaviour, our jail staff is concerned she is going to assault her because she has been punching and kicking the cell doors previous to this,' said Hamilton.

"The police report says the matron, identified in the report as Merle Edmonds, came toward Kinloch in an attempt to 'take control of Kinloch to prevent the assault.'

"It says during this process, Kinloch grabbed Edmonds' left arm, causing "redness and bruising."

"Police later recommended a charge of assault against Kinloch for this injury, but the case did not meet the threshold necessary for Crown counsel to pursue the charge in court. (It was while he was dealing with the assault issue on behalf of his client that [the girl's lawyer] obtained the jail surveillance video.)

"Almost immediately after the matron grabbed Kinloch, two officers -- identified in the report as Const. Ryan O'Neill and Const. Brian Asmussen -- came into the cell and took Kinloch to the ground.

"The report says this was 'to prevent any further assaults on police or jail staff.'

"The officers handcuffed the girl and tied her feet, then left her alone in the cell for about four hours.

"An officer opened the door once during this entire time, Neary said, to tell Kinloch she was being charged with assault.

Back to Mason: "Of course, none of this surfaces at the time. It stays hush-hush while Ms. Kinloch hires a lawyer who subsequently informs the police his client is planning to sue for damages stemming from her treatment in the jail cell. Attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement drag on for months and, eventually, a few years. But the Victoria police stick to their position that their actions were justified.

"With the case set to go to trial in June, Ms. Kinloch decided to go public with her story this week and release the never-seen-before surveillance video of the incident."

"It's been reported" writes Mason, "that once the Crown had an opportunity to view the surveillance tape a few years ago, it decided to drop the assault charges against Ms. Kinloch, now 18. I guess so. To my eye, the only person being assaulted in the video is Ms. Kinloch."

As a post-script to his Thursday piece, Mason wrote on Friday (again, I saw this in the Globe&Mail), "It would seem there are plenty of people who believe Willow Kinloch got what she deserved when she was bound hand and foot in a jail cell for four hours by Victoria police after being picked up earlier completely smashed." Mason then tells the story a second time, trying to get people to understand that the assault and confinement happened to a sober teenager, not a drunk one. Mason was reacting to comments from Globe readers like these:

  • harry carnie from Northern, B.C., Canada writes: She was so drunk she had to be restrained for her own safety...why would this be a problem?
  • Terry Watson from Calgary, Canada writes: Well done Victoria police. You did your job when the parents wouldn't and perhaps saved her from something far worse. Nothing wrong with tethering that I can see. Likely prevented her from banging her stupid head against the wall and injuring herself. That was likely the plan so that she could blame the police for her injuries. Social services should remove her from her parents who clearly don't care a dam thing about her.
  • Kelly C from Halifax, Canada writes: This family should be writing the police a thank you letter for babysitting their child, possibly saving her life (who knows what could have happened to her), and picking up where they obviously failed by hopefully teaching the kid a lesson.
  • larry hallatt from Canada writes: I believe the biggest mistake the Police may have done is in not bringing in a Public trustee and applying to the court to have this unruly child removed from her parents.

This is where we live. These are our neighbours talking.

These are our cops.

These are our daughters.

Happy Family Literacy Day, Canada.

1 comment:

literacies publisher said...

wow. thanks for this.

i did not post about family literacy day. at first it was because i forgot about it. and then, when i was reminded, i could not figure out how to post about something i find so filled with contradictions - one of those sets of naked truths that people are always dressing up in fancy clothes. i think that you got it just right.