I used to have a friend who was an actor. The fact he was an actor is not particularly important to what I’m about to tell you about him other than that his acting background may explain his rather “dramatic” behaviour, which is really the point of this blog.
Anyway, he was up from the US visiting at our house one night. It was during the start of the LA race riots following the unpopular verdict on the Rodney King trial back in the 90s. Watching the news footage he became quite upset, understandably so since he now lived in LA. But his next reaction I found hard to understand. After brooding over the newscast for a while he announced he was flying back to LA, going home to pick up his pistols (like many Americans he always had a few on hand at his house) and would patrol the streets looking to mete our some quick justice to any of the looters looking for trouble.
I wasn’t sure I should take him seriously about this sudden call for vigilante justice – was he thinking he would shoot a new television series based on the experience afterwards, starring himself as a modern-day Clint Eastwood?
But he was serious and the next morning he did exactly as he said, flying back home to patrol the still riotous streets armed with his pistols. I’m sure he thought himself as some kind of hero, ready to use his courage and physical talents (he was trained in martial arts and, of course, armed) to hand out quick justice on the street. As it turned out, he was lucky enough not to land himself, or anyone else, in any serious trouble. (I say lucky because trouble was not hard to find in that cauldron of mayhem and, given his training, I had no doubt if he found trouble he was quite capable of dealing with it.)
I’ve long since lost touch with my over dramatic actor friend and had not thought about that incident until coming back from a relaxing vacation to read the reactions to our managing editor Adam Ledlow’s blog about the Greyhound bus killing and long haul trucker Christopher Alguire’s involvement and subsequent criticism of RCMP’s handling of the tragedy.
Alguire clearly thought the RCMP should have shot the killer on site. “I told the cops a few different times to shoot him, because he has no reason in this world to live anymore,” he proudly told the press. And several of those reading the blog thought he was bang on: “The punishment should fit the crime- a life for a life, “said one reader. “Shame on you for causing even a sliver of doubt towards the integrity of a hero,” chastised another.
I think, if you care to take the time to really think about it rather than speak from emotion, although Alguire’s willingness to help was heroic, his criticism of the RCMP’s action was shameful. And so are the remarks of those who support his views.
Since when did we become a society of vigilante justice, where we shoot first and ask questions later? I understand that most in that situation, myself included, caught in the emotion of the event, would want to pull the trigger. But that’s why we employ professionally trained police officers to handle such situations. Because they’ve been trained and entrusted with handling such situations without emotion that clouds judgement.
This is not being weak, as I know many will claim it to be. This is not protecting the criminals rather than the victims. This is being reasonable. This is thinking with your head instead of your hormones. This is giving our justice system the opportunity to work as it should.
I could understand taking justice into your own hands if we lived in a country where the legal system was falling apart and the police was completely inept and/or corrupt. Any reasonable person, however, would agree Canada is far from such a reality.
And for those of you who still support the hot heads so ready to take justice into their own hands, have you stopped to question their abilities?.To put it simply, are you sure their aim is good enough to save a victim rather than kill him?
As I would have told my hot-headed actor friend many years ago, vigilante justice may make for excitement in the movies but it does not belong in our society. And perhaps we should choose our heroes more carefully — it’s not like there’s a shortage of them among the men and women who drive our economy.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis