Friday, May 28, 2010

Media Not Welcome in Peel Region

I had a run in with Peel Police tonight. I showed up at a house fire / grow op on Canvey Crescent at the same time as two other shooters from City and CP24. I could tell right away by the look on the Constables face that it was not going to go well. We all parked and as I approached his cruiser, which was blocking the road, I tried to warm him up by asking how his night was going. He was obviously a man of few words. I setup my tripod and asked him to call his Sergeant and let him know we were requesting access. As I started shooting down the road I noticed that all the neighbours were out on the street and a large group of about a dozen had gathered near the fire trucks.

I pointed this out to the cop and asked if we could go up. It was clear to me that no danger existed and no crime scene tape had been put up. He again refused access and I told him I was going up and that he better call his Sergeant. You might be asking yourself why I would be so confrontational with an officer. You have to realize that this is common practice in Peel Region. I could easily gather a large crowd of camera operators who have had disagreements with Peel Police. Almost always these are precipitated by lack of access to streets in the area of crime scenes and fires. It often seems containment is a higher priority than investigation. It would appear that the containment has more to do with keeping media out rather than preservation of evidence or investigation.

Standard practice for media responding to calls in Peel is to find access as quickly as possible without contact with officers at road blocks in the area. We know from years of experience that once inside the traffic perimeter we are generally allowed to do our job and leave, often very quickly as was the case tonight at the fire. If you approach a road block you may as well come back in a few hours, as you will inevitably sit and wait a long time. So we are forced to immediately look for lane ways, alleys or fields that we can cut through to get to the scene and join the handful of gawkers that usually are already on scene. This was the case tonight as it was clear that all the neighbours were out watching, but the only people not allowed down to the scene were, at least in the mind of the Constable, the arriving media. People had kids and dogs for God sake. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the fire is now out and it may be safe to let media closer. The firefighters were rolling up the hoses!

A quick survey of GTA media that asks them to rate each Police Department on a scale of one to ten may be eye opener for PRP. If media field personnel were asked to rate based on ease of access and ability to document events, PRP would surely find that they are clearly lowest on the list. I can show up at a serious car accident in Halton Region and be immediately escorted right down to the area of the accident, before the occupants are even in ambulances. They rank among the best to deal with in Ontario. OPP dealing with fatal highway accidents on 400 series highways have clear policies in place. A media officer is immediately called to the scene and escorts cameras so they do not interfere with evidence gathering. In fact as overnight camera operators we all have the cell phone number for OPP Media Sgt. Dave Woodford, and yes we can call him in the middle of the night. In Toronto we can attend murders and get what we need and seldom have any issues with officers. In York Region we can at least feel confident that they will do what they can to allow reasonable access. A York PD Duty Inspector is always on scene quickly, willing to tell us what he can and assure we have some information to work with. All of these things seem foreign to PRP and the only thing I can be assured of in Peel is that I will have no information and will have to fend for myself and sneak in to get video.

Further evidence of how hard it can be to cover news in Peel Region can be found on my blog in a post from last year. (  It was June 2009 when I attended a murder and had a similar experience. My colleagues from City, CTV and Global TV all share the same frustration that I do.  I feel it’s time for PRP to take a look at how they handle the media and how they are perceived by the media. Otherwise we will continue to show up already on guard and assuming the worst possible reception.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sad Day for the Land of Smiles

I've made many trips to Thailand, meeting my wife there years ago. We have watched in horror as events unfolded in Bangkok over the last few days. It really hit home today when we found out that crowds were also burning buildings in Isaan, in the rural north east. We have family in Mukdahan, Khon Kean, Salakam and have traveled extensively in the North East. My mother-in-law lives in a small village just outside Mukdahan, along with my sister-in-law and her family.  We were in Thailand for most of February 2010 and were already hearing about trouble on the horizon when we were leaving. Even our cab driver, most of whom come from Isaan, warned us that big trouble was coming in March.

  Mukdahan May 2010

My brother-in-law went into Mukdahan this morning to get supplies. He told us by phone that he was stopped by police at a checkpoint, explaining to them he only wanted to get milk for his baby. My other brother-in-law went into Khon Kean but returned home. He said things were bad and that he heard Red Shirts were planning on burning a local bank.

Thai people are usually so peaceful. I guess you can only keep the poor man down for so long before he strikes back. Hopefully the current conflict will lead to a stronger democracy and peace in the Land of Smiles.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Murder on Eglinton West

It has been a while since we had a shooting on the night shift. In fact it's been fairly quiet overall. That came to an end last night about 2am when the call came in for a shooting on Elginton Ave West near Keele. Police are now confirming that a 15 year old male was shot in the face and died later in hospital. Police taped off the area and forensics will be on scene this morning.

Update: One in custody. Sheronnie Thomas turned himself in at 52 div May 18th. Good work by all involved. G+G shake that tree.

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