COLUMN: Perry Bergson — July 14, 2014

Perry
Perry Bergson
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Perry Bergson

Some feedback on my decision to run the Prince Albert Police Service’s most wanted recently came to me secondhand and it wasn’t positive.

The person suggested that having those faces in the paper doesn’t reflect well on the city. I respect the person who made the criticism but it’s one of those times when I’m going to have to disagree with a friend.

Regular readers know that this happened a few times with former sports writer Dave Leaderhouse, who I consider a very good friend. I’m hoping that this fellow shares Dave’s willingness to concede that I can have a different opinion, even if he considers it wrong.

The decision to print the weekly most wanted was made in a discussion with Sgt. Brandon Mudry. He was looking for a way to get higher visibility for the list without the hazards of it staying on an Internet page forever.

We partnered with the police on a similar project at my former paper in Brandon so I was immediately interested. I actually handle that feature myself every Monday as it’s prepared to appear in the Tuesday paper. It includes four mugshots of people actively being sought by police with a brief description of them and what they’re wanted for. The phone numbers for the department and Crime Stoppers are displayed.

Brandon called the other day to thank me. After we started printing the most wanted, the department noticed a massive spike in the number of tips they were receiving.

Would it be nice to use the space for something more positive? Of course it would.

But running those pictures every week is helping the legal system catch up with some folks who need to face the consequences for what they did. It also serves as a warning to readers about some people they may know that they have to keep an eye on.

In this case, the public good far outweighs the potential bad. And it’s worth noting that a lot of papers run a similar feature as a public service.

While I respect the person who isn’t happy with my decision, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

 

• • •

 

It has been an anxious time for me as the high water made its way through Brandon, my former home, and towards Portage la Prairie, where I grew up.

The water is unlikely to do any damage in Portage. If you’ve been to Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway, the Assiniboine River diversion flows under a bridge just before the turnoff into Portage on the west side of the city. It’s kilometres from doing any damage to the city of 13,000.

But Brandon is a different story entirely.

I’ve discussed the flood of 2011 in this space before when my home was on 24-hour evacuation alert for several weeks. It wasn’t pleasant hanging on every update of the Assiniboine River’s levels, with our home potentially hanging in the balance.

If you follow the news, you know that Brandon is going through a virtually identical flood again.

However, this time the huge dikes that were built along 18th Street and on the two sides of the river as it winds through the valley gave the city a tremendous head start.

They also made the decision to let the water spill over First Street, where in 2011 they fought tooth and nail to keep the major north-south thoroughfare open.

I made a great many friends there and I’ve worried about them though this stressful time.

One friend said that it took an hour to go from Victoria Avenue -- the major east-west road in the middle of the city -- to the Trans-Canada Highway, a distance of a few kilometres. The impact on business will once again be tremendous.

On Sunday night I had a group of six from Brandon staying at my house. The scouting trip, led by close friend Bruce Bumstead, saw them paddle across Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s cabin.

As they shared stories about the efforts to keep the city dry, I was caught up in it again like I was still there.

Good luck to everybody in Brandon as the water recedes.

 

• • • 

 

I spent some time watching the proceedings at Prince Albert Provincial Court last week and it’s a fascinating process.

It’s been many years since I was there for docket day so I had forgotten how many defendants they put through in a short time.

When you enter the courthouse, located beside the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, you immediately go through screening for any metal objects.

After you pass through that phase, you head down a hallway to one of the courtrooms.

I was in Courtroom 2, sitting in the back right corner. I noticed immediately that the padded plastic chairs are bolted to the floor. The Crown attorney stood on the right side, facing the judge who sat in the middle on the other side of the room, with an eye on everybody.

One defence attorney stood a row back and discussed the defendants one by one. Another sat in front of her.

Two deputies sat in the far left corner of the room.

That’s the most fascinating part of the process.

A long plexiglass wall has been erected along one side of the courtroom and keeps the people on the inside contained.

The defendants are brought in one or two at a time. The person whose case is being discussed stands up at one of the microphones behind the glass, where the proceedings are almost certainly being amplified by speaker.

A couple of narrow slits allow official court documents to be passed back and forth. The two deputies sit between the defendants and the crowd, no doubt to ensure that nothing gets passed back and forth.

The cases that I saw handled that day were all being deferred to other dates for a variety of reasons.

I wish everybody had a chance to spend some time there.

Complain all you want about our justice system, but when you see it in action, it’s impossible not to be impressed.

 

 

Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at perry.bergson@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: Prince Albert Police Service, Trans-Canada Highway, Crime Stoppers E.A. Rawlinson Centre Daily Herald

Geographic location: Brandon, Portage, Assiniboine River Winnipeg 18th Street First Street Victoria Avenue Kingsmere Lake

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