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NEWS > 13 February 2008

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Police to name and shame 11 wo
Los Angeles police will publicly name 11 of the city's worst street gangs on Thursday and put some members on the FBI's national most wanted list in a crackdown on crime in what has become known as the "gang capital of America."

A "gang czar" will be appointed and police officers redeployed to gang-infested areas in a much-anticipated offensive to stem an alarming increase in drive-by shootings and murders in a city which has an estimated 720 gangs with some 40,000 members.

Details of the plan, leaked to Los Angeles newspapers, will be formally unveiled later on Thursday ... Read more

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Welland Tribune - Ontario, Can
13 February 2008
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Evidence obtained in illegal p

The Ontario Court of Appeal has approved the use of evidence obtained through flagrant police misconduct, saying any black eye caused to the justice system is outweighed by public interest in prosecuting a serious crime.

In a decision that even one of their fellow judges finds intolerable, a majority of the court upheld a trial judge's decision to admit evidence of 35 kilograms of cocaine found in Bradley Harrison's rented SUV - despite the judge's finding an Ontario Provincial Police officer had no legal grounds to stop the vehicle, seriously infringed the Toronto man's charter rights and misled a court while trying to justify his actions.

The 2-1 ruling is the latest in a line of recent decisions in which the court has been accused of weakening charter protections by refusing to exclude evidence obtained unlawfully.

In a case last fall involving a gun found in a backpack at a Toronto school, the court said throwing out reliable evidence because of charter violations must be balanced against public concerns about escalating gun violence.

In their judgment Tuesday, associate chief Justice Dennis O'Connor and Justice James MacPherson rejected defence lawyer Marie Henein's contention that admitting the evidence obtained in violation of Harrison's charter rights would mean the judiciary is condoning police misconduct.

In weighing what's worse - admitting tainted evidence or allowing serious crime to go unpunished - the majority concluded the public, at least in this case, is willing to put up with the significant charter violations committed by Const. Brian Bertoncello.

"We do not suggest that this is an easy case - far from it," they wrote. "This is a close call ..."

"We believe that, without minimizing the seriousness of the police officer's conduct or in any way condoning it, it was open to the trial judge to find that reasonable members of the community could well conclude that the exclusion of 77 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of several millions of dollars, and the potential to cause serious grief and misery to many, would bring the administration of justice into greater disrepute than would its admission," O'Connor and MacPherson said in their decision.

Bertoncello's misconduct didn't result from any systemic problem, force policy or directions from a senior officer, which reduces the seriousness of the breaches of Harrison's rights, they said.

But in a sharply worded dissent, Justice Eleanore Cronk accused the majority of hiding behind a "shield" of deference often accorded to trial judges by appeal courts. Except, in this case, O'Connor and MacPherson aren't really yielding to Justice Norman Karam's conclusions, Cronk charged.

In reality, they're spinning or minimizing the trial judge's findings, to make Bertoncello's misconduct seem far less serious than it was, she suggested.

"This is a case where the police officer's actions, both at the time of the detention of the appellant and the search of the vehicle, were deliberate, without legal justification, and disdainful of the rights and freedoms protected by the charter," Cronk wrote.

"I do not accept that police misconduct is reduced to constitutional insignificance, or that its effects are minor or de minimus, because only one police officer, acting on his own, knowingly violates a citizen's constitutional rights," said Cronk.

"The protections afforded by the charter are not limited to cases where systemic, institutional or premeditated police misconduct or state action is in issue," she said.

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