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EDITORIAL: Bad call

RNC Const. Joe Smyth took the stand Monday in his obstruction of justice trial at provincial court in St. John’s.
RNC Const. Joe Smyth took the stand during his obstruction of justice trial at provincial court in St. John’s. — Telegram file photo

It’s yet another error in judgment in what looks like a chain of errors.

Monday, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA) issued an unusual news release about the conviction of Const. Joe Smyth for obstruction of justice.

Smyth was charged after an investigation was conducted by investigators from outside the province, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, in a case where Smyth issued a series of traffic tickets to a motorcycle driver. The tickets included a ticket for running a red light, even though video from the motorcycle’s camera clearly showed the light was green, and the ticket could not have been properly issued.

The court had heard evidence that a motorbike like the one stopped had been involved in a series of traffic violations.

But back to the RNCA, and its Monday statement.

“The association supports the transparency of independent investigations. We also understand and agree that police should be held to a higher standard; however, we strongly disagree with this guilty verdict. … We will continue to support Const. Smyth during the appeal process.

“We have the utmost confidence that our members take pride in their work and will continue to provide a professional police service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” the statement by RNCA president Mike Summers said.

Whatever else you can say about the case, you cannot say that Smyth did not have the benefit of due process.

(By Tuesday morning, the headline of the news release was still up on the RNCA website, but clicking on it brought only the message “You are not allowed to access this file!”)

If the RNCA wants to provide moral support to Smyth, that’s fine. If individual officers want to show up and demonstrate that support in the court — as many did — they are welcome to do that as citizens, as long as they are not wearing their uniforms (which would look more like an attempt to pressure the court).

If the RNCA wants to dedicate its financial resources to support Smyth in the costly effort of appealing the court verdict, that’s fine as well.

But to essentially question the conduct of the judicial system because the association doesn’t like the court’s verdict when one of its members is concerned?

That’s a different story.

Smyth was ably represented by a senior and experiencd criminal lawyer in a duly constituted court of law. His trial was a lengthy one for the issues involved, and everything was fully canvassed in court.

Whatever else you can say about the case, you cannot say that Smyth did not have the benefit of due process.

There is a clear role here for the RNCA.

That role is not questioning the decisions of the courts and the justice system, even when those decisions affect one of their own.

Justice is supposed to be blind to rank and position — and the police are supposed to uphold it anyway.

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